Hatchet throwing. Mechanical bull riding. Onsite farm-to-table meals. An infinity pool overlooking Texas Hill Country. Drive just 30 minutes from downtown Austin to check out Travaasa – camp for grown ups.
This expansive resort on the edge of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, is an uncrowded, fun-filled treat. Unusual group activities make for terrific bonding for a range of guests. “Girls’ weekend”-ers. “Mancation”-ers. Couples enjoying a romantic break. Teams on mini retreats. Solo adventurers. Pack work out gear, curiosity and a good attitude.
With some forward thinking (the schedule of activities is published online) and an early arrival or late departure, one night is enough to try out all the classes you are most excited about. Add a second night for a leisurely pace or to include a lot of spa or pool time.
- Work Out: The variety of activities on offer each day is extensive. Adventure options require signing up on wooden boards near the lobby. These fun, unique experiences are why you come to Travaasa, and include archery, a high ropes course 35 feet in the air, and – yes – hatchet throwing and mechanical bull riding. Activity leaders are low key yet enthusiastic.
For more conventional classes such as yoga and circuit training, you just turn up at start time. For a solo work out, grab a trail map and walk or jog the gentle 1.5 to 2 mile routes through the surrounding Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.
- Wind Down: Wellness sessions are under-attended in the peaceful Solidago Gardens, set in a quiet corner of the resort. A stone practice room is the loveliest space on the property, silent except for the sound of a bubbling brook. Stretching and meditation are offered here. Try Partner Yoga if you go with a friend for a surprisingly relaxing and eye opening experience.
The Spa offers a range of massages, facials and body treatments starting a little on the pricey side, at $175. Even without a spa service, there is complimentary access to saunas, steam rooms and a outdoor hot tub beside the beautiful infinity pool, looking out across the hills to Lake Travis. Wooden bean bags are strewn below the pool in a spot called Cedar Outlook, with yoga sometimes taking place there.
- Eat: The Preserve Kitchen & Bar works with Travaasa’s on-campus farm to build a weekly menu around its freshest produce. Specific dishes therefore change frequently but are essentially all New American staples with high quality ingredients. You can spend a pleasant hour touring the farm while the manager explains the crop rotations of see beds of vegetables and helps you hold young chicks.
- Cocktail: On the Mesquite Patio at the rear of The Preserve. Heat lamps and blankets mean you can enjoy the views of the preserve even in winter. Wine, beer and scotch tastings are on offer for incremental cost.
- Sleep: For all the awards the resort has won, standard rooms – though comfortable – are surprisingly small and furnished in a relatively basic fashion. More 3+* quality than the resort’s overall 4* rating.
- Watch Out For: Overbooked activities. Check in is at 3pm, which means if you arrive only when your room is available, sign up sheets for both the current and next day’s activities are likely full. As soon as you arrive, sign up for everything you might want to do. And show up anyway even if the list looks full – people always drop out and in a stay of even only one night, you will almost certainly get to try everything you want to this way. In winter, there is no food or drink service by the pool, even when it is warm enough to lay out. Call The Preserve and they can make sandwiches and cocktails to go for you.
- Don’t Miss: Free hot beverages and snacks scattered around if you know where to look. Right where you meet for signed up activities is a pantry with all day complimentary hot teas and coffee. The rooibos chai is delicious. The Preserve restaurant has free coffee and blueberry, bran and zucchini muffins laid out on the bar each morning until 11.30am, and in the winter, skewers and s’more ingredients are left in front of the fireplace. Grab crisp green apples and raw nuts near the changing rooms of the pool.
- Skip On: The all inclusive rate of $850 per couple per night. This includes the full schedule of group activities plus 3 meals per day and $175 resort credit for spa or private classes only. Compare with the a la carte rate of $350 per room / couple per night including all the same group activities. Unless you are really committed to a massage (book in advance) or averse to a group class size of maximum 12 people, you are unlikely to get full value. Especially if you load up on the free snacks.
© Ann Berry