Orange County is one of the hautest spots in Southern California, and even the Dalai Lama thinks so: of all the places in the world, he’s chosen to spend his 80th birthday there this summer, after all. Consider this your official cheat sheet on what to do, where to play, and where to stay in the O.C.
Where to Stay:
The Resort at Pelican Hill
22701 S Pelican Hill Rd.
The Resort at Pelican Hill is the crown jewel of Newport Beach. This stunning 504-acre property modeled after Andrea Palladio’s Renaissance philosophy is completely exclusive and private, yet has ocean views as well as access (via chauffeured Mercedes-Benz vans) to the nearby Crystal Cove beach. You’ll stay in one of 204 warmly lit, Italian-inspired bungalows or 128 three-to four-bedroom villas, all of which include fireplaces and private terraces, and you’ll play at one of two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses. At the Spa you’ll find cutting-edge LED light facials or body treatments using the most organic of ingredients, from wild sage to fresh olives. Its Coliseum Pool, at 136 feet in diameter, is one of the largest circle pools in the world.
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel
1 Ritz Carlton Dr, Dana Point
The ocean view from the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is absolutely staggering, but that’s just one of the many things that make this Dana Point resort so special. The resort, which is perched 150 feet above Salt Creek Beach, offers surf experiences, culture—its “Picasso: Themes & Variations” exhibit is on display to those staying on the Club Level—and amazing gourmet fare at restaurants like enoSTEAK and Raya.
Montage Laguna Beach
30801 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach
The Montage Laguna Beach is an absolutely stunning property. Set on an oceanfront bluff with sweeping panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, this 250-room resort is simply perfection. You’ll adore the rich, Craftsman-style architecture, the three sparkling swimming pools, fantastic culinary options and the 20,000 square foot indoor/outdoor oceanfront Spa Montage. When you’re not relaxing poolside, exploring the 30-acre property, or lounging on one of the four white sand beaches, make sure to check out the resort’s art collection, which includes pieces by famous Plein Air painters such as Alfred Mitchell, Edgar Payne and William Wendt.
WHERE TO PLAY
If golf is your game, you’re in luck: Orange County is home to a plethora of courses. Try your hand at the Monarch Beach Golf Links, a 6,600-yard par-70 oceanfront championship course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Conversely, head to the Talega Golf Club in San Clemente to experience the 18-hole, par-72 Fred Couples “Signature” championship course, where you’ll be able to play in a village courtyard set above the “Spanish Village by the Sea.” Finally, try your luck at one of the two Tom Fazio-designed championship holes at The Resort at Pelican Hill. You’ll experience deep ocean views, open canyons, and elevated plateaus on the North Course, and more greenery on the South Course. A day on the green here also includes high-end extras such as professional forecaddies, a practice facility, a golf academy, club cleaning services, and shoe attendants, making this green the one to beat.
Monarch Beach Golf Club
50 Monarch Beach Resort N. Dana Point
Talega Golf Club
990 Avenida Talega
Pelican Hill Club
22800 S Pelican Hill Rd. Newport Beach
WHERE TO SHOP
The O.C. has two fantastic shopping destinations in Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza and Newport Beach’s Fashion Island. You’ll find the most high-end offerings at South Coast, a luxury retail mecca founded by the late, great Henry T. Segerstrom. New offerings such as Sandro, Maje, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Berluti join longtime favorites like Baccarat, Balenciaga, Patek Philippe, Frette, Façonnable, Harry Winston, Jaeger-Lecoultre, Jimmy Choo, Piaget and Longchamp. Meanwhile, the Irvine Company-owned Fashion Island carries a little bit of everything, from the likes of Tesla and Halston Heritage to department stores like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, to beachy brands such as Seafolly, Splendid and Calypso St. Barth.
South Coast Plaza
3333 Bristol St, Costa Mesa
401 Newport Center Dr. Newport Beach
SAILING THE HIGH SEAS
Newport Beach is the largest recreational boat harbor on the west coast, so it’s no surprise that many visit simply to spend time on its yachts. Boating activities are organized by five private yacht clubs, including the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, the Balboa Yacht Club, and the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club. It is also home to the largest sailboat race in the world, the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race, as well as the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum. If boating is your passion, you simply can’t miss visiting this stunning seaside city.
Newport Harbor Yacht Club
720 W Bay Ave.