Having arrived in Ojai, California, I was instantly astonished by the magical atmosphere of this town. A list of the “Top Ten Things To Do” in Ojai I found on the Ojai Visitors Bureau website seemed the best way to explore the area. I thus focused on the green and eco friendly activities and created my own Ojai eco itinerary.
1- Shop Downtown Boutiques; 2- Visit Art Galleries
Ojai, a small and charming town located in the Ojai Valley and adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest and Lake Casitas, is a tourists’ paradise for many distinctive reasons. Situated just 80 miles north of Los Angeles and 30 miles east of Santa Barbara, the town attracts all kinds of visitors and offers many attractions that appeal to the needs and preferences of nearly every lifestyle. The pace of life is rather slow and the locals are friendly and welcoming, all of which comes as a pleasant surprise for travelers looking to rest and re-energize.
A combination of boutiques, art galleries, museums, cafes, and restaurants scattered throughout downtown and enclosed under the town’s famous arcades offer an ideal opportunity to relax while strolling around the town. Ojai is an art hub and a spiritual center that draws in and connects people from different walks of life. In fact, the convergence of art and spirituality have permeated the town’s character and created its unique identity.
3- Take a Scenic Hike; 4- Bike the Ojai Valley Trail; 5- Go Horseback Riding
The hills and mountains surrounding Ojai together with the nearby Los Padres National Forest invite the active vacationers to partake in all kinds of outdoor recreation opportunities. Hiking, biking, rock climbing, and horseback riding are amongst the most popular eco friendly activities.
Numerous hiking trails along the Ventura River and west of the town are part of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy project, which strives to protect natural “views, trails, water, and wildlife.” Many of the trails are accessible for bicyclists and equestrians who can either rent bikes or arrange horseback rides with numerous service providers in town. Alltrails.com is a wonderful resource with helpful reviews and detailed information about the most popular trails. Ojai is also known for its remarkable “Pink Moment,” which occurs when the setting sun colors the surrounding mountain tops with unusual shades of pink. This phenomenon is well visible from town, so one doesn’t necessarily has to hike to experience it.
6- Boat, Fish or Kayak at Lake Casitas; 7- Attend an Ojai Festival
Aquatic enthusiasts will find nearby Lake Casitas a perfect site for kayaking, boating, fishing, camping, and picnicking. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the environmentally friendly Casitas Rowing that offers rowing lessons on the lake to individuals of all ages. Not knowing much about fishing, I was equally amazed to find out that the lake is abundant with largemouth bass and rainbow trout and is known worldwide as a bass fishing site; many different record-size fish have been caught in there.
In the summer, the Casitas Water Adventure opens, attracting children and adults with pools and water playgrounds featuring waterfalls, bridges, slides, and jet sprays. Lake Casitas Recreation Area is a proud host of the annual Ojai Wine Festival in early June, with over 60 wineries, breweries, and vendors featuring a variety of foods and goods—many of them green, organic, and sustainable.
8- Indulge in Spa Treatments; 9- Play Golf or Tennis
Luxurious spas, hotels, golf and tennis courses offer even more recreational opportunities and a more deluxe experience. Ojai is a well-known spa destination. Numerous spas throughout the town, designed predominantly in an eye-catching Spanish Mission style, entice visitors with programs and treatments created for every budget. Tennis is quite popular in Ojai. The town is home to the annual Ojai Tennis Tournament and has appeared in 2009 on the United States Tennis Association’s list of Best Tennis Towns in the U.S.
The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is one of the most prominent local resorts, with amenities including a spa, a pool, and golf and tennis courses. The resort strives for leadership among eco friendly hotels in Southern California. Its “Green Promise” is visible in its operations and philosophy, ranging from responsible management of the 220 acres of the property land, through employment of many sustainable measures, to compassion toward the local community. The resort’s restaurants promote “Edible Ecosystem” cuisine, featuring dishes made from fresh products picked from the Inn’s herb gardens and supplied by local farmers and artisans.
10- Taste Locally Made Wines and Olive Oils
A visit to Ojai wouldn’t be complete without an exploration of local wineries. The Ojai Vineyard is definitely one of a kind as it “works closely with a dozen different vineyards on the Central Coast of California and produces wines from syrah, grenache, mourvedre, pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier.” The company owners insist on farming low yields that produce better quality grapes. To accomplish that they pay winegrowers by the acre rather than by the ton. Many growers supplying grapes to the Ojai Vineyard have eliminated the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides and adopted biodynamic and organic farming practices; Bien Nacido Vineyards and Presidio Vineyard & Winery are pioneering in this kind of vine cultivation.
Sustainable, local artisanship is also evident in the production of olive oil. Ojai Olive Oil, Inc. is a family-owned company that produces a variety of flavored and organic extra-virgin olive oils, as well as a line of olive oil cosmetics. All products are made with natural, organic olives grown on the Asquith Family Ranch – an olive grove with trees as old as 130 years. The olives are handpicked and cold pressed on the site only hours after the harvest. The company offers tours of the grove and the production facilities along with free olive oil tasting.
After a day long in Ojai, I wished I could prolong my stay. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience and decided to come back soon to explore some more.