Austin's Travaasa Spa and Hotel: Summer Camp for Grown-Ups

Gentle thrills abound at this serene oasis high above the Capital City.

By John Nova Lomax July 24, 2014

Billing itself as an experiential resort, Travaasa Austin can also be seen as a summer camp for adults.

Perched atop a wooded hill overlooking Lake Austin in the Balcones Canyonlands Reserve, Travaasa (which threw open its doors to the regional media late last month) is not just a luxury hotel and spa. Guests are encouraged to fill their days with activities both outdoors and in, ranging from barbecue and juicing classes to archery, pilates, tai chi and yoga, to zip-lining and rope-climbing and labyrinth-finding-your-way-out-of. You can hike or ride horses or learn to two-step under the stars big and bright.

Down in the valley and across the road from Travaasa's hilltop redoubt lies the establishment's 3.25-acre organic farm, which did no less than put me in mind of William Butler Yeats's "Lake Isle of Innisfree": 

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, and a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade. 

Yes, there are a couple of bee-hives down there, and the farm is also dragonfly-patrolled and flitted about by butterflies. Two twentysomething workers oversee the probiotic rows of beans, corn, cucumbers, squash, beets, onions, watermelon, and much more. Edible flowers and herbs send forth billows of fragrances, and the property is lined with native pecans and studded with fruit orchards.

More than 100 hens cluck and lay eggs in the farm's henhouse, and other crops swelter in the steamy greenhouse. The chef works in conjunction with the farm's bounties: each week they tell him what's doing well and ready to be harvested and he plans his menus based on those reports. Here is the near-vegan menu on the day of our stay (forgive the crumbs, please), but note that meaty options are available:

The fields border a burbling, cypress-lined brook, on which lies both a yoga grove and a wedding spot.  On the other side of the farm, three cowboys tend a small herd of horses for Travaasa's Equine Encounters, in which guests learn to mind-meld with the steeds and bring them to heel. (This involves making them think you are the alpha horse than can lead the herd to safety, and it is a magical experience. For this and several other of the outdoor activities, don't forget to bring at least one pair of closed-toed shoes.)

Don't miss Travaasa's infinity pool, lined by poolside canopy beds and sporting a lovely view of the lake and the canyonlands, and take time to relax in a hammock in the woods with a good book, birdwatch on the trails, or just Zen out on your balcony.

With a view like that, it's easy to see why some Austinites are so snobby; they are literally looking down on all the rest of us all the time.

Pan-seared wahoo from the Travaasa kitchen.

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