Newport Bay, located roughly an hour’s drive south from Los Angeles in Orange County, is like a fairytale but real. The tiny community, with multi-million-dollar homes and palatial yachts lining the shores, is almost entirely sea-centric.
On any regular day, you’ll spot kid-sized sailboats, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and small motorized vessels cruising the bay’s tranquil waters — and Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Balboa Bay Resort is the only waterfront hotel in this dreamy aquatic enclave.
Originally a members-only club (still next door to the property), the resort is home to three eateries, a recently renovated pool and hot tub, a spa and Drybar, 159 rooms and ample event space, making it a hot spot for both locals and visitors.
Here are just a few of the things we love about this unique SoCal property.
Take advantage of the luxury hotel’s primo bayside address and plan a stay during the Fourth of July or the week before December 25 for the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade — the locals throw an elaborate celebration for both and you’ll be right in the heart of the festivities.
Whether or not you’re in town during a holiday, request the resort’s complimentary car to drop you off at historic entertainment district Balboa Village, about 10 minutes away. Here, you can rent a Duffy boat — basically a floating golf cart — and explore the homes, nearby islands (like Balboa Island) and even pick up lunch from one of the waterfront restaurants. Or, you could always hire Carolyn, one of the area’s most enthusiastic tour guides (ask the hotel’s concierge to arrange this — Carolyn is a local celebrity), to show you around town.
Balboa Bay Resort is also central to other popular attractions and shopping centers, such as shopping mecca Fashion Island, scenic Newport Beach Pier and the kid-friendly Discovery Cube’s Ocean Quest.
Because of its outdoor waterfront event space, the luxury hotel buzzes with nuptial activity year-round. With the aforementioned full spa and Drybar salon, the entire wedding party can primp and pamper from head to toe for the big day, onsite.
If you’re just looking for a little serenity, The Spa at Balboa Bay Resort provides several sumptuous offerings. Signature treatments include the Sea Shell Massage, where warm tiger-striped shells are used to work out tension, and the Corrective Facial that reduces fine lines by promoting your own collagen with natural essences such as neroli (bitter orange), monoi (Tahitian gardenia) and fresh coconut.
Boasting private balconies, stellar views and tropical décor in shades of gold, rust and cream, all of the accommodations at Balboa Bay provide a soothing retreat. Of course, one of the highlights of a stay here is taking in the harbor’s activities from your plush perch — though many units offer pristine peeks, the finest are in the bayview rooms — with a morning coffee or sundowner in hand.
And with at least 500 square feet of space, marble bathrooms with sunken tubs and complimentary welcome bottles of wine, you can’t go wrong with any room at this Four-Star spot.
Everybody knows your name at A&O, or at least it feels like it. Balboa Bay Resort’s A&O Kitchen and Bar (short for Anchors & Ocean) is a lively local hangout on Friday nights with Lucas Marx playing a range of groove-friendly covers from Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson and other pop chart favorites.
On Sundays, the dancing is replaced by a scrumptious brunch menu, which includes a selection of morning cocktails. Don’t miss the Lumberjack, a whiskey sour garnished with a mini egg, bacon and pancake combo. Even if you’re not up for early drinking, order it for the inevitable “likes” on Instagram.
The Sweet Treats
Whether it’s the freshly baked banana bread or housemade faux Snickers bar at Blend café, or the brunch pastries and gorgeous desserts at fine-dining venue Waterline, you won’t want to miss sampling a few tasty offerings from hotel pastry chef Saree Musick. These decadent delights are worth the indulgence.