Here's Your Complete Guide To Ojai
When the hustle of Los Angeles gets to be too much, we usually turn to the tried-and-true weekend getaways like San Diego and Palm Springs for rest and relaxation. But what about Ojai, the oft-forgotten jewel of zen trips that's been showing up more and more in Instagram feeds.
For being just an hour-and-a-half drive from L.A., this charming Ventura County city is surprisingly a very different place. It's both bohemian (plenty of energy healing classes and reiki treatments here) and quite scenic because of its picturesque backdrop of rolling valleys and mountains. Even the sunsets are better here, so much so that the locals have dubbed them "The Pink Moment" because of the way the blush glow bounces off of the mountains and cloaks over the land during the fall and winter months.
We were invited by the Ojai Visitors Bureau and also did some exploring on our own, and found that in Ojai, you might actually feel like looking up from your phone (except to take a snapshot of a rosy sunset). If holistic healing and chakra balancing aren't your thing (or if they are, by all means you do you), there are still a ton of other things like yoga, wine tasting and seriously good food (especially of the organic and seasonal kind) to take your mind off of things for a bit. Here's our guide to area—what to do, places to stay, and restaurants to check out.
WHAT TO DO
Meditation Mount is a perfect spot to watch Ojai's "Pink Moment" sunsets (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
If you truly want a zen moment, head on up to the tranquil Meditation Mount. High up above, you can get breathtaking panoramic views of the mountains and valleys, walk through the site's gardens and pass the Tibetan-inspired buildings, sit on a bench and get a serene moment of silence. This would be our top location to watch sunsets. It's free to enter, but they do take $2 donations. And if you really want to relax your mind, they also offer plenty of yoga and guided meditation classes.
Meditation Mount is located at 10340 Reeves Rd., Ojai, (805) 646-5508
Rock climbing in Wheeler Gorge (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
For the uninitiated, outdoor rock climbing might seem a little intimidating, but it surprisingly makes for a meditative and empowering experience. (Trust us, we were a little terrified ourselves when we tried it but now would totally do it again.) You're in safe hands if you have Alex Bury of Ojai Rock Climbing guiding and instructing you. A super calm and encouraging teacher, Bury will take you out to the beautiful Ojai foothills and show you the ropes (so to speak) on how to climb and use a belay. He'll also supply all the equipment you'll need for climbing. Bury grew up in Ojai, has been rock climbing for over 15 years, and has a bunch of first ascents under his belt, so basically he has some hardcore rock-climbing cred.
Ojai Rock Climbing, (805) 850-8364
Plenty of places to sit down and read a book outdoors at Bart's Books (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
There's a reason that Bart's Books is a destination for travelers. It's one of the most unique bookstores out there because it's outdoors. Outfitted from an old house, you'll find a cheery patio lined with shelves and shelves of books and plenty of nooks and crannies for you to hide away with a book in hand to read. (Remember reading books?) The bookstore, which has been open since 1964 and changed hands of ownership over the decades, is still independently owned. Basically you'll find things here that you won't at a Barnes & Noble. Inside there are rare and first-edition books, like vintage copies of Jane Austen or John Steinbeck novels. And as an example of the superb attention to detail here, there are stacks of cookbooks appropriately sitting by the sink in a kitchen. It's a place where you can get lost for hours.
Bart's Books is located at 302 W Matilija St., Ojai, (805) 646-3755
KRISHNAMURTI FOUNDATION OF AMERICA
If your idea of unwinding is trying to understand yourself a little better, you can visit the serene Krishnamurti Foundation of America—the only one on our continent—right in the hills of Ojai. It was founded in 1969 by late spiritual leader and philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, who was a big supporter of meditation and did talks all over the world. You can visit the grounds and browse through the cottage library, which was once Krishnamurti's home, as well as attend spiritual retreats, workshops on his teachings, and partake in yoga classes (which are more meditative than CorePower) in the beautiful pavilion.
Krishnamurti Foundation of America is located at 1070 McAndrew Rd., Ojai, (805) 646-2726
Wine tasting inside the Majestic Oak Vineyard Tasting Room (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Wine tasting is always a good pick-me-up because who doesn't like to relax with a good flight of whites and reds? There are quite a few wineries and tasting rooms scattered throughout Ojai, and they're all all chill as you'd imagine them to be. Over at the elegant and sleek Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room, guests can either hang inside or sit in the shrubbery-covered patio, and get a chance to sample the vineyard's many varietals of wines. And just this year, two more tasting rooms and wineries opened up in town. Majestic Oak Vineyard launched in downtown Ojai, and is one of our favorite casual spots to grab a wine flight and have a fun chat with the knowledgeable bartenders. They also have a low-key brick-lined patio where you can while away the time with your buddies. As they say, "rosé all day." Topa Mountain Winery is another new tasting room—and a large one at that—that is extra special because of their events. The dog-friendly spot has bocce and live music, and the folks behind it encourage guests to pack a picnic to enjoy there while sipping on their wines.
Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room is located at 109 S Montgomery St., Ojai, (805) 798-3947. Topa Mountain Winery is located at 821 W Ojai Ave., Ojai, (805) 640-1190. Majestic Oak Vineyard is located at 321 E Ojai Ave., Ojai, (805) 794-0272.
EarthTonics organic and herbal body products (Photo via Facebook)
Some much-needed pampering might just make you glow when you get into work on Monday. If you want a holistic approach to getting a facial, EarthTonics is an independently owned spot that offers some of the best facials we've ever had. Esthetician Daron Hope got her start making her own facial products using organic and botanical ingredients and selling them at a local farmers market. She uses her products during her treatments, and depending on what issues you're having with your skin, she'll make a cocktail of her lotions and creams to get your skin feeling healthier and refreshed. As an added bonus, some of her treatments include some stellar neck, shoulder and foot massages.
EarthTonics Studio Spa is located at 206 S. Montgomery St., Ojai, (805) 798-1153.
A pretty hike through Wheeler Gorge (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Part of relaxing in Ojai is enjoying the outdoors. Luckily, Ojai is at the edge of the Los Padres National Forest, meaning there are plenty of trails to keep you outdoorsy types and even novice hikers busy. One of the most popular trails is Shelf Road, an easy 3-mile hike, where they payout is going through orange and avocado groves and seeing dramatic views of Ojai's beauty from atop cliffs. If you want more of a challenge, Last Chance Trail (aka Santa Paula Canyon), which can go up to 12 miles round trip, takes you out along beautiful waterfalls, swimming holes and scenic views. You can always pick up trail maps at Ojai Chamber of Commerce. The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy's website is also a great resource for finding trails as the nonprofit works to maintain and protect open spaces, preserves and hiking trails. If you prefer having a guided hike, Trails by Potter offers a variety of different trails with leaders who know where they're going and what they're doing. As an added bonus, they have options to end their tours with wine, beer and olive oil tastings.
You might just spend all your money at Summer Camp (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Retail therapy is a real thing. There's a lot of fun shopping (or window shopping, depending on your budget) to be done in Ojai. Think more along the lines of Joshua Tree vibes here. The stores are a mecca for all things hip, chic and hand-crafted. Summer Camp is located in a remodeled old-school gas station, and is not only a cool custom-framing shop, but also a well-curated lifestyle goods store with items that seem to be plucked out of a Wes Anderson movie. In downtown Ojai, you might find yourself walking through a magical garden alleyway lit up with little lights as you enter Fig Curated Living. Here you'll find unique trinkets, home and garden decor, and handmade crafts that make one-of-a-kind gifts. In the Field, which is co-owned by former Ford model Bianca Roe, leans more on the upscale shopping side. All the items here in this Spanish-style building are also thoughtfully hand-picked with a bohemian-chic aesthetic, from the fashion to housewares. For some design, furniture and lifestyle ideas, deKor&Co., which is based in L.A., has a hip, high-end outpost in Ojai that features everything from Midcentury to Moroccan pieces.
Summer Camp is located at 1020 W Ojai Ave., Ojai, (805) 861-7109. Fig Curated Living is located at 327 E Ojai Ave., Ojai, (805) 646-6561. In the Field is located at 730 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai. deKor&Co. is located at 105 S. Montgomery St., Ojai, (805) 272-8675.
WHERE TO EAT
Farmer and the Cook's corn sopitas with beans, cheese and pico de gallo (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
FARMER AND THE COOK
Not only does this quaint restaurant serve delicious Mexican dishes made with organic ingredients, it's also rooted in a charming love story as well. The wife, Olivia Chase, who's the chef of this operation, met her husband Steve Sprinkel when she was buying his organic vegetables at a farmers market. The rest is history, and now they've owned the aptly named Farmer and the Cook restaurant for 15 years now. Both of them care a lot about local and organic food, and making dishes from scratch—and it shows in their food. They even offer a CSA twice a week to locals from their small farm. When you go to the cafe, make sure you try their cheesy Swiss chard enchiladas and their massive veggie burritos that come with a house-made fermented cabbage. During summer Sunday nights, they also fire up their outdoor pizza oven to make some pies to accompany live musical performances.
Farmer and the Cook is located at 339 W. El Roblar, Ojai, (805) 640-9608.
Al pastor taco on a rosemary garlic tortilla at Ojai Tortilla House (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
OJAI TORTILLA HOUSE
At this tiny grab-and-go restaurant, you can see family members behind the counter making fresh batches of tortillas, including their special rosemary garlic ones. They care so much about the quality of their tortillas that they make them fresh daily, and have weird business hours because it all depends on when they sell out of them. Their menu is a small and simple one, where you can get tacos, quesadillas and burritos. As for the meat, we suggest their al pastor that's marinated in pineapple. Make sure to wash that all down with their chilled agua fresca while you're at it. You might even get a celebrity spotting while you're here—we hear a certain Magic Mike likes to frequent this spot.
Ojai Tortilla House is located at 104 N Signal St., Ojai, (805) 797-8675
Azu's Pink Moment Martini (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Azu is the spot where we'd grab a craft cocktail or two to start off the night. The casual bar and tapas restaurant, which also has a nice outdoor patio to hang out during the warmer months, pays homage to Ojai in many ways.Their Pink Moment martini is a nod to their epic sunsets, and the Pixie Blossom consists of tequila and juice from pixie tangerines—a fruit that the city honors at their many events during their April harvesting season. Many of their wines also come from local wineries. If you get hungry, you'll also find sharable Mediterranean plates here, like chorizo-stuffed dates and seafood paella.
Azu is located at 457 E Ojai Ave., Ojai, (805) 640-7987
Deer Lodge is sometimes known to be a biker hangout (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Deer Lodge is to Ojai as Pappy & Harriett's is to Joshua Tree. This historic spot, which looks very much like you just stepped into a rustic log cabin fit for a cowboy, has evolved over the decades. Back when it opened in 1932, it was once a gas station and grocery store, then later became a restaurant with live musical performances—something that it still is today. It was and still is known to be a bit of a biker hangout, as it won't be uncommon to find Harley Davidson motorcycles parked outside. The restaurant got new ownership earlier this year, and the kind of fare you'll find on the menu are gourmet dishes sourced from local farms and ranchers. Take our word for it and order the juicy buffalo burger that's served on a pretzel bun, and grab a pint of a craft beer while you're at it because they have a pretty hefty list of options.
Deer Lodge is located at 2261 Maricopa Hwy, Ojai, (805) 646-4256.
Rustic rolls and Italian country baguettes at KNEAD Baking Company (Photo via Facebook)
KNEAD BAKING COMPANY
KNEAD Baking Company is a must-go stop on any trip to Ojai. This family-run artisanal bakery and cafe is the kind of place that uses local and seasonal ingredients—from organic walnuts to oranges and strawberries—in its house-made goods. Think apricot or cheddar-dill scones, quiches punched up with fresh veggies, and house-made bagel sandwiches with organic fried eggs. Bobbi Corbin, co-owner of the KNEAD cut her teeth as a baker at the Four Seasons in Boston and L.A., so that's the kind of culinary pedigree you can expect here. Make sure to sit outside in KNEAD's patio and enjoy the sunshine while you're noshing on delicious fare. If you're in a rush, then make sure to grab a loaf of sourdough or brioche bread to go.
KNEAD Baking Company is located at 469 E Ojai Ave., Ojai, (310) 770-3282
WHERE TO STAY
The Airstream trailers of Caravan Outpost (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Caravan Outpost is a hipster's paradise. It's an upscale motel, where instead of guests staying in a building, their rooms are individual Airstream trailers—some vintage, some newer. The design of the trailers are kitschy and charming; record players and vinyl serve as decorations and hammocks are tied around the many palm trees surrounding the space. Guests can check out the complimentary teal-sprayed beach cruisers to take around town. And if you're up for a little shopping (think along the lines of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie), the motel lobby, which is located inside a refurbished industrial-like barn, also serves as a lifestyle store. But it's also the activities that bring this outpost to life, as guests get to partake in yoga classes, cooking by the community grill, and fireside chats with other Caravan Outpost guests.
Caravan Outpost is located at 317 Bryant St., Ojai, (805) 836-4891
One of the seriously majestic views from a suite at Ojai Retreat (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
If you really want to feel like you're out of L.A., Ojai Retreat is the way to go. This secluded and tranquil property sits on a hilltop, where you can get panoramic views of the valleys and mountains from individual cottages and rooms. On a plus side, there are no TVs in the rooms to distract you, though there's free WiFi if you need to plug in for a moment. Many of the cottages have their own patios, and to get from place to place, you get to walk through the retreat's beautiful gardens. And the friendly owner there offers a great organic breakfast spread with bagels, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt and fruit every day of the week.
Ojai Retreat is located at 160 Besant Rd., Ojai, (805) 646-2536
The Treehouse Suite at Emerald Iguana Inn (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
EMERALD IGUANA INN
With Emerald Iguana Inn's mix of Craftsman- and Art Nouveau-inspired architecture, it feels like you're staying somewhere that's taken out of a page of The Hobbit or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Many of the cozy rooms and suites have private outdoor patios, claw-foot bathtubs and fireplaces. Continental breakfast gets served poolside at the inn as well. If you feel like giving yourself some extra pampering, you can also order in-room massages from the inn. It's just a short walk away from the downtown Ojai area, so you're not too far from civilization.
Emerald Iguana Inn is located at 110 Pauline St., Ojai, (805) 646-5277
The sprawling Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (Photo via Facebook)
OJAI VALLEY INN & SPA
If you want to bathe yourself in luxury, then head over to Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. This historic, sprawling 220-acre resort has views of the mountains and valleys, and is covered with oak trees. There's enough to do here that you might not even need to leave the resort. Here, you can play a 18-hole round of golf, dine at a long list of restaurants, swim in the hotel's pools, or have a spa day in their 31,000-square-foot spa.
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is located at 905 Country Club Rd., Ojai, (855) 697-8780