It all started on a hot summer day when I wanted to go for a swim. But, I did not want to go to a pool full of hipsters holding drinks at a Hollywood hotel. I wanted to go to a real pool and swim some laps!
I did a search online and concluded that I’d need to get out of L.A. to find what I was looking for. That’s when I remembered that my wife wanted to check out the Ojai Valley Inn resort because it was chosen as one of the top 20 resorts in California by Conde’ Nast Traveler. I didn’t know much about Ojai or the resort. They only had one night available the next week, but after making sure it had a nice pool, we just booked it!
Well, we had an amazing time there even though we were only there for one night! Here are my tips for having a great weekend getaway in Ojai and the Ojai Valley Inn. And no, this post is not a paid advertisement.
If you’re coming from Los Angeles, most folks will take the 101 North up to Ventura, then you’ll make a right on the 33 which takes you right into Ojai.
We made a quick stop at In-n-Out in Oxnard for lunch. Another good place to stop with lots of food options is downtown Ventura; more on that later.
Check-in time at the Ojai Valley Inn is 4PM. If you get there early, the town of Ojai is definitely worth checking out.
If you love books, or if you just love cool bookstores like The Last Bookstore in Downtown L.A. or Powell’s in Portland, Bart’s Books in Ojai is a “must”!
Bart’s Books was the home of Richard Bartinsdale, and eventually morphed into a book store. Calling itself “the world’s greatest outdoor bookstore”, much of the inventory is indeed outside.
Inside, almost all of the space has been dedicated to books, even the kitchen!
My wife found a rare cookbook here for only $10! But, it’s fun to wander through this quirky space, even if you’re not looking for a book.
When you arrive in Ojai, I recommend checking out the charming downtown area on E. Ojai Ave. between Signal St and Montgomery St. You’ll find lots of unique shops, restaurants, art galleries, winery tasting rooms, and boutiques there. Definitely worth a stop!
The Ojai Valley Inn
As soon as you drive onto the property, you’ll notice how well the grounds are kept; the signs of a top-notch resort.
Our check-in time was 4PM, but we went to the resort at 3PM and happily, our room was ready and we got a free upgrade! It had a wonderful view of the Ojai Valley.
The Indigo Pool
The first thing we did was change and check out the pool! It certainly was beautiful and warm, but the Indigo Pool was filled with folks relaxing and standing around with drinks… I totally get the appeal of that, but I was here to actually swim. Swimming laps in this pool would be totally obnoxious!
Happily, we found out that there was another pool, a real lap pool on the property. But first, we had a quick snack of tortilla soup and a salad at Jimmy’s Pub. We sat outside and enjoyed the view of the golf course!
The Energy Pool
After our snack, we flagged one of the many electric shuttles roaming the property to take us to the lap pool, which they call the “Energy Pool”. When we got there, we found, to our delight, only one other person swimming in it! The temperature of the water in this pool was much more suited for real swimming. It was a bit a shock to get in, but refreshing. This was exactly what we were looking for!
After swimming our laps, we explored the grounds a bit and headed back to our room to shower and prepare for dinner.
An Amazing Dinner at Olivella
Good hotels usually have fine restaurants, but Olivella was outstanding. It features “California coastal cuisine with Italian influences”, or something to that effect. Every course was outstanding and the ingredients were unique and fresh.
Even if you’re not staying at the resort, I would recommend dinner at Olivella (they are only open for dinner).
One tip: Our waiter promoted their tasting menu, which is one item from each course, but actually, ordering the items individually is cheaper if you don’t order beef. So, do some quick math before doing the tasting menu you could save $20 or more.
The next morning, we had breakfast sandwiches at Libbey’s Market, their general store that features snacks, ice cream, and drinks. Notably, their drinks were priced less than at Starbuck’s! We ate outside again with the wonderful view of the golf course.
Another thing we wanted to do was play tennis. Neither of us had played in years, and we were pretty bad, but we still enjoyed it.
The resort has four tennis courts and offers lessons and rentals if you don’t have equipment. You have to call to reserve your court, but it wasn’t a problem for us to reserve the night before.
We had a blast playing with our ancient tennis rackets, just trying to keep the ball in our area!
But, it was pretty hot, so after about 45 minutes, we headed off for another swim in the Energy lap pool! It was amazing to get into that cool water! And no one else was in the water but us!
Since we had only one night at the Inn, we had to check out at noon. But here’s the cool part. Even after you check out, you can still access the pool if you let the front desk know you want to do that before you check out. Of course, you can roam the restaurants and the rest of the grounds as well. So, you can really get an extra half-day in at the resort even after you’ve checked out!
Lunch at The Oaks
We decided to stay at the resort and have lunch at their main restaurant, The Oaks. I had the Umami Bowl and my wife had the Farmers Market Bowl. These are their “healthy lunch bowls”. The ingredients were fresh, and tasty, but the flavors could have been a bit more pronounced. The view and ambiance, though, were great as usual though!
After lunch, we sat under their famous 200-year-old Oaktree for one last time to relax, take photos, and reflect on the wonderful time we had there. Even though we were only there for two days and one night, we felt like we had been relaxing for a week there!
Our Second Visit to the Inn
We enjoyed the Ojai Valley Inn so much that we booked a second visit the same summer!
We did many of the same things we did the first time, but were able to pack more activities in. We had an early dinner at Olivela, and it was just as good the second time.
One thing that we definitely wanted to do was bike around the grounds and around town. The resort has free bike rentals, and Ojai has some great dedicated bike paths. So, the next morning we rented bikes, played some tennis, then did a short ride to downtown Ojai.
The Downtown Trail loop goes through Libbey Park and downtown Ojai. It’s a great way to see the town if you didn’t before.
There is also a Woodland Loop that we want to check out next time.
If you’re really ambitious, you can take the Ojai-Ventura Bike path all the way to downtown Ventura! Not sure if I’d use the resort rental bike for this one, but the trail is paved the whole way and removed from traffic!
Hiking and Other Activities
Next time we’d also like to check out the local hiking trails! Other activities include horseback riding, wine tasting, and shopping. Oh, and of course, golfing! Some exercise machines and weights were available outside the gym. There is also the spa, but of course, that was closed when we went due to COVID-19.
Old Town Ventura
Unless you’re going the inland route, your trip to Ojai will take you through the town of Ventura.
We decided to stop in the Old Town area on our way home after our first trip. Old Town is on Main Street starting from the Mission San Buenaventura running several blocks east of there.
The street was closed off to traffic and turned into a pedestrian-only area, allowing the restaurants to have lots of wonderful outdoor seating. There were a variety of unique and charming thrift stores, gift shops, clothing stores, and other quirky one-of-a-kind shops there. It was a great way to end our trip before heading home.
As you can see, there were a ton of things to do during our trips to Ojai. Because the Inn lets you use the facilities for the rest of the day after you check out, you can make a one-night stay feel like two full days! My wife and I highly recommend the Ojai Valley Inn if you’re looking for a romantic getaway! – Brian