The World’s Largest Circular Pool Is Less Than Two Hours From LA

The Resort at Pelican Hill is a hidden gem in Orange County, with a record-breaking pool, exquisite spa and top-ranked golf courses

Woman standing on a terrace looking over the Coliseum Pool at the Resort at Pelican Hill
There's no pool quite like the Coliseum.
The Resort at Pelican Hill

Glancing at a photo of the largest circular pool in the world, it’s easy to think you’re looking at the Côte d’Azur, maybe, or the Amalfi Coast. But the glistening saltwater pool that takes this honor, stretching 136 feet in diameter and set with 1.1 million hand-cut glass tiles, isn’t anywhere near the Mediterranean — it’s actually less than a two-hour drive from Los Angeles.

Throw in the ocean view, a pair of world-class golf courses and stunning, villa-style rooms, and suddenly the Resort at Pelican Hill has become an enticing weekend staycation (or weekday workcation, we won’t tell). Here’s why this Orange County gem is more than worth the drive to Newport Beach.

Dining table under a cabana next to a pool at nighttime
A cabana at the Coliseum Pool
Photographer: Marshall Williams

The Coliseum Pool is a stunning amenity that stacks up against the best water features in the world

As the name implies, this resort is set on a hill overlooking the Pacific, and the Coliseum Pool is situated perfectly to take in the view. With lounges stretched out around the entire length of the rim, and tiered cabanas overlooking the water, the whole area is also serviced by waitstaff. You can have food and beverages brought directly to your cabana or lounge chair, or opt for a seated meal on the heated terrace, your call. Oh, and if the main pool isn’t for you, there’s a private, adults-only oasis tucked up on the second level behind the restaurant. It might not be as big as the Coliseum, but there’s still plenty of sparkling hand-cut tiles — along with a dose of serenity, as this is a kid-free zone.

Woman sitting at the edge of indoor pool
Enjoy saltwater Roman baths and steam rooms at Pelican Hill’s spa
The Resort at Pelican Hill

The resort’s renowned Acqua Colonnades bring European luxury to the spa experience — and it’s too exceptional to skip

If you’re in the mood for a slightly different water experience, the Spa at Pelican Hill is renowned not just for their luxury offerings, but for the building itself. Yes, there’s a stereotype that spas are reserved for women — especially at a resort like this, where golf is king — but the 22,000-square-foot retreat with on-site Acqua Colonnades cannot be ignored. Post-golf relaxation goes a long way, right? We’re talking 28-foot-high ceilings in the saltwater Roman baths rotunda, plus steam rooms with herbal infusions as well as both wet and dry saunas.

Drift Santa Barbara Is a Solo Traveler’s Dream Beach Town Hotel
Those rooms are small — but a perfect location and superlative coffee bar make up for a lot
Scenic golf course next to the ocean
Pelican Hill’s twin greens offer panoramic views
John Luciano – Resort at Pelican Hill

The two oceanfront courses at the Pelican Hill Golf Club are literally world renowned, having hosted PGA and LPGA after-season events 

Check almost any list of the best golf courses in California, and the twin greens at Pelican Hill are usually sitting near the top. The North and South courses were both designed by Tom Fazio, and offer panoramic views along with all different styles of holes, with complete maps of each course available online for pre-game strategizing. Guests of the resort and club members are able to snag a tee time here, along with the general public, so the courses tend to be booked up year round. Make a reservation early if you know what time you want to hit the green.

After a round of golf or a spa day, grab a table at the Pelican Grill for more five-star views and a casual lunch, or more formal dinner options

This indoor-outdoor restaurant is open practically all day, so grabbing some lunch at the grill before golf is just as much an option as a formal dinner out on the oceanfront terrace. The Pelican Grill is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in all of Newport Beach, and you’ll want to consider the caviar fries, steak tartare and lamb cavatelli. A couple of ice-cold Martinis pair nicely with all of the above, and if you’re here for dinner, make sure to get a reservation during golden hour to take in the unbeatable view.

Brown-colored living room area with fireplace, red-orange accents and a view of the water
The villa living room at Pelican Hill
The Resort at Pelican Hill

Last but not least, all of these amenities pale in comparison to the actual rooms. While the property does have more standard hotel rooms — like bungalows and suites — their residential villas are located in a separate gated community a short drive up the road from the main resort. The villa area has its own private clubhouse with a pool and gym, as well as food and beverage available poolside. As for the villas, the two-, three- or four-bedroom residences are decked out with a kitchen, full living and dining rooms, a sweeping patio — with, of course, more ocean views — and a private garage. Once you check in, it’s pretty difficult to check out, as many guests currently on long-term stays will explain. Pool, spa, golf, grill — who needs Europe?


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.