The Perfect Stay
It's easy to enjoy a brief stay at The Resort at Pelican Hill®, and John and Leasa Ireland knew it well. Several times in the last few years they had checked in for memorable one-night getaways on or near the day of their anniversary—January 2nd. And then it would be back to work: John to his job as the sportscaster for 710 ESPN Radio covering the Los Angeles Lakers and Leasa to her public relations agency in the Irelands' hometown of Manhattan Beach. But this year the couple decided to extend their stay to four days. And they came away not only refreshed, but laden with whimsical memories and a new appreciation of the uniqueness of the Resort.
In your Backyard
Leasa—I posted some photos of the view (on social media) from our Villa without saying where we were staying and among our friends everyone was guessing where we were. They were very excited for us.
One of the main reasons we go down there is that John's traveling most of the year for work so when it comes time for a vacation the thought of him getting on a plane…He's not really enthusiastic about it. And if you go down to Pelican Hill, you really are adding a good day or day and a half to your trip because you're not dealing with an airport—all that frustration, the security lines and everything. You just cruise on down and you're in your Villa.
John—We've been to Pebble Beach before, and San Diego, and we've stayed in a lot of resorts with fantastic views, so they might have thought that we went back to those places. But because of the convenience, we were so much happier going to Pelican Hill. The day we left, we thought, 'Why didn't we think of this before?'
A Villa of Their Own
John—For this trip we wanted to spend about a week, and stay at the Villas so that we could see all these people that we never get to see. We had probably three different couples in the four days we were there come and have dinner or lunch or stay overnight with us at the Resort.
If you live in Southern California, that's a great way to play it. It gives you an opportunity to share the Resort with anyone you want to share it with. It's like having your own house. It's a lot nicer, probably, than a lot of houses. The Villa is kind of the home run because you get to stay in a place where if you want to stay there all day and be on your own, you can, but if you want to enjoy the Resort or play golf, you just take the coach service over to the golf course and back when ready. We spent a lot of time on our terrace having a glass of wine and watching the sun set.
His and Hers and His
Leasa—I went to the Spa on Wednesday with a girlfriend while John was playing golf, and the Spa is really gorgeous. The relaxation area is the nicest I've ever been in, and I've been to a lot of spas. It's so serene and comfortable and the service is fantastic. Sometimes when you go to a hotel or even a really nice resort, the service people are not as good and the massages are not the best, but this spa was a phenomenal experience.
John—I played golf twice. The first round was on Monday morning with one of my best friends and both my parents, who still golf. We played the Ocean South course. On Wednesday I played the Ocean North course. I had a blast on both of them. The Ocean South course reminds me of Pebble Beach because it takes you right down on the water and you're literally right on the ocean and the views are spectacular. But on the Ocean North course you're up in the hills and I would argue that it's more panoramic—you get a better view of Newport Beach. And in terms of playing, I think it's the nicest course in Southern California.
As for our son, Jack, he brought his scooter with him and just rode it all over the Resort. And he loves the pool and likes to swim every day, so we made sure to get him into the Coliseum and Villa Pools.
At Your Service
John—The staff is ridiculously over-the-top-friendly. You don't feel like you're ever asking a dumb question or that you're ever putting somebody out. Whatever you need at the moment, they're there. It's one of the main reasons we like going there. We've been to other luxury Orange County destinations and, for lack of a better word, they can be kind of snooty. But at Pelican Hill we almost feel like we're family. You start to recognize people. When they drop you off in the coach they'll always say, ‘Here's my phone number. When you're ready to return, call me. If there's anything else I can assist you with, call me.' For instance, our son is addicted to chocolate chip cookies. When we walked in the door of our Villa, there was a plate of chocolate chip cookies and a note—which was very thoughtful and thoroughly enjoyed.
Leasa—The service is impeccable, of course, but they're not overly solicitous, which can be uncomfortable at times. They know how to respond to the guests to make them feel very comfortable, and they're around just when you need them. Elsewhere, so often room service at a nice resort is not great. But we used room service several times and the food was fabulous. And the people who brought it were so friendly. My son is obsessed with cars and he'd go out there to see what they were driving and then he'd help them bring things in.
Days on the Move
John—Not only is it a big plus that there are so many great places that are off the Resort in Newport Beach and Corona del Mar, but they'll take you to all those places. When we went to Javier's restaurant [in Newport Coast] and I went to golf, we just took the coach service. They'll take you to Fashion Island® if you want. You really don't even need a car. I don't know of any other place else that does that.
Leasa—One of my favorite things to do is hike. We'd take a long walk down to the Beachcomber for lunch, hang out at the tide pools and look at the water. You get a nice workout, but if you're not totally committed to it and you don't want to climb the hill back up… then you can take the coach service back.
Feels Far But So Near
John—It's just so wonderful to get away here, and we live less than an hour away in Manhattan Beach. But it feels almost like going to Hawaii. In terms of a destination resort, Pelican Hill is probably the best we've been to, and we've been all over the world. For me, with the Lakers I get to stay in all these ridiculously nice hotels, but Pelican Hill, when you combine the amenities, everything it has to offer and where it's located, it's one of my favorite places on earth.
The Villa Life
Maury Kalen and Paula Stark first moved into the luxury Villas at Pelican Hill® shortly after it opened nearly seven years ago to be close to their goddaughter who lives in the area.
As busy attorneys from Toronto, the couple quickly discovered the long list of lifestyle amenities the luxury long-term accommodations at the Resort had to offer, and have returned every year since, staying for about four months at a time.
"I'm 69 and my wife is 65, but we live here like we are in our 40s," Kalen said. "We are very fortunate. Pelican Hill has allowed us to extend our love of being active."
Beyond sustaining their dynamic lifestyle, which for this couple is filled with golf, running on the beach, getting massages at the Spa and dining at the best restaurants in The OC and L.A., Kalen said Pelican Hill feels like home.
"It's basically a home away from home," he said. "We have a great space at the Villas: They are welldesigned and well-furnished, the service is amazing and the location can't be beat. And it's so much easier than owning our own home."
The couple just returned from a ski trip to Aspen, Colorado and head north to Los Angeles about once a week to dine out. "There's no end to where you can go and it's easy to get anywhere from here."
Kalen said that although he and Stark didn't set out to meet people, they have developed a network of friends in the area. "We met some really nice people at the golf courses who we have befriended. We go out to dinner. We feel like we are the locals when we are here."
Like Kalen and his wife, many of the residents were drawn to the Villas as an option to other long-term living accommodations. Some stay for job relocations or are in transition; others want to escape the cold or the heat. Some just needed a temporary place to call home for a variety of reasons. But once they experienced the luxurious lifestyle, most decided to stay as long and as often as they could.
"We run the Villas as an ultra-luxury resort," said Nikolay Tevekeliyski, general manager of the Villas. "It's truly the ultimate living experience on every level."
Residents of the two, three and four-bedroom Villas enjoy complimentary services and amenities like 24-hour concierge and exclusive access to a beautiful ocean-view pool with cabanas at the Villa Clubhouse. They can also arrange for additional amenities such as twice-daily housekeeping, butler, laundry and turndown services. Villa residents can conveniently dine at any of the Resort restaurants or may opt to eat in their Villa kitchen, fully equipped with a Sub Zero refrigerator and Wolf appliances.
Tom Andrews, a wealth manager who has been living at the Villas with his wife and three children for the last six months for both business and pleasure, said Pelican Hill® was the only place that met all of their needs and wants.
"The joke is, we say, it's our own private oasis. When we walk into the clubhouse, the staff already knows what we want," he said. "And it's the beauty of the area. The sunsets are unreal. You can't beat the office view."
Andrews, who first stayed at the Villas when the Resort opened to escape winters in his home state of Utah, also believes it's a value.
"I couldn't buy a home in the area for the price and for all the services," he said. "I don't worry about maintenance, or getting it cleaned, and if I have guests, they take great care of them. The butlers will run up and get something when I'm cooking or help with the laundry."
Two Christmases ago, Andrews said the Villa staff decorated his place, did his shopping and even wrapped all the presents for him during a holiday gathering of family members at the Resort. They also have arranged visits to Disneyland for his kids and drove the family down to the beach and back.
"It's true luxury," he said. "A lot of people just don't know this is available."
Andrews, whose three business partners were also staying at the Resort, said he has enjoyed meeting other guests and discovered the networking potential. "It's now become a springboard for business," he said.
Harriet Whittlin, an 86-year-old widow from the East Coast, has spent three months a year for the last five years at the Villas to escape the heat of her primary residence in Rancho Mirage.
"It was an instant love affair," she said about her first visit to Pelican Hill in 2010. "You are in the lap of luxury."
Whittlin loves to "hang out by the pool," revels in the ocean view, enjoys all the Resort restaurants and others in nearby Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, and looks forward to daily visits from her housekeepers and butler. But her favorite time at the Villas is hosting her family and friends there.
"I love to share the happiness with people. Everyone loves coming here. I had a catered party there last year. It was the tops," said Whittlin, who has three grown daughters and two grandchildren. "The Resort did it all. They made the Villa shining with candles, and the way they set up the hors d'oeuvres and cocktail party was just perfect. The staff was so well-trained."
Whittlin especially loves the warmth and friendliness of the staff. "They make you feel very at home. And they say, ‘Mrs. Whittlin, how are you today?' Everyone likes to be recognized in life. And the service is just divine."
Another Villa guest, Lori Jackson, said her family's unexpected stay at the Villas helped turn a stressful catastrophe into a fun adventure.
"We were dealt a lemon, but the Resort is helping us turn it into lemonade," said Jackson, who moved her family into the Villas in January with her husband, Jeff, and four children after their Ladera Ranch home flooded from a water leak.
As the family scrambled to find temporary housing, she called Pelican Hill®, which helped them move into a four-bedroom Villa within just a day.
"It's very difficult to find the right place for our needs," said Jackson, who was in the middle of starting a new business. "It had to be turnkey and near our work and large enough so we weren't all on top of each other."
Not only was Jackson thrilled with the "whiteglove" service and convenience, but loved having a two-car garage, a washer and dryer, restaurants with great kids menus and a clubhouse and pool where her children, ages 4, 6, 8 and 10, could hang out.
"Pelican Hill welcomed us," she said. "It's been an exciting experience. And they made it feel like home."