Dubbed “The California Rivera,” Orange County rarely lacks visitors. The 24 miles of coastal surf, the world-class shopping, and exemplary cuisine beckoned international travelers long before the county was reality show fodder. Though Disneyland and adult Disneyland (South Coast Plaza) remain high on the visitor to-do list, more and more vacationers are exploring its impressive art museums, luxury golf courses, and breathtaking natural parks, proving Orange County is more than surfboards and shopping sprees. The following hotels offer a sampling of everything Orange County is renowned for: great service, delectable dishes, and a lot of sunshine.
Location, location, location! The Island hotel may be a step away from Newport’s Fashion Island and a quick walk to the beach but feels like an isolated paradise. The spacious rooms feature modern touches including flat screen televisions, iPod docking stations, and an Internet connection that is as solid as the ocean views. However, don’t expect to linger in the comfort of the suites. The Palm Terrace restaurant boasts world-class food from an expert culinary team led by Executive Chef Bill Bracken (Peninsula Beverly Hills). Gourmands might be familiar with his beef short ribs that are braised with rum and pepper for over 48 hours. Talk about fall-off-the-bone good. Sous Chef Roberto Rodriguez perfectly complements Bracken’s vision and is responsible for dishes including the fresh tomato, hearts of palm and avocado ice cream salad that is crisp, clean, and clever. For guests with a sweet tooth, Executive Pastry Chef Michael Owens’s nightly creations include his signature Balboa Sundae (complete with homemade Snickers ice cream) and Valrhona Chocolate Obsession, a decadent dessert that melts on the tongue. For those favoring a non-edible indulgence, the Island Spa offers various treatments for pampering including the newly added Balinese Island Escape massage given by master masseuse Seiko.
The Island Hotel is located at 690 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, Calif., 949.759.0808
This boutique hotel has been a vital part of the Laguna Beach community for nearly ninety years. Built in 1929 as a seaside retreat for Hollywood’s elite, the Mediterranean style hotel combines “old-world charm with modern amenities.” Guests can sip wine and enjoy an uninterrupted ocean views from the rooftop lounge or simply walk out the front door and dip their toes in the surf. After frolicking in the waves, visitors can sample local cuisine at K’ya where Executive Chef Craig Connole serves up the finest in modern Japanese dishes. At La Casa Del Camino, life is truly a day at the beach.
La Casa Del Camino is located at 1287 South Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, Calif., 949.497.2446
Maybe it’s the Palladian-inspired architecture from Northern Italy. Perhaps it is the Coliseum Pool, which is an impressive, and expansive perfect 136 square-foot circle comprised of over one million glass tiles cut and laid by hand. It could be the Tom Fazio designed 18-hole golf courses. Whatever the reason, Pelican Hill is the premier resort destination for international travelers. Located between the exclusive communities of Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, The Pelican Hill boasts 204 bungalows and 128 villas complete with ocean views. If sun tanning on the private terrace gets tiresome, head over to Andrea Ristorante where the bucatani with ox tail is divine and the wine list is mind-blowing. The one thing more staggering than the resort’s accommodations? The picturesque sunset delivered daily free of charge.
Pelican Hill Resort is located at 22701 South Pelican Hill Rd., Newport Coast, Calif., 949.467.6800
For those travelers that think Huntington Beach hotels are sandy surf shacks, think again. Opened in 2009, Shorebreak is the first full-service, luxury hotel on the waterfront in Huntington Beach and the only hotel located in downtown. Drawing its inspiration from the laid-back surf culture, the hotel pays homage to the sport without being kitschy. Rest assured, guests won’t find Tiki masks around every corner. They will discover an eclectic mix of contemporary furnishings with iconic surf photography and watercolor beach scenes. The youthful, energetic interior vibe carries over to the cuisine of Zimzala restaurant, which is located inside the hotel and features traditional American cuisine with a modern twist.
Shorebreak Hotel is located at 500 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, Calif., 714.861.4470
Let’s give this resort a round of applause. After being awarded the prestigious Forbes Five-Star award and capturing the AAA Five Diamond award, St. Regis is the only Five-Star, Five Diamond resort in California. Overlooking the blue Pacific waters, guests flock to Dana Point’s paradise for the private beach complete with “Surf Butlers,” Michael Mina’s awarding winning restaurant StoneHill Tavern, an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones designed golf course and a 30,000 square-foot-day spa. We’re tired just typing about it. With luxury amenities, world-class accommodations, and seemingly endless recreational activities, this is one resort worthy of a standing ovation.
St. Regis at Monarch Beach is located at 1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, Calif., 949.234.3200