he New York Sun
A Spa in Shangri-La
By Pam Price
With its oak tree-studded hills, Ojai is wryly known to travelers as a Wal-Mart-free zone. This slice of California paradise is named for the Chumash Indian word for moon, and when the moon illuminates the Ojai (pronounced "Oh, hi!") sky, it becomes apparent why so many flock to this peaceful locale 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
An artist's hamlet, the region boasts two renowned spas including the spacious 305-room Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. The heart of this Mediterranean-style resort, spread over 220 acres, is its lavish spa, where menu options include offerings to stimulate creativity. Courses in pottery, painting, paper making, drawing, and wreath making are available at Spa Ojai's newly opened artist's cottage.
The venerable Oaks at Ojai is a 45-room destination spa resort, made famous by a fitness guru, Sheila Cluff. New suites at the spa offer the ultimate in four-star luxury, and a stellar menu of health and fitness activities includes a brisk morning walk through Ojai, often led by Ms. Cluff.
For Inn enthusiasts, the Su Nido Inn, which sits within walking distance of Ojai, has nine one- and two-room bedroom suites that feature private patios. A nearby market, the Rainbow Bridge, is brimming with organic delights , yoga accessories, and locally grown produce - perfect for stocking up the mini-kitchens at Su Nido.
Visitors in ameditative mood can head for Meditation Mount at the end of Reeves Road, where awesome views of the Ojai Valley are a must for the spiritual-minded.
But it isn't solely the spa resorts that lend Ojai its air of serenity. The Ojai Valley appears intrinsically at odds with anything resembling fast food or big-box stores. For instance, I like that if I want the most organic juicy orange in the land I can hike out to the Friends Ranch out on U.S. Highway 33. And if I am in the mood for a scenic ride, I can hop on the Ojai Trolley Service for 50 cents (seniors pay half ) and ride as far as Meiners Oaks to revel in the valley's pristine mountain air. Ojai's Topa Topa mountains reflect the setting sun, just another reason why the nickname for this enchanting valley is "Shangri-la" (it was cast in 1937 as the mythical Eden in Frank Capra's "Lost Horizon").
Many of the restaurants in the region, with their intimate settings, will feel familiar to travelers who have dined on Martha's Vineyard - from the adventurous menu options at Suzanne's to the ever popular Ranch House, which is surrounded by streams and rustling leaves. A haven for natural foods, the Rainbow Bridge on East Matilija Street sits on a quiet lane behind Ojai's historic Arcade. It is a garden of earthly delights for those who revel in health food groceries and appreciate organic produce; the friendly staff can curate a terrific picnic basket. Also, visitors should make time to discover the joys of Ojai Olive Oil by scheduling a tour of the company's 2,500-tree farm. (Saturday-only tours are scheduled between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.) The Old Creek Ranch Winery's Tasting Room is another great option for tours or tastings and guests are welcome to bring a picnic lunch.
A Spa in Shangri-La