Wellness Journey Along the Pathway to Zen, Laguna Beach, California

Zen Path Laguna Beach
Photo courtesy of Lisa Truesdale

by Lisa Truesdale

When it’s time to travel again, I know exactly where I’m heading: Laguna Beach, California, about an hour’s drive from LAX. I first visited in February, just a few months after Visit Laguna Beach unveiled their exciting new wellness initiative, The Pathway to Zen. It’s not an actual pathway but a destination-wide wellness trail showcasing 12 stops around Laguna that offer wellness activities and services—some free, and some for a fee. It’s the ideal place to begin a new journey towards mindfulness and mental health, something we’ll all be seeking if and when things return to normal (or a new version of normal).

I stayed at The Ranch at Laguna Beach, a sprawling resort nestled in the Aliso and Wood Canyons, and just as it says in the brochure, it’s “where canyon and sea meet.”  The Ranch offers a variety of room sizes and types, including The Treehouse, a two-bedroom suite with floor-to-ceiling windows, a gourmet kitchen, and a wraparound deck. My spacious Canyon Room, with the most comfortable king size bed I’ve ever slept on, was steps from the pool and hot tub. Harvest, the on-site restaurant, offers 180-degree canyon views, and there’s also a 9-hole, par-32 golf course, if golfing is part of your outdoor activity plans. The dramatic canyon views all around you as you play will certainly help to calm your mind and spirit.

Ranch at Laguna Beach
Photo courtesy of Lisa Truesdale

The resort’s on-site Sycamore Spa is one of the 12 stops along the Pathway. The cozy and private outdoor courtyard, with an infrared sauna, was the perfect place to relax and sip fruit-infused water as I prepared for my 60-minute Swedish-style massage, which was heavenly and left me—as massages should do—feeling like a nap. On my next visit, I hope to try a customized facial and a body treatment.

Another stop on the Pathway is Thrive Vitamin Drips & Shots, but I didn’t have to venture very far, because Matt Laquicha, a nurse practitioner (NP) who co-founded the business with his wife (also an NP), came to The Ranch to administer an Immunity IV Drip. This drip, containing calcium, magnesium, selenium, Vitamin D, zinc and B complex vitamins, is Thrive’s bestseller all year long and especially during flu season. Thrive also offers other customized drips, IV hydration and vitamin shots. They’ll travel to your nearby home or hotel, or you can visit their clinic in town, featuring three chairs that can be set up for private or group sessions. Thrive can often accommodate walk-ins, but appointments are recommended.

Although it’s not an official stop on the Pathway, dining at the centrally located Splashes, a restaurant inside the Surf & Sand Resort, certainly should be. My table had the best view in the place, so close to the ocean I could almost touch it. From start to finish the service was impeccable and the food delicious, from healthy appetizers including brussels sprouts with honey and goat cheese to the to the beet salad with fennel and dill, perfect for vegetarians. Healthy entrees include Seared Ora King Salmon and Whole Branzino, and don’t miss the sauteed spinach side dish with almonds and figs.

Official stops on the Pathway include free Yoga in the Park, Laughter Yoga on the beach, and a Saturday Farmer’s Market. Restaurants on the Pathway include Zinc Café, known for freshly made breakfasts and baked goods. I’m anxious to try their lavender latte when I visit again. For lunch on my next trip, I’ll be checking out The Stand Natural Foods Restaurant, featuring a 100% vegan menu with offerings including fresh-squeezed juices, smoothies and nut milk shakes, sandwiches, burritos, soups, and salads, all completely plant-based. The Stand has been around for more than 40 years—before most people had ever even heard the term “vegan”—so they definitely know what they’re doing.

Zen Pathway Laguna Beach
Photo courtesy of Visit Laguna Beach

The morning of checkout at The Ranch, as I stepped onto the shaded path to begin my leisurely stroll along the Pathway from the resort down to the coast, I heard gentle, meditative music playing softly. The chiming sounds seemed to follow me as I walked, as though motion-activated, emanating from hidden speakers in the bushes. What a thoughtful touch, I remember thinking. I was already feeling calm and relaxed after my stay, so the music just added to my overall sense of peace and well-being.

Turns out, the music wasn’t coming from the bushes but from my own phone, tucked into my beach bag. But realizing that I had forgotten to cancel an alarm setting didn’t change how I felt. The music still calmed me as I walked, and The Pathway to Zen in Laguna Beach was truly living up to it name.

Click here to learn more about the Pathway to Zen and to download a guidebook to all 12 stops on the amazing wellness trail.

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You may also be interested in our round-up of other top wellness retreats and vacations to get you inspired.

Lisa Truesdale is a Colorado-based writer and frequent contributor to this site. She writes for a number of publications on topics including travel and tourism, health and wellness, food and drink, and home and garden.