Time spent in Ojai offers the best of both worlds: biking, hiking and outdoor activities galore, complemented with massage, yoga and an overall retreat to a calming oasis. Maybe best known for its Ojai Music Festival, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa or the rich and famous who flock to this quaint spot (Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal have been spotted here), the city of 8,000 far exceeds its reputation. Here, everyone – from the 21-year-old waitress who finds the nightlife stimulating to the single mother masseuse – seems to have found his or her piece of heaven-pie. Which makes being a visitor like stumbling into Narnia.

Ride 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles, just a bit east of Santa Barbara, and you’ll arrive in Ojai. Acquaint yourself with downtown; take a walk along the historic arcade, stroll through Libbey Park and peek into Bart’s Books (302 W. Matilija St.; bartsbooksojai.com).

When your stomach growls, there’s no finer eatery than Feast Bistro (254 E. Ojai Drive; feastofojai.com). For over three years, it’s been serving up the freshest organic food with innovative, flavorful twists. Plump shrimp resting on corn cakes drizzled with corn salsa only whet your appetite for more.

Down the street is the Tapas Bar Azu (457 E. Ojai Ave.; azuojai.com). Their Seafood Paella is spicy and delicious, and don’t miss out on the creamy gelato in the front case.

From your first meal, you realize Ojai is wonderfully obsessed with organic food and farming. It’s known for its orange groves, olive oil and avocados, to name a few crops. The farmers market every Sunday superbly supplies most restaurants with the best product.

You’ve got your choice of places to stay the night. The newly renovated Best Western Casa Ojai (1302 E. Ojai Ave., ojaiinn.com) is clean and comfy, just blocks from the center of town and treats guests to an outdoor pool and complimentary breakfast. Another perk is its proximity to the Day Spa of Ojai (1434 E. Ojai Ave.; thedayspa.com).

There are more than a handful of spas to choose from here, but this one was voted Best Day Spa 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. Wafts of serenity whirl about the main lobby and into the halls and massage rooms. There are various outdoor lounge areas to sit and sip tea; the whole experience is priceless.

Treat yourself to a Stress Reduction Back Masque or Foot Reflexology. If you know you’ll be spending the day working out, schedule an afternoon treatment to ease your overworked muscles.

Ojai encourages an outdoor lifestyle. There are numerous hiking trails (some that lead to natural hot springs), yoga classes at Lulu Bandha’s (even one titled “stiff white guys”; lulubandhas.com), activities at Lake Casitas and bike riding tours.

When it comes to bikes, Kelly Pasco at Project-Ride (510 W. El Roblar St.; project-ride.com) is your guide. His shop lies just outside of town in Meiners Oak.

You can either rent a road bike, mountain bike, electric bike or tandem, or sign up for a tour. There’s the Descent of Sulphur Mountain; within nine miles you go from 2,300 feet to 400 feet above sea level, sandwiched by breathtaking views of Ojai Valley and the Pacific Ocean.

If you’re up for something out of the ordinary, opt for the Spirit of Ojai on electric bike. Explore organic farms, ascend to Meditation Mount and stop by the Krishnamurti Library – without running out of fuel. Finish off the tour with an organically grown meal at Farmer & Cook (339 W. El Roblar St.; farmerandcook.com).

No trip to Ojai is complete without a stay at the Ojai Retreat (160 Besant Rd., ojairetreat.org). Located a short ways up in the hills, it is Utopia incarnate. There are 12 renovated rooms; my favorite is the magnificent Sky Room with a view of the sprawling valley from the bedroom.

Homemade muffins, granola and yogurt are part of the complementary breakfast and yoga is offered Saturday-Monday mornings in the Quiet Room. Here, with no TV or Internet connection, it’s easy to loose yourself in all of nature’s glory.

Treat yourself to Ojai!



For more information, visit ojaichamber.org.