Looking for a bit of spring cleaning for the mind, body and soul? The Oaks at Ojai (122 E. Ojai Ave.) is a great place to refresh and recharge your spirit any time of the year. I had a girlfriend getaway for a few days last fall and was pleasantly surprised and charmed at every turn.
Spring is an even better time to visit The Oaks, as April in Ojai brings special celebrations to honor the Pixie Tangerine, a special orange orb grown only in that area. In prior years, The Oaks’s guests have devoured more than 7,000 sweet, seedless Pixies during Pixie month. Expect to find special deals on tangerine tints and scents everywhere this time of year.
The Oaks is first and foremost a health spa, offering an all-inclusive healthy fitness and weight loss program with up to 15 optional fitness classes every day; hikes; three surprisingly tasty calorie-conscious meals per day, plus snacks and beverages; an on-site health advisor; evening activities and wellness lectures; and complete use of all resort facilities.
Other than spa treatments (which are included with some of the package deals), you won’t have to open your wallet for anything additional at The Oaks. Everything is included, which makes it a perfect time to try out new types of fitness classes. In just a couple of days, I was able to take classes in yoga, aqua cardio, Qigong, stretching, Zumba, aqua tone,Pilates and world grooves dance. Hiking, cardio/sculpting, balance, ballet/barre, dance Beliu and ball & band toning are also offered, along with other classes. There’s also a pool and a nicely outfitted weight room, for those who can’t get enough fitness!
The pampering side of the spa experience is also well done, with a nice steam room and sauna available, as well as any spa treatment your heart desires. I had an excellent Skin Authority Signature Facial, as well as a pedicure that lasted several weeks beyond my spa experience.
The food was also surprising tasty. Quinoa was once a dirty word in our house, but after trying Chef Christine Denney’s clever incarnations, I’m hooked and have tried several ideas from her Recipes From the Heart cookbook. All in all, the 1,200- 1,500-calorie-per-day menu was balanced and tasty, inspired by an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean protein featuring wild fish and poultry, all without a touch of additional salt or refined sugar used in the preparation. Sure, my friend and I brought in our own wine to reward ourselves at night after all of those exercise classes, but it wasn’t because we were actually hungry!
An active and inspiring presence at the resort is founder Sheila Cluff, an internationally known fitness expert who created cardiovascular dance in the 1950s, later known as “Aerobics,” and pioneered the concept of the modern destination spa in the 1970s. Now an 80-year-old mother of four and grandmother of seven, Cluff still leads some of the brisk morning walks and hikes at The Oaks and absolutely embodies the lifestyle she teaches.
Cluff has said that she created the retreat to fit the needs of women over 40, and we certainly make up the bulk of the clientele these days. That’s not to say that all ages (and men) are not welcome. The Oaks at Ojai is truly a great place for a girlfriend getaway, but the spa’s approach is casual and welcoming to all, as well as affordable and fun. Plus the charming 1920s Spanish Mission Revival-style hotel fits right in with the artsy laid-back vibe of the town and is right on the main drag of Ojai, within walking distance to boutiques, restaurants, galleries and more. It’s an excellent place to regenerate or spring clean your mind, body, and spirit.
The Oaks at Ojai, 122 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, 800/753-OAKS (6257), oaksspa.com.
Originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.