When you’re lucky enough to live less than an hour from the US/Mexican border, it’s easy to plan cross-border trips. That might run counter to what the media headlines would have you think but in practice, at least for this Boomer road-tripper, it makes a lot of sense. From food to wine tastings, cultural events and breathtaking views, visiting Baja is a world of fun especially when it’s a road trip with friends. And even better, when there’s a spa like the Montevalle Wellnness Resort on the itinerary.
On my most recent Baja adventure, I chauffeured a friend who was new to the Valle de Guadalupe. She’s a seasoned traveler and was very upbeat and flexible – even when I took a couple of wrong turns. (GPS fluctuations and unfamiliar signage styles can be challenging in the Valle.) Once we spotted the blue Montevalle Health Resort signs the route became much easier.*
*Please note that Montevalle has a dedicated and spacious van to shuttle visitors from the US to the resort and back. Driving was my choice completely! Also my stay was provided. All other costs were mine and all opinions are based on my experience.
Take Time to Savor the Drive
We started at 9:30 am and while a direct trip would’ve taken about two hours, we arrived at the resort about 4:30 pm. Why did it take so long? Once we arrived at the north entrance to the Ruta de Vino, we stopped for a wine tasting tour of Bruma, picked up locally pressed olive oil at la Casa de Dona Lupe, then splurged on lunch at the renowned outdoor restaurant, Malva. There are so many places to celebrate the Baja Wine and Food scene as I mention in this earlier post. By the time we arrived, I was primed to experience the Montevalle Wellness Resort.
Montevalle is an all-inclusive resort. The strategy works well for guests looking to relax and rejuvenate. The plan is designed well from the moment you cross the gated entry and park in a secure lot next to the registration building. I pulled my little duffle from the car as a concierge in a golf cart pulled up and we rode off to my casita. I didn’t worry about my car again.
The dining hall is at the top of a small rise (the reference to Mont in the name) on the highest point of the 25-acre property. I loved how enormous boulders dot the property, especially adjacent to the restaurant. The expansive views of the hills, vineyards and other compounds began the healing process. However, once seated with our friends at the central table – made of long planks – I forgot about everything but the food.
The attentive staff is guided by Chef Raul Nunez. They focus on healthy eating, so no gluten or wheat was served – unless you asked. We did and the locally made loaf was delicious. The chili relleno was served with sauce but no cheese. It was light but filling. The chicken breast entrées or salmon burgers kept us full until morning. And of course, there were carafes of local wine upon request. ‘ Breakfast the next morning began with a fruit plate and turmeric ‘milk’ before bowls of buckwheat pancakes arrived.
A Menu of Wellness Plans
As per the resort arrangements, guests can choose from a number of wellness plans. Our friends road trip was too short to fully indulge but we did have a “taste of experience” on the One Day Plan. It included a health consultation, and options for two intravenous infusions, a massage, an array of treatments, plus full access to activities like tennis, the large pool, and hot tub as well as the indoor sauna. The plan includes two meals and snacks. At one point during our treatments, Chef Nunez sent in cups of gazpacho and veggie wedges to keep our tummies happy!
The treatment regimen was designed by resort founder, Dr. Bautista, who has created, “A place where people could escape the noise of the city for one day or several days, have contact with nature, and be able to stimulate their immune system and detoxify through a variety of treatments.” I’ve rarely indulged in spa treatments before and thoroughly enjoyed the carefully applied processes.
The clinic, actually all the interiors, were created in collaboration with Mariana Postlewaite of Casa Duhagon in Tijuana. She incorporated natural materials like rattan, liana vines, wood, and yarn. There are murals that complement the natural environment throughout the private as well as public spaces. Spaces are built around boulders that emerge from floors. The grounds are artful in unique ways that complement the native plants and low water restrictions. Before leaving, I walked a labyrinth, dug my feet into a red sand path, and enjoyed the trails that wind through the property. There were tempting seating areas and innovative swirls of red/white rock designs that echoed indigenous illustrations.
Lodging at Montevalle
When I wasn’t eating, in the clinic, or walking, I savored time in my little casita. I had a loft over the sleeping area, a spacious bathroom, and plenty of storage, set tansu-style under the stairway. If I needed anything the room phone offered a link to the concierge. There was a TV and plentiful WiFi. But mostly I indulged in looking out the window and across the valley; taking time to watch the sky change and the light shift across the hillsides. It was hard to leave my room!
I’ve seen the Valle evolve over ten years of visits for winery meals, tasting tours, and seafood festivals. Another benefit of this road trip with friends is stopping to admire the variety of architectural styles. I’ve always felt welcome and have welcomed others to join me on road trips with friends across the border. The Montevalle Wellness Resort is a brilliant addition as a stand-alone trip or incorporated into an itinerary full of Baja Norte’s many treasures.
Tips for a Baja Road Trip with Friends:
- Stay Safe. There’s an old saying about an ounce of prevention and I feel that way whatever country I’m in. Even the US. There are areas of San Diego that I won’t wander through late after dark. Tijuana has those kinds of neighborhoods as well. I also don’t hang out in bars by myself or buy drugs. Yes, bad things can happen anywhere but as an experienced traveler, I work to keep the odds in my favor. Trust your instincts and then enjoy the experience.
- Get insurance online or at one of the kiosks along the border in the US. Accidents are handled very differently that in the States. I have been on many a road trip with friends but have never been stopped by the police or in an accident. However, there are many stories among my acquaintances. Bring cash in small bills and don’t be shocked if offering $10 or $20 makes whatever reason you have been stopped move along quickly.
- Apply for a SENTRI Pass. Not everyone is eligible for a SENTRI Pass or has registered their car for the pass as well. I admit to being fortunate in the Passport category (I’m a US Citizen) but when I began walking across or getting a shuttle across the border to visit dental clinics the pass became a necessity. Walking across the border may involve hours of waiting in line. It’s unpredictable. I applied for the pass about six years ago and then renewed it. Thus, I can cross more quickly and drive the faster SENTRI lanes back into the US. It makes taking a road trip with friends easier too. If they don’t have a Pass, I drop them off to walk across, then drive my empty car into the US and pick them up there.