The Island Hotel: Where you'll feel movie star cool in Newport Beach
The Island Hotel in Newport Beach offers golfers resort luxury and a taste of the movie star life. If you're in town to play the two Tom Fazio golf courses at Pelican Hill, the Island is still the place you want to stay.
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - Let's face it, most people don't feel cool most of the time. Oh, you may fake it and even do a great job of pulling off the veneer. But a relaxed true cool? That's harder to maintain than a marriage to Britney Spears.
Life is full of awkward moments after all, times even the most sophisticated among us feel as gawky as a teenager stuck with old-school metal braces.
That's why The Island Hotel in Newport Beach is such a satisfying getaway. At this plush spot in the toniest of shopping neighborhoods (or complexes in this case), you feel cool, even if you're not one of the beautiful people in $500 jeans or form-fitting leather pants. You can be just a regular person sitting across from one of those people on one of the lobby lounge's comfortable couches, and you'll share their confident sash.
If only for a night. Or two.
All those wide-eyed kids from Kansas who allegedly make their way to Hollywood every year should get a weekend stay at The Island Hotel. If only they could afford it ($295 and up).
For after a few days of getting the Island staff's service, anyone can start to believe they're one of California's chosen ones, fit to have paparazzi trailing their car. Don't be surprised if you come home after an Island stay and start wondering why your personal assistant's falling down on the job.
Even if you've never had a personal assistant in your entire life.
The service sometimes starts before you even step foot on the grounds. Caught in the unique horror that's the L.A. freeway system on a Friday afternoon, I called The Island Hotel's spa to tell them there's no way I'd make a scheduled appointment. The spa receptionist insisted on moving the appointment back to my new expected arrival time, checking with the masseuse, no doubt keeping some people there late as the weekend beckoned.
I tried to cancel that appointment. Did I ever try. The staff wouldn't let it happen. They seemed like they wanted me to get that tension-relieving massage more than I even wanted it myself.
And two days later on the golf course, I felt great with the usual aches and pains gone as suddenly as a DMV worker at 4:30.
That's how things go at The Island Hotel. The staff doesn't just go out of their way to please. They'll seemingly rearrange their world to ensure it happens. The massage therapist didn't have any trace of an attitude when I finally showed, either. Instead, she lamented how it had to be a 60-minute massage rather than a 90-minute one, because I had a dinner appointment I couldn't miss.
When the Irvine Company - a powerful Newport Beach-based real estate development group that owns The Island Hotel - decided to jettison the Four Seasons affiliation that had run the hotel since it opened in 1986, many in the hospitality industry thought they were as bonkers as Mary Kate Olsen. You can't replace Four Seasons' name clout or replicate its service.
Only, two years later … well, no one's missing that leaf-looking logo. The Island Hotel's delivering standout service on its own, thank you very much.
I've stayed at one Four Seasons where the service was better than the Island (Whistler) and two where the service was undeniably worse (Chicago and Lanai's The Lodge at Koele). This all bodes well for the Irvine Company's next, much more grandly ambitious and even more over-the-top luxury-geared The Resort at Pelican Hill.
Perched on 504 acres of SoCal coastline, only about 15 minutes from The Island Hotel, the Pelican Hill resort is set to become an escape mecca when it opens late this year. It turns out that in some ways, taking over day-to-day operations of The Island Hotel was just a test run for the real showcase.
This doesn't take away from The Island Hotel. If you're in town to play the two revitalized Tom Fazio courses at Pelican Hill, which have been open since late 2007, the Island is still the place you want to stay.
Anywhere else, and you're Newport Beach slumming.
Shopping heaven with an ocean view
Part of The Island Hotel's allure comes in its location: right across the street from Fashion Square Mall, one of the most upscale malls in a snob's dream town. You can walk right across the parking lot to an outdoor corridor mall that's anchored by Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus - and includes a little train ride kids love rather than the traditional, tired Merry Go Round. Or, if you don't want to walk asphalt in your Jimmy Choo high heels, the hotel will shuttle you over.
Contrary to popular belief, though, you don't have to be a shopaholic to enjoy an Island Hotel stay.
As much as it's in the center of all commerce, it can be a relaxing place. Especially if you get one of the king suites on a higher floor with a balcony. You can sit outside there, read your morning paper as a gentle ocean breeze wafts by and actually see past the mammoth mall parking lot all the way to the ocean.
The rooms themselves are huge with a separate sitting area, spotless plush carpets (Four Seasons-like in their cleanness) and beds you can sink into. Once you figure out how to turn on and off all the lights (yes, it's one of those cutting edge hotels with funky light controls), you may find yourself in no hurry to leave the room.
Of course, that lounge bar with a real lounge singer awaits, as do the 30-something (and older) women in leather pants and your chance to feel cool.
Who knew? You don't need a Porsche after all. Just the right hotel stay.
February 5, 2008