Oaks at Ojai

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Credit: https://www.oaksspa.com/

Ojai, California

While Oaks at Ojai, a well-established wellness retreat in the tranquil town of Ojai, does offer regimented weight loss programs, their spa cuisine of 1000-1200 calories per day, plus a wide variety of daily fitness classes along with hikes and brisk walks make it easy for the self-motivated to shed a few pounds. Guests can also partake in evening talks, cooking demos and take-home “tools.” 

It’s 3 p.m. and Veggie Break time when I arrive at The Oaks at Ojai Health Spa in Ojai. A week-long mother/daughter program is just wrapping up and another one is about to begin. Guests have just finished a Body Hoops Fitness class and are fueling up on veggies and a tofu-based dip before heading to a Yoga for Strength class. They gather in the Winner’s Circle, a community space that’s used for everything from breakfast, to classes, lectures and movie nights.

My one-night visit finds me in a pool side cottage, one of about a dozen clustered around an outdoor swimming pool, whirlpool, terraces and gardens with lounge chairs set under palms and orange trees. Along with the spa, there are another 30 or so guest rooms located in the main building. Overall, the atmosphere here is intimate, unpretentious and glitz-free. Guest feel comfortable in casual clothing even for dinners.

Opened in 1979 by fitness guru and former professional skater Sheila Cluff – now a dynamic and inspirational 70 plus and still a driving force, The Oaks at Ojai is a health and wellness spa housed in a Spanish mission-inspired building right in the heart of this little town.

Nestled in the Ojai Valley about a 90-minute drive north of Los Angeles, it’s immediately obvious that this is a fitness driven spa: one dead give-away – the gym is immediately off the lobby. You can actually see guests running on the treadmill or lifting free weights as you check in.

But what most impressed me is the good value and the wide array of activities being offered here – from mountain hikes, to bike rides, rock climbing and back-to-back classes scheduled from 7:00 a.m. to late afternoon.

Mixed in with the fitness, there are lifestyle classes such as today’s cooking demo and tasting with executive chef Christine Denny. The topic – fibre and the benefits of beans.

Here is the Oaks at Ojai’s recipe for Soybean Salad

The food demo is an appetizer for dinner, a set menu served nightly in the one main dining room. But before that guests either go back to their rooms to relax, sit around the woodburning fireplace in the lobby to read, chat, check e-mails (there’s free WiFi everywhere), browse through the lobby retail shop or enjoy a spa treatment at Sheila’s Spa.

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