Ojai: A Hidden Gem in Southern California

As it’s getting cold and snowy in Washington, I am thinking of sunny, warm days in Southern California.

My parents introduced me to this artistic and quaint town. Pronounced “Oh hi” this area was put on the map by a well-known resort, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, and The Housewives of Beverly Hills. Oh and plenty of Hollywood celebrities have lived and still live here.

However, this town has been able to maintain it’s very unique vibe, partly due to the prohibition of chain stores and restaurants. The town draws in creative people and the unofficial motto is: “there’s nothing to do in Ojai and not enough time to do it.”  It may appear to be a small, sleepy town, but there are plenty of imaginative locals who can recommend many things to see and do here.

Ojai is located inland (or east) of Santa Barbara and just over the mountains. The name is said to be derived from the Native American word for nest. Nestled in the Topatopa Mountains, Ojai is the prefect retreat and weekend getaway. Keep scrolling for my “local” recommendations.




Where to Stay

I’ve never stayed overnight at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, but I know you won’t regret staying here for a minimum of $350 per night.

A more economical option is the Emerald Iguana Inn. Room rates here start at $200 per night. My husband and I spent a couple of nights years ago and truly enjoyed our stay. Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures, but I remember that it’s a great place for a relaxing weekend. We especially loved starting our mornings with a delicious continental breakfast poolside.

What to Do

Number one thing to do in Ojai on TripAdvisor (and my list) is visit the Ojai Olive Oil Company. They give public tours and tastings every Wednesday and Saturday. I promise that you’ll enjoy learning about the process for creating olive oil. Your tour will end with a delicious tasting and you won’t be able to walk away without buying a bottle of olive oil.



The scenery is incredible and the air is so fresh. Spend as much time as possible outdoors and go hiking! There are so many wonderful trails … or you can discover your own path.




I especially recommend hiking up to the top of Meditation Mount. At the summit, you can meditate, breath in the fresh air, and enjoy the magnificent view.


Please don’t forget to stop by Bart’s Books, an outdoor used book store! It’s the perfect place to Instagram and purchase a book to read poolside or on top of a mountain.


And you can’t go wrong with listening to any live music in this town. Many current and former professional musicians live here and love to jam. Head to the local bar or restaurant one night and you won’t be disappointed by an excellent jamming session.



Where to Eat

My number one choice is the Farmer’s Market, held every Sunday from 9am to 1pm. At the Farmer’s Market, you can purchase snacks (such a delicious pistachios and fruits). Otherwise for breakfast I recommend the Knead bakery. And for a quick lunch that will never disappoint, I love the Marché Gourmet Delicatessen. For local brews and food, I suggest the Ojai Beverage Company. As previously mentioned, take advantage of the live music scene and head to the Deer Lodge for the atmosphere and food.


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