“Good afternoon, Ms. Thomas. Right this way.”

With that, I followed the spa attendant into the facilities where my locker, stocked with a white fluffy robe and pair of slippers, awaited.

She showed me features of the full-service spa, decorated with Spanish-style tiling and accents. I noted the welcoming jacuzzi, steam room, showers, and quiet outdoor pool. Waiting for my massage, I nestled into a plush sofa by a crackling fire. It was then that I exhaled all the stress of the week. I had arrived at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, a resort I am naming as my first Expedia Viewfinder Pick.

The place: Ojai, California

Ojai is a small town situated between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, cradled among the Topatopa mountains,14 miles from the coastline. The town of nearly 8,000 inhabitants is full of small shops and restaurants. The Sunday farmers’ market is great fun to explore. When I visited, I bought delicious pistachios seasoned with a spicy herb mix, as well as a carton of sweet and juicy strawberries from a local farmer.

Viewfinder Tip: Holiday times book up fast at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, so be sure to reserve rooms, activities, and spa treatments well in advance.

The hotel: Ojai Valley Inn and Spa

I always am struck by the beauty of the sprawling grounds of the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa. White washed, Spanish-style cottages with guest rooms and suites dot the 220-acre property. An 18-hole golf course is just moments away from every room, as are chic and modern swimming pools, tennis courts, restaurants, bars, and, of course, the spa.

Whenever I stay here, I get the feeling that I’m not at a resort, but instead visiting a small town. The resort offers all the leisurely activities in which I want to engage, such as hanging out in a cabana by the pool, taking a yoga class, shopping, and having a prolonged brunch with a mimosa in hand.

Patrons come back again and again to the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa for holidays, spontaneous weekend getaways, and weddings. Guests are loyal for many reasons. One of the biggies: the resort’s attention to detail.


The main pool at Ojai Valley Inn and Spa

Ojai Valley Inn and Spa has a way of setting the stage for cherished quality time with loved ones. I recently was visiting with family, having Sunday brunch on the patio of The Oak restaurant, when a bluegrass band started playing lovely, folksy music. The scene of this cheerful band under an old oak tree, against a backdrop of rolling hills and mountain peaks, was magic.

The resort also offers a number of unexpected perks. At times, a courtyard is designated for s’mores, and the resort invites guests to come and claim a tray of ingredients to share with friends and family. Also, the ease of renting a pair of bikes makes a spontaneous nature adventures doable. Finally, late-night snacking and cocktails at Jimmy’s Pub is fun for adults of all ages.

I find that the staff at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa seems to anticipate needs and will accommodate most any request. As you walk from one activity to the next, staff members on golf carts are happy to offer rides wherever you are headed. On one recent visit, when I realized I forgot to pack toothpaste, housekeeping brought a tube to my door in minutes.

Another thing I love about this resort: the vibe. Each cottage has a melodic Spanish name such as “Villa Mariposa” or “Casa Robles.” Many rooms have fireplaces, large flat screen televisions, touchpad room service, deep soaking tubs, and private balconies. When I visit Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, I just don’t want to leave.

What hotels have made you want to never leave and why?