The Oaks is a rare find. Combining a wide range of physical fitness activities with spa services, it's the total package. Given the fact that nearly 70 percent of the Oaks clients are repeat guests speaks volumes about the spa.
Owner and founder Sheila Cluff, transformed this historic 1920s hotel into a sanctuary for both the mind and body. And, the fitness guru, who opened the facility in 1977, practices what she preaches. Credited with pioneering 'cardiovascular dance,' in the 1950s (the practice now known as aerobics), at 69 years young, she will compete at the International Adult Figure Skating Competition in Oberstdorf, Germany, during the first week of June 2006.
Of her spa, she says: 'I feel blessed to run a small family business. Our goal has always been to provide guests with a meaningful spa vacation and I think we've succeeded in doing so.'
With its 16 daily fitness classes, evening programs and communal-style meals, the spa affords ample opportunities to forge long-lasting friendships. On a typical day, activities may include a brisk three-mile morning walk, followed by a Tai Chi class, afternoon Aqua Tone and Relax, Stretch & Yoga program before dinner.
Not to be missed is Cluff's signature Mind-Body Awareness class, which focuses on a range of motion movements to melt away stress and tension.
If Cluff is leading class that day, you'll definitely get a workout. Her recently funded study at Cornell University found that busy female executives, who practiced eight signatures moves over a three-month period for five minutes per day, increased their core strength and flexibility. Cluff has also put out a DVD, so that guests can continue the program at home.
For the more adventurous, there are rollerblading outings along Ojai's nine-mile bike path, belly dancing sessions and private hikes to the majestic Los Padres National Forest, which stretches some 220 miles along central California.
A refreshing walk or bike ride takes guests past Cluff Vista Park, a unique public space captures extraordinary vistas of Ojai's natural splendor. Once a blighted property, thanks to the Cluff family and the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, this property has now been restored as a village green, providing enjoyment for all.
Spa treatments are a must-have at the Oaks. There's a wide range of spa experiences here from lemongrass and lavender manicure/pedicures to River Rock massages to watsu sessions, which can be arranged an offsite facility. This aquatic bodywork treatment is a wonderful way to increase flexibility and circulation.
One of the specialty spa treatments offered here is the olive oil body souffle. This 75-minute treatment leaves skin feeling soft and sumptuous. The Oaks first indigenous treatment uses locally grown olive oil from the Ojai Olive Oil Company in an exfoliating body polish and penetrating, hydrating body mask. The session ends with a lightly scented, olive leaf body moisturizer.
Take a break from exercise and indulge the mind. There are over 900 innovative instructional and entertainment programs on-site. From healthy living cooking classes to instruction on how to author your own autobiography, you will discover something new.
For the artistically inclined, there's a host of art programs from ceramics to watercolor classes. The Oaks even contains an art gallery that provides display space to local artists.
The town of Ojai is a haven for the artists. Steps away from the spa, guests will find over 20 art galleries and studios. International acclaimed potters and contemporaries, Otto Heino, who still practices his craft, and Beatrice Wood, who passed in 1998, at the age of 105, have nearby studios.
The Oaks sits directly across the street from famed Libbey Park, home to a host of annual events from the Ojai Music Festival, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this June, the Lavender Festival and the Ojai Tennis Tournament, now in its 106th year. Please see www.ojaiconcierge.com/events.html for a schedule of upcoming events.
At the time of this story, the 29th Annual Art in the Park, a yearly art fair, was in full swing at Libbey Park.
The Oaks guests enjoyed skipping across the street to purchase wares such as jewelry made of beach glass, baskets carved from tree roots and dichroic glassware designed by local artists as well as vendors from San Diego to San Francisco.
The Oaks offers 46 guest rooms, including private rooms and suites, double lodge rooms and double cottages. Catering to young professionals and high-powered executives alike, room rates range from $175 per person for a standard twin double to $309 for a newly renovated mini spa suite with a private patio. Three delicious low-calorie meals per day as well as 16 daily fitness classes and evening activities are included in the rate.
Photos courtesy of Adam Brett Photography