Many destination resorts promise a restorative experience, but few deliver in the way Travaasa can. Even though it’s located within 30 minutes of downtown Austin, the award-winning property very much feels like a world away.
That's partially because of the location, perched high among the hills, barely intruding on the landscape. It’s easy to dump your cares at the turnoff to FM 2769, and the slow, winding drive up to the entrance serves as a prelude of what’s to come.
Certainly the surroundings evoke peace, but the experience also is designed to free your mind, whether you choose to load up your itinerary with activities, many of which are included in the stay, or you simply want to vacillate between naps at the pool and spa treatments. Either route provides a welcome distraction from the day-to-day.
Travaasa operates like an adult camp, with activity sign-up sheets at the welcome center. Go for a hike, throw a hatchet (which is extremely therapeutic), mountain bike, practice yoga or tai chi, ride a horse or the zip line — all in a day. Want a cup of coffee or snacks before an activity? Then stop by the pantry.
If you have no desire to exert yourself, you can be contented, either in the spa, where treatments are some of the best you will ever receive, or by the infinity-edge saltwater pool with Hill Country views. Try filling one day with activities and the other with pool time, refreshing yourself with an occasional Grapefruit Fizz (Deep Eddy Ruby Red vodka and Topo Chico) or mini-cans of Sofia sparkling wine.
Speaking of booze, Travaasa has a full bar, unlike many wellness resorts. And it is an actual bar where you can sit and drink and continue to forget about your troubles.
Travaasa also takes great care with its food and beverage program, an integral part of which is the 3.25 acre organic farm. It not only provides produce for the restaurant, but also an opportunity for guests to explore.
Under the guidance of Kim Grabosky-Chalfant, the farm produces more than 80 varieties of vegetables, fruits, edible flowers, and culinary and medicinal herbs. In the wintertime, the fields are full of roots (beets, carrots) and greens (kale, collards). In summertime, they overflow with tomatoes, okra, and peppers.
There’s also a 680-square-foot chicken coop with more than 100 laying hens; in addition to farm tours, guests can learn how to care for chickens. Grabosky-Chalfant also leads an herbal tinctures class, where she serves holy basil tea, made by steeping the leaves and flowers in cold water, as she explains the healing property of those and other plants grown on the property.
There is synergy between the farm and the restaurant — executive chef Ben Baker tells Grabosky-Chalfant what he’d like to see, and she tells him what’s doing well — and the staff works hard to only use what’s available in the food they prepare. They supplement what they can’t grow themselves with items sourced from nearby producers, but Baker says Grabosky-Chalfant has really been creative in her solutions, and “harvest and yields have been better than they’ve ever been.”
Although the resort focuses on health and wellness — the nutritional information for each dish is listed on the menu — they are mainly interested in preparing food that tastes good. And it does.
Dinnertime is when the dishes are most creative, and they don’t stay on the menu long. “If you see something that sounds good tonight, order it,” the servers advise, warning that tomorrow it could be gone.
For that reason, it may be unfair to talk about the smoked trout cakes, a standout on our visit. The kitchen goes through a lot of steelhead trout, so once they have enough bellies, they smoke them up and turn them into little cakes seasoned with skin baked with nori and kefir lime leaves.
Other memorable dishes included a pork chop brined in anise, black pepper, bay leaves, and cloves, and crispy Sriracha Brussels sprouts. The servers are also schooled on the wine, so take their pairing suggestions. If you want do to more than eat and drink at mealtime, you can take a hands-on cooking class or join an expert for a wine tasting.
After all that, you want a good night’s rest, right? The rooms are upscale but not fussy, and beds are remarkably comfortable, with all-natural linens that wrap you up for a restful sleep. Wake up the next day and look out the window, where you see nothing but treetops and hills, and it’s hard to imagine just how close you are to the city, and to your life, full of demands.
But don’t think about that. When you checked into Travaasa, you also checked out. Relish every minute.
Prices start at $300 per night à la carte and $525 inclusive.