Ojai (OH-hi) is situated in a small, east-west valley about 15 miles from Ventura and the Pacific coast, surrounded by citrus groves, oak trees and the protective Santa Ynez Mountains. The town settles down into its valley like eggs into a bird's nest, giving credence to some people's contention that its name means "nest" in the Chumash Indian language.
You can plan your Ojai day trip or weekend getaway in a jiffy using the resources below.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Ojai?
- Ojai is a good place for a relaxing getaway or a romantic interlude, with just enough to at a leisurely pace.
- If you're a photographer, the oak trees, mountains and orange groves provide plenty of things to point your lens at. Bring a tripod and have fun.
- If you want to go-go-go all day, Ojai isn't for you. It may not be the best choice for a family getaway, either.
Best Time to Go to Ojai
Ojai weather is nice any time, but hotter in summer. If you go in spring or fall, it will be less crowded and hotels may offer off-season rates.
In late December and early January, the Ojai Valley experiences a phenomenon they call the "pink moment" at sunset, when the sun strikes the rock face of Topa Bluffs and a pink glow fills the sky.
If you've only got a day, take a leisurely stroll among the arcade shops and along the streets branching off from Ojai Avenue (which is also Hwy 150). You'll find art galleries, boutique clothing shops, several places to eat and the tasting room for Casa Barranca Winery, the first certified organic winery on the Central Coast.
Just a block off Ojai Avenue, on the corner of Matilija and Canada is Bart's Books, famous for being a (mostly) outdoor bookstore, with 35-cent specials on a shelf outside, sold on the honor system since 1964, when the original Bart first put out a coffee can to collect his earnings when he wasn't around.
More Great Things to Do in Ojai
It's fun to just walk around in downtown Ojia, created by a local businessman who wanted his town to be distinctive.
A weekend in Ojai is about escaping and relaxing rather than a big list of things to do. You can't beat the Kuyam experience at Spa Ojai for helping with the relaxing part, but Day Spa of Ojai also offers massage, facials and body treatments at quite reasonable prices.
For a little more active day, go horseback riding with Western Trail Rides or rent a bicycle from Bicycles of Ojai (108 Canada Street) and pedal the 16-mile paved path that runs from Ojai's Libbey Park all the way to the beach in Ventura.
You'll likely be done with Ojai after spending a full day there, so after breakfast on your second day, you'll have time for a leisurely drive home. Highway 150 going northwest toward Santa Barbara is a very scenic drive around Lake Casitas, through pastoral countryside and past avocado groves. From there, you could continue north on Hwy 192, skirting the eastern edge of Santa Barbara, then follow Hwy 154 north through the Santa Ynez Valley, connecting with US 101.
Take Hwy 150 the other direction and you'll climb to some scenic vista points overlooking the valley to Santa Paula, where you can take Hwy 126 back toward Ventura and points south or follow 126 the other way to I-5. Hwy 33 leads through the Los Padres National Forest and toward the Central Valley.
Annual Events You Should Know About
Tips for Visiting Ojai
- Whether you're visiting for the day or the weekend, you'll quickly discover that parking along Ojai Ave is limited to 2 hours. Follow S. Montgomery or look behind the arcade shops off E. Matilija for lots with longer limits.
- If you need to "go" while you're downtown, head for the green-tiled arch under the arcade and follow the signs pointing toward more shops. There are also public restrooms back there.
Locals say the Ojai Cafe Emporium (108 S. Montgomery St.) is the best place in town, but consequently it's packed for Sunday breakfast. You can opt for coffee and pastry from their bakery if you're less hungry or in a hurry.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the lovely Su Nido Inn (it means "your nest"). For other ideas, go to Tripadvisor for reviews and price comparisons on hotels in Ojai.
If you're looking for a place to camp, you'll find 400 sites along the shores at Lake Casitas, just a few miles out of town.
Getting To Ojai
Ojai is 83 miles from Los Angeles, 207 from San Diego and 120 from Bakersfield. From the north or south, take US 101 to CA Hwy 33 east. The junction is just north of Ventura. If you're driving southward on US 101 at night, resist the urge to turn off at Hwy 150 (which is the first exit you'll encounter toward Ojai). While Hwy 150 is scenic in the day, it's two-laned and winding, no fun in the dark.
From the east or central valley, take I-5 to CA Hwy 33 west.