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Disclosure: Lake Austin Spa Resort provided The Points Guy with a complimentary two-night stay, but all opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and were not subject to review by any other entity.
What do you do when you’ve lived in Austin for almost a decade and are struggling to endure the inferno that has been the summer of 2023? You seek out water is what you do.
That’s why I was thrilled when I was invited to check out the Lake Austin Spa Resort for a two-night stay in early August. The trip represented a chance to disconnect, recharge and relax in a sublimely picturesque setting.
If you’re considering a Texas Hill Country getaway, read on for what to expect from the rooms, activities, dining, cost and customer service at the Lake Austin Spa Resort.
What is the Lake Austin Spa Resort?
The Lake Austin Spa Resort is a day spa and hotel on the shores of Lake Austin, at the foot of the Steiner Ranch community in Austin. It is a 21-mile, 40-minute drive from downtown Austin.
The resort reflects the dynamic history of Austin to some degree. It started as a collection of 10 fishing cabins and a dance hall in 1941 before being converted into a nudists’ camp in the 1970s. After that, it became a cowboy rodeo and then a weight-loss camp in the late 1970s. There are tales of locals setting out on boats just outside the resort to sell pizza and beer to hungry guests.
The spa and resort’s current, higher-end form was established in 1997 and underwent its most recent renovation in 2004.
How to book the Lake Austin Spa Resort
The 40 rooms at Lake Austin Spa Resort are divided into three main categories:
- Base-level rooms (signature, garden view and lake view)
- Hot tub cottages
All the rooms are in one long line, with the base-level rooms closer to the entry gate and the more premium rooms farther toward the spa. Working from inland to the shore, you’ll find the accommodations, then a driveway, the reception, dining room, gym, main pool and multipurpose rooms all lined up; then, there’s a dirt walking trail and, finally, the turquoise lake.
Rates include accommodation, three daily meals, and most activities and fitness classes. Premium activities and spa treatments are subject to an additional cost.
Base-level rooms average $1,025 per person per night, including taxes and fees. An additional guest costs almost the same (about $900). You can find rates as low as $730 per person on off-peak dates, though.
Suites typically cost about double the price above.
This independent property is not part of one of the major hotel chains like Marriott or Hilton; therefore, you cannot technically use hotel points for a stay. However, if you have an eligible Capital One card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees), you can book your stay and then redeem your Capital One miles to cover the travel purchase at a rate of 1 cent per mile within 90 days of the purchase.
For example, an average two-night stay for two people at $3,842 would cost 383,400 miles. Given we value Capital One miles at almost double what this redemption offers (1.85 cents versus 1 cent) thanks to the redemptions you can get by transferring to the program’s airline and hotel partners, this is not an ideal redemption unless you are sitting on a ton of them.
Lake Austin Spa Resort only accepts direct bookings — not through an online travel agency like Expedia or a luxury hotel program like Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts. Therefore, use one of the best credit cards for general travel spending, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
The property has a free-to-join loyalty program called the Monarch Club, which offers a $200 spa and personal experience credit per person when you follow your first stay with a second stay of at least three nights within 12 months.
How to get to Lake Austin Spa Resort
Most guests drive themselves or use a ride-hailing service to get to the property. From Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) and downtown Austin; it’s a 40- to 45-minute drive without traffic. If you call a ride-hailing service, consider scheduling a ride for your return trip, as the resort is in an isolated area with few drivers.
Alternatively, you can really live it up with a water taxi pickup service from downtown or West Austin, costing $185 per boat for up to six people.
A relaxed, homey vibe
When driving to the Lake Austin Spa Resort, you’ll come to the public boat ramp, where you’ll be buzzed through a large private gate to the resort. A staff member will meet you at the reception and park your car (this valet service is complimentary).
Walking into the reception area, the staff will offer you a welcome glass of prosecco in a stemless plastic flute and a packet with sheets on the activities schedule, amenities, room information and spa options.
Given the many iterations of the property over the decades, the decor feels like an older Hamptons manse that’s been renovated with a 2000s sensibility.
The stunning lake views across the whole property (minus the spa tucked back inland), however, are the real draw. For what it’s worth, Lake Austin isn’t really a lake — it’s the part of the Colorado River that sits between Lake Travis, the primary source of Austin’s water supply, and Lady Bird Lake, which runs through downtown Austin.
There is no development on the other side of the lake, which makes the resort feel somewhat private, except for the boats and Jet Skis that sometimes ply the waterway.
The property is dog-friendly. The fee is $300 per dog, which includes treats and a dog bed in your room. You can bring your own food, or the kitchen can make canine meals such as grilled hanger steak over brown rice or grilled chicken breast with fresh pasta for $8-$13 each.
During my stay, two of the 12 guest groups had dogs. They were rather yappy, and it unfortunately detracted from the property’s upscale feel, though perhaps that’s more the exception than the rule.
Comfortable, slightly outdated rooms
The base-level garden view room I stayed in had a queen bed dressed with Egyptian cotton sheets and a down comforter. The mattress was soft and sumptuous, but the bedding felt too thick for a summer stay, with a few blankets layered under the duvet.
There was a comfortable lounging-style chair for reading and watching TV. I appreciated that the TV had all popular streaming apps. You do need your own personal login. If, like me, you plan to disconnect from the outside world during your stay, you might appreciate using LG’s free on-demand service (with ads), which offers movies and TV series mainly from the 2000s and 2010s.
Rooms are also equipped with a safe, minifridge and a writing desk.
The air-conditioning struggled with the summer heat wave during my visit and could be loud, so bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper. There was also a remote-controlled ceiling fan, which improved the airflow.
The bathroom was huge, with lots of natural light, a Kohler shower-tub combo and strong water pressure. You’ll enjoy a plush bathrobe, lavender-scented soap, hair-care and moisturizing products, and a pair of branded slippers you can take home.
Out the back of my cabin was a cute sitting area with a calming water feature. Out front, there was an additional sitting area from which to enjoy the lake views. However, because the cabins face the driveway, you might find people walking and driving by frequently. I didn’t see anyone taking advantage of the space outside their cabins (though the heat probably played a part).
Lots of activities to keep you occupied
To prepare for your trip and maximize your time at the resort, you can research the activities offered during your stay and fill out three waivers and personal information forms before arrival.
The schedule changes daily, with activities from 8 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m. There are usually three to four to choose from in each hour block.
Complimentary indoor activities include:
- Fitness classes (for all levels)
Outdoor activities include:
- Tai chi
- Stand-up paddleboarding
- Hiking through Balcones Canyonlands Nature Preserve (best in the cooler months)
Several premium activities are available at an additional cost, such as Jet Skiing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, tubing and sightseeing picnics, costing $95 to $160 per person.
I stuck to the complimentary activities, starting with a cooking class after my early afternoon arrival. I expected it to be interactive, but the teacher talked quickly and did everything themselves. As a student, I would have appreciated being involved in the dishes’ preparation, and I would’ve liked more time to ask questions.
Next up was an early evening yoga class before dinner. The teacher was very pleasant, and the difficulty level was accessible to most. However, it was awkward having no music (you could hear every breath and drip of sweat), and the changing of poses was more rapid than I’ve found with very experienced practitioners.
A water-healing class came highly recommended by one of the resort’s activities desk specialists. This 50-minute class included gentle water stretching in the beautiful, barn-style indoor pool. It included a two-minute personalized demo on a specific body part (I chose my hip) to loosen up your fascia, the connective tissue casing covering our organs, bones and muscles. It helped release my joint, and the instructor was friendly and knowledgeable. You can book a 50-minute private treatment for $225.
Guests should also plan to take advantage of the daily scenic boat tour, which runs either upstream past newer mansions (pictured below) or downstream by more established residences. This activity lasts 25 minutes. If you have enough time, I’d suggest exploring in one direction during one ride. Then, sign up for the sunset sip and cruise boat ride (additional $110) to go in the other direction.
The cruise includes beer and wine as you enjoy the sunset over the river and surrounding peaks.
The main outdoor pool is a great place to set up and read a book on one of the covered or uncovered sun beds. It’s in between the entry gate and the reception, and it’s a maximum three-minute walk from any of the rooms.
For those wanting to keep up with their fitness routine, the gym offers cardio, circuit and free-weight equipment. Two Peloton bikes overlook the lake, but you’ll need your own Peloton login to do a class.
If you plan to work or connect with loved ones during your stay, be aware that cellphone coverage is spotty, and the property’s Wi-Fi is slow, at 3 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload speeds. This makes it hard to stream or work with videos and images.
Lake Austin Spa Resort’s LakeHouse Spa is accessible to both day and overnight visitors. It’s a five-minute, tranquil walk through a beautiful garden from the resort to the spa.
Renovated in 2004, the menu proffers more than 100 massage, body and skincare treatments, and the facilities are sprawling, with 30 treatment rooms. The salon offers hair, makeup and nail services, and there is an outdoor palm pool with a hot tub and cabanas.
I booked one treatment during my stay: my very first facial. The esthetician was friendly, knowledgeable and very patient in walking me through the steps, explaining why I felt like my skin was tingling and answering all the questions I had. I was treated to the Alpine Essential, which is touted by the spa as “the only Valmont men’s facial available in the U.S.” It’s a 50-minute anti-aging treatment with a collagen mask that focuses on the eye area.
While the treatment was included in my visit, I was floored when I saw the invoice at the end, listing the regular price of $550 plus a 23% service charge and tax. You can peruse the full treatment and price list. Admittedly, they arranged one of the spa’s more premium treatments for me, but regular facials and massages start at $220.
One of my favorite aspects of the spa experience was post-treatment, hanging out in the waiting room in my robe, eating nuts and drinking iced tea while enjoying the beautiful furnishings, high ceilings, peace and quiet. If the temperatures weren’t unbearable outside, I would have taken a drink out onto the balcony and sat in one of the rocking chairs enjoying the serenity — alas, during summer in Texas, no, ma’am, no.
Executive chef Stéphane Beaucamp oversees the resort’s dining program and serves healthy, modern, mainly American cuisine in three daily meals. The dishes include seasonal ingredients sourced from the property’s on-site garden (where possible).
For breakfast, you’ll choose from dishes such as migas, vegan pancakes and fruit bowls. For lunch, it’s mainly protein bowls and flatbread pizzas. Dinner offers more traditional sit-down restaurant meals, such as risotto, grilled fish and juicy steaks, plus daily specials.
Tea, coffee and lemonade are complimentary. Alcoholic drinks are available at an additional cost, with beers averaging $8, cocktails $14 and glasses of wine $16. Here is the full food and drinks menu.
The food mostly impressed me, but there were a couple of misses. For example, the shrimp appetizer in the first photo in the gallery below was dry and tough. But I relished my juicy and tender sea bass entree and a decadent chocolate-hazelnut dessert later in the meal.
A smart way to try as much of the menu as possible in a short time (e.g., a two-night stay like mine) is to ask for half-portions and order as much as you like.
You can eat in the formal indoor dining room or the outside casual dining area. It was lovely waking up and eating breakfast along the lake. By evening, however, it was way too hot to be outside, so almost everyone chose to eat in the dining room; it also had beautiful lake views. Dining outside at lunch or in the evening would be wonderful during cooler seasons, though.
At the spa, hotel guests staying overnight (not day visitors) can also select to dine from a complimentary menu from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., a smart choice for the day(s) you are receiving treatments.
You can ask for a vegan, pea-protein smoothie between meals, and the kitchen puts out afternoon snacks to grab.
Water stations are easy to access throughout the resort, and guests receive a reusable water bottle as part of the welcome pack. Or, you can bring your own.
If you’re feeling antisocial, you can order any of the main meals to be delivered to your room for no additional charge.
Friendly but informal service
The staff throughout the resort were familial and warm, which set a welcoming tone to the experience.
The focus of the resort is on wellness and decompressing. However, given the quality of the cuisine and the high nightly room rates, I expected the service to be slightly more polished in the restaurant. Most of the wait staff appeared to be students working over summer break rather than dedicated full-timers. While minor, there were slight missteps like forgetting to take my drink order at dinner and not replacing silverware after it had been taken away between courses.
Beyond dining, though, two fellow guests expressed their frustration at having spa treatments canceled at the last minute, so there could have been some communication errors.
The property features designated accessible rooms with extra space, lowered cabinets, and bathtub safety bars and bench seats. All of the pools have lifts. The spa has an elevator to the upper-level treatment rooms, and the fitness and wellness building has ramp access to the yoga room and fitness studio.
Situated just a short drive from Austin, the Lake Austin Spa Resort offers a serene and laid-back retreat for relaxing and recharging. This all-inclusive resort is a good choice for those seeking a casual and carefree getaway to indulge in high-end spa experiences. During my stay, I savored the healthy cuisine, enjoyed the water-based activities and appreciated the friendly service. But while the resort provides a homey atmosphere, managing expectations for a truly luxurious experience is important.
Nearby, Miraval Austin is a key competitor; I’ve previously stayed there and found the cuisine and service more sophisticated. The real selling point, though? You can redeem World of Hyatt points (transferable from Chase Ultimate Rewards) at Miraval.
Despite several enjoyable aspects of my stay at Lake Austin Spa Resort, the highlight for me was relaxing in the lakeside hammocks, disconnecting from work and immersing myself in a fun novel. However, it’s worth considering the hefty price tag of more than $1,000 per night for this privilege, even though it does include meals, activities and valet.
In summary, the Lake Austin Spa Resort is a great choice for those seeking an enjoyable, hassle-free spa retreat near Austin and who might want to splurge on a high-end treatment or two. Just keep in mind that the accommodations might not be as luxurious as other famous high-end spas. If you’re counting your pennies or prefer to utilize hotel points, consider exploring other options.