Ojai yoga retreat

The Complete Guide to Planning a DIY Wellness Retreat in Ojai, California

The focus on health and well-being has surged in recent years, making wellness travel more popular than ever. If you're ready to design your own perfect wellness retreat in the tranquil beauty of Ojai, California - without shelling out thousands of dollars - this tried-and-true guide is for you. 

With all the delicious ingredients in the mix – scenic surroundings, dedicated digital detox time, a vibrant itinerary of activities for physical and mental revitalization, nourishing local cuisine – Ojai offers the perfect recipe for a restorative retreat, whether you seek a solo adventure or a shared experience with loved ones.

Wellness, yoga and meditation retreats are a great way to restore and recharge  while exploring a new destination and local communities. One downside: all-inclusive retreats that provide meals, accommodations, yoga and meditation classes and tours can cost from $800-$1,000 per day and don’t offer a lot of flexibility in terms of customizing your experience. 

Ready to prioritize your well-being without breaking the bank? You can design an incredible wellness retreat in the beautiful setting of Ojai, California, all on your own terms! Here's our guide to planning a hassle-free, DIY wellness weekend that will leave you feeling rejuvenated.

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6 Reasons to Choose Ojai for Your Next Wellness Trip

Ojai celebrated its 100th anniversary in August 2021, which coincided with our visit. Here’s why this century-old town is the ideal wellness retreat location:

  • Natural healing energy: The Ojai valley, known as the Valley of the Moon, has been known for centuries by the indigenous Chumash people as a healing valley. Nestled in the Ojai Valley in Ventura County, at the southern end of Los Padres National Forest and only 12 miles from the Ocean, Ojai has been known as California’s own Shangri-La for over a hundred years. It is believed to be home of a calming vortex - a natural energy channel on the earth that emanates healing vibes. In addition to incredible scenery, people are drawn here to restore, heal and reconnect.

  • Spiritual haven:  Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian yogi who brought yoga to America and the world, visited Ojai in 1946, and pretty much summed it up: "One does not even have to focus to hear the Om sound here."
Renowned philosopher and spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti also found solace and inspiration in this valley that he called a sacred place. His legacy lives on at the Krishnamurti Grove and retreat center, a tranquil space ideal for meditation and contemplation.

  • Unique location and easy access: Chumash were perhaps the first to appreciate this lush coastal valley’s unusual east-west orientation, a geographic blessing that yields cool nights, warm days, and a long growing season. A short, scenic 40-minute drive from Santa Barbara (40 miles) or 90 minutes from Los Angeles (80 miles) transports you to a place that feels like a parallel world. Ojai's tranquility slows down time, leaving the city's hustle behind. The nearest airport is Santa Barbara (SBA), which is only 30 miles away.

Music for the road: listen to Ojai Vibes playlist on Spotify.

  • Hot Springs: no wellness retreat is complete without a relaxing spa day. There are several ancient natural hot springs located in Ojai’s picturesque Matilija Canyon. The most popular one is a privately-owned Ecotopia Hot Springs, a geothermal hideaway along the Matilija Creek in the Los Padres Forest. Ecotopia offers several rock-walled sulfur hot pools to soak in with temperatures ranging from 100 to 106 degrees. Important: clothing is optional. Ecotopia was closed due to COVID-19 when we visited Ojai. Check their website for hours and reservations.

  • Island time: while technically you’re not on an island, it surely feels like the time flows slower in Ojai. There’s this chill and friendly ambiance in the streets and neighborhood coffee shops that enveloped us in a relaxed pace. Locals say that Ojai is a state of mind, even the name suggests so: ‘Ow-haaai’... #highonojai

  • Ojai Time Machine: on the day of Ojai’s 100th anniversary, the City Council voted unanimously to continue with a ban on chain businesses and franchises in town to protect the community and unique small town character for visitors and residents. Imagine yourself in pre-Starbucks times: in the morning you head over to one of the local coffee shops and meet interesting people who made Ojai their home. You will notice some even read paper newspapers while sipping on the perfect cup of cappuccino. We brought back the best kind of souvenir: a folk music album created and gifted to us by a local musician David who we met at a popular lunch spot, Hip Vegan.

    • An Oasis for Art and Culture: Ojai's creative spirit attracts artists, holistic leaders, and intellectuals drawn to its blend of natural beauty and peaceful energy. Getting lost in Ojai's charming galleries showcasing local painters, sculptors, and ceramicists was a special treat.

  • Ojai even has its own music festival, a vibrant tradition since 1947. 

    Whether you’re looking for a yoga teacher, a breathwork facilitator, a master tea blender for a private tea ceremony, or a sound bath artist to enrich your DIY wellness retreat, look no further - Ojai has a great variety of spiritual and wellness professionals of all trades. Read on for our recommendations.

    Where to Stay in Ojai

    Blue Iguana Inn and it’s adult-only sister property Emerald Iguana Inn are enchanting boutique hotels in the heart of Ojai within walking distance to restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, music venues and nature walks. We loved the spacious cottages with beautiful decor inspired by Barcelona’s iconic architect Antoni Gaudi. Both hotels feature beautiful gardens and pools to relax with a book on a warm sunny day. Rooms: from $179 per night. 

    Looking to splurge? A historic Southern California luxury resort, Ojai Valley Inn is the place to be if you're looking to indulge and pamper yourself with an abundance of active and peaceful pleasures. This resort has been chosen by Travel + Leisure publication readers as one of the Best Hotels in the World featuring a championship golf course, surrounded by scenic hills and mountains, award-winning Spa Village, multiple pools and farm-to-table restaurants for the ultimate resort retreat experience.

    Ojai Valley Inn Wellness Resort in Ojai

    Traveling on a budget? These local favorites offer a comfortable bed, breakfast, and authentic Ojai charm – all without breaking the bank.

    Hummingbird Inn - Ideal for a romantic escape or a serene solo hideaway. Very walkable to downtown Ojai yet offers a peaceful retreat with charming nature-inspired decor. 

    Ojai Retreat & Inn - a serene, hilltop B&B with amazing views from the property, a delicious breakfast buffet, and yoga classes. Perfect destination for an Ojai yoga retreat. Pro tip: book a room with a terrace and enjoy a private yoga lesson with amazing views. Zen bonus: there's a reading room with a large collection of books if a moment of peace and quiet is what you're looking for. 

    The hotel is only a minute away from the Krishnamurti Grove, an area dedicated to quiet meditation and retreat. It is open to the public, simply register online to get the access code.  

    Wine Tasting in Ojai

    Ojai has several wineries and vineyards that produce high quality wines using grapes selected based on the region’s unique climate and soil. According to a long time wine maker and owner of Ojai Vineyards Adam Tolmach"The climate is just cool enough that the acidity level never comes into play and, for some reason, there is always a zesty tang apparent that makes this wine seem to dance.”

    Outdoor wine tasting in Ojai

    Top wine picks to try in Ojai: Syrah, Grenache and Viognier.

    Wine tasting at Topa Mountain Winery in Ojai

    Head to the Topa Mountain Winery for a fun outdoor wine tasting experience with the stunning views of the Topa Topa Mountains Range. At the time of our visit, reservations were required ahead of time and could be easily made online their website.

    2024 Update: the Topa Mountain Winery has been acquired by the Ojai Valley Inn. You can now enjoy vineyard tours and wine tastings as part of their group activities.

    For a relaxed, family-friendly wine tasting experience, head to Boccali Vineyards. Enjoy their award-winning wines under the shade of oak trees on weekends. Check their web calendar for the most up-to-date hours and local happenings.

    View from the Topa Mountain Winery in Ojai

    Spiritual and Wellness Activities

    Visit Meditation Mount to find your Zen and capture Pink Moment

    After spending a relaxed afternoon enjoying handcrafted wines at the Topa Mountain Winery, we drove to the Meditation Mount to catch the sunset with a famous Ojai “pink moment” and explore a unique meditation center known for its panoramic views of the Ojai Valley.

    Sunset meditation at the Meditation Mountain in Ojai

    Located just 5 miles east of  downtown Ojai, this place transports you into another world of serene calm and quiet yet powerful beauty of the surrounding mountains. Visiting the mount was one of the most profound moments and a highlight of our trip, highly recommend!

    The sunset portal at the Meditation Mountain

    Fun fact: in 2021, the center marked its 50th anniversary since it opened the doors in 1971 with a mission to promote the creation of a more compassionate world through the power of creative meditation.

    The pink moment

    The center is currently open by pre-registration only due to COVID-19. There's a great variety of mindful activities to choose from - self-guided or guided, walking or seated meditations, sunset yoga or full moon sound bath meditations -  check out their online calendar of upcoming events and book your experience. 

    Cost: $10-$20 per person goes to support the non-profit center. Find it on Instagram: @meditationmount 

    Meditation Hall at Sunset at Meditation Mountain in Ojai

    Try a Custom Private Yoga and Meditation Experience to Restore and Recharge

    I connected with Tara from Soul Body Ojai Wellness Center, located in downtown Ojai, prior to our trip to help design a private session to celebrate a milestone Birthday and accentuate our special time in the Valley of the Moon. Tara, a certified Kundalini Yoga and Yoga Nidra teacher, recommended the Ojai Experience that included gentle restorative yoga, breathwork, guided Yoga Nidra meditation and a gong sound bath for a total of 2.5 hours. 

    During the meditation, as we were lying on our yoga mats in Savasana, a Reiki master came in and gently worked with each of us individually to guide the flow of healthy energy and help release energy blocks from incomplete past events and experiences.

    At the end of our Ojai Experience session, Tara did a special blessing ceremony for our group that left us feeling deeply grateful and connected. Some of us felt emotional in a great liberating way! If you have a special occasion to celebrate, mention it to Tara and they will design the perfect combination just for you. It’s suitable for all levels from a complete beginner to advanced. For some of my friends this was the very first time doing yoga and meditation and they had the best experience.

    Yoga meditation retreat in Ojai

    Nourish Your Body with Fresh Farm-to-Table Eats

    Known for its olive oil, avocados, citrus - especially the sweet, seedless Pixie Tangerine grown on local family farms - Ojai is a top choice for foodies craving something new. Here are a few places we tried and enjoyed.

    🍽 Ojai Rotie - our latest discovery and a new favorite for dinner! Experience an enchanting outdoor setting with trees and twinkling lights, where delicious food meets Ojai's relaxed vibe. The menu blends French and Lebanese flavors with a focus on fresh ingredients. Enjoy their signature rotisserie chicken and an excellent selection of wines.

    Ojai Best places for outdoor dinner Al Fresco

    🍽 Sea Fresh Ojai - best sushi, relaxed ambiance and plenty of options from the menu to cater to every taste. 

    🍽 The Vine Ojai - a cozy wine bar and patio dining with live music on most nights. Located right in the heart of downtown Ojai and perfect for dancing under the stars. @thevineojai

    🍽 Hip Vegan - best for lunch! Like the name suggests, it is a hip vegan restaurant with a lovely community vibe, outdoor dining and shaded trees to escape the heat. Serving delicious vegan sandwiches, bowls, soups, smoothies and lassi drinks. Try their Wagamama or Ashram Lunch bowls. @hvojai 

    Wagamama bowl

    🍽 Love Social Cafe - beautiful little cafe where everything is made fresh. Great for a rustic alfresco breakfast or brunch but tends to get busy during mid-morning hours so be sure to arrive early. @lovesocialcafe

    Outdoor brunch at Love Social Cafe Ojai

    Favorite coffee shops in Ojai

    Ojai Coffee Roasters - Step inside and smell the rich aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans. Settle in with a steaming cup and enjoy the small-batch quality, complemented by a locally baked pastry. Don't miss the vibrant local art on the walls! Best of all, this coffee company shares the love, supporting schools and giving back to the Ojai community.

    Explore the Outdoors

    From hiking and camping in the Sespe Wilderness area within the Los Padres National Forest to boating and kayaking on Lake Casitas, Ojai offers many opportunities to explore and connect with nature.

    There are quite a few hiking trails within walking distance from the Emerald Iguana Inn where we stayed during our visit. We took the Pratt Foothill trail for an easy morning hike which was a fantastic way to start the day. It turned out to be a very diverse beautiful trail that has it all: walking through wildflower fields, avocado trees, villas, great views of Ojai Valley and lovely vineyards along the way. Distance: about 3 miles round trip. Rose Valley Falls is another popular trail with a short and easy hike to the falls. 

    Vineyards along the Pratt Foothill trail in Ojai

    Best Occasions

    Ojai is great for a Birthday celebration, anniversary, reunion or just because it’s always a good idea to share a great wellness trip with friends, to invest in yourself and your mental well-being. 

    Best Time to Visit Ojai

    There is never a bad time to visit Ojai. Its mild mediterranean climate welcomes visitors year round with warmest weather in July and August. We went in August and enjoyed our chill time by the pool during the hottest hours of the day.

    What to Bring Home From Ojai: Unique Gifts & Local Finds

    Ojai is a treasure trove of local delights to savor and share. Consider bringing home a piece of Ojai with these special finds:

    • Olive Oil: Ojai's Mediterranean climate yields award-winning olive oils. Sample and purchase them directly from local groves.
    • Wine: Explore Ojai's boutique wineries and bring back a bottle (or two) of their unique varietals.
    • Coffee: Grab a bag of beans from Ojai Coffee Roasters to bring those cozy mornings home.
    • Artisan Chocolate: Treat yourself to handcrafted chocolates made with locally sourced ingredients.
    Ojai Beato Chocolate Bar

    • Citrus: Depending on the season, fresh Ojai oranges or pixie tangerines make a sweet and healthy souvenir.
    • Wellness Products: Discover handcrafted soaps, essential oil blends, soy candles or crystals to extend your retreat's sense of well-being.

    • Ceramics & Art: Support local artists by purchasing a unique piece from Ojai's galleries and shops. 
      Ojai gift shops
    • Fun Finds: Show off your Ojai state of mind with a quirky graphic tee. 
      Ojai graphic tshirt

    Bottom line on DIY Wellness Retreats

    You don’t have to spend a fortune on a yoga retreat or a luxurious wellness resort  like the one in “Nine Perfect Strangers” to experience the benefits of healing, relaxation, and renewal. Instead, you can opt in for your local, under-the-radar spot and put together a fun itinerary for a healthy and rejuvenating weekend retreat either for one, a couple or a group of friends. It is going to be uniquely yours and much more budget-friendly so you can do it more often!

    Hiking in Ojai


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