La Cantera Resort & Spa
When I set out from Austin for La Cantera Resort & Spa, in San Antonio, I was a little surprised by how excited I was. I’d lived about fifteen minutes away from the 550-plus-acre resort for half my life, but I had never been. I’d long been curious about its many amenities—especially its Loma de Vida Spa.
I drove out with my boyfriend, Sean, after booking a couple’s treatment—another first—and took in the beautifully manicured golf course and winding roads that led up to Loma de Vida, which is set on a hill. Once we checked in, Sean and I were escorted to the gender-specific solaria upstairs, each equipped with a sauna, steam room, and heated saline pool. We had half an hour before our De-stress Together treatment ($425) began, so we took advantage of some time apart first.
I changed into a swimsuit, put on a robe and slippers, and relaxed in the pool until it was time to meet with our massage therapists. Because I was so familiar with the area, I didn’t expect to be blown away by the gorgeous Hill Country views. Though it was a slightly overcast morning, the solarium was still bathed in a soft light thanks to the massive picture windows.
Sean, who had also enjoyed his solo soak, and I were whisked away to the Sky Loft—a secluded, tree house–like suite where we’d get to indulge in a private, CBD-infused soak (more soaking!) before beginning the couple’s massage. On the deck were two chaise longues, a rustic tub, and a tray with Moët Rosé and CBD chocolates for us to enjoy. Because I have no tolerance for temperatures below 80 degrees, I headed straight for the tub.
Once we lowered ourselves in, poured out our champagne, and took in another gorgeous view, we burst out laughing. As some of the youngest guests at the spa that day—we are both in our twenties—we felt a bit like impostors, and the romance-novel setup we’d found ourselves in pushed the fantasy over the edge.
Maybe it was the CBD, the champagne, or both, but soon enough, we were all in on this absurd (to us) experience. Sean was about ready to drift off to sleep when our massage therapists reappeared to guide us inside. This was only the second time I’d gotten a massage, and because the first one had been redeemed with a Groupon, I wasn’t fully prepared for how luxurious one could be.
Sean and I each picked an essential oil blend (eucalyptus for him, lavender for me) and slipped into side-by-side heated beds to enjoy full-body massages and foot scrubs. Guests who book the De-stress Together experience also get to take a piece of it home with a gift bag of Reign Together CBD oil at the end of the session.
The treatment is just one of many amenities at La Cantera designed for couples. There’s an adults-only floor of guest rooms (other romantic lodging options include private villas or suites) as well as an adults-only pool. We were just there for the day, though—baby steps!
I’d been cooped up with Sean in our apartment for the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while we have pretty different ideas of what it means to unwind (I want to socialize; he wants to take a quiet hike), the couple’s treatment gave us the best of both worlds. And most impressively, Loma de Vida’s stunning design made me forget that I was home and not on an exotic vacation. Though we were just a short drive from the highway and crowds of people at the mall, it felt as if we were in our own little bubble, enveloped by the surrounding hills.
Lake Austin Spa Resort
The first time I went to Lake Austin Spa Resort, eighteen years ago, I was about to get married, and—in a smart move that boded well for our future together—my fiancé had given me a day at the property’s LakeHouse Spa, which had just opened a few weeks earlier. What I remember most about that day is reading on a hammock on the shores of a private, quiet, glistening corner of Lake Austin and lounging by the LakeHouse pool. This, I thought, is a place I’ll come back to a lot—and I’ll bring a friend when possible.
I made good on that (easy) promise to myself through the years, coming for both day visits as well as overnight stays, which are the best way to take full advantage of this wellness-focused lakeside retreat some twenty miles west of downtown. It ranks among the top destination spas in the country yet is still unassuming in an “old Austin” kind of way. Perhaps that’s partly because of its history, which goes back to its days as a fishing camp in the forties. In the seventies, it had a short-lived stint as a nudist colony. Then it was a lodge for cowboys and rodeo clowns (the seventies were wild) before functioning as a weight-loss resort in the eighties and then, finally, becoming Lake Austin Spa in 1994. It’s now an upscale destination that attracts guests from all over the world with its idyllic location right on the lake, chef-prepared meals, three swimming pools, well-appointed accommodations, and many activities and spa treatments.
Although I still come for solo visits to recharge, I’m happiest when I can bring someone. Over the past five years, my dear friend Maya has been that person. In our matching white robes, we have explored every wallpapered nook and every outdoor cranny, looking for the best spots to read, talk, or just sit quietly together. We’ve swum laps in the covered pool barn, enjoyed a sunset sauvignon blanc on a short pier decked out in white lights, and paddleboarded side by side. We’ve spent hours under a poolside cabana talking about work, family, books, and movies. I remember one breakfast when a charming waiter tried to get us to guess the secret ingredient in that day’s muffin. “Poppyseed?” “Thyme?” we threw out. In his equally charming Italian accent, he told us: “No—it is love. How could you miss it?” That has since become our catchphrase.
Most recently, we carved out a late-winter day to spend together. It was a little too cold to spend much time in our favorite poolside position, but we enjoyed the luxurious warmth of the heated indoor pool, hot tub, and sauna before our treatments. The spa was letting me try its newest facial—the Regal, designed exclusively for Lake Austin by La Maison Valmont using the Swiss skin-care leader’s products. It’s one of the most expensive facials in the world—$1,050 for a treatment lasting more than two hours that consists of four masks, a HydraFacial, LED treatment, several massages (including a facial massage based on the Japanese Kobido technique), and a collagen treatment. One of the key ingredients in Valmont’s newest line of products is sturgeon, a fact I marveled at for 135 minutes—a caviar facial!
Although I’ve yet to try Botox or anything in that realm, I do love a good facial. Knowing how expensive it is, though, made the whole experience a little stressful and uneasy—until I quickly fell asleep, despite my every intention of taking mental notes throughout the whole process. More than halfway through, the skillful technician woke me up for the collagen treatment, which normally requires covering the entire face—eyes and lips too—to make sure I didn’t need a break first. I sleepily shook my head, but as soon as she started applying the treatment, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. We compromised and decided to forgo the lips and eyes—my visions of plump puckers dashed just like that—and I immediately relaxed again.
When I rejoined Maya for a glass of wine by the water—it was now warm enough to sit lakeside—we were both a little astonished at how immediate the results were. My skin glowed, and my neck and chest especially looked at least a few years younger. This must be what having a face-lift feels like, we decided, and because that costs so much more, this really is a bargain in the scheme of things. We clinked our glasses. Then she quickly ushered me out of the sun.
An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Two More to Try.” Subscribe today.