(credit: pelicanhill.com)

The Resort at Pelican Hill is among the most exceptional escapes you won’t soon forget, and one you’ll hope to again return to. It has a remarkable level of comfort and ease for such renowned luxury and presence.

(credit: Debbie Lavdas)

Do the clouds move slower overhead at Pelican Hill? Do the palms sway more gently? Has nature, too, submitted to the spell of Pelican Hill’s perfectly relaxed pace? It wouldn’t be surprising if The Resort’s visionaries somehow managed to alter sky and earth, as they seem to have ingeniously thought of everything else. The vision is really extraordinary, considering this Five-Diamond Destination Resort, situated near the Pacific Ocean in Newport Beach, didn’t exist just four years ago. It’s so naturally nestled in the landscape, the property feels as though it has leisurely ruled there for decades.

It’s with room to roam that comes permission to breathe, to be, and to rest at The Resort at Pelican Hill, which effortlessly sprawls over 504 acres of expansive, yet intimate, space and spectacular Italian Renaissance design. And whether you’re traveling from Greece, Saudi Arabia, Santa Monica or Laguna Beach, the getaway has a remote escape feel.

A large part of Pelican Hill’s very comfortable nature has to do with its architecture, inspired by the work of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. In almost every aspect of The Resort, you’ll note the conscious efforts to make everything as tall as it is wide—creating relaxing space everywhere from the Bungalows and lobby lounging to cabanas and dining. Graceful design includes rows of arched porticos, barrel-vaulted ceilings, multi-story entry rotundas and corniced columns paired with courtyards of flowing fountains.

The Resort at Pelican Hill did so many things right when imagining the grounds, including the prime ocean location, the intention to give The Resort casual chic California elegance, the notion of Villas and Bungalows (versus traditional multilevel hotel rooms), as well as the Forbes Five-Star Spa, breathtaking Coliseum Pool, epicurean dining experiences and Tom Fazio-designed golf.

Resort details tell the degree of thoughtfulness and demanding expectations. Authentic lime-based plaster from Italy is seen on interior and exterior walls. The Resort brought in 750 mature olive trees to line the main thoroughfares and access roads to the Bungalows and Villas (to ensure it’s reminiscent of an Italian village). There are also the heated floors in outdoor dining terraces that provide added comfort on cool mornings and evenings.

(credit: pelicanhill.com)

Worthy accommodations

The Resort’s Bungalow Guest Rooms & Suites (204 in total) are lovely. They’re spacious (like everything else) and while they’ve existed for several years now, you’ll still swear you’re the first to stay in them—as they have that new-model smell and look pristine. The Bungalow experience is quiet and restful with dreamy sheets and sumptuous bedding, a cozy fireplace, a lounge-area patio and more. The rooms are outfitted with high-tech, yet have earthy characteristics and many organic materials. Bungalow pricing starts from $395 per night (varies with season). If a week or longer stay is in your plans, you may want to consider the Villas (128 to choose from)—much like a stellar Newport Coast home. The two-, three- and four-bedroom Villas, from $795 per night (varies per season), feature every imaginable ultra-luxury appointment, personalized butler service and much more. Coach Service (black Escalades) is the way to get around the vast property. Just call, and in seconds, you’re whisked away to the pool, Spa, dining or around town.

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The stunning Coliseum Pool

A place where you’ll undoubtedly spend much of your time is at the pool. Inspired by Rome’s famed landmark, The Coliseum Pool is perfectly circular and 136 feet in diameter—making it the largest circular pool in the world. It’s surrounded by an amphitheater of terraced decks with private cabanas, sunbathing areas, dining and gorgeous ocean views. Another truly unique element of the pool is its depth: just 3 feet, 6 inches everywhere. So even swimming is effortless at Pelican Hill; it’s also brilliant for families, with few worries of deep water for children. The pool is the hub of The Resort, and it’s wonderful that they made it as large as they did. With its grand size, people can be playing about and never bother one another. There may be a football toss in one area, water gun fights in another, raft resting in the middle, it’s all fine and all works in harmony. While The Resort offers you world-class service and luxury, The Resort at Pelican Hill has a very unassuming, comfortable essence. There’s no resort dress code, children are a very important part of The Resort and nothing feels particularly formal.

(credit: Debbie Lavdas)

Camp Pelican

And speaking of children, take note of The Resort’s year-round children’s retreat, Camp Pelican that offers half-day and full-day visits with lunch included for children ages 4-12. On select dates in summer, there are many activities also, such as Kids’ Night Out with dinner, popcorn and a movie. (An endearing design feature at the children’s pool is the abundance of children-size chaise lounges.)

(credit: pelicanhill.com)

Rejuvenating at The Spa

Like all things Pelican Hill, The Spa is spacious, tranquil and inviting. The 23,000-square-foot retreat has a handmade wall of flowing water, 22 treatment rooms and the Acqua Colonnades (aka Jacuzzi areas) have herbal steam rooms and saunas. Condé Nast Traveler readers just rated The Spa as California’s top resort spa. Recommended treatments? The Amber Gold Signature Massage is a beautiful thing to relieve stress with Swedish massage techniques amplified with dry brushing exfoliation and enhanced oils. Or you might opt for their current seasonal treatment: Summer Lavender Body Gelato.

(credit: Pelicanhill.com)

Delicious dining

As far as resort cuisine, you have your choice of several restaurants, lounges and cafes on the property. Andrea Ristorante is the signature dining choice with Northern Italian cuisine. The Coliseum Pool & Grill is fabulously relaxing, as you sit overlooking the pool and Pacific. (The Thai Pasta is excellent, as is the Grilled Vegetable Wrap and Cobb Salad, and try the sampler dessert.) There are many American favorites on the Coliseum Pool menu, and kids will adore the all-you-can-eat pasta and gelato on the Children’s Menu. There is also The Caffé for coffee and smoothies, the Great Room (The Resort’s “living room”) hosts tea and cocktails, and the Pelican Hill Grill with al fresco dining is a popular lounge to watch sporting events.

(credit: pelicanhill.com)

Pelican Hill Golf Club

Finally, what The Resort is best known for is the golfing—which existed years before The Resort itself. One of the nation’s premier golf clubs, Pelican Hill Golf Club offers 36 holes designed by Tom Fazio with stunning ocean panoramas from nearly every hole. The two 18-hole courses, Ocean North and Ocean South, are both ranked on Golf Digest’s America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses 2011/2012. Condé Nast Traveler Magazine also just ranked it the Number One Golf Resort in the World.

Local baby chillin’ in the pool (credit: Debbie Lavdas)

Locals welcomed

A note to locals: The Resort at Pelican Hill is always hosting a range of activities, including live music and dancing, Mother-Daughter salon time, Balanced Wellness Retreats, Teas, Brunches and much more. They even offer complimentary valet parking for dining and events and wireless Internet access should you opt to do some morning Caffé work. So many live so close to Pelican Hill and still don’t know all it has to offer the locals.

Debbie Lavdas is a Southern California writer who also writes for Bask Magazine, Laguna Beach Magazine and more. Keep up with her on Twitter and at Debbie in the OC.