Local Luxury at Pelican Hill

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Orange County is synonymous with luxury living and certainly a few hotels stand out for offering that coastal chic experience. But only one is a destination unto itself, offering every single detail an elite world traveler could possibly require: fine dining, golf, spa, complimentary parking, and a stunning ocean view that draws a gasp from even the most jaded jetsetter. 

That honor goes to Pelican Hill Resort, the creme de la creme of Orange County luxury lodging. Much more than a hotel, it’s as if the Roman Empire designed a fully modern country club with its own timeless, colossal architecture. But this is no private club, nor need you stay in one of its villas or bungalows to enjoy the resort’s amenities. 

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Pelican Hill is delighted to be known as a discerning locals’ gathering place. Situated at the base of the Newport Coast residential area, the resort’s location makes it a great meeting place for those living nearby.

It’s easy to spend a day on the vast premises (504 acres in all) and with so much to offer, there’s literally something for everyone. In addition to the usual resort offerings, they also host a bevy of unique classes such as al fresco painting (champagne included), poolside mixology, and pasta making. “During the holiday season, special events range from ocean-view ballroom brunches to weekly Santa stories and gingerbread decorating classes,” says Kate Starr, Director of Communications and Public Relations for Pelican Hill.

Originally, Pelican Hill was conceived as a golf destination years before the hotel was built and remains the preeminent golfer’s paradise with two courses ranking in golf.com’s top courses in California (Ocean South is number nine; Ocean North is number 12), a driving range, golf education services with state-of-the-art workshops, a pro shop, and the famous Pelican Grill eatery, whose ocean views set the stage for the resort’s other restaurants.

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Andrea, the resort’s flagship restaurant, helmed by Executive Chef Jean-Pierre Dubray, sits off the Great Room (an apt name for their positively grand lobby). Known for its old-school banquettes, its al fresco seating, and ambient live music, Andrea is a semi-private, romantic way to dine. The menu is a foodie’s dream: elegant and colorful with flashes of Italian influence. Like all of the resort’s restaurants, in-season produce plays a prominent role. “The menus change with the seasons, and our Resort chefs continually update ingredients to feature the best quality available,” Starr says. “Chef Dubray collaborates with each restaurant's head chef to keep menus fresh and interesting.” Those who’ve dined at Andrea in the past will be relieved to know that one item will always remain on the menu. “Andrea's tableside risotto wheel has been on the menu since opening,” she says of the popular dish. “It’s not going anywhere.”

For more casual fare, the resort’s Caffè and Market is like a fanciful grab-and-go coffee shop, complete with groceries guests can buy for their rooms and a selection of housemade gelato and breakfast souffles that are not to be missed.

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The Coliseum Restaurant, overlooking the pool (the crown jewel of the resort) is known for its sunset views and offers an extensive and delicious children’s menu. Locals in the know have been bringing their little ones to Coliseum for years -- perfect for a night when mom and dad need a nice night out, but the kids have to tag along.

Of course, all luxury resorts need a spa and at 23,000 square feet of vast indulgence, the Spa at Pelican Hill amazes all that step through its Palladian rotunda. From the herbal steam room to the Italian cathedral-like room that houses a massive, bubbling jacuzzi, guests will have no trouble relaxing before or after one of the spa’s acclaimed treatments. Much like the resort’s restaurants, the spa’s menu changes with the seasons. Imagine a pomegranate scrub in the fall, honey facials in winter, lavender oils in spring, and fig-infused treatments in summer. And fear not, despite the spa’s immensity, the space feels warm, inviting, and calm -- an almost mystically peaceful experience. The only downside is you won’t want to leave.

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Victoria Kertz is a journalist and the co-founder of Third Street Writers in Laguna Beach. She loves local theatre, traveling, and dining out. Follow her on Instagram at @victoriakertz.