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Research

36
Hours of Research
26
Articles Reviewed
3805
Reviews Compiled

Contributors

Mackenzie Nia
Lead Writer
Pouya Nia
Photographer

Best Places to Eat, Play, and Stay in Ojai, CA

Published
December 7, 2019

Located at the base of Los Padres National Forest is Ojai, a bohemian-style town that is a coveted vacation getaway for many Southern California dwellers. Known for their value of local businesses and farms, Ojai has a variety of restaurants that serve farm-to-table meals and even has tasting rooms for Ojai-grown wines. During your visit to Ojai, you can visit several of the unique stores showcasing artisan goods, partake in a free olive oil tasting, and even get a hike in! It’s evident that Ojai is in a league of its own which made our research even more interesting (and tricky at times). After many hours of research and two days spent in this town, we’ve determined that the following are the best places to eat, play, and stay in Ojai, CA.

Research

36
Hours of Research
26
Articles Reviewed 
3805
Reviews Compiled

Contributors

Mackenzie Nia
Lead Writer
Pouya Nia
Photographer

Places to Eat

About

Beacon Coffee is a third-wave coffee shop in downtown Ojai serving specialty coffee drinks, local kombucha, and freshly baked pastries—many of which are vegan and/or gluten free. This coffee shop is sleek and cozy with plenty of seating to accommodate the many locals and visitors that frequent this Beacon Coffee daily. The owners of Beacon Coffee source their beans directly from the growers to ensure quality, and play an active role in the growing process. At Beacon Coffee, you can be confident that the drink you order will be made with care, from the growing process all the way to the way the drink is brewed.

The Research

There are only a few coffee shops in Ojai, but Beacon Coffee quickly stood apart from the rest by many factors. In addition to having the strongest ratings and most mentions in articles written about Ojai, Beacon Coffee has a level of quality in their product in which their competition simply did not compare. We also appreciated that Beacon Coffee was transparent about their sourcing process which we did not find from other coffee shops in Ojai.

Our Experience

When we ordered our drinks and pastries at Beacon Coffee, the barista was very helpful in answering our questions about the coffee and helped us pick out our pastries. We ordered an iced latte, a local kombucha on tap, and two pastries. The pastries were fresh and had unique flavor pairings like fennel and maple; one of our pastries was gluten free and I couldn’t even tell! Overall, our experience was extremely positive and we’d love to go back.

The Competition

While there are not too many coffee shops in Ojai, there are a few competitors to Beacon Coffee. Coffee Connection initially caught our attention due to its high ratings, but the quality of the brewing process here does not compare to Beacon Coffee. We also looked into Ojai Roasting Company who serves additional food items at their shop like sandwiches and bagels. While we liked their extended food menu, their online reviews were significantly weaker than Beacon Coffee.

About

Tipple and Ramble is a wine bar that also serves what they call “picnic food”, which includes items like cheese boards, empanadas, toasts, and salads. Guests of Tipple and Ramble can enjoy their food and drinks on their bohemian-styled outdoor patio, which includes couches, tables, hammocks, and even a teardrop trailer. Inside of Tipple and Ramble, there is a shop that sells decor and entertaining wares in a similar bohemian style.

The Research

There are quite a few wine bars in Ojai and most, unlike Tipple and Ramble, are associated with a specific winery. In addition to analyzing existing online reviews, we read through online articles written about Ojai, many of which discussed the different wine tasting options in this town. While Tipple and Ramble had strong reviews and was mentioned many times in articles written about Ojai, it was very closely matched on paper with a few other wine bars in Ojai. Because of this, we made sure to visit them all before making our decision.

Our Experience

When we first arrived to Tipple and Ramble, we went inside to the bar to order our drinks and food. The bartender poured our drinks immediately and then gave us a number for our food. We spent a few minutes perusing the small retail store inside and then made our way to the outdoor patio to pick our seat. After spending some time lounging on the patio and sipping our wine, our food was brought out—a gorgeous cheese plate and sizzling, crispy empanadas. The cheese plate was so beautiful crafted with bread, nuts, and a few other complimentary tasting sides, and the empanadas were so tasty that we finished them in only a few bites! We also tried a local wine that was the best one that we tried during our time in Ojai. Tipple and Ramble creates an experience for their customer that is both fun and relaxing and we thoroughly enjoyed our time here.

Tips & Recommendations

You can come to Tipple and Ramble just for a drink or for a full meal. We were definitely stuffed after our cheese plate and empanadas.

The Competition

As mentioned, the competition was strong for this category since there are several wine bars in Ojai. Tipple and Ramble was second to Casa Barranca in regards to how many times it was mentioned in articles written about Ojai. Casa Barranca is an organic winery that doesn’t use sulfites in their growing process, so we’d recommend their tasting room if you are allergic to that ingredient that is common in red wines. However, we thought that the variety of wines were tastier and that the ambiance was more “Ojai” at Tipple and Ramble. We loved Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room and it was honestly difficult to choose between it and Tipple and Ramble, especially since they are so different. Since Tipple and Ramble has more mentions in articles written about Ojai and exhibits more of the relaxed style of this town, we decided to choose it over Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room. However, if you have time to go to both, Ojai Vineyard tasting room is also a great option. Topa Mountain Winery is another great option and is the only tasting room in Ojai that’s actually on a vineyard. This unique characteristic may draw visitors to Topa Mountain Winery instead of other downtown tasting rooms.

About

Ojai Rotie is a French-Lebanese casual restaurant that is known for their rotisserie chicken, freshly baked sourdough bread, and picnic sides. Guests order inside and then enjoy their meal on wooden picnic tables on their outdoor patio. Since the rotisserie chicken is made fresh each day, Ojai Rotie will close for the night once they run out of this staple item.

The Research

It was especially difficult to narrow down the best restaurant in Ojai, so we had to visit a few to narrow it down. Once we gathered our data, the top choices were not as obvious as they sometimes are because there were a few restaurants that were mentioned many times in articles written about Ojai, but other restaurants that had very high reviews. We narrowed down the top choices as much as we could and then visited them in person.

Our Experience

We visited Ojai Rotie after the sun went down so when we arrived we were immediately captivated by the string lights hung across the outdoor patio. It was relatively busy when we visited, so we waited in line for about 5 minutes before ordering. Once we ordered, we picked a table outside and waited for our food. We learned that the chicken is cooked in batches, so we had to wait about 45 minutes for our meals to come out. However, we ordered a side of sourdough bread and butter which came out quickly, so we were able to munch on that while we waited for our food. Our chicken came with two sides (we picked the roasted potatoes and broccolini) along with pickled turnips, whipped garlic, and flatbread. The chicken was tender and evidently fresh, and we found that the combination of flavors was unique and worth the wait.

Tips & Recommendations

Depending on when you order, you may end up waiting up to 45 minutes for your food to come out. If you are really hungry, we’d recommend asking the servers the estimated wait or ordering an appetizer like we did.

The Competition

Azu Restaurant and Bar was mentioned the most in articles written about Ojai, so we were shocked to see that it didn’t have as strong ratings online as other restaurants. Per the recommendation of our server, we ordered the Native Burger which was perfectly cooked and had the most delicious caramelized onions. In addition to our incredible meal, our service was great which made us question the average reviews that Azu has online. However, we decided not to choose Azu Restaurant and Bar as the top choice since they close fairly often on Saturdays for private events which does not make it the best options for most people visiting Ojai.

Vegetarian Options in Ojai

Hip Vegan was recommended to us by a few locals, and it was also mentioned quite a few times in articles written about Ojai. Even though we are not vegan ourselves, we enjoyed our meals and found the creative combination of flavors and meat substitutes especially appealing. Farmer and the Cook is also great, and was mentioned the most in articles written about Ojai second to Azu. They serve a variety of dishes, but are best known for their Mexican food and use of local ingredients.

Places to Play

About

Nested in the hills of Ojai is a quaint family-run farm called Ojai Olive Oil Company. This farm has their own olive groves with some trees dating back over 150 years. All harvesting and milling is done on sight over the course of a few weeks when the olives are ripe. Ojai Olive Oil Company is open daily from 10AM-4PM for complimentary self-guided tastings and a short tour every half hour. In addition to their different varieties and flavors of olive oil, Ojai Olive Oil also make balsamic vinegars and some beauty products, like lip balm, that can also be sampled at the farm.

The Research

As we read online articles about things to do in Ojai, visiting Ojai Olive Oil was one of the top recommendations by far. Not only does it incorporate Ojai’s farm to table values, but also it’s tasting is free, which is a huge draw. The online ratings confirmed the hype that Ojai Olive Oil has in articles about Ojai.

Our Experience

As we pulled up the dirt road to Ojai Olive Oil Company, we saw that a tour was just starting so we decided to join the group before doing our tasting. Our tour guide brought the group under some olive trees and discussed the farm’s history along with their harvesting and milling process. After answering some questions from others on the tour, we were brought back inside to see the machine that presses the olives and the centrifuge that spins that pulp out of the oil. After the tour, we went into the tasting room and tasted the oils and balsamic vinegars. My favorite was the garlic! Overall, it was a fun, informative, and tasty experience.

Tips & Recommendations

I’d highly encourage you to buy a bottle of their olive oil if there is a flavor you like, as this is a great way to support a local business. I bought the garlic olive oil and have enjoyed pouring it over various dishes.

The Competition

There are a few other farms in Ojai, but most of them are only open a few days a week which means that they might not be available for many people visiting Ojai—unlike Ojai Olive Oil which is open everyday. Friends Ranch is a great farm to visit since they grow the pixie tangerines that Ojai is famous for. However, they are only open on Tuesdays and Fridays, so you won’t be able to visit Friends Ranch if you are just visiting Ojai for the weekend. The Ojai Farmers Market is also great and brings together local produce to one place for visitors to shop. However, it is only open on Sundays so you will need to plan accordingly if you visit.

About

Rose Valley Falls Trail is a 0.8 mile hike in the Los Padres National Forest, located about 30 minutes from downtown Ojai. After just a short trail, hikers are rewarded with a gorgeous trickling waterfall that is especially refreshing if it is hot outside.

The Research

Visiting the Los Padres National Forest was one of the most frequently mentioned activities in articles written about Ojai, so we continued our research to look into the specific trails in this forest. Rose Valley Falls Trail was one of the most recommended trails according to our research and it was especially enticing since it had a waterfall at the end.

Our Experience

This hike was even better than we expected. The trail was fairly easy with only a slight elevation change, so we were able to make our way to the waterfall faster than we had planned. Since we visited Rose Valley Falls in the summer, we weren’t sure if the waterfall would actually have water, but to our surprise, it did! We hung out on the rocks and enjoyed the cool water for a bit before heading back to the trailhead.

Tips & Recommendations

This trailhead for Rose Valley Falls Trail  is located in the Rose Valley Campground, so you’ll need to actually enter the campground to hike this trail. We didn’t see a specific parking area for this trail, so we parked just outside the entrance of the campground since we saw a few other cars there.

The Competition

The Ventura River Preserve was mentioned just as much as Rose Valley Falls in articles about hiking in Ojai. This is a fairly easy hike that leads to a swimming hole that is pretty popular. However, we picked Rose Valley Falls since it is located in the Los Padres National Forest—-one of the top recommended places to visit in Ojai.

About

Bart’s Books is a used bookstore which grew to fame for selling books on the honor system and for being one of the largest outdoor bookstores in the United States. To this day, Bart’s Books has bookshelves accessible from the sidewalk and a place to drop the fee, making it possible for visitors to shop a portion of the selection after business hours. Bart’s Books has a variety of different genres and while most books are sold for fairly inexpensive, they do have some rare, pricey books available as well. Clearly a piece of Ojai’s history, Bart’s Books is a must-visit for anyone visiting this town.

The Research

We read numerous articles written about things to do in Ojai and Bart’s Books was mentioned the most out of all the activities discussed. Bart’s Books also had the strongest reviews of any activity that we looked into, making it a clear contender for our guide. Additionally, Bart's Books was recommended to us by the locals we talked to in Ojai. All of our sources seemed to be pointing to Bart’s.

Our Experience

We visited Bart’s Books on a sunny Saturday afternoon which was perfectly pleasant weather for this outdoor bookstore. Not knowing exactly what to expect, we were shocked to find how big Bart’s Books actually is. As we walked around and checked out the different titles, we were greeted by one of the workers who kindly offered to help us find anything. Full disclosure, we are not avid readers, but we still did enjoy perusing this unique shop. However, I imagine that a book worm would enjoy their time here even more than we did.

Tips & Recommendations

Make sure the weather is good when you visit Bart's Books since the store outside. Also, be mindful that if you visit Bart’s Books after hours, you will only have access to the bookshelves out on the sidewalk.

The Competition

Ojai is packed with fun and unique stores which are all great options to visit during a trip to Ojai. Cattywampus Crafts, attached to Beacon Coffee, is yarn shop that also sells a variety of artisan good. If you have time after your trip to Beacon Coffee, we’d definitely recommend checking it out. Similar to Cattywampus Crafts is Summer Camp, another shop selling artisan goods, but their's are most related to the outdoors, hence their name. While all of these shops are great and embody the character of Ojai, none compare to the strong history, exceptional reviews, and many articles mentions that Bart’s Books has.

Places to Stay

About

Ojai Rancho Inn is a bohemian style hotel located just a few minutes from downtown Ojai. With a pool, beautiful desert plants, and it own bar, Ojai Rancho Inn is well equipped to provide their guests with an excellent stay. Their beer and wine bar, Chief’s Peak, is open to both hotel guests and the public and aligns with the unique aesthetic of this hotel. Rooms at Ojai Rancho Inn start at $150 on weekends but can go up to $299 on the weekends*.

The Research

After reading through online articles written about Ojai, it was evident that it was one of the top hotels in this town. Not only was it mentioned several times in articles written about Ojai lodging, but it also had strong online reviews to back it up. After gathering the data, Ojai Rancho Inn stood out as a hotel that we needed to visit.

Our Experience

We had a pleasant and welcoming experience at Ojai Rancho Inn. After asking some questions about the hotel, we were given a tour of the grounds, which included the bar, the pool, and the lawn area. We thought the bar was especially charming, and is a great perk for hotel guests (even though it is open to the public). After our visit, we found that Ojai Rancho Inn was charming, comfortable, well-decorated, and definitely a place we would recommend to stay.

Tips & Recommendations

Book ahead of time if you can! Online, rooms usually open up for booking only 60-90 days in advance, but if you want to book something farther out, call the hotel and they may be able to work with you.

The Competition

The main competition for a hotel in a similar price range as Ojai Rancho Inn is Casa Ojai Inn, an eco-friendly hotel located just down the street. With online reviews that are neck and neck with Ojai Rancho Inn, the decision here really came down our experience at the hotel. While we enjoyed the clean and modern design of Casa Ojai Inn, we preferred the style at Ojai Rancho Inn, which we think more closely exemplifies the style of Ojai.

*Prices at time of publication

About

Caravan Outpost is a glamping facility in Ojai made up of 11 airstream rentals. The grounds of Caravan Outpost are beautiful, consisting of lively landscaping, an inviting communal fire pit area, and a retail store filled with local goods. Located just a few blocks from downtown Ojai, visitors of Caravan Outpost can have a peaceful glamping experience while being steps away from the action downtown. Rentals at Caravan Outpost start at $194* on the weekdays, but can increase on the weekends.

The Research

When researching lodging options in Ojai, Caravan Outpost quickly emerged as a strong contender for our guide due its strong online ratings and being included in many articles written about lodging in Ojai. We were pretty confident in Caravan Outpost before we visited, but our visit confirmed this glamping location as one of the best places to stay in Ojai.

Our Experience

When we visited Caravan Outpost, we met the owner and were given a tour of the grounds, including inside one of the airstreams! We felt that the bohemian style of Caravan Outpost fit in perfectly with Ojai and found the grounds to be overall cozy and welcoming. The inside of the airstreams maintains the same style as the rest of Caravan Outpost, equipped with record players and camping plates and cups with Caravan Outpost’s logo. We then explored the retail store which had a variety of artisan goods, including handmade clothing items from Caravan Outpost’s own brand. We had so much fun at Caravan Outpost and clearly found that it was worth recommending.

Tips & Recommendations

Even if you don’t have the opportunity to stay at Caravan Outpost, the retail store on site is still open to the public. By visiting their store, you can still experience the grounds of Caravan Outpost and see the Airstreams from a distance.

The Competition

Surprisingly, there were no other glamping locations in Ojai. Since glamping seems to embody Ojai’s love for luxury and the outdoors, we were surprised that there are not more places in Ojai offering similar accommodations. Even though there is no direct competition, the friendliness of the owner and the style and comfort of the grounds and Airstreams made Caravan Outpost clearly deserve a spot on our guide.

*Price at time of publication

About

Ojai Valley Inn is a luxury resort known for its spa, golfing, and restaurants. The grounds of Ojai Valley Inn are big— so big that they have a shuttle service that will take you to the different parts of the hotel. The buildings at Ojai Valley Inn are Spanish Colonial style, creating a beautiful landscape that is a true treat to experience. With weekday rates starting at $399* and a two-night minimum during the busy season, Ojai Valley Inn is unmistakably a luxury resort by most people’s standards.  

The Research

By a landslide, Ojai Valley Inn was mentioned the most in articles written about lodging in Ojai. Since it also had high reviews too, we decided it was a necessary option to visit.  

Our Experience

We spent the morning exploring Ojai Valley Inn, and boy did we get our steps in! This place is huge, and everything is spread out which means lots of walking if you don’t plan to take the shuttle. Luckily, all the shuttle stops had maps which helped us navigate the large property. Even if you aren’t eating at a restaurant or participating in any of the activities, Ojai Valley Inn is a beautiful place to walk around and take pictures. The staff we interacted with were very friendly even though we weren’t hotel guests.

Tips & Recommendations

Whether you are exploring the grounds or staying here, we recommend meeting the Ojai Valley Inn cockatoo! He is very friendly and cute.

The Competition

Su Nido Inn is another luxury lodging option that is actually located in downtown Ojai, closer to all the shops and activities. This cottage style hotel is beautiful and has strong ratings, but it did not have as many ratings as Ojai Valley Inn nor was it mentioned as many times in articles. However, if you are looking for a luxury hotel that’s closer to town, Su Nido Inn is a fantastic option.

*Price at time of publication

Sources

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