Ojai Observed

It’s hard to believe that a mere 90-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of LA can transport you to a place as idyllically serene as Ojai. The transformation, both visual and physical, is sudden.

It’s hard to believe that a mere 90-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of LA can transport you to a place as idyllically serene as Ojai. The transformation, both visual and physical, is sudden.

 Exit the 101 for the 33 Highway, and the vistas become breathtaking – the rolling hills, lush orchards, and the vast array of exotic flora, all hemmed in by the majestic mountains of the Los Padres National Forest. Before you know it, the multi-tasking stops and the tension involuntarily releases. Strolling the quaint shops and art galleries downtown and hitting the colorful Sunday farmers market, you’ll find this quaint, peaceful town hard to leave.


Start your day with a fabulous cup of joe from the Ojai Coffee Roasting Company on Main Street. Grab it to-go and head across the street to Bonnie-Lu’s for old-fashioned, diner-style breakfast. In the friendly confines of the Valley, the waitresses don’t mind a bit! Next, roll out your mat at Lulu Bandha’s Yoga. Never done downward dog? You’re in the right place. Take the super-easy “Stiff White Guys” class (ladies welcome!) lulubandhas.com


Head through town on Highway 150 (Ventura Avenue) toward Upper Ojai. Just before you start to climb the hills, make a stop at Ojai Olive Oil to tour the groves and sample the delicious fresh oils. Pick up one of the deep blue, glass bottles of oil on your way out. When the bottle is empty, it makes a lovely flower vase! Generally open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but it’s smart to call in advance. ojaioliveoil.com

Continuing east on the 150, try Boccali’s for lunch. The lasagna here is legendary, and the pizza is a thin-crust sensation. Dine alfresco on the patio to enjoy the scenic vistas. Have their specialty, the mile-high strawberry shortcake, for dessert. boccalis.com

Keep heading east and you’ll climb to the summit lookout. Stop and inhale the beauty. Next, check out the 24-acre New Oak Ranch in the Upper Ojai Valley (about six miles outside town). If you’re there during peak lavender season (June-July), for $5 you can pick your own. Snap some photos, snip some stems for a bundle, and browse among the homemade lavender products. The ranch also farms olives, walnuts and a local favorite, Pixie Tangerines. Open weekends during lavender season. Otherwise, call for appointment. newoakranch.com

Enjoy nature and the history of Ojai by taking a guided, two-hour hike with Trails by Potter. While trekking, you’ll also learn about flowers and herbs. hikingojai.com

Finally, hit the Casa Barranca Winery Tasting Room. Learn from master vintners themselves and try some award-winning vintages like the 2006 Pinot Noir or the 2006 Cabernet. casabarrancawines.com


For dinner, try long-time perennial favorite Suzanne’s Cuisine for creative French-Italian eats. Ojai is all about local, organic tastes, and Suzanne’s raises it to high art. Dine in a variety of charming, outdoor areas. Request the porch if you want quiet romance, the patio if you want to be more sociable. Or head to the Ranch House for gourmet fare served in a beautiful garden setting that includes a koi pond, all accented with tiny, twinkling white lights. Afterward, crown your evening with a nightcap at Movino Wine Bar. They feature live music on weekends in an intimate, laid back setting. suzannescuisine.com

Where to Stay

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

A gorgeous, luxury resort with a championship golf course, full-service spa and four restaurants. There’s also a modern tennis center, which includes lighted courts. Eat outside on the patio and take in the dramatic views overlooking 200-year-old oak trees. Children’s programs – from tots to teens – available. ojairesort.com

The Oaks at Ojai

A casual, health-conscious spa that caters to a mostly female crowd. Many are high-powered executives who don’t mind the no-cell-phone rule and are here to de-stress. Rates include three low-calorie meals a day (no white flour, salt or sugar) and a variety of seminars on everything from sexual health to developing a fitness program according to body type. oaksspa.com

Emerald Iguana Inn

An enchanting hideaway, whether you’re into rest or romance. The rooms and cottages, all decorated differently, have names of tropical forest creatures like “Frog” and “Gecko.” Guests love the Continental breakfast (included) and tranquil, relaxing environment. In-room massages available. Not for the kids. emeraldiguana.com

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