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The Top Reasons to go to Cal-A-Vie Health Spa

There is little question that the pandemic and the chaos and uncertainty it created has wreaked havoc with our bodies, minds and souls. Endless days quarantined, hours spent on Zoom conferences – often in less than stellar environments – and eating, drinking and binge-watching way too much television, have left many needing a jump start to change some acquired bad habits. Few options are better than visiting a health spa destination resort that can recalibrate one’s engine in luxurious surroundings with gourmet, healthy food, plenty of exercise options and a full-service spa to get you recentered and back on your top game. One of the best is Cal-A-Vie Health Spa located in Vista, California in North San Diego County. Owners Terri and John Havens bought Cal-A-Vie just over 20 years ago. During that time, they have expanded its original concept creating a truly unique space in an utterly magical setting.

Here are the top reasons to go now:

1. Feels like Southern France without the transatlantic flight

Perched on an idyllic, private hillside location, Cal-A-Vie is seven miles from the ocean with nearly perfect year-round weather. An hour from the airport guests arrive to Vista, where emerald-colored trees overtake the landscape. Turning onto Cal-A-Vie’s private road its sun-splashed 220-acres comes into full view. The panorama is complete as the French countryside appears that include lavender bushes, grapevines, abundant bird life and scampering bunny rabbits.

Several buildings on the property originally hailed from Provençe and were shipped and beautifully reconstructed and resurrected stone by stone, including a glorious 400-year-old Dijon Carmelite Chapel Meditation Center now also used as a yoga pavilion. The hilltop 18th century Parish House is used for tasting estate wines while L’Orangerie is used as a grand reception hall.

Beautifully coiffed landscaping is everywhere one turns and on its own adds to the sense of renewal and well-being.

2. Spacious suites are designed and furnished for comfort

Each of Cal-A-Vie’s 32 luxe suites are decorated in subdued, calming hues and are one-of-a-kind, housing antiques collected from the Havens’ European travels. Room keys are not provided. It’s liberatingly one less thing to be concerned about while there. The in-room digital safe easily fits laptops, spare phones and wallets.

Walls have textured Venetian plaster and king-sized beds provide dreamy repose. Luscious memory foam mattresses, divine Frette linens and down comforters ensure sweet dreams. Bathrooms contained all needed amenities and rooms are services several times daily. Suites are designed for privacy and patios look to the breath-taking scenery. Daily laundry service is included making packing a snap.

3. Scheduling your desires

Shortly after arrival, guests meet with a Cal-A-Vis scheduler. After learning of guests’ dietary, fitness and spa preferences, the scheduler will provide guests with a customized daily itinerary. Here too guests will discuss desires for weight reduction or weight maintenance menus.  Items can be adjusted and there are no hard and fast rules. It’s all about choices to achieve one’s goals.

Additionally, guests are provided a daily schedule containing all the available activities. If guests decide they are not in the mood for spinning for example, guests can simply pop over to yoga. Guests may partake in as many classes and activities or as few as the wind blows. There is no judgment and there are no obligations. Changes to the Spa selections are easily made. Cal-A-Vie staff is accommodating, professional and the service is excellent.

4. Fitness for every level

There are daily exercise classes for every taste and ability. Twenty choices a day include: Cardio, Bodyworks, Yoga, Pilates, Barre, Stretch, TRX, Zumba, spin and weight-training classes, all in various studios, containing state-of-the-art equipment.

All fitness classes are taught by highly trained and motivated instructors. There are also daily 6:45am three- to four-mile hikes that are well worth early rising. Wild lilac and blooming jasmine grace the trails while a plethora of bluebirds makes serenity possible despite the inclines. There are two clay tennis courts and an available tennis pro as well as two pickle ball courts.

Aqua circuit classes are taught in a sublime 90-degree pool. For distance swimmers, there is a hilltop Olympic-sized 50-meter laned pool that is kept at 80-degrees.

5. Healthy, nutritious food fit for a king

The cornerstone of every health spa is food. It is the glue that holds the best experience together and thus must be inspired, nutritious, low-calorie, and of course, delicious.

Cal-A-Vie’s talented Executive Chef Christopher R. House, is passionate about food and makes every meal a memorable culinary experience. While portion control is key for both weight reduction and maintenance, taste at Cal-A-Vie is never sacrificed. Delicious, multi-course meals are beautiful enough for the cover of any food magazine. Selections for breakfast include a divine Eggs Benedict that substitutes sweet potato patties – an innovative, more nutritious bread alternative – for English muffins, and uses roasted yellow pepper hollandaise. While it  sounding suspect at first, it was far better than actual hollandaise, without any accompanying guilt.

Lunch menus offer Kanpachi kebabs, taco bowls, turkey burgers, pizzas and colorful salads. Dinners feature an appetizer and mains such as tender beef tenderloin, roasted chicken, rack of lamb, grilled fish or divine braised vin rouge short ribs. Every meal has dizzyingly delightful desserts.

Chef House and his staff are able to keep all guests’ food issues straight never missing a beat with the help of a massive television screen in the kitchen displaying an Excel sheet containing every guest’s name, desired caloric intake, likes, dislikes, allergies, sensitivities, etc. This is an Olympic-level culinary juggling act. In my five days there, Chef House never skipped a beat, and got it right every time.

6. Spa is for ahhhhh

The piece-de-resistance is the skill of the Spa’s massage therapists, and the extent of the available menu options. In addition to the usual deep tissue, shiatsu and reflexology treatments, Cal-A-Vie boasts an extensive menu of less common massage and beauty treatments, scrubs, wraps, and vino therapies for every conceivable taste or body ache.

Spa rooms are quiet, peaceful and private and promote a sense of well-being. Having exercised extensively during my five-day stay at Cal-A-Vie, it was the adept massage therapists that ensured I would thoroughly enjoy my stay and then depart without a single sore muscle. From my first to my fifth treatment, it became crystal clear why Conde Nast Traveller Reader’s Choice voted Cal-A-Vie on its list of “Top Ten Best Spas in the World” in 2020. Well-deserved and Bravo.

Julie L. Kessler

Written by Julie L. Kessler

Julie L. Kessler is Money Inc's Senior Travel & Luxury Editor and writes for several major media outlets in the U.S. and overseas. She is also an attorney and legal columnist and the author of the award-winning book "Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight." She can be reached at

Read more posts by Julie L. Kessler

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