I don't know what your daughter is like, but when I was in college I would have preferred Huntington Beach and the Hyatt over Pelican Hill or one of the Fashion Island suggestions.
A popular area to rent bikes in NB is more down in the pier area along the ocean, not the Pelican Hill area. There is a similar set up in HB for bike rentals. I personally do not think it is very safe (risk of cars hitting you) to ride a bike except in the beach areas along the sand. People do it but I would not outside of the direct beach areas.
Pelican Hill is actually farther and will take you longer to reach the boat to Catalina than the Hyatt HB or the two hotels mentioned at Fashion Island.
If you have read any of the heated discussions about Marriott's Newport Coast Villas and the feeling of isolation, Pelican Hill is in the same area and it has the same shortcomings, you will probably drive everywhere. You can certainly walk around the general area but not really walk any where (shops and restaurants) except for Crystal Cove Beach State Park.
To clarify regarding the Marriott Scott mentioned, it is the one at Fashion Island, not the Newport Coast Villas. I think for Newport Beach Scott has good suggestions with The Island Hotel or even the Marriott at Fashion Island because you can walk to tons of restaurants and shops. Also, reaching the boat to Catalina is easy, drive onto Balboa Island and park on the island and ferry (it is a small 3 car and foot passenger ferry) over to the Peninsula or take the car on the ferry and park in one of the lots on the Peninsula. The boat to Catalina leaves right by where the ferry docks. Same for going to the beach area where you can rent bikes. You can also rent personal water craft, paddle boards, etc. in the bay.
Edited: 11:12 pm, January 26, 2013