Whitewashed, red-tiled buildings fan out over rolling, green lawns at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa with the soft edges of the mountain range off in the distance.
There’s a relaxed, quiet symmetry everywhere I look at this former private country club dating back to the 1920s. Ojai guests hop in and out of staff-driven golf carts, curling down curved roadways to cut across the resort’s 220 acres. A cacophony of birds chime in surround sound. The scent of herbs lifts out of planters and gets even more intense, almost intoxicating, when I’m near the herb garden.
It may be the most pampering resort in the region but its ethos remains true to Ojai. Farm-to-table cocktails (made at Jimmy’s Pub) and spa ingredients culled from the local landscape are two locavore perks. Ojai is the kind of laid-back Southern California town where chefs have farmers on speed-dial and a tinge of mysticism is revealed in storefront psychics wedged in among other shops off the downtown drag.
This is why, at Spa Ojai, nestled deep into the core of the resort’s property, I don’t blink when pixie-tangerine wedges (unique to Ojai each spring) are rubbed onto my body during my seasonal body polish. Instead of just infusing into oil, the entire fruit is used which is a rarity at spas. (In June through August lemon verbena and avocado are used, while in autumn it’s pumpkin spice. Cocoa and pomegranate are a fun holiday accent for December through February.)
For the first step of the 50-minute treatment, those pixie wedges join with body cream (with jojoba wax beads) to exfoliate the skin. (The claim of smoother, more youthful skin? For the next 24 hours my skin is pillow-soft.) Exfoliation takes 10 minutes lying on my stomach, then another 10 on my back. Next is a hot rinse in the treatment room’s shower, followed by a 30-minute massage. Treatments are conducted in rooms off dimly lit corridors. Instead of cream or white, spa guests slip into cornflower-blue robes.
Beyond the treatment rooms, d©cor takes a modern detour in the two-room relaxation lounge, with its chocolate-brown and bronze accents along with sectional sofas and a fireplace. Zhena’s Gypsy Teas (a California purveyor, specializing in Fair Trade sourcing) are brewed in the lounge, too. There are also two outdoor pools with chaise-side food and drink service plus a sauna and eucalyptus steam room to top off the Spa Ojai experience.
Post-treatment, I stroll out into the early-afternoon California sun, feeling its heat on my now-smooth skin. Caf© Verde, next to the spa and still on property, serves an Asian-inspired lunch menu, everything from bento boxes to sushi to spring rolls to salads. There’s even cocktails made from local ingredients, such as Lavender Lemonade, the estate-grown lavender mingling with vodka and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and glasses of California wine. An orange-coconut smoothie in hand, I park myself at a table in front of the spa, in its intimate courtyard.
It is only when checking out that I spot a sign that coaxes my plan to eventually return. Mind and body classes dig deep into guided meditation and yoga (in eight different styles), plus private courses in creating a personal mandala taught by the resort’s artist in residence. Pure bliss this time and more pure bliss the next in Ojai.
By Kristine Hansen
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