Literally across the street from the John Wayne airport in Orange County, California, is the Fairmont Newport Beach hotel. The hotel staff members (as is prevalent at Fairmont properties) are friendly, the suites are spacious, and the hotel is surrounded by a wealth of urban entertainment.
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This hotel, like many I’ve reviewed recently, is valet-only. Valet parking has its advantages (such as convenience) and disadvantages (such as an extra fee), but at the Fairmont Newport Beach, the advantages win. Hybrid cars park for free and the valets are quick, professional, and very courteous.
The lobby tends to be bustling with activity most of the time and is nicely sectioned. The front desk and concierge desk are in the main lobby area; sitting areas just beyond the main lobby are plentiful and arranged in ways conducive to socializing. A small gift shop down one hallway is a good place to grab a candy bar and coffee is served in the lobby in the morning. The Bambu Lounge serves coffee, drinks and an impressive selection of food late into the night. This is a great place to meet with friends coming from or going to the airport.
The rooms are decorated in greens and blues, with cherry-toned wood furniture in a British (tropical) colonial style. Standard guest rooms here are typical in amenities and size, but 54 suites are available as well. These provide much more room, a better view and are worth the price to upgrade. The couches are a bit too soft, but chances are you won’t be spending too much time on the couch. The beds at the Fairmont Newport Beach are comfortable and the showers are large.
At Bambu, Fairmont’s innovative chefs have designed a menu that is a nod to Fairmont’s pledge to extraordinary customer service. Understanding that many people have specific dietary needs, a Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu is available so guests with those needs do not have to settle for side dishes and incomplete entrees. This menu features delicious selections “catering to guests with specific diet-dependent conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and gluten-free, as well as unique dietary preferences including macrobiotic, raw and vegan diets.” Kudos to Fairmont!
You could spend a month in Newport Beach and not see everything. However, if you’d like to try, staying at this hotel will give you an awesome jumping off point—there is a wealth of entertainment and shopping options available nearby. The hotel can assist in your decision as well as in getting you there. The concierge has a ready list of options, including itineraries and directions for a 2-3 hour trip, a half-day outing or an evening out. The Fairmont Newport Beach also has a complimentary shuttle to take you and your family or colleagues to and from the John Wayne Airport, shopping mecca Fashion Island, and three other popular destinations.
One of those destinations is Balboa Island (unlike Fashion Island, Balboa Island is actually an island). During my visit, I was provided with directions and a guarantee that I would love the charming old-time Coney Island-done-California-style feel. I absolutely did. Another staff member, Rei, told me the Duffy boats were too much fun to miss out on. So, directions and expectations in hand, I went off to explore Balboa Island with my husband.
The fun begins before you even get to the island. Just before the ferry landing, there are adorable shops to explore, little cafes (very reasonably priced) in which to eat, and more chocolate-covered banana stands than I have ever seen. Balboa Island is accessible by car or by foot by riding a bare-bones ferry you can either drive onto (up to three cars) or walk onto. Once on Balboa Island, there are several places to rent a Duffy boat. These boats are small, cute, iPod compatible, and you only need a driver’s license and be above 21 years of age to be your very own skipper. My husband even let me navigate until I was afraid I’d run over one of the tiny sailing boats captained by sailing school students. We had a fantastic time looking at the beautiful close-set homes on the island, admiring the yachts and generally enjoying our self-guided tour of the waterway around the island.
For an urban (as opposed to a beach) vacation, especially if you need to be close to the airport, the Fairmont Newport Beach is a great option. Upgrade to the suite and enjoy a wonderful place to unwind after spending your time seeing the sights.
For more information on the Fairmont Newport Beach or to book a stay, please visit their website.
Examiner’s Note: Thank you, Rei Strand of the Fairmont Newport Beach! It was a pleasure to meet you.