If the Miraval in Tucson, Arizona is the grande dame of adult-only luxury wellness resorts, the newer location outside of Austin, Texas is its spunky younger sibling. I recently spent four days there and this is my unbiased un-sponsored review, as well as a comparison of the two properties.
Confession: I’m A Miraval Super Fan
First of all, you should know that I’m a Miraval super fan. I discovered the Arizona property in 2004 after hearing Oprah talk about it on one of her shows. My first visit was over a decade ago and I’ve gone back around a dozen times; with girlfriends, twice by myself, and with a partner. It’s truly one of my favorite places in the world; so much so, that when I got married in January 2019, we had our wedding in one of the private villas.
If you’re someone who likes to try new things and also do absolutely nothing, Miraval might be the perfect spot for you. I describe the Miraval experience as “camp for grownups” because there are sooooo many activities to choose from. Whether you’re into cooking classes, spa treatments, fitness, meditation, photography, outdoor adventures, or horses, there will be a class or an activity to meet your needs. You can fill up your schedule with back-to-back activities, chill and hang out at one of the gorgeous pools, take a nature walk or pamper yourself in their award-winning spa.
Miraval Austin Fast Facts
Miraval Austin is set in a beautiful spot just northwest of Austin in the Texas Hill Country. The resort sits on 220 shady rolling acres that overlook the blue waters of Lake Travis. The property is about a 45-minute drive from the airport (30 minutes from downtown).
Miraval Austin has 13 three-story lodges spread across the property that each house eight to ten rooms or suites. I’d describe the architecture as “contemporary farmhouse” and the buildings are multi story vs the single-level casitas in Arizona. Walking around the campus definitely gave me a summer camp vibe, although it’s much swankier than even the most posh camp. The views from the Yoga Barn and the restaurant are stunning.
It’s an all-inclusive resort — mostly. You pay a base daily fee that covers your transportation to/from the airport, room, all meals, snacks (there’s a coffee and smoothie bar) and most of the activities. Spa services, alcohol (yup, there’s a bar) and some activities have an additional fee. When you purchase a “package” it usually includes a daily resort credit ($100 – $150) that will be applied to spa services or activities that require an additional fee. There’s NO tipping and no charge for parking if you drive yourself instead of taking the complimentary shuttle from the airport.
In 2017 Miraval was purchased by Hyatt. At the time, I was concerned that being owned by a corporation might ruin some of the “special-ness” but that hasn’t been the case. It still has a unique vibe, and the service and experience has remained consistent. In addition to the Austin and Tucson properties, there’s a third location in the Berkshires.
It’s expensive. Prices vary based on the time of year, room type, and what type of package you purchase but a “basic” stay averages out to around $1,000 per person per day. And, now that they’re owned by Hyatt you can earn and redeem points for your visit.
It’s luxurious but also very casual. You won’t need any fancy clothes, and you’ll spend your days in athleisure ware. Going to dinner or walking around the property in your bathrobe is encouraged.
It’s a device-free property. And they mean it. When you check in, you’ll be asked to agree to not use your cell phone anywhere except in designated areas and your room. The goal is to truly allow guests to unplug and relax. The property is dotted with mindfulness reminders and beautiful spots to sit and unwind.
Differences Between Miraval Tucson and Miraval Austin
- Tucson property is bigger – 150+ rooms including private villas and the retreat center vs 117 rooms in Texas.
- Austin has water – Arizona property is in the desert while the Texas location sits on rolling hills overlooking Lake Travis.
- The fitness studio, known as the Body Mindfulness Center (BMC) in Texas is smaller.
- Both facilities feature the award-winning Life in Balance Spa.
- Both facilities have multiple swimming pools with views for days.
- You guys know I’m all about the food. Both facilities have a similar meal structure (which has been revised to comply with Covid protocols). Breakfast is a modified buffet where guests are served rather than helping themselves. There are also a few ala carte items available. Lunch features a lavish salad bar along with two daily specials. You can also get grab-and-go breakfast and lunch items. The dinner menu is limited, but tasty. There are a few menu items that are available daily, plus specials that rotate. And you always have the option to customize your meal using the protein and vegetables that are featured that day.
My First Visit to Miraval Austin
Because I’d been to the Tucson property so many times, I made sure to try some of the activities and unique experiences that are ONLY available at Miraval Austin.
Stand up paddleboard – You guys, I learned to paddleboard and it was so much fun! The proximity to both Lake Travis and Lake Austin make doing some kind of water activity a must. If you’re not into paddle boarding, you can also go kayaking.
Hatchet throwing – This activity was at the top of my priority list, both to burn off some post-COVID frustration and to see if I could do it. I was a little nervous. I’d never even held an axe or a hatchet before – much less thrown one. But, what I learned, is that just like everything else in life, it’s all about taking a deep breath, focusing your energy, and committing.
Belly Dancing – My girlfriend and I took a one-hour belly dancing class and we had a blast. The instructor was so lovely and really made the class so enjoyable and accessible.
Floating Meditation – This must-do class is offered at both Miraval Tucson and Austin. You lay suspended in a silk hammock while being gently rocked and guided through a meditation while listening to the sounds of crystal bowls. It’s unbelievably relaxing.
Naga Massage – This is Miraval’s special twist on Thai massage where you get stretched and manipulated while lying on a large floor cushion. The therapist controls the pressure of their body weight by holding silk “ropes” that are hung from the ceiling. It’s a deep tissue massage unlike any other I’ve tried and I always book an appointment if I can get one.
Miraval Pro Tips
- Book your services and classes as early as possible. I always book my spa services and activities waaaaaay in advance. Covid protocols have limited class sizes so this is more important than ever. The resort daily schedule is available online and covers a couple of months at a time.
- If you can’t get into a class and you really want to take it, show up and see if there’s an opening. This has worked for me a bunch of times as there is often a “no show” and you can take their spot.
- Buy a bottle of wine on your first night. It’s way more economical than buying wine by the glass. If you don’t finish it, you can take the bottle to your room, or they’ll hold it for you at the bar and you can enjoy it during subsequent meals. They’ll even serve you at the pool if you’d like.
- Lock your wallet in the room safe and transfer your necessities to the Miraval totebag (or backpack) you’ll be provided with. You’ll want to carry your room key, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, reading glasses, book, and water bottle (provided) with you. I usually also carry my flip flops. Make sure you take your bag and water bottle home with you – they’re really good ones!
- Ask your server to fill your water bottle with iced tea, sparkling water or even a soda. They’re happy to accommodate. And grab a snack to take back to your room in case you get hungry later. Most of the rooms have a mini fridge.
- You can get any meal “to go” which comes in really handy if your scheduled activities overlap with meal times.
- On your fourth overnight stay, you become a member of the Miraval loyalty program, called Authentic Circle. It gives you a bunch of perks including complimentary laundry service, a free glass of wine with dinner, a welcome gift and additional resort credits with each stay.
- Schedule an appointment with a specialist. Miraval attracts world-class talent and a one-on-one appointment can be less expensive than meeting with a less-qualified practitioner in your hometown. Over the years, I’ve booked time with their functional medicine doctors, nutritionist (for a body fat analysis and customized nutrition plan) and exercise physiologist (who assessed my fitness and put me on a revised exercise plan.) You can also book private appointments with their healers, intuitives, trainers, and/or do private outdoor activities.
- Book an afternoon flight home. That’ll give you an extra morning at the resort to take a class, fit in one more spa treatment or have a delicious breakfast before you head home. Don’t forget to grab a healthy meal or snack to bring on the plane with you. You won’t want to eat airport junk food after a few days of clean eating.