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Culture / Travel

Austin’s New Over-the-Top Luxury Resort Takes Relaxing to a Whole New Level

Inside the Miraval Austin's Chill Wonderland

BY

It was a rather chilly weekend when we arrived at the spanking new Miraval Austin. So we were greeted not only by the warm and welcoming staff of the latest sibling of the famed wellness resort spa, but also by the aroma of woodsmoke that wafted across the 220-acre property tucked into the hills above Lake Travis.

For during chilly evenings, the property is lighted by crackling fire pits and the public areas warmed by glowing fireplaces.

The mind-body-spirit esthetic of the flagship Miraval Tuscon has arrived in the Lone Star State on a wave of Zen-infused perfection. Merely recalling the mental repose of our weekend jaunt brings on relaxing vibes, inducing deep breaths and heavy eyelids.

You might remember this locale as Travaasa Austin but with the purchase by Hyatt, owner of Miraval, in late 2017, the stage was set for growth and an upgrade. Opened in late December, Miraval Austin has expanded the Travaasa footprint to include 117 rooms (the hotel only had 70 previously), a stunning new reception center, a Life in Balance spa with 30 treatment rooms, Austin-themed activities and an impressive yoga barn.

Checking into our sleek contemporary room with custom feather bed and slate-tile bathroom, we made for the balcony (an amenity throughout the property) for a tranquil view of the rolling Hill Country laced with oaks and fragrant cedars. The property overlooks the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve so every vantage provides panoramas of nature’s best. If the view had not been enough to begin our sought-after feeling of well-being, we could have turned to the  Zen-inspiring meditation cushions and Tibetan singing bowls, requisite guest room amenities.

But we were ready to explore.

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The unexpected chill had us first heading for the Preserve Provision Company gift shop, where we succumbed to the call of cashmere scarves, cashmere sweaters and organic body lotions. The charming boutique is chock full of sustainable, consciously-sourced merchandise with a fashionable nod to Austin’s laidback esthetic.

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A rock sculpture welcomes to the Miraval Spa arrival center. (Photo by James Baigrie for Miraval Austin)

Our first appointment was for a deep-tissue massage that easily prepared us for the complete opposite experience of the Hill Country Challenge Course. True confessions, we passed on that life-changing experience as the prospect of climbing a three-story telephone pole then balancing on a 16-inch cross-section of a tree with nothing to hold onto — even with a helmet and full-body harness attached to a rope  — was just too daunting.

We could opt instead for hatchet-throwing, archery, a visit with the chickens or the horses at the spa’s Cypress Creek Farm. We could have instead taken a samba class, enjoyed a private meditation class or signed up for the Tex Zen Yoga experience. The latter, inspired by Willie Nelson, is a yoga sequence conducted to the rhythms of down home Texas tunes.

Miraval’s Activities Galore

Miraval Austin’s 38-page brochure that greets new arrivals spells out the myriad activities including private lessons in yoga and meditation; salon treatments; fitness activities; and spirit and soul activities that include Astrology Basics, Chakras and the Elements, and Finding Inner Calm; and the various Eastern-influenced body renewal rituals that are just part of the possibilities that set Miraval apart from more traditional spas.

The learning continues in the Life in Balance Culinary Kitchen, where cooking classes range from gluten free baking to courses in appreciating chocolate to a class in creating balanced and nutritional smoothies. Guests can sign up for the Just Cook for Me Chef evening — an interactive five-course dinner with wine or tea pairings with a front row seat to the chef’s creations. Overseeing the sustainably-sourced, healthy meals offered daily in the Hill Crossings Kitchen is executive chef Ben Baker, who has been on site since launching Travaasa’s food program.

We found that The Nest Bar and Lounge with its fully-stocked larder of adult libations and a pantry of complimentary fruit, yogurts and other healthy treats was a particularly popular destination for spa-goers. Among those we met during our stay were an exuberant group of ladies enjoying a bachelorette trip, a group of birthday celebrants, yoga enthusiasts and fitness-minded couples, who had come from Florida, Pennsylvania, Dallas, Houston and more. There was even a solo femme or two, completely comfortable in the surroundings.

Alas, our visit had to end and we felt a mild case of the blues as Miraval appeared in our rearview mirror. But the short drive back to Houston did little to diminish our sustainable glow of serenity and well-being.

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