Our Rainy Stay in Sunny Newport Beach, CA
By Angie & Jeff
August 20, 2023
The day before we were scheduled to fly out to southern California a couple of days before the first of our free cruises, Angie received a voicemail message from her mom worrying about the hurricane and inquiring if it would impact our travels. Upon listening to the voicemail, Angie thought she must be mixing up our travel schedule and confusing this California trip and cruise with the Miami, Florida trip and Caribbean cruise scheduled in a few weeks. This Caribbean trip is the trip that Angie has been hoping would not be impacted by a hurricane.
That is, until she did a quick Google search and saw that Hurricane Hilary was indeed on track to impact California during our visit. Wait, what? A hurricane in California? As the news has been saying, though exceedingly rare with the last nearly 100 years ago in 1939, we did have to prepare for the impact of a hurricane for this trip. After reviewing the expected track of the storm and that the cruise was still on, we decided to proceed with our trip with the utmost caution.
Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
Our two nights before our cruise departs were reserved at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach using Hyatt points for 15,000 points per night instead of paying the $751 the two night stay would have cost us. The hotel is a resort style set-up with multiple buildings and small pool areas throughout the grounds.
The room we were assigned initially was on the first floor in the Catalina Building attached to the main lobby. We typically prefer a top floor room in a hotel because we often find those above us are stomping around too much for us to find a hotel stay restful. We inquired about an upper level room immediately upon learning the assigned room number and were told they were sold out. The room did have a slight glimpse of the back bay beach area but mostly overlooked a walking path and the hotel ampitheatre. A few hours into the stay, it sounded like a running track had been installed above our room. After about a half hour of this, we decided to inquire about an upper floor room again. We called the front desk and this time they said they did have a quieter room on the top floor of another building on the property. We think it was very helpful that we have Globalist status, which is the top Hyatt status, for this outcome. We were moved to a second floor room of the two story Balboa Building. We immediately noticed the location of this room was quieter and an added bonus was the room smelled fresh; our first room smelled a bit musty.
Our Second Floor Room and a Sunset at Hyatt Regency Newport Beach.
Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Pools
Since it was fairly warm at 75 degrees on the day of our arrival and despite a cloudy sky, the forecast for the remainder of our stay was rain and wind, we decided to explore and enjoy the hotel pools. We started by checking out the Oasis Pool which includes a small water slide and found this was where all the families were swimming to the music played by a DJ.
We enjoyed some nearby rocking chairs for a bit and decided to check out the remaining two pools in search of a serene oasis. The next pool we visited was the Serenity Pool surrounded by the Lido building. It was a much quieter pool than the Oasis Pool, but the vibe there reminded us of an older style motel.
Oasis and Serenity Pools at Hyatt Regency Newport Beach.
The final pool to visit was the Indulge Pool right outside the Balboa building where our room was located. This was our favorite of the three pools and where we chose to spend some time. We started by enjoying a very unique pool side bed that reminded us of a white wicker basket with an open chimney. Next, we took turns relaxing on the hammock strung between two palm trees. Then we took the refreshing plunge into the swimming pool which was a bit on the chilly side as it was not that warm out and the sun was hiding behind the clouds. On the plus side, we didn’t need to worry about sunburn like we usually do when swimming in California. Finally, we ended our time at the Indulge Pool in the bubbling hot tub to warm back up and further relax.
Indulge Pool at Hyatt Regency Newport Beach.
How Does One Prepare for a Hurricane in California as a Traveler?
The local news was talking about people filling sandbags and stocking up on food and water at the grocery stores in advance of Hurricane Hilary. In addition, local officials were encouraging people to stay home on Sunday and possibly Monday as well. We were not sure if we would be able to find open restaurants so we decided to visit a local grocery store and pick up enough food for lunch and dinner on Sunday, as we knew we had provided breakfast at the restaurant at our hotel due to our status with Hyatt. Our grocery store bill, after very careful shopping in a Von’s with much higher prices than we typically see at our home Aldi’s, was $19.33 but we had a $19 credit with Von’s to use. (The $19 credit was from some mixed nuts we had purchased during our Las Vegas trip that were not fresh. Jeff called Von’s feedback line to give them this feedback and they put this $19 credit on his account for future use.) This means our net cost for this food preparation for Hurricane Hilary was 33 cents.
We had enjoyed a very filling lunch at The Crooked Duck in Long Beach upon arriving in California (look for details about this excellent place in our Long Beach post coming soon) so we were looking for a light dinner option. Jeff noted he had an offer in the Subway app for a free footlong sub with the purchase of another footlong sub and a bottle of soda. This led to us eating a hearty dinner for a total of just under $13.
We prepared for Hurricane Hilary with Food Shopping.
After our late Subway picnic dinner in our hotel room, the two hour time change and our 3:30 a.m. wake up call to catch our early morning flight from Minneapolis to California caught up with us and we were in for the night.
Breakfast at Shor Restaurant
While we slept, the expected trajectory of Hurricane Hilary went a bit more east than was reported the day before and this meant the worst impact was expected further inland than our location along the coast. In addition, what was a hurricane was now a tropical storm. Definitely still serious and rare for California, but welcome news for all. The expected timing of the worst of the storm was to start around midafternoon through the overnight hours, so we decided to enjoy our complimentary hotel breakfast and do a bit of exploring before returning to the hotel by midafternoon to wait out the worst of the storm.
Our Globalist status with Hyatt includes breakfast in the Shor Restaurant of an entree and beverage for each of us. Jeff ordered the Crab Cake Benedict and coffee. Angie ordered the Vanilla Wafer Crusted French Toast and hot tea. We both ordered a side of crispy bacon. We were both very impressed by how delicious the food was and the excellent service. However, without Globalist status, this breakfast would have cost us just shy of $90 instead of being free. For that cost, we would probably forgo the Shor Restaurant, even as delicious as it was.
Shor at Hyatt Regency Newport Beach.
As we left the restaurant after breakfast, we asked our server for his suggestions of things to do in the area on a rainy day. He looked as if we had just asked him to find Mauritius on a world map. (Mauritius is a lovely island country off the east coast of Africa that we had the good fortune of visiting in December but a country that many have never heard of.) He quickly grabbed another server who was walking by and asked him for his thoughts and he had the same reaction. They both said they couldn’t think of anything because rainy weather is so rare here. They suggested shopping or a movie theater. We thanked them for their time and ideas, but knew we weren’t going to spend the day shopping or in a movie theater.
A Rainy Day in Newport Beach, California
We searched online for ideas of things to do on a rainy day in Southern California. We considered area art museums, the Love Museum in Los Angeles, and the Bubble World Experience that started to show ads in Angie’s social media after these Google searches. Given the storm, we didn’t trust that places listed as open by Google were actually going to be open so we zeroed our search in on possibilities nearer to our hotel in Newport Beach.
We settled on the Balboa Island Museum, a free local history museum less than a mile from our hotel. As we drove to the other side of the Pacific Coast Highway to Balboa Island, we were both absolutely charmed by the adorable bridge to the island and charming shops all along Marine Avenue. We were even more charmed by the free 2 hour parking and the storm worked in our favor by making spots very easy to come by.
As we wandered Marine Avenue, we quickly noticed sandbags outside the entrances to many of the businesses as well as handwritten signs apologizing for being closed Sunday and Monday due to Hurricane Hilary. It turned out that our caution in believing Google about what was open during the storm was merited because the Balboa Island Museum, while listed on Google as open, was closed. After seeing how charming Marine Avenue was on our drive in, our plan evolved to wandering the street and enjoying the charm. Almost all the shops were closed due to the storm, but we still enjoyed strolling and window shopping.
Balboa Island during Hurricane Hilary.
More of Balboa Island during Hurricane Hilary.
Along the way, we noticed many shops, almost all closed, selling frozen bananas. Many of them touted they were the original or first shop of that kind and we don’t know which, if any, is accurate in making this claim. We stopped outside one that had a full history posted telling how their founders accidentally invented chocolate covered frozen bananas in 1945 when a family member put bananas meant for the refrigerator in the freezer. Dad’s Original Balboa Bar was the only frozen banana shop open. We were both still pretty full from our breakfast at Shor Restaurant, but we felt we couldn’t leave Balboa Island without enjoying a treat from one of these historic shops. We were too full for a banana but decided to share a $6 rainbow sprinkle Balboa Bar, which is an ice cream bar made fresh right in front of you, because there is always room for ice cream. It was delicious! We realized later that $6 was the only money we spent all day.
Dad's Original Balboa Bar on Balboa Island.
Balboa Pier and Beach
Even though it wasn’t at all a typical sunny Southern California day, we still wanted to see the beach. From Balboa Island, we made our way to the Balboa Pier on Balboa Beach. When we arrived, we noticed several CAT loaders in the parking lot. Angie recalled seeing a story on the news the night before about how many of the area beaches had built sand berms to block the homes and shops along the ocean from potential flooding. As we walked up to the beach, we observed a sand berm had been built along Balboa Beach. We were there at the very beginning of the impact of Hilary and from our observations of the power of the waves, it seemed it was a necessary precaution for the area businesses and homes.
While we were there, we saw a few surfers testing their luck with the waves. The day before in the grocery store our checker had said she hoped to be catching some waves during the storm, so we knew that local surfers were excited about the possibility of epic waves despite the warnings of local officials not to be in the ocean during the storm. Maybe these surfers thought better of this risk, because they left shortly after our arrival before we were able to photograph them. We watched the seagulls chilling on the sand berm as the waves rolled in while marveling at the power of mother nature. The nearby municipal parking lot was flooding and we watched as a young girl played in the flood like a splash pad. We also saw many people running or biking the path along the beach and observed it was probably a cool, refreshing day to do so compared to the typical weather.
Balboa Pier and Beach During Hurricane Hilary.
Bunny Henge at Civic Center Park in Newport Beach
As Angie was looking at Google maps for ideas of attractions nearby our hotel, an attraction labeled as ‘Bunny Henge’ caught her eye. As you might guess, it is a re-creation of Stonehenge in England with sculptures of bunnies. As we use a photo of us at Stonehenge from our visit last fall on our homepage, we knew we had to visit Bunny Henge.
To our pleasant surprise, Bunny Henge was one of several sculptures in the Civic Center Park. The grounds and meandering paths throughout the park were also beautiful. It was really pouring rain at this point, but we still enjoyed a soggy walk through the park paths. On a nice day, we would definitely visit again to walk all the paths and admire all the sculptures more extensively.
The pouring rain meant we had the park to ourselves with the exception of several local resident snails. We started noticing the snails on and along the path on the last portion of our walk back to our car and counted sixteen in just a short distance. We weren’t the only ones enjoying meandering this park on a rainy day.
Bunny Henge and Civic Center Park in Newport Beach.
As we left Civic Center Park, we observed two unhoused people struggling with the elements near a small tent. We had packed our food from the grocery store run the night before anticipating a car picnic that we never stopped to enjoy. Jeff stopped and offered some food to them and they happily accepted. We had both been worrying about how this unprecedented weather was impacting those without the privilege of shelter.
The Conclusion of our Rainy Day in Newport Beach
At this point in the day, the rain was really coming down and the wind was starting to pick up. In addition, despite our raincoats and the umbrellas we used until the wind made them useless, we were both soaked. We decided it was time to return to our hotel to change into dry clothes, warm up, and enjoy our picnic supplies. It wasn’t a typical day in Newport Beach and we were both very thankful that we have had the ability to visit Southern California previously. We can understand how a traveler might be really disappointed by this weather on a visit to California, but we made the best of the day and ended up exploring things we have missed on prior visits and had a really great time.