We just returned from a five-day trip to the Pacific Riviera…AKA the Newport Coast in California. Honestly, I didn’t want to come home! We went for a friend’s wedding and extended our trip to enjoy a mini vacation. Here’s where we stayed and what we did, and these are my recommendations if you plan to visit the area!
Day One: Resort at Pelican Hill
When researching hotels, everything I read said that the Resort at Pelican Hill was THE place to stay. It’s quite expensive, so I put on my old travel agent hat and looked for a deal.
The resort had a ‘buy three nights, get one night free’ promotion, and by prepaying the three nights (which were non-refundable), we got a significant discount. We used our American Express points to get the fifth night free.
So in the end, we paid for three discounted nights and got a five-night stay in a luxurious ocean-view villa! You can usually find a deal if you look hard enough!
The accommodations and property are pure luxury and set in a Tuscan-style village with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and with all the amenities you would ever need.
We spent our first afternoon winding down from travel by having happy hour poolside, watching the sunset, and enjoying our private ocean-view patio.
The circular Coliseum Pool, at 136 feet in diameter, is one of the largest circular pools in the world! Inspired by Rome’s famed landmark, its surrounding architecture has vaulted arches, corniced columns, terraced decks, and sweeping vistas of the California coast.
Day Two: Balboa Island and a Memorable Stage Performance
We headed a few miles down the coast to Balboa Island, a quaint little gem in Newport Harbor and spent the afternoon browsing through chic coastal shops with beachy fashions, art, jewelry, and novelties.
Our favorite thing, however, was strolling around the island and eyeing the gorgeous, eclectic homes and beautiful gardens lining the channels.
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So Glad We Did This ⬇️
Just south of Newport is Laguna Beach, home to the Pageant of the Masters, a stage performance like nothing I’ve ever seen! Tableaux vivants, or living pictures, are live recreations of classical and contemporary works of art, where real people pose to look exactly like their counterparts in the original art pieces.
Imagine a live version of da Vinci’s Last Supper…which happens to be the traditional final act of this performance. Truly an unforgettable and memorable experience!
The Pageant of the Masters is held every July and August in an outdoor amphitheater with live narration, a professional orchestra, an elaborate set, and incredible makeup artistry. TIP: Be sure to arrive at least an hour or more early to browse the hundreds of artist booths and enjoy a meal. Also, bring or rent binoculars!
Day Three: Mission San Juan Capistrano
We hadn’t visited the Mission San Juan Capistrano since the ’90s (with a baby in tow), and because we both appreciate historical sites, we wanted to go back.
The Mission has impressive architecture and is known as the “Jewel of the Missions” because of its beauty. If interested, you can read a brief overview of its 240-year history here.
The Bell Wall, circa 1813
Beautiful, rustic doorways leading to open spaces and gardens
Day Four: Crystal Cove and Venetian Gondola ride
Just five minutes from the Resort at Pelican Hill is Crystal Cove State Park’s historic district located on a pristine 3-mile stretch of beach.
Built as a seaside vacation colony between 1920 and 1940, this sweet little village is frozen in time so visitors can experience a nostalgic taste of California’s coastal and architectural beauty.
We had breakfast at the casual, diner-style Beachcomber Cafe—a destination restaurant right on the sand!
We hadn’t prepared for a day at the beach, so after breakfast, we walked through the small historic district and museum and watched everyone else enjoy the beach. 😆
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My husband is quite the romantic, even after 32 years! He arranged for a Venetian gondola dinner cruise in the evening with Gondola Adventures. This particular gondola is hand-carved and imported from Venice, Italy!
Our gondolier rowed us around Newport Harbor shouting “Buona sera” to all passersby, and he serenaded us with beautiful songs both in Italian and English. A special night, indeed, capped off by a stunning sunset.
This photo is now my phone screen saver!
We spent the last day at our friend’s wedding followed by a poolside nightcap, and finally packing to come home.
Thank you for following along on our California coast adventure! I’m already dreaming of bringing the kids and grandkids and starting a family beach-vacation tradition!
Have you been to Newport Beach? If so, I’d love to hear your recommendations, too.
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