No Internet, TV, junk food or alcohol allowed at Aja, a new luxury retreat in Malibu
A sign at the entrance to Aja Malibu asks visitors to drop their cellphones in a basket. They are verboten during a stay at the new deluxe retreat, along with laptops and tablets. And don’t even think about smuggling in those Doritos or the rest of that takeout macchiato.
“We’re not going to deprive you,” said Inannya Magick, founder of Aja, which is scheduled to open its doors June 20. “But we want you to come here like you’re committed to trying a different way of living.”
Magick -- yes, that’s her real last name -- said she had long envisioned a place that was not just about weight loss (although, given the plant-based diet, that will probably happen). It’s not rehab either, nor a spa getaway. Instead, Aja -- the name comes from that of the goddess of medicinal herbs in African folklore -- is a place, said Magick, “that is about flowers and plants and healing.”
And it’s in a setting that would rival any five-star hotel.
The meditation room at Aja Malibu, a luxury retreat in Malibu that was transformed over seven years by artist Inannya Magick.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Artwork decorates the walls of Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
The spa decor has mystical symbolism at Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
The wishing well is located in one of the seven gardens at Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
One of the bedrooms at Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Cobra snake door handles in the meditation room at Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
The main living room/library featuring a huge fireplace at Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
A guest bathroom at Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Mature oaks are surrounded by pathways connecting the seven gardens at Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
A tile and precious stone “Tree of Life” artwork is found on an exterior wall at Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
The dining and kitchen area at Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
View of the olive grove garden at Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Locally grown Calendula blooms of the herbaceous plant are dried in the apothecary of Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Locally grown herbaceous plants are dried in the apothecary of Aja Malibu.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
The boutique luxury retreat Aja Malibu concentrates on the seven chakras with seven guest rooms, seven gardens and seven-night escapes.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Magick and her business partner acquired the sprawling but disheveled 23-acre property off Latigo Canyon Road in Malibu eight years ago.
Now, there is a luxurious seven-bedroom home with a meditation room, a living room that also serves as a lounge and library, an apothecary, kitchen and dining room with a large communal table. The main house is set amid lush fruit and vegetable orchards and herb gardens.
Magick steps outside to pluck vibrant orange calendula flowers to garnish flaxseed crackers, or lemon verbena to infuse in tea. Throughout, the details are largely symbolic of other cultures and traditions: cushions in the living room are made from the grain sacks of Berber tribes; the Om Room -- set aside for meditation -- has a stone engraving of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of wisdom.
Not surprisingly, being there is an investment. Stays are Monday to Monday, no exceptions. The cost of a week at Aja, all inclusive, is $10,000.
A day at Aja starts with a 7 a.m. knock at your door with the delivery of hot herbal tea. Each day is dedicated to a different chakra -- energy points in the body -- so the teas are formulated with that specific body part in mind.
An easy hike on a nearby trail follows, after which guests can meditate or sit with their journals in one of the gardens. Shelves in the library are stacked with books on astrology and yoga.
Guests can also sit in on a whole-foods cooking class, learning to prepare delicacies such as lavender-infused cacao truffles or slivers of beet accented with herbed cashew cream.
The spa has a far infrared sauna, which uses technology that mimics the sun’s rays to slowly warm the body, as well as a warm plunge pool. Guests can also have massages during which the therapist uses Tibetan sound bowls to create soothing tones, and oils infused with herbs from the grounds.
Later, guests -- there will rarely be more than seven at a time -- gather for “soup and share,” which is just as it sounds, drinking a plant-based soup and conversing about their lives.
The evening ends with a ceremony by the fire pit, storytelling and a drum circle before lights are out at 10 p.m.
If it sounds indulgent and New Age-extreme, Magick makes no excuses for it.
She said that her own chronic health issues as a child in Australia led her to seek alternative treatments in homeopathy and naturopathy, and, through Aja, she wants to share what she has learned. That said, this is not a place for people dealing with life-threatening medical or serious psychological problems, a fact that is outlined in a pre-intake questionnaire.
“I want to show how we can be in nature and beauty, eat these foods, share beautiful rituals together, and that can put us in a state of bliss without the use of alcohol or other intoxicants,” she said.
“So many people are stuck in negative thinking patterns. They are addicted to their phone, unhealthy foods, the TV, other unhealthy aspects in society. We need a place of respite and rejuvenation. But we’re also not reinventing the wheel. We’re exploring ancient rituals, and those will help us remember what we’ve lost along the way.”