I don't think the cities are inherently better, but they have hotels with pools near the beach and walkable to good nightlife. The good areas of Newport are almost all residential. It's absolutely worth a visit, and staying at the Marriott or the Island at the mall would actually be great as long as you're willing to drive/taxi to the beach. I always tell people who want to rent a house for a week to pick Newport. But the hotel you described just isn't in newport. Huntington and Laguna are full of them and only 10 minutes away.
First of all -- There is nothing "real" about what you see on RHOC, except that those people exist and are paid to cat-fight with one another. Few of the Orange County hotels featured on that show are in Newport Beach.
Newport Beach does not have beachfront hotels. The few little motels within walking distance of the beach are probably not what you are looking for. Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach have hotels that are on the beach or within walking distance of the beach, restaurants and shopping.
Please tell us your budget and more about your interests so we can better advise you.
Newport Beach is simply less walkable than downtown Huntington Beach or Laguna Beach. There are plenty of walkable parts of Newport Beach, just that's not where the hotels are located. Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach have hotels within easy walking distance of their main downtown areas and the beach.
By contrast, the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach has a bridge over PCH to get you to the sand in two minutes and is ten minutes' walk from Pacific City (and 15 minutes' walk from Downtown Huntington Beach and the pier), and nearly all of the upscale hotels in Laguna Beach are along PCH in the developed shopping area.
Oh, and the Real Housewives don't live in Newport Beach, they just go to Javier's to hang out. They live in Coto de Caza, which is a private gated community well inland, or if they're too poor for Coto they live in the "ghetto" of Ladera Ranch, where homes start at $700,000.Edited: 20 July 2017, 00:36
As long as you are not Elizabeth Phillips, there are several decent hotels. I've stayed in most of them because I'm homeless. (Thank you Irvine Company and ultimately, Donald Bren for illegally displacing me.) One of the best hotels is owned by the Irvine Co. and it sits on a bluff with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Built on a grand scale, it is somewhat difficult to navigate and one is chauffeured from bungalow to property destination. I did have room service for several meals and the food was good- no, excellent. This property is the Pelican Resort. BTW, the Island truly is the Emperor's new clothes. LOL!
We are looking for somewhere that has a choice of restaurants and bars, doesn't have to be crazy nightlife just some good bars! I need to be able to do a day trip to Disney. In the day, I'm all about the beach, boat tours, wine tasting, shopping, walking, whatever tourist attractions are nearby, I like to think I'm pretty flexible!
Budget wise, not at the pelican resort level (sadly) but don't want a cheap motel (unless its fabulously located and well reviewed!)