Although “Ojai” comes from the Chumas Indian word for “moon,” it’s the sunsets that partly inspired its fame. That “pink moment” has drawn visitors to the rural area east of Santa Barbara for decades.
Valentine’s Day is a great time for lovers to make the five-hour drive down to watch the sunset in the sleepy little town.
A good place to catch the sun dip is at Meditation Mount (meditationmount.org), 10340 Reeves Road, a beautiful sanctuary framed by garden paths. Founded by esoteric scholar Florence Garrigue, the retreat includes Tibetan-style buildings designed and completed by resident Zelma Wilson in 1971. Santa Barbara’s Grant Castleberg served as landscape architect.
Daily and monthly classes and events encourage meditation and yoga practice. Some say winter is the best time of year for sunsets.
A haven for artists, musicians and wellness buffs, Ojai has it all.
Golf courses, spas, numerous hiking trails with views and romantic restaurants all coexist in this 3-miles-wide-by10-miles-long town of 8,000 residents. Accommodations range from cute and cozy to luxurious.
A room at the inn
The expansive five-star Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (ojairesort.com), 905 Country Club Road, boasts a golf course that ranks as one of the top 25 in North America. The resort’s seven dining rooms and cafes serve locally grown ingredients.
Spa Ojai offers a signature treatment for $80 – a group clay and meditation experience for eight people of the same gender – $110 for a private session.
The hotel’s Artist Cottage offers classes like Basic Drawing for $40 and Beginning Watercolors or Acrylics for $60 for 90-minute sessions. To bring home a sparkling glass treasure, sign up for Glass Painting, $50 per session. Children can also take beginning painting or other art classes.
Rooms at the Ojai Valley Inn, decorated in Spanish Colonial style, start at $309 for a double or king.
Those who prefer a quainter bed-and-breakfast experience should try the less pricey Lavender Inn (lavenderinn.com), 210 E. Matilija St.. Here, the Treehouse room costs $150 a night on the weekends, but you can also reserve the Provence cottage, a 1,000-square-foot suite with a kitchenette for $300.
The Lavender Inn’s spa offers facials priced from $50 to $130 and massages starting at $100. Fitness instructor Erin Dunphy teaches several forms of yoga, charging $25 per hour for private lessons.
Once settled in to your accommodations, there’s no shortage of hiking trails to explore. Rose Valley Falls, a 300-foot waterfall in the Los Padres National Forest, is off Highway 33. Take the Sespe Road turnoff and drive 3 miles before turning right on Chief Peak Road.
Equestrian trails might be more your speed, in which trot on over to Western Trail Rides (westerntrailrides.org), 1128 Meyers Road. Owner Melissa White guides riders on horseback through hilly terrain offering panoramic vistas.
The Ojai Valley Trail Riding Company (ojaivalleytrailridingcompany.com), 1290 Meyers Road, offers a Valentine’s Day special, a one-hour trail ride for two for $75. Owner Susan Gruber, who majored in agricultural business management at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and continued with a show-horse career after college, leads day and sunset rides on the River Valley and Forest trails in the Los Padres forest.
After working up an appetite outdoors, head to Ojai Olive Oil (ojaioliveoil.com), 1811 Ladera Ranch Road, for free tours and tastings 1-4 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
In addition to flavored olive oil, the company – a staple at the Ojai Certified Farmers Market (ojaicertifiedfarmersmarket.com) 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays at 300 E. Matilija St. – sells balsamic vinegar and cosmetics.
The Ojai Vineyard Winery and Tasting Room (ojaivineyard.com), 109 Montgomery St., is open noon to 5 p.m. daily. The winery has more than 150 Ojai Vineyard wines in stock and available for sale, with shipping to the Bay Area and other states. A flight of six wines costs $15.
If it’s raining – or even if it’s not – the Ojai Valley Museum (ojaivalleymuseum.org), 130 W. Ojai Ave., merits a visit. Billed as “bridge between Ojai’s past and future,” the museum houses a collection of art, Native American baskets, pioneer tools and photos of Ojai’s early days. Admission is $5 adults, $1 youth 6-18 and free for children 5 and under.
A refreshing place to eat dinner after a long day is Hip Vegan (hipvegancafe.com), 928 E. Ojai Ave., a vegetarian cafe with wraps including the “Hip Hip Hooraw,” a spicy jalapeño almond pâté, guacamole and lettuce mix wrapped in tender collard leaves ($11.95). There’s also a hummus plate with cucumbers, tomatoes and olives served with pita bread for $8.95.
Another nearby eatery, Azu (azuojai.com), 457 E. Ojai Ave., offers fresh, local and organic tapas. The restaurant serves gluten-free and Paleo options. California beers include Eagle Rock Brewery, Smog City, Firestone Walker Brewery and Eel River. The restaurant serves happy-hour tapas 5:30-7 p.m. daily.
For more information, visit ojaivisitors.com.