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Where to Stay When Your Destination is Right in Your Backyard

Written By: Lauren Vikander, Taylor Simmons, Dionne Evans and Michelle Andrews
Photographed By: Jonie Millhouse/Stock Imagery 7 Hotels that Pose the Perfect OC Vacation for Any Scenario

Getting lost in a new paradise without having to travel to faraway places sounds like the perfect vacation dream. To guide those vacationers who dream of some backyard R&R, we have seven hotels that offer all the excitement without all the fuss of trekking to distant destinations. These backyard utopias will leave you breathless, whisking you away to whimsical places with incredible views and leaving you with a vacation tailored to your perfect getaway. From high-end classy resorts to chic rooms, beachy vibes and central hubs that cater to those who have a bad case of the travel bug, find yourself melting into and soaking up your well-deserved lazy days in places that will guarantee you feel refreshed and brand new before stepping back into the regularity of the workweek life.

Just how tailored are these hideaways for all the different vacationing souls out there? For the romantics who dream of days floating around whimsically, The Resort at Pelican Hill will take you to what looks like a magic kingdom—lush hillsides lay far and wide overlooking the beauty of the ocean, paired with amazing architecture that offers a warm, golden glow with late-night lighted pathways. For the beach bums who love to envelop themselves in oceanic colors with clean, wide spaces and large windows that peer out over the ocean waters and offer poolside lounging, Surf and Sand Resort is calling your name. Not to mention the upscale beachfronts with luxurious poolside paradises and jaw-dropping fountains and architectures at Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa and The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort. Get ready to start packing the nearest bag and race off to one of these locations as soon as you’re done reading.

The Resort at Pelican Hill

Situated on 504 acres overlooking the idyllic protected coastline, an enchanted piece of the Italian Renaissance has been reborn. Exemplifying the vision and values of one of Italy’s most influential architects, Andrea Palladio, The Resort at Pelican Hill nestles into the hillside and is one with the landscape. Elegant corniced columns, striking multi-story rotundas, lavish courtyards with flowing fountains, and archways that frame the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island in the distance set the stage for a timeless escape.

When you step through the striking entryway, you’ll feel worlds away. A massive domed ceiling supported by pillars reminiscent of ancient Greece gracefully lead past a hand-carved Italian limestone fireplace and age-old tapestries to the centerpiece balcony highlighting expansive views of the immense property and infinite cobalt ocean. Established as one of the world’s finest resorts with five-star and five-diamond ratings, Pelican Hill offers two styles of accommodations with unparalleled service. Adjacent to the main property, you can vacation in one of the 204 bungalows or guest suites. With luxurious amenities like deep-soaking marble tubs, Bose sound systems and private terraces with ocean views, these mini residences offer an intimate ambiance. For the more discerning guest, Pelican Hill offers a “resort within the resort.” With a higher level of privacy, service and indulgence, these 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom villas ranging up to 3, 581 square feet provide your own ocean home experience complete with a personal butler. In addition to what the bungalows offer, the villas provide a gourmet kitchen, wine cabinets, wood beam alder ceilings, limestone fireplaces and a private garage. Villa guests have the exclusive privilege of using the Villa Clubhouse, complete with a private dining area, impressive pool and cabanas that boast beautiful views of the Pacific.

Are all these views making you hungry? Pelican Hill offers a number of dining experiences from Northern Italian to American fare to please every palate. If you’re looking for a little romance, check out their signature restaurant, Andrea, which rivals the nation’s top Italian restaurants with its Tuscan culinary traditions led by masterful Head Chef Marco Criscuolo. Here, diners can indulge in handmade pasta from the temperature-controlled pasta room, balsamic vinegar aged 100 years and an impressive wine list.

At the Coliseum Pool & Grill guests can enjoy a more relaxed setting and fresh seasonal fare sourced from the local Irvine Ranch. This relaxed dining experience overlooks the property’s infamous round pool, and features 1.1 million hand-cut glass mosaic tiles. With a large selection of seafood dishes, salads and smoothies, diners can enjoy an array of California-inspired cuisine in a fun, social atmosphere. Wear your casual resort attire and take a float with your honey after lunch. The sweeping views of a perfect California sunset, the Tuscan-inspired property and, of course, the Pacific Ocean provide the complete romantic experience for you and your partner.

Native Knowledge: When you take a dip in the Coliseum Pool you are swimming in one of the largest round pools in the world!

22701 S Pelican Hill Rd
Newport Coast, CA 92657
855.467.6800 | www.pelicanhill.com

 

Surf & Sand Resort

For the sun worshippers out there, look no further than the Surf & Sand Resort. A favorite among locals and out-of-towners alike, this beautiful property is the only one on the list located directly on the sand. Rooms here actually come with a set of earplugs for light sleepers to drown out the crashing waves below. The Surf & Sand Resort offers 167 beachfront rooms, an amazing pool overlooking the sea and direct beach access, so the opportunities to work on your bronze here are endless.

Each of the rooms and suites offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and private balconies complete with outdoor furniture. Punctuated with beachside chic inspired furnishings and every modern convenience, these rooms are elegant and timeless. Part of a $3 million renovation just a few years ago, guest rooms and suites were refreshed with original artwork, plush linens and modern lighting that provide all-inclusive contemporary comforts.

Each dining experience here provides unparalleled beach views and unforgettable cuisine. Splashes, the resort’s signature restaurant, got its name from its proximity to the crashing waves below as you can feel the mist of sea spray in the air while you are dining. The culinary team at Splashes has perfected a Mediterranean-inspired preparation with Southern Californian coastal flavors creating a unique menu sure to tantalize your taste buds and impress your date. Start off with Carlsbad black mussels served in a delightful vin jaune broth topped with speck. Next, for a bit of interactive fun, try the tableside lobster bisque, and their duck osso bucco is an absolute must-try when you are here. A favorite spot for locals is Splashes Bar, which has a prime location on the sand. As you can imagine, the setting is ideal to enjoy beach-inspired cocktails while watching the waves crash below, and their light fare menu changes seasonally.

15FiftyFive: Bar & Lounge, located upstairs near the lobby, has sweeping views of Laguna Beach and is an idyllic place to watch the sunset. The outdoor lounge offers ultra-plush outdoor furniture, fire pits and often live music. Don’t forget your sunscreen in the heat of the day—this bar gets some prime rays.

One of the things that sets the Surf & Sand apart is the completely refreshing pool that overlooks the ocean. Its location, just steps from the sand, allows guests to get the best of both worlds: a dip in the ocean and chaise lounges by the pool. Their lovely beach and pool concierge will set you up so you can sit back, relax and enjoy.

Native Knowledge: If you forget to make a reservation at the restaurant, Splashes Bar also serves the full restaurant menu and has the same amazing views.

1555 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
855.690.7114 | www.surfandsandresort.com

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa

Set in Surf City, U.S.A., the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa offers an elegant yet approachable escape. Sparkling views of the Pacific Ocean and sumptuous amenities blend with the town’s beach culture, incorporating the best of both worlds. Here you can spend the morning being pampered at the resort’s 20, 000-square-foot spa and the afternoon wandering down the boardwalk to the Huntington Beach Pier while eating ice cream.

Lovely Spanish-style architecture sets the scene for the property’s 577 guest rooms and suites, each complete with their own private balcony or patio. Rooms offer stone counter tops, pillow-top mattresses and Andalusian-inspired furnishings, creating a stylish approach to a beach resort.

Due to its sheer size, the resort offers many different swimming options. An outdoor lagoon-style swimming pool called Slyders Water Playground featuring three waterslides, a ribbon-shaped pool, a shallow wading pool for the kids and an oversized hot tub are the water-filled amenities at this pool. During the day, you can rent one of nine cabanas complete with flat screen TVs, Wi-Fi, table service, and in the evening you can roast marshmallows in one of the fire pits.

One of the unique features the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort offers is its on-site village. The Retail Village offers a shopping plaza featuring upscale shops and boutiques, beach rentals, restaurants, bars, a Starbucks and even a specialty grocery store in case you want to stock the mini-fridge in the room.

However, what really sets this resort apart is its diverse dining experiences. The Hyatt offers an array of mouthwatering options, including four restaurants, two lounges and 24-hour room service. Their signature restaurant, Watertable, opened last year and offers a seasonal “root-to-restaurant” menu. The vision of this gastropub, headed by Executive Chef Manfred Lassahn, is to give guests an inventive culinary perspective by using local ingredients in unexpected ways. Michael Halloran, the director of food & beverage, recommends starting with the creamy potato cakes that are twice fried and served with a truffle dip, chives and fresh cracked pepper. And if you’re lucky enough to be there on a night they still have the pan-roasted branzino (they often sell out), it is an absolute must. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, guests can’t get enough.

Pete’s Sunset Grille is a favorite of locals and guests alike. Known for their Pete’s Famous Signature Fish Tacos and ahi poke bowl, this relaxed hang is the perfect spot to watch the game or have a drink with friends in your more casual attire. Pete’s also offers live music on the weekends so you can get your groove on!

Tower 15 Pizzeria pays homage to the lifeguard station located directly across from the resort and offers the ideal spot to share a pie on the patio with your friends while taking in the views. Here you can get awesome thin crust specialty pizzas, sandwiches and salads.

One of the best things about staying at a warm weather resort in the summertime is the poolside dining. The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort offers two options. Shubee’s Bar and Café located in the waterpark offers casual fare, fresh fruit smoothies and a full bar for adults. Additionally, Mankota’s Grill is where you can enjoy grilled specialties during the day and cocktails in the evening.

Finally, the Red Chair Lounge serves up a great place to relax and enjoy a fine vintage or specialty cocktail while in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the hotel.

Native Knowledge: Not familiar with the area? Main Street, the primary HB hangout, is steps away and offers a plethora of casual dining options, bars, upscale cuisine and places to get your snack on.

21500 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
714.698.1234 | www.huntingtonbeach.hyatt.com

 

The St. Regis Monarch Beach

If you’re traveling with kids in tow and need a place that caters to their needs as well as yours, look no further than The St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point. The luxury resort is located on the bluffs of coastal Orange County and is a Forbes five-star and AAA five-diamond resort. The 400-room resort includes 369 oversized guest rooms and 31 suites ranging in size from 970 square feet to more than 3, 100 square feet. Each guest room, featuring contemporary designs, is filled with a coastal palette of cool blues, greens and crisp whites. The rooms were renovated in the spring of 2015, and each features a seagrass textured wallpaper, luxurious chaise lounges, marble top armoires, full marble baths and ocean-inspired artwork. The spacious balconies off each room and suite provide unmatched views of the ocean, pool, resort or garden.

The enhanced in-room technology includes new one-touch access to request housekeeping, turndown or privacy, the ability to send text alerts to the valet, a press reader subscription to over 3, 000 daily newspapers and magazines, Bluetooth-enabled alarm clocks and wall-mounted flat screen televisions. Each room also features luxurious Fili D’oro linens, goose down comforters and Laboratoire Remède skin and body care products. Along with an unspoiled private beach and seaside golf course, the resort also offers one of California’s only Forbes five-star spas to make the adults feel right at home.

The kids will feel welcomed too as soon as check-in, where they’ll receive a complimentary St. Regis Monarch Beach sand bucket and shovel for beach fun. Along with the resort’s family-friendly Lagoon Pool and the Sandcastle Kid’s Club, children can take advantage of the yoga and surf lessons designed to cater to kids. Or they can join their parents, at no charge, and play golf at the award-winning Monarch Beach Golf Links.

To make a family vacation unforgettable, guests of The St. Regis can purchase an Ocean Explorer Package, which includes four tickets to a whale-watching adventure aboard a high-tech catamaran sailboat. During the cruise, families will learn about ocean life and get rare glimpses into a variety of underwater wildlife and the beautiful natural scenery. To remember the adventure, kids will receive a copy of the book Lily, A Grey Whale’s Odyssey written and signed by Captain Dave Anderson, an advocate for saving whales and dolphins from entanglement. The large yacht offers such cool features as the eye-to-eye underwater viewing pods, a hydrophone for listening underwater, a small collection of dolphin and whale artifacts, live trip broadcasting at WhaleWatchingTV.com, and triple fudge brownies. Excursions depart Dana Point Harbor daily.

Another great family fun option offered at the resort on Friday and Saturday evenings is Storytelling and S’mores. While roasting marshmallows, families can enjoy stories told by St. Regis storytellers dressed as book characters from stories such as Alice in Wonderland, The Cat in the Hat, Fancy Nancy and Snow White.

For parents who may need a little alone time, babysitting services are available for children ages 5 and under who are too young to participate in some of the kids’ activities offered.

No matter your reason to visit, or who you’re traveling with, The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort has something to offer. From activities for the kids of all ages to adults, everyone in your family will have a great time!

Native Knowledge: The fitness center is open 24 hours daily, and all daily fitness classes are complimentary for resort and spa guests. The fitness center includes an outdoor lap pool with underwater music and a movement studio complete with a yoga strap wall.

1 Monarch Beach Resort N
Dana Point, CA 92629
949.234.3200| www.monarchbeachresort.com

 

Island Hotel

The Island Hotel effortlessly blends class with urban attitude, creating a luxurious destination for locals and travelers alike. A relaxed spa day will convert stress to bliss while a nearby surf lesson will add a little adventure to a typical beach outing. Where else in Newport Beach can one walk to world class shopping, award-winning dining, coastal activities, sunbathing and panoramic views in just one day?

Perfectly situated in the heart of Newport Beach, the Island Hotel is the ultimate girls’ weekend destination. Shopping, swimming, spa-ing, sipping and supping are all within a tanned arm’s reach for the most discerning group of women. Wedding guests, best friends and busy moms alike can enjoy their escape from the daily hustle and bustle.

Foodie friends will enjoy dining at Oak Grill inside or al fresco, and happy hour friends can celebrate the days of the week on Tequila Tuesdays and Whiskey Wednesdays in Aqua Lounge.
Native Knowledge: Coastal Catering can now bring the quality of service and refinement of the Island Hotel to your community.

690 Newport Center Dr
Newport Beach, CA 92660
866.554.4620 | www.islandhotel.com

 

Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is a brand and destination all by itself. This elegant hotel can be found in cities across the globe. It has a reputation full of grace and wealth. There is luxury found within its name and an expectation that follows it no matter what country it is found in. Whether a guest regularly frequents the grand lobbies with marble floors and scenic views, or they have saved for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, they expect a stay filled with epic unforgettable memories.

On top of the reputation that precedes this fine resort cluster, the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel is lucky enough to find itself situated atop the bluffs of Southern California, making it a destination that is unique in its beauty and inspiration. To enjoy a location of such pure natural elegance is something that is truly invaluable.

The location and prestige of this resort is nothing short of magic. Combine that luxury with the resort’s dedication to its guests and you find something that feels unreal. The changes in the Ritz-Carlton are fueled by guests’ ideas and comments on the stunning resort. So as you save up for your next vacation, keep this resort in mind. While it has gracefully aged and evolved over the years, it still has the innovative feel of youth and beauty. The resort’s dedication to progress and perfection is evident in every aspect of its being.

Native Knowledge: A favorite event among locals is the First Thursday Art Walk.

1 Ritz-Carlton Dr
Dana Point, CA 92629
949.240.2000 | www.ritzcarlton.com/LagunaNiguel