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As a lifelong Southern California resident, travel writer, and regular resort go-er, I’ve seen my fair share of dreamy coastline destinations (rough life, I know). Needless to say, there are few local resorts that make it onto my personal recommendation list. Sure, when I was invited for a two-night stay at The Resort at Pelican Hill, a luxurious Newport Beach hideaway nestled along the Pacific Ocean, I was anticipating the works: exceptional weather, an all-star staff, and an overall pleasant experience. Plus, it was as good an excuse as any for a relaxing staycation with a college girlfriend. Little did I know the resort, which, according to Forbes Travel Guide, is one of only 78 Five-Star Luxury Resorts in the nation, was about to charm this self-proclaimed hotel snob in new ways.
One big draw of the 504-acre property is that it’s billed as a family-friendly, top-tier golf getaway. As a single woman who has never golfed a day in her life, I was thrilled that the itinerary (which the staff so graciously curated for my stay) was the perfect balance of indulgence and relaxation. Day one started with a tour of the grounds, namely the North and South golf courses. Our guide, Eric, handed us a welcome champagne, and off we went in the golf cart. If you do happen to be a golfing fan you’re in for a real treat.
Even as a golf novice, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the sprawling 36-hole facility. The two courses make up an endless landscape of well-manicured, softly-rolling greens set atop various canyons and plateaus—and don’t forget the ocean backdrop. The mesmerizing scene comes as no surprise, as both courses are designed by the famed Tom Fazio (who happens to have more credits on Golf Digest’s list of ‘America’s Hundred Greatest Golf Courses’ and Golfweek’s Collection of ‘America’s Best’ than any other living golf course designer). While rounds are notoriously pricey, starting at $340 for the general public, Pelican Hill does offer free range balls and rental clubs for all guests. So, even if you’re not a serious golfer, you can still have some fun and hit a few balls around.
Next up was lunch at the main indoor-outdoor restaurant, Coliseum Pool & Grill, which overlooks the opulent Coliseum Pool. Fun fact: It’s the largest circular pool in the nation and is made up of one million glass mosaic tiles that form a perfect 136-foot diameter circle. The poolside menu was filled with locally sourced, seasonal American fare; think elevated burgers, fish tacos, flatbreads, and pastas. As a vegetarian, my go-to was the Bianca flatbread with tomato mascarpone, blistered tomatoes, scallion, and mushrooms. Surrounding the pool are spacious private cabanas that have a luxe Vegas day club feel—minus the harsh music and raging crowds. (Plus, they’re easily available for resort guests by simply calling ahead and making a reservation.) There, we spent a few hours ordering skinny margs on repeat until it was time to head back to the room before dinner.
The rooms, like the rest of the property, have a rich but home-y Tuscan villa-like feel and appear more like houses situated on a quiet suburban street, rather than standard stacked hotel rooms. You’ll have your choice of a tranquil bungalow (starting at $795 a night) or a spacious multi-bedroom villa (starting at $2,045). We were booked in a one-bedroom bungalow complete with vaulted beamed ceilings, a limestone fireplace that flanked the bedroom and living room areas, a roomy marble bath, plush feather-top beds, and a spacious furnished terrace that strategically overlooked the course. Even though I was with my girlfriend, it had a romantic honeymoon vibe.
Dinner was at the hotel’s lively date-night-approved spot, Pelican Grill. We bellied up to the bar for an hour or so before our meal, making small talk with locals and other guests. The white tablecloth restaurant felt less stuffy than what you’d expect from a resort eatery, with a vibe-y open-display kitchen and a massive nine-foot HDTV playing whatever game was on that night. Meat eaters will be in heaven with options like the Grilled Ribeye with creme fraiche whipped potatoes, and the 24-month aged table-side parmigiano wheel made with 24K golden flakes and foraged mushrooms is not to be missed.
The next morning, we grabbed a quick coffee at the Caffe & Market on our way to a private yoga lesson on the event lawn, which, once again, overlooked the ocean. It was easy to see why that particular spot is a popular year-round wedding venue. Post-workout, we walked around the property for a bit before arriving early at the Spa for our treatments. The amenities were exceptionally grand in scale. My girlfriend and I leisurely rotated between dips in the Roman-style jacuzzi and sweat sessions in the dry and steam saunas while awaiting treatments.
As far as the spa services go, I can not say enough good things about the 90-minute mosaic massage ($460), which expertly combines shiatsu bodywork, a warm poultice filled with herbs to eliminate bodily toxins, and a relaxing Swedish massage. If you’d rather do a facial, the 90-minute Diamond Radiance facial ($440) uses all Natura Bisse products and includes a three-step exfoliation process, along with a gentle chemical peel to restore brightness.
We pre-gamed for our final night dinner at Pelican Grill with a whimsical upscale gin and tea service (think tea-infused cocktails served up in porcelain teapots accompanied with a spread of mini sandwiches and macaroons) at Andrea Terrace, which is situated over the main golf course. As hotel guests rushed to the main terrace to take photos, we were in the optimal seat to take in golden hour views. The next morning, slightly hungover from the night before, we ordered breakfast burritos and lattes to the room before (sadly) departing.
Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or not, make no mistake. The award-winning course is the star of the show—if not just for the views. With a plethora of restaurants and a robust menu of wellness and fitness offerings, it’s easy to see why Pelican Hill is a local watering hole for serious golfers, business movers and shakers, couples, and families alike. Whatever you’re looking to get out of a 5-star stay, you’re sure to find it at Pelican Hill.