Newport Beach Spotlight – Is It as Good as Advertised?

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Descriptions of Newport Beach in coastal Orange County, CA, are often filled with superlatives and apparent extravagant hype. For example . . .

“Beyond the radiant, sun, sand, and surf, discover the sophisticated charm of Newport Beach, California. A place so intoxicating, one taste of the perfect life will keep you coming back for more. From sunset cruises to surf lessons to wine tastings to harbor-front promenades, we offer more things to do . . . Ten distinct neighborhoods make up Newport Beach, each with its own unique personality, natural beauty, and story to share.”

“Paradise is what we call it.”

Sounds way too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, let’s see if it is . . . or isn’t.

Overview of Newport Beach

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“Known for surfing, stunning, beaches, and its recreational harbor,” Newport Beach is located on the coast of Orange County only nine miles southwest of Irvine. “This affluent coastal community . . . is bordered by Crystal Cove State Park to the east; Irvine, Costa Mesa, and John Wayne Airport to the north; and Huntington Beach to the west.” It was originally developed for “commercial fishing, yachting,” and for people commuting to Long Beach and Los Angeles. Today, Newport Beach is “an exciting community with all types of recreation and a top-rated school system.”

Population/Demographics and Crime Rate

Newport Beach has a population of almost 86,000, with a demographic make-up of “87% white, 7% Hispanic, 7% Asian, and 0.7% Black. The crime rate is low, well below the national average.


The climate is great – the typical Southern California climate with beautiful weather most of the year. “Newport Beach offers short, warm summers with cool, long winters and year-round temperatures that rarely exceed 87 degrees or dip below 42 degrees. You’ll get just 12” of rain every year on average, far below the U.S. average of 38,” and 277 sunny days per year.”


The area also has a strong economy and jobs market. It has been called “one of the economic powerhouses of Orange County with an economy based on tech, tourism, healthcare, and finance.” Median household income is $122,700 (or $217,223 according to Niche).


The median home value is $2.35 million or $1,898,900 according to Niche, pretty high whichever figure you choose to go with. (And it’s the main reason the cost of living is higher than for the state of California as a whole, but more on that in a moment.) The average rent is $2,290, but can go as high as $3,000 in the more expensive neighborhoods.

Schools/Education Opportunities

That school district that serves Newport Beach, Newport Meas Unified School District, has highly rated schools. “The city has two public high schools – Corona del Mar High School and Newport Harbor High School – which rank highly in terms of test schools and student improvement.” There are also several private-school options, as well as “100 colleges within 100 miles,” including Chapman University, “one of the best private colleges in the state.”


As we mentioned, Newport Beach has 10 distinct neighborhoods, each with its own marked personality ranging from right on the beach to close to the action to quiet and family friendly. For example . . .

  • Balboa Peninsula – One of the most affordable neighborhoods for renters, Balboa Peninsula is “very residential, quiet, and close knit.” It was formerly the home of Dean Koontz.
  • Bayview Terrace – This “is an affordable family-friendly Newport Beach neighborhood near Newport Center. The development has 2- to 4-bedroom homes built in the late 1980s with views of the Back Bay preserve. This gated community boasts a pool and spa and 5-acre park with basketball courts.”
  • Linda Isle – “One of the most desirable Newport Beach, CA neighborhoods is Linda Isle, an exclusive gated island in the Lower Newport Bay area. The 108 homes of Linda Isle boast spacious yards with waterfront access. Homes on the West Tip are the most expensive with main channel views.”

Entertainment and Dining

There’s no shortage of fun things to do in and around Newport Beach. Besides the “sailing, surfing, and fun on the piers” – think Newport Beach Pier and Balboa Fun Zone – you can also enjoy the many shopping opportunities at such places as Fashion Island, Pavilions, Trader Joe’s, and Macy’s.

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And then there are the many amazing restaurants. Here are just two prime examples . . .

  • Bluewater Grill – This is a local chain known for its amazingly fresh seafood, where you can “relax on the waterfront patio with an extensive menu of sustainable seafood.”
  • The Winery – “This upscale and hip Newport Beach restaurant and bar is known for its creative regional California cuisine and beautiful harbor views, where you can unwind “with friends on the patio and sample The Winery’s extensive global wine list.”

Some Important Newport Beach Stats

Now, let’s move beyond these more general matters and look at some important stats and ratings . . .

Cost of Living

Taken as a whole, living costs for Orange County in general and Newport Beach in particular seem to be pretty high.

On a typical cost-of-living index, the average cost across the US is 100. That means, then, that for a city with a score below 100, living costs are proportionately lower than the national average, and above 100 higher and more expensive to live there.

The overall cost of living for Orange County as a whole is 167.7, slightly higher than that for the state of California at 149.9 and considerably higher than for the US a 100. And here’s what we get for various cost-of-living categories in Orange County:

  • Groceries/food – 105.1
  • Healthcare – 95.9
  • Housing – 308.2
  • Utilities – 98.6
  • Transportation – 115.2

Note that the index score for groceries/food is only a tad above the national average and below it for healthcare and utilities.

The overall cost-of-living index score for Newport Beach is 353.3, well above the California score of 149.9. And going by category for Newport Beach, we get:

  • Groceries/food – 114.7
  • Healthcare – 95.9
  • Housing – 916.8
  • Utilities – 86.3
  • Transportation – 110.8

Housing is expensive, yes, but healthcare and utilities are cheaper than what you find across the nation. This is a trade-off well worth taking into account.

Property Taxes

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Property tax is another area where Orange County and Newport Beach come in below the national average.

Orange County is one of the richest counties in the nation. The average effective property tax rate in Orange County is 0.69%, while the median annual property tax bill is $4,499” – below both state and national averages.

Here are some averages for a home with an assessed value of $250,000 . . .

  • Nationwide Average – 1.070% of assessed home value, $2,675
  • California – 0.730% of assessed home value, $1,825
  • Orange County – 0.690% of assessed home value, $1,725

Here’s what we find for Newport Beach with respect to median home value, median annual property tax payment, and average effective property tax rate:

  • Median home value – $1,787,300
  • Median annual property tax – $10,000
  • Average effective property tax rate – 0.56% (approximately)

Not too bad, especially with respect to effective property tax rate. It’s just that home values sometimes make the taxes appear higher than they really are.

Livability Ratings give Newport Beach an overall livability grade of A+ and the following for various livability categories:

Public schools – A+

Housing – C

Family suitability – A

Crime/safety – C+

Nightlife – A+

Diversity – B

The Verdict . . .

So does Newport Beach live up to the hype? Actually, it comes pretty close.

Just consider a few of the outstanding pros of living in Newport Beach: an excellent economy, highly rated public and private schools, low property-tax rates, and world-class surfing, boating, and other water recreation.

The only real drawback is the overall cost of living, primarily driven by the cost of housing.

But with a top-notch local real estate agent in your corner, that may not be such a drawback after all.