by Julie Catalano
For travelers to these great getaways, it’s the destination, not the journey.
Imagine the ultimate in rest and relaxation for a perfect adults-only vacay. Or perhaps you fancy family fun, exploring native flora and fauna. Plan the perfect wedding and share the joy with friends. Take a class, learn a new skill or lounge by the pool. Find inner peace at a serene, luxurious yoga retreat. The beautiful Texas Hill Country is dotted with delightful properties ranging from rustic to ravishing, with something for everybody under the summer sun.
With a name like Paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboy), you would expect this fabulous resort to have island touches, and you would not be disappointed. Accommodations like the Pineapple House (the most romantic), the Lanai Suite, O’hana House (the most private), and Mele House offer a luxurious respite from the city in a beautiful setting about 13 miles north of Boerne.
Set on 100 acres overlooking a picturesque lake and hills, guests can be as active or leisurely as they like. Nature lovers will delight in a glimpse of a white-tailed deer, jackrabbit, wild turkey, and more. Lounge by the pool with a perfect summer read, picnic by the lake, go on a fossil hunt or self-guided photo safari, or stop by the resort’s whimsical art studio where you can take a jewelry making class or work on a painting. “We want this experience to be a personal one, giving our guests the opportunity to get in touch with themselves and nature,” says owner Judy Kennell.
The ranch is also an ideal location to explore nearby towns like Comfort (14 miles), Sisterdale (two miles), and to enjoy the scenic Guadalupe River, a mere three miles away. If you’re tuckered out from your travels, indulge in room service for a casual meal on your private patio. Property policy: Call the ranch for policies regarding children and pets.
Escondida means “hidden,” and with its secluded 125-acre location on Medina Mountain about 16 miles south of Kerrville, the name fits. The location is what first drew longtime television journalist Bob Phillips (Texas Hill Country Reporter) to purchase the property in 1999 and build a hotel and spa with business partner Christy Carnes. Now city-frazzled guests looking for a warm welcome receive it from general manager Dawn Bostick and her assistant Pam Nelson.
“It is all about the service,” says Bostick.” When a vegan couple booked a stay, Nelson — who is also the chef — learned to cook vegan. “We treat everyone the same way.” In addition to the comfy, Spanish-style rooms, guests looking for the ultimate can book the Owners Retreat, the private wing of the original hacienda with master bedroom, master bath, full kitchen and private patio.
Bostick says the lure of Escondida is “its disconnect from the world.” With no cell phone service and limited Internet, kicking back and connecting with nature is what brings people back year round.
“In spring, the wildflowers are in full bloom. Both the pool and the spa bring in summer visitors and parents who are picking up their children at nearby Camp Lonehollow.” Autumn features colorful fall foliage and “a magnificent traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Afterwards we even put out leftovers, just like home.” Property policies: Adults only, 21 and up.
About 40 miles northwest from Fredericksburg, co-owner Carol Conlee describes Tres Lunas as “a luxurious adventure.” Carol and husband Craig added two more “R’s” to the usual rest and relaxation vacation: renewal and rejuvenation.
Boasting a picturesque location on Muesebach Mountain, elliptical infinity-edge pool, gourmet cuisine, sweeping vistas and high-powered stargazing at the Lunar Garden, the real breakout star is the all-inclusive yoga retreat package. The specialized stay (starting at three days) includes accommodations, healthful cuisine (no refined sugars or caffeine used in the vegetarian fare) and two classes a day in an immersive experience which focuses, says Carol Conlee, “on a soulful unity in nature.” Yoga guests stay in either an elegant Zen poolside suite or the Una Luna Casita, a three-bedroom house with all the comforts of home and then some.
Yoga guests often say they feel “fully renewed,” says Conlee, recalling a poignant story of a couple from New York who later reveals that the woman had recently recovered from a life-threatening illness. They chose Tres Lunas over a yoga retreat in Costa Rica and couldn’t have been happier with their choice. Adds Conlee, “After seven days of outdoor yoga, peaceful hikes, all-inclusive meals and daily meditations, they left having created a ‘demarcation’ into a very new life filled with so much promise, feeling refreshed, renewed and radiantly connected. What an honor.” Property policies: Adults only.
Sage Hill Inn Above Onion Creek
Ideally situated between Austin and San Antonio, this 21-year-old property is immensely popular thanks to renovations that included a new pool deck, expanded kitchen, new spa, large outdoor fire pit and multiple room remodels on the 88-acre property.
Seating in the dining room is family style for breakfast and dinner (the evening meal is included in the room rate). Fresh and tasty fare features almost 100 percent locally sourced ingredients, with a good selection of wines and local beer.
Personal service includes lots of suggestions for nearby attractions and activities, and helpful tips for the miles of biking and hiking trails that surround the inn. Check out the lovely flower, herb and vegetable gardens, and don’t be surprised if you spot some of the local wildlife — deer, blackbuck antelope, wild turkey, foxes and birds.
And that’s really the appeal, according to co-owner John Banczak, “Part of being in the Hill Country is actually being in the ‘country.’ Guests love that Sage Hill is surrounded by almost 3,000 acres of true open space Hill Country yet is only a short drive from Austin. Our guests are able to truly get away, yet still enjoy the luxury they are looking for — stylish rooms, great food and service.” Property policies: Adults, and 12 and over. No pets.
Canyon of the Eagles: A Calibre Resort
Can’t bear to leave your furry family member behind? No problem at Canyon of the Eagles, a nature-based destination resort set on 943 acres, about an hour’s drive from Austin and about 19 miles from Burnet. Extremely pet friendly, dog lovers enjoy Bark Before Dark Yappy Hours every Friday, and the entire month of August is devoted to the Dog Days of Summer, with special programs and discounts.
Dog-free travelers as well will find plenty to do, with programs built around the great outdoors. “Everything we do here is nature-based,” says sales and marketing director Alisha Workman, describing programs in sustainability, guided nature hikes and astronomy activities.
The resort has 61 hotel style rooms, 34 tent camping sites and 24 RV sites. “It’s a nice mixture of those who want to stay in the resort and those who want to rough it.” Wildlife includes feral hogs, two endangered birds (golden cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo), frogs, the American bald eagle, and “roadrunners galore.”
Workman calls the resort “digital detox.” “There are no televisions, the rooms have stained concrete floors to cut down on maintenance from tracked-in dirt and stickers. We are not luxury nor do we claim to be, but we have all the comforts of a hotel.” Most of the guests, she adds, “are out exploring anyway.” And the dogs love it. Property policies: Kids 10 and under stay free. Pets welcome (on leash, up to two per room, no more than 150 pounds each pet, fee applies).