There’s no denying that California is cool. As a Colorado native and a loyal lover of our state, it takes alot to impress me, but on a recent visit to “The Golden State,” I can confirm that Cali’s got it goin’ on. Last spring, we drove up the famous Route 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco (although we did have to skip big chunks since the bridge was out in Big Sur). The trip was in no way a fully comprehensive experience of the state, but it was a good taste. The main feeling I took away was an urge to return to visit again, so perhaps this article is the beginning of an open-ended series. For now, here are some favorite areas and hot spots to hit on your next visit.
A small city set in a valley in the Topatopa Mountains, Ojai is slightly inland from the coast and it’s an oasis all its own. Go for yoga or for a wellness retreat, but most of all, go for Ojai.
Ojai Yoga Shala: There are a lot of yoga offerings available in Ojai, but what we found at the Yoga Shala felt right from the heart. Owner and teacher Alana Mitnick gives every student a grounding welcome, and her restorative class was just what we needed after a few full days of travel. The studio is downtown and offers daily classes from gentle and accessible to vigorous and inspiring. www.ojaiyogashala.com
Bart’s Books: This famous outdoor bookstore is just as special as you want it to be. Visit, sit and stay awhile, and take your time navigating through the diverse collection of rate and captivating books. www.bartsbooksojai.com
Valley View Preserve: The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy purchased 195 acres near downtown Ojai and the Valley View Preserve was born. This open space is accessible to the public and it’s ideal for trail running and hiking. Park at the Pratt Trailhead and walk up to Shelf Road, hike up Shelf Road and you’ll see a large kiosk where the Fox Canyon Trail begins. www.ovlc.org
Farmer and the Cook: An organic market and bohemian cafe with a large patio serving vegetarian Mexican fare and salads. We went after yoga with local instructor Heath Perry, and the big green smoothie I had was just what I needed to refuel. www.farmerandcook.com
Caravan Outpost:We didn’t get to visit this trip, but I have heard nothing but great things about this spot. The grounds of this property house 11 Airstream caravans for daily, weekly and special event accommodations. wwwcaravanoutpostojai.com
This well-known city on the California coast holds stunning harbor with the Santa Ynez Mountains for a backdrop. Find upscale shopping and restaurants, along with a number of wine tasting stops, and a yoga studio that’s a special world of its own.
Santa Barbara Roasting Company: If you’re working remotely or just craving a cuppa joe, Santa Barbara Roasting Co. is the original small batch coffee roaster in town. The vibe is great, and the coffee, even better. www.sbcoffee.com
Yoga Soup: This studio feels like the pulse of yoga in Santa Barbara. We attended a busy class, and from check-in through class and until we said goodbye, the intention of the space came through fully. As they state, it’s “to provide a safe, vibrant, serious and light-hearted space for self-observation and transformation to occur.” www.yogasoup.com
Kunin Wine: This is that tasting room you visit that is so good (and hospitable) that you end up joining the wine club before you leave (we did!). Located in downtown Santa Barbara in a hip area known as the Funk Zone, the tasting room pours some of Seth Kunin’s best, including the prized area varietals of Syrah, Zinfandel and Viognier. www.kuninwines.com
The Lark Santa Barbara: This urban eatery is in a former fish market and serves seasonal and delicious New American cuisine. We sat at the bar and everything we ordered was perfect, and the meal as a whole was one of the best we had on our trip. www.thelarksb.com
BIG SUR, CARMEL + MONTEREY
From Big Sur to Monterey, this rugged coastline is breathtaking, and there’s so many special stops to make in each of these unique oceanside areas.
Glen Oaks Big Sur: Voted one of the most romantic hotels in the world by Travel & Leisure, the accommodations here are exactly what Big Sur itself intends to be: magical. The rooms are luxurious with an organic and warm feng shui. The Big Sur Roadhouse is a restaurant open for Glen Oaks guests and passerbys, offering California cuisine with fresh, local ingredients. www.glenoakbigsur.com
17-Mile Drive: It’s touristy, yes, but well worth the journey and the price of admission. This scenic road winds through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula. Stop for sunset at The Inn at Spanish Bay, and watch the sun dip behind the ocean as a Scottish bagpiper serenades. www.pebblebeach.com
La Bicyclette: A European-style bistro in Carmel-by-the-Sea, this gem is a cozy restaurant that serves an inspired menu at breakfast, lunch and dinner. www.labicycletterestaurant.com
A Taste Of Monterey: Visit this wine market and bistro for a little shopping and a bite to eat overlooking the ocean. The shop features a selection of wine from more than 90-Monterey area wineries. Small and shareable plates are also available to nibble alongside your wine tasting experience. www.atasteofmonterey.com
Monterey Tides: A beachfont property that’s great for any type of getaway. Families will enjoy soaking in the sunshine on the golden sand beach out front of the hotel, and couples can cozy up for a cocktail overlooking the ocean. Monterey Tides is 10 minutes from Old Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row in Monterey — a welcome location for anyone looking to get away from the crowds. If you want to stay onsite for a meal or two, find Spanish cuisine at the restaurant Vizcaino Waterfront Food + Drink, and enjoy craft cocktails at Bar Sebastian. www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/california/monterey-hotels/monterey-tides
Photos by Kim Fuller