Escape to Horseshoe Bay Resort for Mediterranean Vibes in Texas
A family-friendly tropical-inspired resort in the heart of Texas Hill Country
As I was driving up to Horseshoe Bay Resort (HSBR), I was stressed and was worried about the tasks not getting done during the trip. Little did I know how much I needed this bonding experience and girls’ getaway with my daughter Addie and pregnant friend, Carolyn.
Once you exit Bexar County on Highway 281 as you’re headed north from San Antonio, the landscape becomes increasingly mountainous; commercial activity is sparse and you realize you’ve entered Texas Hill Country. I’d been up in the Highland Lakes region six months ago when Covid-19 just hit and my husband and I took what we deemed an “isolation vacation” in a secluded cabin on Buchanan Lake. Lots of life and a career roller coaster occurred since March 2020, and I was excited to be back – this time as a writer to document my experience of the destination and resort for OTL Magazine. The famed resort just completed a $100 million renovation, and I was looking forward to seeing the changes the undertaking produced.
After a quick drive – around an hour and twenty minutes from San Antonio (or less than an hour from Austin), we arrived at HSBR to its grand entrance and were immediately greeted with the Texan hospitality for which the property is known. Traveling during the pandemic can get weird with all the mandated rules, but the front desk team made us feel welcomed and safe.
After we checked in, we were directed to our two-bedroom villa away from the main tower but conveniently close to the lobby, pool area, restaurants and the gardens. The suite was spacious, with a common area, kitchen, dining area and two bedrooms with private bathrooms. I had been nervous about traveling with a friend and my three-year-old, and this arrangement ensured we had our own space. I would highly recommend this for families as well, with one room for the parents and one for the kids.
After getting settled, the three of us explored the grounds of HSBR. First we ventured past the hotel pool, which is gorgeous with cabanas and plenty of poolside service for cocktails or bites to eat from Waterfront Grill & Bar. At this time due to safety and sanitation standards, guests need to reserve their slots for the pool, with options for morning, early afternoon or evening. It’s fine to pick all three if available, but reservations are required.
We continued on through the gardens and outdoor event space reminiscent of Japanese Tea Gardens I visited in Hilo, Hawaii, complete with Buddha statues. I don’t play tennis, but the resort regularly hosts tournaments and has an impressive amount of courts. It was time to head down to the bay front area, for which I had much anticipation. There is a 3-5-minute trolley or oversized golf cart that takes guests down to the Yacht Club (or to the two golf courses) from the lobby.
The Yacht Club has an incredibly experiential pool area with a beach that opens up to the bay, a main pool area, an adult pool with a swim-up bar and a Texas-sized hot tub – the second-largest in the state to be exact – that emulates a tropical volcano (my bet is on Costa Rican inspiration). I am a big hot tub fan, and this was THE best I’ve ever been in. The lava rock structures and powerful fountain jets simulating lava kept it entertaining. In fact, this jacuzzi was more like a lazy river in size and shape, but took on the personality of an active, hot lagoon that kept my three-year-old engaged. Combine this setup with a pina colada for me, and virgin cocktails for my pregnant friend and daughter, and we were set for the afternoon. We were having so much fun that we decided to order food while at the casual restaurant at the Yacht Club, Waterfront Grill & Bar. The views of the bay and Lake Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) were spectacular, and our salads were fresh.
We ventured down to the lounge area next to the waterfront, which felt like an oversized living room gazing out over the water. The idyllic blue hues of the bay complemented by the cozy furniture was a relaxing end to our pool day. The Yacht Club formal restaurant was appealing for dinner, but there is a dress code and young guests are welcome if behaved. Since she didn’t get a nap, I wasn’t confident Addie was ready for that atmosphere.
After dinner, we saved room for s’mores, which occur nightly by the garden. Each family gets a s’mores kit and can roast their own marshmallows over a firepit. I was craving a glass of pinot and Addie needed milk before bedtime. Luckily, the Whitewater 360 bar and restaurant was nearby and still open, so we had access to everything we needed. It was dark already, but I learned the next day that the area we were in had waterfall features, flamingoes, tortoises and even an 18-hole miniature golf course with real grass – one of only four resorts in the nation with this asset. With full bellies and hearts, we slept well through the night in our plush, king-sized beds in the villa.
Saturday morning, we woke up and left the resort to get out in the Texas Highlands wilderness. After a filling breakfast at the famed Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls, we headed north to Inks Lake State Park. Of course we had to stop at a scenic view point overlooking Lake LBJ en route to our destination.
You could hike for days at Inks Lake. Literally, there are miles upon miles of trails with camping sites and a solid visitors’ center. We selected the 1.2-mile Lake Trail that was short enough for Addie to conquer but still provided the lake views we were after. It was hotter than the weather predicted so we didn’t finish the whole loop, but what we saw was gorgeous with cacti, desert flora and meandering creeks leading into the lake.
We stopped in Sunset Village on Lake LBJ to grab lunch and found an eclectically decorated pizza joint called Mosca’s - definitely one of those small-town restaurants you enter and the local patrons can sense your foreignness to the area. But the pizza was tasty, and the service was hospitable with a welcoming, attentive staff and a game room that placated a grumpy toddler. 🙏🏻
Once we returned to HSBR I took an official tour to learn more about this beautiful property. We started at the Horseshoe Bay Resort Marina where they have a surprisingly large retail store to buy everything from designer baiting suits and coverups to men’s polos, sandals and logo attire for the whole family. Within the store, guests can book boat tours of the lake and rent most equipment for waterfront activities you can imagine, including pontoon boats, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and more.
Next we moved on to Bayside Spa on the shores of Lake LBJ. While most of the shared amenities like the hot tub, resistance pool and steam rooms are closed right now during the pandemic, treatments like massages, facials and salon services are still available. The retail portion of the spa had many desirable gifts for beauty product lovers, with an assortment of mostly European products infused with tropical botanicals. My guide recommended a special seaweed algae treatment for facials inspired by the calming lakes of the region.
Next up we visited the aforementioned Yacht Club restaurant. The European vibes were especially apparent here, evoking the feeling of dining in a Mediterranean villa looking out over the ocean. I had to keep reminding myself we were in Central Texas. HSBR just completed the renovation of the Captain’s Quarters, an exquisite private dining area for yacht club members and reserved parties.
Our last stop on the tour was back by the main hotel area where we saw the Jungle Kids Club, a sprawling standalone building that resembles a Mayan temple. Closed due to the pandemic, the kids club normally offers babysitting services and features a two-story jungle gym, rock-climbing wall, arts and crafts activities and more. I plan on doing a parents’ night out (reservations required) at the Yacht Club restaurant and dropping the kiddos off at this incredible playground when we return.
For our last meal, we dined at J’s, the casual restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner inside the main hotel. J’s menu can be described as American with a Texas Twist and included items such as Grilled Scottish Salmon, Hill Country Chicken-fried Steak and Texas Corndog Elotes, an appetizer with sausage, house corn batter, lime, cojita cheese and crema.
Although the dinner was delicious, what really stood out to us was the service at J’s. Our server Andrew, the assistant manager, brought Carolyn a pillow when he heard her say her back was hurting, which was so thoughtful. I inspected the dessert menu, looking to give in to a pecan pie craving I’d been fighting. I was disappointed not to see it, but jokingly mentioned it to Andrew. When we were wrapping up our main course, he returned with pecan pie from the resort’s other restaurant! This, to me, was above and beyond expectations and representative of our entire experience at HSBR. We can’t wait to go back with both of our families in tow.