A Week of Adventure, Food, Wine, and Wellness in Ojai

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Advisor - Carol Johnston
Curated By

Carol Johnston

  • California

  • USA

  • Luxury Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • Adventure Travel

  • Wellness Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Active Travel

  • Hiking

  • Digital Detox

  • Outdoors

sun peaks through trees overlooking lush fields on a lookout with a fence
Curator’s statement

Ojai is a popular weekend trip for those in Southern California, but there are plenty of activities available to make a full week of relaxation and fun. Here is an example of what activities can fill a week. Many claim that Ojai’s name comes from the Chumash word for “the nest”, although others say it means “the moon”. Both imply the peaceful retreat that awaits you. Ojai is also known as a vortex (similar to Sedona, AZ) that attracts healers and artists. The Topa Topa Mountains glow pink in the evenings, providing yet another reminder of the valley’s charms. Surrounded by fantastic hiking trails, bike paths, and mountains, Ojai is a great place to enjoy nature, just a short drive from Los Angeles or Santa Barbara. And, if you are looking for great food and wine, you will not be disappointed.

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Day 1: Visit the Arcade and Libbey Park

staccato archways with shadows of trees create a path through a park with mountain region in the background

A wonderful way to begin a day in Ojai is at one of its newest restaurants, The Dutchess. The Dutchess is just east of the Arcade area on the opposite side of the street. The name comes from the original bread oven that was installed for the bakery built in 1927 known as Bill Baker’s. In the morning hours, the space is a scrumptious bakery, featuring flakey croissants, muffins, tarts and other sweet (and savory) delights. Many of the selections are gluten-free and very much worth the splurge. They also are known for their coffee — try the Gibraltar, an espresso drink with equal parts steamed milk served in a glass. In the evenings, the Dutchess becomes a popular dinner spot serving Burmese food (more later).

The Ojai Valley Inn was originally built as the Ojai Country Club through the sponsorship of the glass-maker and philanthropist, Edward Drummond Libbey, in 1923. Libbey is also the inspiration of the downtown area which features a bell tower (now the Post Office), the Arcade (shopping and dining), and the park and event space, known as Libbey Bowl.This area remains a vibrant part of the city and is definitely worth an afternoon (or two) of exploration.

If you come with children, the park has a large play area, with separate areas for different aged guests. Kids will enjoy the variety of climbing activities, obstacle courses, and a unique treehouse. Children and adults may enjoy a game of tennis on one of the public courts in the park.

The Arcade features several unique shops, including the long-time local family-owned Rains Department store — where you can find a wide range of items: casual clothing, shoes, upscale kitchen supplies, hardware, and gifts. A few wine bars have opened in the Arcade, should you want to sit and relax for a bit after some time wandering through the boutiques. Many offer live music in the evenings.

Dinner at The Oak at the Ojai Valley Inn, weather permitting. Chose a table on the patio with peaceful views of the golf course and surrounding mountains.

Day 2: Take a hike

mountain range on foggy day

Ojai has a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy to strenuous. Be aware that there are rattlesnakes, Coyote, Bear and Mountain Lion in the area. I have been hiking in this area for more than 30 years and have had few encounters, though I do often see evidence of them being around. Also, you may want to check conditions, as California’s unusually wet weather has caused some trails to be closed, and others may require stream crossings that in drier years do not present a challenge.

Choose from a few of my favorites or join one of the Ojai Valley Inn’s guided hikes:

  • Shelf Road — This is an easy walk with mild elevation gains/drops on a wide fire road, popular for locals and their dogs. The 3.5 mile out and back trail takes about 1.5 hours to complete and can be accessed from either end (Gridley Ave. or Signal St.). There are also some trails that connect from Shelf Road for a more rigorous hike.

  • Pratt, Foothill, Fox Canyon Loop Trail — A more moderate hike on a loop of 3.1 miles takes just under 2 hours. This is a popular trail and can be a great place to view poppies, lupine, and other beautiful wildflowers in the spring season.

  • Horn Canyon Trail — This moderate out and back trail is 11;5 miles in length, if fully completed and can take about 8 hours. The trail initially passes the Thacher School gymkhana, and you may see some students on horseback passing you on the trail. After the 4 creek crossings, you will come to a long set of stairs. Many chose to stop near the top of the stairs and return after enjoying the solitude and beauty at the top for awhile. This cuts the time to about 4-5 hours in total.

After working up your appetite on the trail, visit the Ojai Beverage Company (OBC) for a casual meal and a large selection of beers on tap. If you enjoy the occasional hamburger, this is the place to indulge!

Day 3: Take a ferry to the Channel Islands

landscape of still blue water off islands with boats traveling to and from

Drive back to the Coast for a day trip to one of the Channel Islands, off the coast of California. Island Packers, in operation since 1968, is the official boat concessionaire for the Channel Islands National Park, and the only service with the ability to dock on the Islands. The boat ride is 1-2 hours (depending upon the island visited) each way and you are often able to see dolphin, whales, and other sea animals during the trip. You will need to take food and water with you.

Sometimes known as “the North American Galapagos Islands”, the Channel Islands are home to many unique species—including the island fox and the gnarled, ancient pine tree —the Santa Rosa Island Torrey Pine. The Channel Islands were also the home of the Chumash people, and you may find traces of their lives such as abalone shell artifacts.

Stop in Ventura on your return to Ojai after a long day of adventure. Keeping with the sea theme, dinner will be a Lure Fish House. Choose from a variety of fresh, sustainable fish options from this family-owned restaurant.

Day 4: Summon up your inner cowboy

horse with golden light

Begin the day with a morning trail ride on the River Valley Trail (suitable for beginner to intermediate riders).

After lunch, continue with the horse theme and participate in an equine facilitated learning session where you will learn to connect and be aware of non-verbal cues and develop your intuition. No riding involved in this activity.

Keeping with the Western theme, visit a few art galleries featuring western art — Dan Schulz Fine Art (Downtown Ojai on Signal Street) features exquisite plein air paintings. Meet and speak with the artist; Katie Van Horne—equestrian artist (near Downtown Ojai) has many large format horse paintings and does many commissioned portraits, with or without horses.

End the day with a diversion from the equestrian theme with a dinner at Nocciola Italian Restaurant. Sit on the patio in a wooden booth that offers both great views, and a sense of privacy as you savor each delicious course along excellent wine pairings.

Day 5: You deserve a spa day

large tree with many reaching branches in a park on a sunny day

After the adventures of the last few days, a relaxing spa day is on the menu! Begin the day with an aerial yoga class. Your personal trainer will assist you in using the silk hammock to allow you to assume your yoga postures in an hour long session. Afterwards, relax at the Spa Pool and enjoy a light meal at the Spa Restaurant.

Later in the afternoon, continue your wellness indulgence with a private Kuyam—a clay treatment that blends the Chumash traditions (Kuyam is the Chumash word for “a place to rest together”) with the relaxations of a Mediterranean Hummam. Be sure to stay hydrated throughout this day!

Dinner will also be a treat. Olivella is the Ojai Valley Inn’s premier restaurant with fresh flavors from the valley and an impressive wine list to find that perfect pairing. Weather permitting, the outdoor seatings offer breathtaking views to enhance the experience.

Day 6: Ride a bike

wild plants and flowers and a bolder on a trail in a mountain region

Ojai is a great place to ride a bike. The bike path (formerly a railroad track) provides a relaxing trail from Ojai to the beach in Ventura. An electric-assist bicycle can take away some of the worries if it has been awhile since you rode a bike! Another option takes you to the Orange Groves in the Eastern Ojai Valley. This is a popular route for locals and tourists.

We began the trip with a visit to The Dutchess for breakfast (and if you are like me, you squeezed it in a few more times). Now, we are going to see how the vibe changes in the evenings. The Burmese cuisine may feel intimidating at first, but most will be very satisfied with the curries and the incredible naan (yes, the fact that this is a bakery by day….). The tea leaf salad is also recommended, but note that it is served a bit differently from tradition to make it easier on those new to this cuisine. Wine pairings here are amazing and feature many local wines and organic and biodynamic wines around the world, which pair well with the fresh farm to table ingredients in the food.

After dinner, enjoy some live music at Sam’s Place in the Arcade.

Day 7: On your own

empty stone bench with light green plant stems in the foreground

After experiencing some of the best that Ojai has to offer, we reserve this day for you to decide the agenda. Do you want a repeat of one of the earlier days? A bit more time to explore the Ojai Artist community? Want to listen to more music?

Advisor - Carol Johnston

Travel Advisor

Carol Johnston

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For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Aimee Suthann's guide, Wellness Weekend Getaway in Ojai, California. This itinerary is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.