Especially on sunny days, thoughts of an Italian seaside village come to mind. Terra-cotta roof tiles reflect various colors and are aged to a rich patina, every inch of the lime plaster was hand-applied so each structure has an antiquated look, and dotting the property are olive, pine and palm trees that are in fact half a century old.
The Resort at Pelican Hill is located midway between the chic, bustling coastal towns of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. Front and center are 36 holes of the Tom Fazio–designed and beautifully manicured golf course. Adjacent to the property, over three miles of pristine and protected coastline include acres of California sage, miles of well-defined trails and an uninterrupted stretch of sand. And the resort boasts a view of the blue Pacific with Catalina Island on the horizon.
The management and 700-plus employees have settled on four words, “the Possibility of Perfection,” as a tagline to encapsulate the place. One visit here and it’s hard not to ask oneself, if this isn’t perfection, what is? “ ‘The Possibility of Perfection’ means there is no room for error,” managing director Giuseppe Lama austerely states. “It is not a gimmick; we are serious about this.” Every morning Lama gathers the staff to go over the “Pelican Brief”—an in-house newsletter detailing the special events and prominent guests of the day—so that all employees are informed and prepared.
Which in turn means guests at the Resort at Pelican Hill, which is still in its first year of operation, can with a high degree of certainty count on a truly enjoyable experience. In addition to the golf, the nearby three-mile coast and the shopping, dining and entertainments of Newport and Laguna Beach, the terraced 504-acre site holds several other attractions.
The 136-foot-diameter Coliseum circular swimming pool (kept at a constant 84 degrees) is considered the largest in the world; the 23,000-square-foot Spa at Pelican Hill has 22 private treatment rooms, a 28-foot-high Palladian rotunda, steam rooms, whirlpool and soaking tubs; and the Tuscan-accented ocean-view restaurant Andrea (named for Italy’s renowned Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, whose work inspired much of the resort’s architecture) features 100-year-old balsamic vinegars, a 1,200-bottle wine room and a temperature-controlled, one-of-a-kind Pasta Room. All three restaurants on the property are overseen by former Marinite Jean-Pierre Dubray, most recently the executive chef in charge of cuisine at San Francisco’s Ritz-Carlton.
Note that the many lures here are not inexpensive; this is no traditional hotel. Bungalow suites (there are 204, ranging from around 850 to 2,500 square feet) all have ocean views, 42- or 50-inch flat-screen TVs, 500-thread-count sheets, limestone-framed fireplaces and marble soaking tubs; rates start at $695 a night. Villas (there are 128, from 2,200 to 3,600 square feet) also have these features and ocean views as well as personal butlers 24/7, dining areas and fully equipped gourmet kitchens, great rooms with 50-inch flat-screen TVs, two- or three-car garages, and access to an exclusive 10,000-square-foot clubhouse and pool complex; rates start at $1,450 a night. For reservations and information, call 800.820.6800 or visit pelicanhill.com
Good for the soul, good for the economy
Looking to rationalize a week or weekend surfside before summer ends? Try this. Traveling is good for the economy. In fact, while other states have been hurting, California, which garners 85 percent of its vacation dollars from its own residents is doing just fine. “We’ve been able to keep our market share pretty steady,” says Susan Wilcox of the California Tourism Council, “Afterall, we’ve got every type of experience one could ask for—mountains, deserts, and beaches —we are blessed.” Just last year, travel spending generated $1.6 billion in local taxes and $2.8 billion in state taxes. So even if you've cut your travel budget, consider one of these recently built or renovated beachfront resorts. Who knows, you could be saving jobs.
L’Auberge Del Mar
While not physically on the sand, the white sand beach is just steps away. And most importantly the crashing waves can be heard from the comfort of the newly refurbished rooms with luxe amenities including tk-thread count sheets on the beds. Reopened for just over a year, after a $26 million renovation, this 120-room resort has been brought back to its former state of glory with a dramatic 12-foot waterfall and pool bar and contemporary design. If the stress of the sea breezes prove to be unbearable, head into the 5,000-square-foot freestanding Spa L’Auberge, for some transformative therapies (Del Mar). laubergedelmar.com
The Shorebreak Hotel
If you know Southern California, Huntington Beach is not what comes to mind for luxury or relaxation. Have you been lately? The tide is turning. The locals-only attitude has been countered with an ultra-modern, welcoming visitors’ kiosk, and its central location (near Long Beach Aquarium, Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm) makes Huntington aka “Surf City” an easy destination for families. The latest in hospitality is the new Shorebreak Hotel right on Pacific Coast Highway. Besides the ocean views, romantic firepits and on-site Zimzala Restaurant and Bar, Shorebreak is pet friendly (dog-sitting available) and located near a dog park (Huntington Beach), shorebreakhotel.com
Part beach retreat, part über-cool British Regency, the trendy Viceroy Santa Monica seems unassuming at first with a white ‘60s-style nameless concrete exterior, but inside the hipster pad is packed with young locals who spend warm summer nights drinking mojitos poolside. The Kelly Wearstler designed hotel (a judge on the reality television show Top Design and wife of the hotel’s developer, Brad Korzen) with quirky additions like the 250 pieces of English china hanging on a green-mirrored wall and an oversize cameo above the front desk, isn’t what most envision in a beachside retreat, but watching the sailboats float by from a top-floor ocean-view suite makes the oxymoron “urban-beach retreat” ring true (Santa Monica). viceroysantamonica.com
A quality hotel on the beach in Santa Cruz? It’s not a dream. As of this spring, Joie de Vivre, the hotel company known for hip boutique hotels (Acqua in Mill Valley) reopened this 165-room four-star hotel. Not only has this landmark been completely renovated into beachside-hip, but a new on-site restaurant, aptly named Aquarius, just opened this summer. The 2,900-square-foot eatery serves up sustainable seafood, local organic produce and regional wines. As for the hotel, one of the best amenities is the expansive view of the beach from the private balconies or patios (Santa Cruz). Aquarius, 831.460.5012, or Dream Inn, dreaminnsantacruz.com
Half Moon Bay
Barely a half-tank of gas away from Marin, the Half Moon Bay Ritz-Carlton has completed itsmultimillion-dollar minor face-lift. Included in the primping are the conservatory, expanded wine bar, spa and guestrooms. The Ritz-Carlton Suite and other luxury suites underwent complete renovations. The property is situated atop a secluded cliff overlooking a mile-long stretch of white-sand beach (Half Moon Bay). ritzcarlton.com