Staff Writer Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the senior content writer and operations manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests o…See full bio
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Nestled between the Los Padres National Forest and the Pacific Ocean, Ojai is one of Southern California’s most idyllic vacation destinations. Lush rolling hills, stunning landscapes, and a refreshing small-town atmosphere abound here, transporting you to a faraway land.
Though the drive from L.A. to Ojai only takes 90 minutes, the Ventura County town’s plethora of outdoor activities, art galleries, and boutiques make it unlike anywhere else. Verdant trails and family-friendly recreation abound in this outdoor paradise, and with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to high 80s most of the year, nearly every day features perfect adventure weather. Here’s your guide to the ultimate Ojai getaway.
Ojai, California, is quickly becoming a Palm Springs alternative for those looking to escape the hustle of Los Angeles without going too far. While the popular desert town is known for its glitzy destinations, the Ojai Valley provides the opposite allure; often considered a spiritual experience, escaping to this quaint town offers the opportunity to return to nature in a laid-back, grounded environment.
Driving from Santa Barbara to Ojai, everything seems right in the world. The ocean appears to follow your every turn along the 101, dropping you off in the beautiful beach town of Ventura before you veer inland. The last stretch from Ventura to Ojai feels infinite, as the leisurely 35-mile-per-hour roadway slows further as it winds through densely packed foliage and across narrow bridges.
The town seems to appear out of nowhere—before you know it, unpretentious homes with enviable front porches pop out from behind the trees, and Spanish Revival architecture caps every corner with white-walled buildings sporting red-tiled roofs. The excitement finally settles in, and a twinge of anticipation makes you feel incredibly alive; there’s a kind of magic sprinkled across the valley that makes Ojai visitors feel like pioneers able to explore the new region with fresh eyes, while also realizing the dense history of the area.
As you continue driving through town, it’s hard to miss the stark lack of commercial chain businesses—in their place, you’ll find a variety of charming boutiques, eateries, and unique storefronts full of character. To mark the start of this new excursion, the first stop has to be Beacon Coffee for a delectable cappuccino, flat white, or turmeric latte to go with your seasonal donut or maple-fennel scone. Once satiated, it’s time to sift through all the things to do in Ojai to figure out what to do next.
With coffee in hand, walk over to Libbey Park to get a better feel for the town and to breathe in the fresh air (which is especially refreshing after spending time in California’s big cities). Keep your eyes peeled for Ojai’s native plants—including Fremont cottonwood trees, hummingbird sage, deergrass, and silver lupine—as the perfect weather washes over you. After meandering through the park, stop for a moment to take a quick picture with the fountain.
Then, if you get the chance, pop into the Ojai Valley Museum to check out the current exhibits and learn more about the region’s history, culture, and art. Housed in a 100-plus-year-old building listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the museum features everything from photographs to dioramas and is sure to have something that catches your attention.
After discovering the beauty of the valley’s past, head to The Nest of Ojai to pick up a bite to eat. Order the crispy brussels sprouts finished with maple, Dijon, and sunflower seeds; the kale Caesar salad topped with cashew Parmesan cheese, crispy chickpeas, and avocado; and the Figgy Piggy pizza featuring roasted garlic, gooey gorgonzola, balsamic vinegar, figs, bacon, and fresh arugula. Wash it all down with an Earl Grey lemonade, and it’s sure to be a feast you won’t soon forget.
Full of delicious treats—and with leftovers in tow—it’s time to settle in at the Caravan Outpost. This spot isn’t one of your typical Ojai hotels, but it is undoubtedly one of the best places to stay in Ojai. The adventurer’s paradise features 11 Airstreams and a tiny house. You can book a dog-friendly deluxe caravan Airstream so you can bring Fido along on your adventure, or go with a family-sized option for a bit more space. Cozy into your home away from home, and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in this unusual oasis to make the most of your Ojai getaway.
Drive over to Revel to enjoy some craft kombucha. Made with organic green tea and raw organic honey—and often flavored with hand-picked ingredients grown in the Ojai Valley—this is unlike any other kombucha you may have tried. Pick up a growler of your favorite flavor to savor throughout the trip, then make your way over to the Ojai Skate Park to roll around with the locals.
Next, grab dinner to-go from Azu for a fresh take on Mexican and Spanish cuisine. Order the chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates; the braised short rib tacos adorned with cotija cheese and cilantro; the Azu paella—featuring cilantro herb rice studded with prawns, lobster, and chorizo—and the lemon rosemary churros for the full experience.
Venturing back to the Airstream for the evening, watch as the sunset turns the Topatopa Mountains—and everything else in the city of Ojai—into an unbelievable pink hue.
Waking up, it’s hard to believe that you’ve only begun to scratch the surface of Ojai’s things to do. So, after a quick drive into town for a cup of coffee, walk along the Ojai Valley Trail to the Soule Park Golf Course for a round. Originally designed by William F. Bell—the architect responsible for iconic golf courses, including San Diego’s Torrey Pines and Santa Barbara’s Sandpiper—and later renovated by 2016’s Olympic Games designer Gil Hanse, Soule Park Golf Course is a worthwhile sight to see.
Next, drive over to Farmer and the Cook for a hearty breakfast. A local favorite, this joint serves up savory huevos rancheros complete with guajillo sauce, scrambled eggs, beans, cheese, avocado, and pico de gallo—a combo certain to make your taste buds dance. Once satisfied, it’s time for a 15-minute drive out to the Ojai Olive Oil Company farm to sample some of the best olive oil in California. Pressed from organic, sustainable, and ethically sourced olives, this incredible oil is worth the trip and ought to make your itinerary whenever you visit Ojai.
You’re now ready to hike the trails at Valley View Preserve. This dog-friendly open space is one of the most scenic spots in town and is a must-see stop if you’re looking for panoramic views of the valley. Spread across 195 acres, this destination offers as much (or as little) adventure as you seek.
After an hour or two of trekking and photographing the local flora, vacation winds down and the time has come to head home. Though the weekend passed all too quickly, you’ll surely plan many more Ojai day trips for the coming weeks. Until we meet again, Ojai.
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