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The Oaks at Ojai - Spa Review

Fit for Life

The entrance at The Oaks at Ojai
The entrance at The Oaks at Ojai

Do spa and health retreats really do a body good? If you're unsure about the long-term effects of exercising, spa treatments and healthy food, just take a look at Sheila Cluff. Although most women in her generation are retired, she looks and acts half her age, teaches fitness classes, and has recently rejoined the sport of figure skating. Cluff is a walking advertisement for the retreat that she founded and owns: The Oaks at Ojai, located in the cozy art community of Ojai, California. When she converted the original 1920s hotel into this resort in 1977, her vision was to create a place where women of all ages could escape the stress of daily living and take care of themselves without spending a fortune (prices are a good value, starting at $185 per person, per night, including all meals and a room). Her approach to total health is to treat the body and soul, and The Oaks provides activities for both.

The 18 available fitness classes (some of which are taught by Sheila herself) include yoga, morning walks, Tai Chi, and the newest offering, a personalized mountain hike with a resident outdoors expert. The resort's 1,000-calorie-per-day spa cuisine features filling, surprisingly tasty meals that are low in fat, salt and sugar (be sure to sample the muffins). After guests are sated, they can attend evening programs that serve to fill the mind as well. The Oaks invites authors and experts to lead talks in the areas of fashion, medicine, business and motivational techniques.

Sheila Cluff, founder and owner of The Oaks at Ojai, stretching A view of the Piedra Blanca rock formations during the personalized hike from the Oaks at Ojai
Sheila Cluff stretching
A scenic view during a hike

Despite many options offered to guests, relaxing at the spa is one of the most popular activities at The Oaks. Treatments include the Anti-Aging Facial, Ojai Hot River Rock Massage, (which treats the tension caused by computer use), the Ojai Olive Oil Body Souffle, and the new Ultimate Massage Collection, which combines six of the resort’s popular massages in one 75-minute session. The spa is also available to day visitors; the "Day of Pampering" package for non-guests includes lunch, a 50-minute facial, 50-minute massage, haircut or style, and the choice of a demi scalp chair massage or demi lemongrass lavender pedispa treatment, all for $180.

A guest receives the Ojai Hot River Rock massage at The Oaks at Ojai
A guest relaxes in the pool at The Oaks at Ojai in California
The Ojai Hot River Rock massage
The pool at The Oaks at Ojai

Although men can be guests at The Oaks, the retreat is really focused on the needs of women, and what keeps these women coming back is the safe, comfortable atmosphere that allows them to bond with one another. One sign of this relaxed ambiance is that guests often come alone, and for single travelers, the resort offers the option of sharing a room with a fellow guest. Many of the women who frequent The Oaks return each year to reunite with fellow guests they met decades ago while sharing a room, sunbathing by the pool, eating communal meals, or taking one of the group fitness classes.

Exercise, relaxation, good food, great massages, and lots of soon-to-be friends…who knew that staying healthy could be so easy and so fun?

by Laurie Hartzell

The Oaks at Ojai
122 E. Ojai Ave.
Ojai, CA 93023


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