The golden state of mind: Ventura to San Diego road trip
Before we even set the pedal to the metal on American soil, we are relaxing. Our 10-hour flight towards our holistic holiday begins aboard a Norwegian Airlines 787 Dreamliner, where mood lighting helps our body clocks adjust, and larger windows and increased fresh air in the cabin reduce the not-so-nice effects of jet lag. We’re off to a good start.
Arriving in the USA feeling remarkably fresh, we waste no time at all taking the iconic Pacific Coast Highway – South and start our coastal cruise to detox, California-style…
Nestled between Santa Barbara and Malibu, Ventura is an overlooked gem on the West Coast. Worth visiting simply for the Botanical Gardens that overlook the city, currently in the midst of Oxalis pes-caprae super bloom, California’s signature yellow wildflower. It’s highly Instagrammable, especially given the proximity of the mountains and Main Beach, both of which you can see stood at the crossroads in downtown, another gem in the California crown.
Here, vintage vibes meet fresh energy, and we spend hours ambling the streets, sipping chai lattes at Palermo, and discovering a sustainable side of the city at The Refill Shoppe, where residents bring their containers to fill up on everything from organic shampoo to all-natural washing-up liquid. We also pay a visit to Paradise Pantry, a ‘scratch-based’ kitchen where the menu changes daily, and Harvest Cafe for farm-to-table food from environmentally conscious sources.
We order Maca Bomb Smoothies and Vegan Buckwheat Waffles with Cashew Cream, truly embracing South California’s impressive offering of plant-based eateries. Our home for the night is the Amanzi Hotel Ventura, which accesses downtown Ventura and Main Beach, and is only a short drive to Ventura Harbor, where you can hop on a boat to the rugged Channel Islands National Park and escape 4G all night long. visitventuraca.com
WAY OUT WEST
Leaving quaint, quiet Ventura behind, we venture towards the bright lights of West Hollywood. Challenging all our preconceptions, WeHo is intimate in a way you don’t expect in a sprawling metropolis like LA.
On arrival at Kimpton La Peer, we head to the rooftop for a concert and cocktail hour with Rod Stewart’s daughter, the first of many “LA pinch me” moments. We eat surrounded by Silicon Valley-types and WeHo locals, visiting Viale dei Romani for pasta and fish. In the morning, we head to Unplug Meditation on Melrose for a revelatory sound healing experience.
Unplug is minimalist, a blank canvas for your own meditation. Feeling well and truly zen, we amble through the Design District to Gracias Madre for a vegan brunch. Taking cues from the crowd around, we order guacamole, Coliflor Frito and crab cake tortas. Rated as California’s most walkable city, two nights in WeHo is an unexpected but welcome break, giving us an insight into authentic LA life as we amble from the Shape House (the infamous infrared sauna house) to Salt & Straw (for dairy- free, hazelnut ice cream), all in the name of balance. visitwesthollywood.com
After an encounter with the infamous LA traffic, we head south to Laguna Beach, a coastal destination synonymous with MTV’s The Hills. It’s home to over 20,000 acres of wilderness, canyons and miles of verdant hills, and we stay at the 87-acre canyon oasis The Ranch, a Mecca of calm and tranquillity. The Ranch is where canyon and ocean meet, with a five-minute walk to the beach.
On arrival, we hunt down a small group of individuals who call themselves the Laughter Yoga Society. With one rule to follow (strictly no talking), we spend an hour pretending to be seaweed, dolphins and eagles, laughing non-stop and ignoring the looks of early-morning dog walkers. While it felt forced at first, after an hour my cheeks ache, endorphins are flowing and I am full of admiration for this group who have met every morning for the past 14 years.
Next, we head for Ocean at Main for their signature, coastal California brunch plate of ahi poke and avocado on sourdough to fuel us for an afternoon of paddle boarding with La Vida Laguna, followed by a visit to the Chakra Spa Gallery to meet with fourth generation psychic, Stacy. Fast forward 90 minutes and after a spine-tinglingly accurate reading and Chakra balancing, I realise I need to start saving for the four kids en route… visitlagunabeach.com
NICE ONE, SAN
Our final port of Californian call, in San Diego, is the Catamaran Resort Hotel. Unlike Laguna Beach, San Diego is 70 miles of sprawling coastline and giant bays, best explored by bike. We rent a couple from a surf shack beside the hotel and quickly get lost winding in and out of the palatial beach houses.
The highlight of our time is not on land, but out on water during a kayak tour of La Jolla Ecological Reserve with Everyday California. A Marine Protected Area that’s home to a thriving underwater ecosystem, we stop often to watch nearby humpback whales breaching the surface before us; just another day in California.
Finishing our journey down the PCH with a bang, we head to Puesto for a last supper. Located in the heart of downtown San Diego, we are blown away by the lively atmosphere inside the expansive two-floor taqueria, and are even more impressed by the plant-based menu: esquites, three variations of guacamole and, truly the best jackfruit tacos we’ve eaten.
Our trip down the PCH – South is proof even in California (where they are leagues ahead of the UK in terms of trends), approaches to wellness can, and do, differ. While Ventura’s Botanical Gardens provide a welcome break from the road, West Hollywood is abundant with niche, next-level classes; a dichotomy that sums up the Balance approach. There is no right or wrong way to wellness, as long as you find yours. sandiego.org
Fly nonstop to San Francisco with Norwegian Airlines on board a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Fares start at £195 one-way and £310 return in LowFare economy. norwegian.com/uk