There are a lot of hotels in Austin, Texas. I will not stay at another hotel or resort in Austin other than Travaasa, though. After spending a weekend there, exploring all aspects of the resort and spa in the hills outside of town, I am convinced there is not a better place to stay for my money. Here is why…
There are seventy available rooms in seven different lodges at Travaasa Austin. I stayed on the upper floor of the Bluebonnet lodge. I had a spectacular view of the Texas Hill Country and the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. I so enjoyed the view that I canceled some activities on my final day so I could sit on the balcony and soak it in. After all, part of staying at a resort and spa like Travaasa is about slowing down and relaxing.
The room itself was comfortable, although nothing overly special. It wasn’t lavish, nor was it overdone. Kind of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it was just right. It was tastefully decorated and fitting for the atmosphere created by the surrounding tree-covered hills. And as odd as it may sound, I particularly enjoyed the bathroom; I loved the huge walk-in shower.
My favorite part of the whole room, though, was the bed. It was a struggle to get up each morning, because I was so comfortable; it was both soft and firm, a perfect mix. Had it fit, I would have tried to stuff it into my carry-on luggage to take it home with me. So as I relaxed on my last day, admiring the view, I also made it a point to curl up in the bed for a final hour of happiness.
Just like every kid, my mom would wake me up to get ready for school. And each time she came in and whispered my name, I would mumble, “Five more minutes.” That was the way it was with my Travaasa Austin spa treatment – the “What Ales You” package. I didn’t want the bliss to end, so I asked for five more minutes. My therapist laughed, left some water out for me, and told me to take my time getting up. I didn’t want to get up, though. I wanted to curl up deeper in the blankets and enjoy just five more minutes.
I was lured from my slumber by the promise of beer. Yes, the “What Ales You” treatment is both cleverly and accurately named. Upon leaving the room I was presented with the cherry on top of my fantastic massage, some locally brewed suds. My therapist, Amalie Lantz, handed it to me with a smile while welcoming me to take my time, relax, and also reminding to drink plenty of water – as should be done after any massage that works out as many kinks as I had.
Guarding my beer from covetous eyes in the spa’s lounge, I made for the exit. Outside were the hot tub, sauna, and an infinity pool with another fantastic view of the Texas Hill Country. Others, presumably having finished their spa treatments, were also lounging alongside the pool in either their comfortable bathrobes or their swimsuits. I spent the next 30 minutes with my feet up sipping on my beer and basking in the afterglow of my massage, believing that a weekend away such as this isn’t just for the ladies – who far outnumber the men away on a couple’s weekend – but also for me and my happiness.
It had been a long time since I had a foodgasm. Years, actually. But as I placed that first bite of steak into my mouth on my first night at Travaasa Austin, I knew it was going to be an excellent weekend. The meat was tender, perfectly cooked, and covered with a beef demi-glace sauce I wish I could bottle and sell. Instead I soaked it up with their fantastic sourdough bread, which is create from a core more than 130 years old from San Francisco and baked fresh.
The ever-changing menu and creations by Executive Chef Ben Baker made both my heart and stomach smile. What he did made me like foods I never before appreciated. Dijon dressing? No, I don’t like it. Green beans? No thanks. Well, hold on a second – “Maybe I do like them,” my mouth told me with each adventurous bite. Throughout the weekend I wasn’t so adventurous that I strayed from the meat options, but several regular menu items are available for not just vegetarians but also vegans. And most everything is open for those who are on gluten-free diets. (All dietary information, such as calories and fat content, are listed right on the menu.)
Breakfast and lunch the next day, as well as the rest of my meals that weekend, were equally as delicious. That is to be expected, though, when most of the ingredients are direct to the table from nearby farms and ranches. Very few items – really only the seafood, which comes in from the Gulf of Mexico – have to travel any distance, making everything as fresh as possible. It shows in the food, too, as I greedily devoured some of the best bacon in my life for breakfast as though there was a global shortage.
When I checked out on my final day, I was asked how I enjoyed my stay. Much to their surprise, I told them I was disappointed. Why? Because I did not have more time to enjoy all of the activities I wanted. I certainly was busy, though, bouncing from location to location across Travaasa Austin’s 210 acres to do something else fun or relaxing. There are so many different options each day – 17 scheduled activities during the slowest day of my stay – that it makes it difficult to do everything without staying for a full week, which I would have been more than happy to do. As it was, I was hosted by Travaasa Austin for three days so I could only get a taste of my chosen interests.
I participated in two separate activities – which I’ll write more about later – in The Spur, a small room near the Watering Hole near Jean’s Kitchen, where I learned about the finer points of alcohol. For only the second time in my life I gave yoga a try, this time with a much better appreciation for it. I also joined in on classes on how to play the harmonica, calf roping, and shadow journaling, while also taking some time to myself to get out and enjoy both of the hiking trails in the hills around Travaasa Austin. And the best part of it all, the vast majority of activities are included in the price of your stay. Only a few things, like horseback riding, may cost a few extra dollars from the basic package; available credit for such activities is included in the Total Travaasa package, though.
As I said, I was disappointed I did not have time to participate in more activities. There were so many I wanted to try, yet in the end just ran out of time. Pilates, archery, the challenge course, and a host of other opportunities – watsu, sketching, and bull riding fitness – will have to wait for another time. So, while I was disappointed I ran out of time, I’m excited to return to Austin and once again enjoy life at Travaasa.
One last note: I know I’ll be asked about which location is better, Travaasa Hana or Austin. Heck, I was even asked before I left for Texas which I thought I’d like more. And the simple fact is you can’t compare them as apples to apples. They’re both fantastic, but incredibly different since they are built into the history and culture of their location. Sure, some activities – yoga, for example – are offered at both resorts, but such offerings like roping lessons or throw net fishing are unique to their destination. So it’s a matter of what you prefer, what interests you, that should influence your decision on where to go. If it were up to me, though, I’d say screw it all and just hit up both locations. You can’t go wrong with anything Travaasa offers, which is why I’m so excited for the opening of a new location in Massachusetts this next year.