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The Ultra-Luxurious, Ultra-Private Pelican Hill

The Pelican Hill resort in Southern California.
The Pelican Hill resort in Southern California.
Pelican Hill

Pelican Hill


In 2008, the luxe Pelican Hill resort opened, setting the bar (believe it or not) higher for southern California luxury resorts. This lovely hotel, resort, golf paradise and spa is situated in the foothills between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.


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I have classified Pelican Hill as an ultra-luxurious hotel for several reasons. First, the resort takes incredible pride in its design and in particular, the intricate detail in the design. Pelican Hill pays homage to Andrea Palladio, an Italian Renaissance master of architectural design, born in 1508 in Padua, Italy. Palladio’s name at birth was Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola; it was changed by scholar Gian Giorgio Trissino to mimic the name of the Greek goddess of war and wisdom, Pallas Athene, often simply called Athena. This name change was undoubtedly a sign of respect and awe at the incredible skill the architect possessed. Pelican Hill further honors Palladio by following his style and dedication to perfection.

Inside, the open lobby is very large, but still maintains intimacy. The hearth here, as well as in all public areas and accommodations, is made from limestone imported from Italy. If you’ll look closely, you can see it was hand-carved. The tapestries decorating the walls are originals from the Renaissance period. Their whimsical princess, castle and unicorn themes are charming. The color palette of the entire resort is neutral in order to draw the eye to the details and natural color outside.


It is in accommodation design that Pelican Hill reveals its pledge to the privacy of its guests. All accommodations are either bungalows or villas, each with a private entrance. Bungalows include almost all of the items on my personal comforts of home checklist. Their cashmere robes are exquisite – the best I have personally experienced. Each bungalow has a gas fireplace, double sinks and a marble soaking tub. The Bose sound system and private terraces went above and beyond my expectations.

Pelican Hill’s villas are gated –a resort within a resort. These are no-holds-barred luxury homes. The defining characteristics that set them apart are:

  • Gourmet kitchens with wine cabinets, Sub Zero refrigerators, Wolf ovens and cook-tops, and professional cookware from Cuisipro.
  • 60-inch flatscreen HD TVs and Bose sound systems.
  • Private one- or two-car garages.
  • Fine table linens from Rivolta Carmignani and Fili D’Oro.
  • A 10,000-square-foot exclusive Villa Clubhouse.


Pelican Hill is ultra-luxurious not only for its design and quality finishes, but also for the meticulous attention to detail that continues in its dining experiences. Pelican Hill has two fine dining choices, restaurants Andrea (named after Andrea Palladio) and Coliseum. The hotel also features two cafés, one of which offers handmade gelato in deliciously distinctive flavors created by the chefs of Andrea.

On a spectacular Thursday morning, I had the opportunity to enjoy brunch on the heated veranda of the Coliseum. The view of the beautifully groomed golf course, the intricately-hand tiled brilliant blue Coliseum pool, the pool cabanas arranged in leveled coliseum fashion, the already spring-green southern Californian hills and the vast Pacific Ocean was breathtaking, to say the least. My meal was up to the challenge of matching my view – I ate every bite of the huge Belgian waffle garnished with locally-picked berries.

Just as Palladio looked to his surroundings for inspiration for his architecture, Pelican Hill revels in the local treasury of ingredients the area has to offer. Ancient olive trees can be found around the property and, on occasion, olives from on-site are turned into olive oil for the hotel’s chefs and guests.


As you would expect from a hotel in this class, the Spa at Pelican Hill is quintessential indulgence. It is no wonder that celebrities are drawn here. Celebrity or not, though, do not miss this treat. I recommend the Amber Gold Signature Massage. Like most, it uses Swedish massage techniques to relax the guest. Unlike most spa massages, extra steps are taken to insure the best possible experience. For example, the masseuse uses a soft brush to exfoliate the skin before an infusion of natural oils is applied to the body. This allows the skin to absorb the oils more efficiently for a lovely glow. Personalization is another way the spa caters to each guest. I am always asked for my preferences before a massage, but rarely are techniques varied in response to my input. My massage at Pelican Hill was different -- my request was honored to the letter.


Pelican Hill is an absolutely beautiful luxury resort. It still looks and feels brand new and yet manages to blend into the countryside as if it has been there for ages. The staff is quietly dedicated to guests and the concierge efforts are outstanding. This is the place for a private, calming vacation to relax and renew.

For more information on Pelican Hill or to book a stay, please visit their website.

Examiner’s Note: Thank you, Kate Starr of Pelican Hill, for your gracious help in making this review possible.

Please write to me at and take a look at my hotel and resort video reviews by visiting Travel by Lori.


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