An hour outside busy Los Angeles, there’s a definite change of vibe as you enter the quieter streets of Newport Beach.
The loud and congested highways melt away, replaced by pristine boulevards lined with towering palm trees and lush green vegetation. It’s clean, peaceful, and delightfully suburban.
Over five days, I was able to experience an array of delights to create a handy guide for your next trip Stateside.
Vea Newport Beach
Vea, the first of Marriott’s new soft brands, is well situated for making the most of all Newport Beach has to offer. With 253 elegantly designed and stylish rooms decorated in soft greys and neutral tones, it is the perfect place to relax after a hard day’s exploring. Molton Brown toiletries add a sense of luxury. The sea-view rooms, meanwhile, ensure guests wake up to a stunning sight.
VIEW Restaurant & Lounge serves up delicious seasonal treats all day long. At breakfast, guests can look forward to classics like Eggs Benedict as well as Californian flavours such as the Breakfast Burrito — a mouthful but packed with flavour. Similarly, dinner offers a tempting array of dishes that make use of Newport Beach’s proximity to the coast, with plenty of fresh fish as well as high-quality meat cuts and light salads.
The hotel also comes with grand event spaces and lawns, a well-equipped gym, and SpaVea, complete with warm baths, steam rooms, Swedish saunas, and a quieter spa pool away from the busy main pool. Weekday rates start from $459 (approx. £385) per night. Book here.
The Hyatt Regency features classic Tuscan architecture. Every one of the spacious rooms comes with a balcony or patio, while villas and suites offer larger groups more private spaces with their own amenities. The 36-acre hotel is also host to the Newport Beach Jazz Festival over the first weekend of June every year. This dog-friendly hotel prides itself on being a home away from home. Weekday rates start from $349 (approx. £279) per night. Book here.
Also part of the Marriott family, Lido House has a calming, beach-house vibe. The hotel makes tasteful use of nautical features throughout the light and open-plan rooms, creating an air of a laid-back luxury. But the cottages are the stars of the show. These five stunning three-floor properties are their own beach houses à la Grace and Frankie. Interiors are masterfully designed with a retro, playful feel from the spacious kitchens to the rooftop decks. Weekday rates start from $3,226 (approx. £2,579) per cottage, hosting up to six people. Weekday rates for the other 130 rooms start from $683 (approx. £546) per night. Book here.
Balboa Bay Resort
One of Newport Beach’s most unique hotels, Balboa Bay has great views of the bay, so guests can while away the hours watching boats come and go. The 159-room hotel offers a luxurious getaway with amenities including a large pool, a private marina, and a deluxe spa with a Drybar salon on-site. The A+O restaurant offers relaxed California dining including free-range chicken wings with a chili lime sauce, classic clam chowder, and beer battered fish tacos. Weekday rates start from $484 (approx. £387) per night for a B&B stay. Book here.
The Resort at Pelican Hill
Californian inspiration meets 16th-century Italian renaissance influences at The Pelican. Easily one of the most luxurious hotel choices around, its 204 luxurious bungalows and 128 villas are tucked into the hillside, and even with more than 300 rooms everything is serene. For those seeking an extra level of privacy and security, the modest-sized villas come as their own gated community. All the accommodation is spacious, light and airy. Weekday rates start from $676 (£540) per night. Book here.
Crystal Cove is for those who prefer more historical accommodation. The 45 cottages dating back around 100 years are being restored by The Crystal Cove Conservancy group, which has taken their restoration and renovation very seriously. The cottages are being painstakingly recreated brick by brick but with the added comfort of modern amenities. Very affordable, the largest cottage sleeps between eight and 10 people and costs $280 (£220) per night, while dormitory-style accommodation is a budget option at $39 (£30) per night. Book here.
Tavern House Kitchen
This bay-side restaurant offers everything from comfort foods such as its delicious cheeseburger to dishes celebrating Southern California’s coastal cuisine like the Maine lobster and langoustine bisque. We wholeheartedly recommend! Book here.
This great American steakhouse serves prime cuts of beef — the 16oz ribeye (medium rare), a juicy cut with a puck of butter melting on top, is sensational. The sides are also to die for, as are the soft and spongy corn madeleines, served warm with fresh berries and whipped cream. Perfection! Book here.
Malibu Farm Lido
Malibu Farm’s first location in Orange County, this farm-to-table restaurant in Lido Marina Village in Newport Beach serves fresh and organic produce. With its waterfront location, it’s simply divine and the perfect brunch spot. The Swedish mini pancakes with seasonal fruit compote and whipped cream are delicious. Book here.
Bello by Sandro Nardone
Italy comes to Newport Beach at this top-rated establishment. Head chef Sandro Nardone, born and trained in Italy, brings authenticity to every dish. The Chef’s Table seating serves up an enjoyable front-row seat to the kitchen experience, offering a delectable tasting menu complete with wines. Get in if you can. Book here.
After making its debut at Fashion Island early in 2023, JOEY’s is already thriving based on the bustling Wednesday lunchtime when I visited. The vibe is chilled and laidback with a globally inspired menu making use of local flavours. The cauliflower tacos are delicious, service is friendly and the soundtrack a chef’s kiss. The vibe is equally as good for cocktails at night. Book here.
Considered a “hidden treasure” of Newport Beach, this sushi restaurant combines traditional and authentic Japanese cuisine with innovative dishes. Accessible by land or boat, the peaceful waterfront vibe in the evening is soothing. Book here.
Corona del Mar
Referred to by locals as ‘CdM’, this stretch of coastline offers stunning beaches and idyllic tidal pools to explore. Fans of Selling Sunset and spinoff Selling the OC will find the Oppenheim Group’s Newport Beach office just up from the sandy beaches.
This shopping centre is home to a wide variety of high-street and luxury brands including big names such as Brandy Melville and Prada. Housed within its Mediterranean architecture is also a cinema as well as local brands like gorjana jewellery. The space is also welcoming previously digital-first brands such as Allbirds sustainable shoes and clothing, with its footfall power hinting at an exciting future ahead. Check it out.
Whale Watching with Newport Coastal Adventure
Want to feel a sense of magic? Try whale watching. It’s hard to not be amazed by the sheer size and scale of the fin whales off California’s coast. Newport Coastal Adventure’s Captains Erica and Christine make for fun, engaging and informative guides. Sailing along surrounded by seemingly thousands of dolphins jumping and diving around you will make you feel like you’re living some lost lyrics from ‘Colours of the Wind’ from Disney’s Pocahontas. Book here.
This charming patch of land features colourful cottages and boutiques to shop in. The best way to get there is the Balboa Island Ferry, after which you can stroll around the shops or walk the 2.6-mile boardwalk and find a nice spot to eat. Fancy a local delicacy? Try Sugar ’n Spice, the original home of the frozen banana.
Duffy Boat with Sea Señorita
For a gentle start to your evening, we recommend taking an electric duffy boat around Newport Beach’s harbour. With optional meat and cheese platters, it’s a delightful way to kick back and enjoy the California climate. Book here.
Sadly, Newport Beach lacks a thriving and visible queer scene. The nearest gay bars aren’t far away, however. In Costa Mesa, you’ll find STRUT, described by one Google review as “by far the nicest and most inviting gay bar in OC”. It has limited opening hours on Fridays and Saturdays between 10pm and 2am, while Tin Lizzie Saloon is open from 4pm to 2am on most days of the week.
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