Authorities responded after a couple walking on the beach found the body face down in the sand near lifeguard tower 71 at about 6 a.m. Police are looking for surveillance cameras that might help explain what happened to the young woman.
The woman, who has not yet been identified, was described as an Asian in her mid-20s, about 5 feet 2 inches with a thin build, police said.
Investigators say the woman did not have a purse or identification with her. So far, a cause of death is unknown, and it is also unclear how long she had been dead.
Neighbors say they did not hear anything out of the ordinary last night.
"I heard the waves crashing last night," said Marianne Newman of Newport Beach. "I didn't hear a thing, and I was surprised to learn that a sweet, young girl is dead."
One neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said three memorial candles were left nearby, and they were placed there before police had released any information about a body. He says crime scene investigators removed the candles as potential evidence.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Newport Beach Police Department at (800) 550-NBPD.