Recently I had the opportunity to visit Lake Austin Spa Resort, not just for the day, which I’ve done many times, but as an overnight guest of the 40-room all-inclusive resort, which is located in the Texas Hill Country about 20 miles outside the state capital. The 19-acre property sits on the banks of Lake Austin, which as any Austinite will tell you, isn’t a lake but a dammed reservoir on the Colorado River. Boats and Jet Skiers pass regularly, and the river is also used to ferry guests to the property, via the Luxe Water Taxi, to avoid vehicular traffic.
Arriving at 9 for a 9:30 a.m. treatment, I checked in at the LakeHouse Spa front desk. Apparently, the resort and spa have separate scheduling systems, because the clerk didn’t realize I would be a resort guest that night, nor did she know its check-in time. (She guessed it was at 3 p.m., but it was in fact 4.) Even though I was early, my reception at the spa felt rushed, and I wasn’t given an overview of the grounds or a map. The friend I was meeting had already arrived, so we walked to the women’s locker room to get our spa sandals and change into our robes. It’s customary to then go upstairs to the Blue Room and to fill out a health form while waiting to be called for your appointment. With blue and gray vaulted, wood-beamed ceilings, blue stained-glass transom windows, plush seating and plenty of reading material, this relaxing space sets the tone for what’s to come.
The spa offers more than 100 treatments and services in 30 areas of the 25,000-square-foot facility, including an indoor suite, an outdoor treatment porch and a private outdoor suite called the Bamboo Room, which can accommodate up to six guests. The menu lists 16 facials, including one specifically for men; I chose the LakeHouse Signature Facial.
It began with a thorough examination and a few positive remarks about my skin given my age (definitely a nice start, even if the aesthetician was just buttering me up). She then applied an exfoliator from Aromatherapy Associates London along with oxygen to hydrate the skin and lift debris and bacteria. Throughout the treatment, she used several Foreo devices, which she said were superior descendants of the popular Clarisonic face brush. An Activated Mask was applied with a Foreo UFO, and the Iris Foreo wand pulsated around my lips and eyes to reduce signs of crow’s feet, dark circles and bags. Overall, I was impressed with her light, experienced touch and the many anti-aging tips she offered throughout the 80-minute session (use eye cream above the lips to decrease wrinkles; apply moisturizer outside the T-zone first so less moisturizer is used on the oily part of the face; for the best sunscreen, use zinc oxide).
After the facial, I was brought to the spa boutique and shown all the products she’d used. Unlike experiences at other spas, however, this was not a hard sell; just informational. I rejoined my friend in the Blue Room. In the mirror above the table of infused waters and teas, I could see no redness whatsoever, just a fresh, dewy glow.
For the remainder of the day, we enjoyed the other amenities: the steam room, sauna and whirlpool connected to the women’s locker room; the gloriously restorative Pool Barn, a junior Olympic-size lap pool that we had all to ourselves; and the outdoor Palm Pool, surrounded by cabanas and populated with women celebrating an upcoming wedding, a girlfriends’ weekend, or a final moment of tranquility before the birth of a baby. It was the perfect place to read and enjoy a glass of wine while looking forward to the next treatment. (The spa serves alcohol for an additional fee.)
Before my last appointment of the day, however, I wanted to check into the resort itself. A shuttle delivered me to the main entrance, a few hundred feet down the road. My reception there was much more decorous and efficient. I received a folder with the following day’s spa reservations along with a tour of the property. We visited the Lake Kitchen, which hosts culinary classes; the lakefront dining room; the activities counter; and the gift shop, where I was fitted for my special resort spa sandals — notably different from those supplied to day-spa guests. My luggage had already been taken to the room, but when it was time for me to go there, the front desk agent merely pointed the way and said, “There’s your room.” I tried prompting her to escort me by asking if someone would need to show me how to work the hot tub, but she only replied, “Oh, I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.” I was left to fend for myself.
Lake Austin Spa Resort underwent extensive renovations in 2004, but 15 years later the management has recognized the need to update the guest rooms, which they are doing two at a time. I saw the splendid results in my Luxury Hot Tub Cottage (Room 19). Gone are the cream-colored walls, bold red chair and multicolored headboard; they’ve been replaced with a soothing palette of soft blues and greens. But it wasn’t just the colors that proved restful: The king bed with massive European-sized pillows, an electric fireplace and the aforementioned hot tub accomplished that as well. A James Audubon print, “Snowy Heron or White Egret,” hung on the wall over the bed, and a macramé-shaded chandelier in the center of the room provided light. Heavy gingham drapes framed bamboo shades that were easy to adjust. Plenty of storage space was available: Two nightstands, with built-in electric sockets, offered big drawers, and a large closet provided a built-in chest of drawers and hooks to hang the spa robe I wore for the majority of my stay. A safe and refrigerator were in an under-counter cabinet next to a corner work desk. A full Brita water filter and two glasses provided an eco-conscious touch. Succulents and sweet bouquets of flowers dotted the room, bringing a little of the outdoors in.
The galley-style bath featured a gorgeous gray-green soapstone countertop with double sinks and plenty of space. At the far end of the room, a sliding door separated the toilet and shower-bath combination. Bath amenities included signature LakeHouse Lavender Fields shampoo, conditioner, lotion, bath gel, soap and two packets of bath salts. At least six extra bottles were available on the sink, along with microfiber eyeglass cloths.
It was time for me to make my way back to the LakeHouse Spa for the 110-minute Tour of Texas treatment, which proved to be the most relaxing experience of my stay. It consisted of a vigorous exfoliating scrub with Texas prickly pear, followed by a moisturizing agave nectar wrap, a luxurious scalp massage and the application of warm essential oils. After that it was lights out! I woke up during the grand finale: a 50-minute full-body massage. It was otherworldly.
In my massage-induced daze, I had to make the last dinner seating of the night back at the resort. Taking the winding concrete and sandstone pathway that separates the resort and day spa, I watched lizards skip in front of me as if to show me the way. Frogs croaked from the ponds, and waterfalls, tucked between the Turk’s cap and holly fern, spilled over, creating a delightful soundscape.
We weren’t lucky enough to get one of the six or so tables next to the window overlooking the lake and rolling hillside, but the sun was setting and it would be dark soon anyway. The executive chef, Stephane Beaucamp, goes to great lengths to source locally grown ingredients to create his “conscientious cuisine,” and it shows. The asparagus toast with prosciutto, the 44 Farms sirloin and the Barton Springs Mill House fettuccine were all fresh and delicious. Our favorite was the smoked sustainable salmon rillette with avocado, salsa, sauce ravigote and multigrain toast.
After dinner, I settled into my room to do a little work, but unfortunately the Wi-Fi wasn’t cooperating. I called the front desk and was told an engineer wouldn’t be in until the morning to fix it. While on the phone, I preordered my in-room breakfast for the next day and was pleased when the Viva Las Migas (scrambled migas) and pot of coffee arrived exactly on time, to the minute.
On my second day, a full schedule of activities and restorative treatments lay ahead. I began with the Foam Roller Warm Up, a 55-minute activity in the Treehouse Loft, a subdued indoor space that invites you to relax and rejuvenate. The resort offers a full menu of activities, including boat cruises, floating yoga, cooking classes and hikes, and the classes are conveniently spaced so guests can make their spa appointments in time. Next up was my 25-minute Best Foot Forward pressure-point massage. The therapist immediately attributed my hamstring pain to tight jaw muscles, and before I knew it, my foot massage had turned into a 50-minute Swedish massage that started at my temples and worked its way down. I appreciated her flexibility and strong hands. This was the first time I’ve ever had a therapist work so hard that she became out of breath!
A regular foot massage would follow later in the day, along with a pedicure, which included agreeable banter with Olivia, my convivial aesthetician. This being a Saturday, I expected to find more people in the Iris salon, but I was the only one receiving a treatment. As of this writing, two weeks later, my polish is still intact and as fresh-looking at the day it was applied.
My stay would end with lunch in the casual and airy Aster Café. Then, it was time to retrieve my bags and head back to reality. Despite some service stumbles, Lake Austin Spa Resort was consistently impressive, not just because the treatments were relaxing and luxurious but because they showed real results.
Effective, luxurious treatments with knowledgeable aestheticians.
The nonworking Wi-Fi and lack of introduction to my room.
Guests can arrive in style by booking the hotel's private water taxi service. There are five different pick-up locations around Austin.