Lake Austin Spa Resort is distinguished by its dedication to inspiring health and wellness by its waters.
Situated in the picturesque Austin, Texas, hill country and adjacent to the Balconies Canyonlands nature preserve, Lake Austin Spa Resort is a rustically elegant destination with 40 luxuriously designed guestrooms overlooking the scenic landscape. With private porches and waterfront views, all rooms are mere steps away from the 25,000-square-foot LakeHouse Spa, which offers more than 100 diverse services and treatments that combine traditional and modern techniques.
The tranquil LakeHouse Spa is located in a different building from the resort, and most guests wear bathrobes and slippers to stroll up the gentle curved slope, passing a small stream, waterfall and flower gardens to reach the main entrance. They’re welcomed at the front desk and directed to the spacious separate men’s and women’s locker rooms that include saunas, steam rooms and whirlpools. Created from limestone, the facility showcases warm accents of terra cotta and cedar, and is adorned with international artwork and textiles personally collected during the property owners’ travels. The spa features 20 state-of- the-art indoor treatment rooms, as well as an outdoor bamboo room with private shower and hot tub.
The resort integrates wellness throughout everything, with a focus on sustainability. For example, it boasts expansive organic herb and vegetable gardens that supply the spa’s Aster Café, as well as the resort’s main dining room. The light-filled second floor relaxation lounge, also known as the Blue Room, is a sophisticated and stylish sanctuary.
Guests are invited to unwind while awaiting treatments, and can enjoy flavored teas and healthy snacks as they take in the stunning lake vistas right outside the soaring windows.
In 2017, 20 new treatments were introduced to commemorate the resort’s 20th anniversary. Popular among these offerings: the Lavender Dreams Body Wrap (80 min./$225), which combines minerals and lavender for an invigorating full body exfoliation, followed by an upper body massage with lavender oil and warm healing stones; the Neroli Blossom Sensory Massage (50 min./$175; 80 min./$230), which incorporates tension release and breathing techniques with the refreshing essence of neroli; and Floating Meditation (50 min./$155), a relaxation session in which guests float on a mat while listening to a guided meditation. In addition, the on- site Iris Salon provides hair, nail and makeup services.
Water and Wellness
The property is certainly dedicated to its aquatic roots. In addition to the lake, it features three swimming pools in serene and unique settings. The heated Pool Barn lap pool is open-air along the perimeter (but covered for shade) and is used for a variety of treatments and classes. Nearby, the outdoor Palm Pool is a calm retreat, surrounded by lounge chairs and cabanas. The resort’s third outdoor pool is, of course, lakeside. “Our location on the lake is a huge draw—and it helps that we are about 30 minutes from downtown Austin,” explains managing director Janis Clapoff. “A lot of people like to spend some time in the city, and then come out to the hill country for a few days to detox and recharge by the water.”
The resort’s robust daily schedule encompasses a multitude of fitness and strength-training classes, including yoga, Pilates, dance, meditation and an assortment of aquatic activities. On the lake, guests can partake in standup paddleboarding, kayaking, hydro-biking and water skiing, among others. Suffice it to say that they are never without something to participate in. There’s also a floating mattress tethered to the dock for those looking to simply relax.
In an effort to capitalize on such a privileged location, the LakeHouse Spa is dedicated to tying wellness and water together. The Ripple Effect, a recently launched program of land- and water-based offerings, is built around the idea that being in nature—and near water in particular—has a positive effect on people’s well-being. Spearheaded by fitness and activities director Cindy Present, the program reflects elements of marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols’ book, Blue Mind (Hachette Book Group, 2014), which discusses how spending time near or in the water can reduce stress and encourage overall happiness. The Ripple Effect includes activities such as the aforementioned Floating Mediation in the Pool Barn, lakeside yoga on standup paddleboards, aquatic Zumba and more.
During my stay, I was most curious about the innovative Aqua Stretch Myofascial Release (25 min./$95; 50 min./$155), a newly implemented treatment that’s already one of the spa’s most requested offerings. This one-on-one assisted stretching session conducted in the Pool Barn is a combination of a deep tissue massage and intense physical therapy. As we stood in the shallow water, aquatics specialist Monica Gutierrez guided me through a series of precise and dynamic stretching exercises. This personalized treatment involved constant communication, as Gutierrez continually checked in to see where I was experiencing pain or tightness and then focused on those specific areas. The experience was both blissful and rejuvenating, as I felt my muscles relaxing immediately and tightness quickly (and noticeably) dissipating.
Experience As an upscale setting with affluent clientele, the LakeHouse Spa is committed to keeping guests happy. As such, employee recruitment and training is paramount. “We hire people who have
the right personality and mindfulness for our team. Staff members should be calm, empathic and passionate. They must enjoy other people and being part of a goals-driven team, and they should be healthy, or motivated to get healthier so they can help others do the same,” says Clapoff. “They have to come to the table with a service-oriented nature, but I’m not necessarily looking for someone who has been in the wellness or hospitality industry—that’s something we can train for.”
Drawing about 50 percent of its clientele from locals who enjoy the spa’s day packages, Lake Austin also attracts guests from as far as New York. The resort works with travel agent partners through targeted marketing, and has recently started outreach to the West Coast.
In addition to advertising and public relations, not surprisingly, social media also plays a major role in the spa’s promotion. “It’s a normal part of life now,” notes Clapoff. “It has really helped us get the word out about the spa.” One successful program included the hashtag #LakeAustinSpa20, created to celebrate the resort’s 20th anniversary in 2017. Featuring “selfie stations” throughout the property, guests were invited to finish the sentence: “Lake Austin Spa Resort makes me feel…” They were encouraged to write their answers in chalk and post selfies with the hashtag to Instagram and Facebook. Some guests continued to use the hashtag throughout the year, sharing their favorite memories of the spa resort to generate widespread word of mouth.
Michael McAdams and William Rucks
25,000 square feet, with 20 indoor treatment rooms, salon, 3 swimming pools, café, relaxation lounge, and men’s and women’s locker rooms with hot tubs, steam rooms and saunas
70-75 (depending on the season), including a spa director, senior spa manager, 2 assistant spa managers,
5 spa coordinators, 10 locker room and pool attendants, acupuncturist, 37 massage therapists and 16 estheticians
Most Popular Services
Gifts and Graces Massage (80 min./$225), Age Defying Laser and Antioxidant Facial (50 min./$190; series of six/$950), Aqua Stretch Myofascial Release (25 min./$95; 50 min./$155)
Aromatherapy Associates, Dr. Dennis Gross, Elemental Herbology, Intraceuticals, Kerstin Florian, Naturopathica, OM4 and SkinCeuticals
–by Marla Cimini