Last updated: 06:44 PM ET, Thu August 11 2016

Retreat to Pelican Hill

This classic resort offers a complete luxury experience for a wide range of guests

Agent@Home | Destination & Tourism | Lindsey Epperly

Retreat to Pelican Hill

PHOTO: The Resort at Pelican Hill, in Newport Beach, offers spectacular views of the Pacific.

From the tall wood-beam ceilings to the cozy fireplaces in each villa and bungalow, the Resort at Pelican Hill achieves a homier feeling than many other luxury properties in Southern California. The resort’s genuine and attentive hospitality, combined with the pristine weather in the region, is the perfect combination for guests seeking a relaxed but luxurious vacation.

Pelican Hill is a sprawling estate, complete with 204 bungalows and 128 villas spread out over more than 500 acres of land set along the Newport Beach coastline. The resort and the Spa at Pelican Hill have both earned five stars in the 57th annual Star Awards by Forbes Travel Guide. Among 115 hotels and resorts worldwide to earn the Five Star Award this year, Pelican Hill remains the first and only five-star property in Newport Beach.

Often recognized as one of the best golf resorts in the world, Pelican Hill is a golf lover’s dream, with two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses built prior to the resort’s construction. But there’s much more to the resort in its accommodations, dining, spa and pool, and recreational activities.

Accommodations: The resort features a wide range of accommodations in bungalows or villas. While you can’t go wrong with either, since they feature nearly identical décor and architecture, the main difference in determining the correct accommodation is a kitchen.

The two- to four-bedroom villas come complete with a full kitchen — a great spot for private cooking lessons and for feeding hungry families — whereas the bungalows do not. The villas also feature a garage and stunning ocean views, although set back from a distance, in addition to bathrooms for every bedroom, making them ideal for families or groups of friends.

The bungalows range from the entry-level guestroom bungalow to a bungalow suite with a separate living area. Since the pricing at the resort is dynamic, the rate difference for extra space is often a mere $100. Similarly, that kind of pricing means that the villas and bungalows often interchange on price points. If guests need a two-bedroom accommodation but the villa rates are higher, look for a connecting bungalow at a similar price. The property will never sell a connecting room unless it can guarantee it.

When quoting the room types, be sure to note that the garden views also often have partial ocean views, but the only true oceanview accommodations are noted as such. If guests have their heart set on an ocean view, do not rely on the possibility of an upgrade or the ability to select a specific room number, especially during the high summer season, due to the number of guests who choose to extend their stays.

Dining: The most noteworthy of the resort’s restaurants is Andrea Ristorante, offering fine-dining Italian cuisine overseen by chef Marco Criscuolo. On average, Andrea Ristorante ranges in price from $25 to $65 per entree. The most talked-about dish on the entire property is served here — the famous barrel-aged risotto. Guests can get a piping-hot serving of risotto prepared tableside, with just enough parmesan melting into the freshly prepared dish. True to the Italian influence, every single piece of pasta served at the Resort at Pelican Hill is handmade by Julia Holland, the resident Pastaia.

The property also features Piccolo, a tapas-style combination of Asian and Italian cuisine. Other eateries include Caffe I & II for light fares, the Coliseum Pool & Grill, and the Pelican Grill. The latter, overseen by Chef Luke Turpin, provides a Tasting Table experience that is not to be missed by food and wine enthusiasts.

Pool & Spa: Tuscan-inspired touches are evident throughout the resort, with no place more evocative of Italy than the Coliseum Pool, a two-story feat of architecture wrapped around one stunning showpiece — the largest circular pool in the world, a feast for the eyes regardless of the time of day, but especially stunning as the sunset illuminates Catalina Island in the distance.

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Conde Nast Traveler readers last year voted the spa at Pelican Hill as number one in California. Guests can be rejuvenated in the eucalyptus-scented steam room, the Roman-style bath, and separate relaxation areas for men and women. A unique selection of treatments, such as the Coastal Renewal and Terra Stone options, are available to guests, along with the standard treatments and a full-service nail and hair salon. With 22 treatment rooms, the spa can accommodate large and small groups alike.

Activities: Golf truly is one of the top activities at the resort. Tom Fazio’s course designs are known for being built into the surrounding area and the courses here are no exception, which is what makes them so intriguing to golf lovers.

The original South Course is heralded as the more challenging of the two. The South Course snakes its way through sage and eucalyptus trees, providing 270-degree views of the Pacific ocean from many of the holes. For fans of a more traditional, links-style course, the North Course is more appealing. No golf property of this nature would be complete without an onsite pro and the Resort at Pelican Hill boasts Glen Deck, voted one of the “Top 100 Teachers” by Golf Magazine.

Beyond the activities for adults, the resort has a wonderful kids and teens program, making this the ideal spot for families of any age. For children ages 4-12, the resort offers Camp Pelican, an oceanview clubhouse with crafts, games, movie nights and more. For teens, there is Latitudes, a revamped villa complete with a 60-inch flat-screen TV, a gaming room and a teen-inspired snack service. Included in the $15 per hour price tag are fitness classes, spa services, bike tours and more — enough to give teens their very own memorable vacation.

It’s important to note that, while the property is not located directly on the beach, there is a complimentary shuttle that runs hourly to escort guests back and forth to the beach. This isn’t just any stretch of sand, either — guests have access to Crystal Cove beach, a destination made famous by Bette Midler’s movie “Beaches.”

Guests also can find plenty of activities to enjoy in the area surrounding the resort. Orange County is a destination in itself, especially with a complimentary shuttle every two hours taking guests to and from Fashion Island, which has more than 400 outlets in an outdoor shopping center with incredible dining offerings, such as Fig & Olive and Red O by Rick Bayless.

Those who prefer outdoor activities beyond shopping can rent a Duffy Boat for a couple of hours to explore the Newport Harbor. Whether it’s a group of friends or a family, everyone will enjoy these electric, eco-friendly boats. For the best experience, have the concierge arrange a guide to drive the boat for guests. This activity is best enjoyed while relaxing with a mimosa in hand as the guide points out the sights around Newport Harbor.

Service: The Resort at Pelican Hill has an interesting take on traditional concierge services. Instead of entering into a typical lobby setting with a concierge desk, the property locates their knowledgeable concierges in the Concierge Gallery, which proudly displays a library of information on the area, along with stunning artwork and a high-end collection of interesting trinkets from the area.

The concierges are located in front of 70-inch screens that allow them to show guests exactly what to expect with each of their activities. For example, guests who are curious about what exactly the Duffy Boat rental will entail can simply swing by this room and a concierge will display tons of photos, creating a visual experience for the activities and setting the guests’ expectations far beyond anything words could portray.

The concierges also are on hand to arrange a number of other activities, including tours of Catalina Island, deep sea fishing excursions and dining reservations. While the dining in the surrounding area is notable, the Resort at Pelican Hill’s offerings are enough to keep the guests on property night after night.

Special Events: The Resort at Pelican Hill on Oct. 8-11 presents its fifth annual Festa dell’Autunno, an autumn festival that brings the traditions of Italy to Southern California’s own Tuscan seaside village.

New this year the weekend festivities begin on Thursday with a Guest Chef Wine Dinner at Pelican Grill, followed by two additional Guest Chef Wine Dinners at Andrea Ristorante on Friday and Saturday. For example, the Italian Street Festa on Oct. 10, featuring Italian food and wine, live music and dancing, Italian auto exhibits and bocce ball, is priced at $125 per adult (wine, tax and service included) and $55 per child under age 12 (tax and service included).

Overall, the Resort at Pelican Hill is a fabulous getaway for a range of guests. It’s especially ideal for multi-generational families or groups of friends, whether it’s for a weekend trip or a two-week trip, considering the number of nearby activities. Guests who desire a large resort that does not feel in the least bit overwhelming will not be disappointed.

For more information or reservations, call 800-820-6800 or visit


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Agent@Home Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the July 2015 issue of Agent@Home Magazine.