A San Antonio getaway comes with certain expectations. Great Tex-Mex. A connection with Mexican American (and frequently, German) heritage. The obligatory visits the River Walk, Alamo and area attractions like Sea World, Six Flags Fiesta Texas or Hemisfair Park’s Tower of the Americas. Those spots and their familiar charms are still worth visiting, but take note: ‘Old San Antone’ has grown up. And out. In the last two decades, La Cantera Resort & Spa, on the edge of the city’s thriving northwest corridor, has worked its way onto the list as one of San Antonio’s “Can’t Miss” experiences.

With a series of stunning renovations and new amenities across the entire property, La Cantera could well be redefining what it means to experience the very best of the Alamo City. From the moment you arrive at this hilltop oasis, your energy changes and whatever’s happening outside those grounds suddenly matters a lot less. Stepping out from the lobby to the artfully-landscaped Plaza San Saba, you’ll discover a soothing nature park complete with cascading water features, rock sculptures and awe-inspiring views of the geographical start of the verdant Texas Hill Country.

That dreamy Hill Country view is ever-present from any spot on the resort that faces northwest. From the sprawling pool complex, the distant hills are reminiscent of rugged landscapes in Southern California or coastal Mexico. At one of the highest elevations in greater San Antonio, La Cantera takes dramatic advantage of the surrounding vistas as well as miles-long views back toward the city.

La Cantera is in the Destination Hotels portfolio and you’ll notice right away this isn’t a corporate-branded hotel but a singular experience brimming with a refreshing authenticity. From the Henry’s Homemade Ice Cream in the fresh and friendly Henrietta’s Market to an actual walk-up gourmet charcuterie called Bocado adjacent to the posh lobby bar, La Cantera dares to make unique touches. While the resort’s original design paid homage to Texas history and folklore, this renovated La Cantera caters to the lifestyles and passions of current generations. The décor is fresh and sleek and design features beckon outdoors to bask in the intoxicating (nearly tropical) grounds.

The different areas of the large pool complex are designed so that no matter your relaxation goals, you can indulge your way, with your people. An adults-only pool gets lively with music and special evening events and the surprisingly refined Family Pool (kid’s play zone), rather than being a spraying, sliding, tubing, splashing focal point, is tucked into a tasteful nook behind hedges. With two waterslides and poolside cabanas, this is a kiddie pool the whole family will love. Meanwhile, a massive main pool area with infinity edges welcomes sun seekers of all ages.

Another area where La Cantera shines is in its passion and commitment to quality culinary experiences. In many large hotels– even properties with great amenities– the food offerings can seem like an afterthought. La Cantera’s bevy of dining choices honors the region with locally-sourced meats and vegetables and menus that celebrate the many flavors that make Texas great. From steaks to succulent seafood to wood-fired pizzas and an ever-popular breakfast buffet, SweetFire Kitchen serves up pleasing favorites with a chefy panache.

Signature, La Cantera’s award-winning fine-dining establishment, sits in the stone building that formerly housed the golf academy. Renowned chef Andrew Weissman oversees a kitchen offering a delectable array of steaks, Gulf seafood, wild game and unique offerings like Black Tea-Smoked Pekin Duck Breast and Lobster and Snapper Crudo Spring Rolls. For special occasions or just to satisfy your inner-Anthony Bourdain, Signature is an essential stop for food connoisseurs.

The biggest culinary surprise at La Cantera might just be Primero. I know… The thought, as a native Texan, of trying Mexican food at a hotel could bring on some hesitation, but this cantina is beyond legit.

Lovingly prepared fajitas, tacos of all kinds (including Puffy) and even seafood are presented with creativity and style. From its chips, salsas and queso to its tempting desserts, Primero’s fare will be a pleasant- and possibly addictive- surprise to even the most discerning Tex-Mex lover. Primero is located near the pools, so it’s casual, loaded with cocktail options and full of TVs airing live sports. It’s one of the great hot spots on the resort grounds.

Outside Primero, you’ll find a stylish fire pit area serving S’mores most nights and an area for movies on the lawn. The fully-staffed Kid’s Club offers an array of programming for younger guests, including a Naturalist Program that gets them out into the surrounding nature.

The new Loma de Vida Spa & Wellness sits on a secluded hillside between the hotel and Resort Course golf clubhouse. This immaculately-designed retreat is immersed in an elevated, serene setting overlooking all of San Antonio. A 25,000-sq-ft architectural masterpiece, Loma de Vida offers a full range of spa treatments and wellness packages in a space designed for lingering, contemplation and sheer escape. Quenche Juicery offers healthy nourishment, including hand-crafted cold press juices and a full bar for spa guests.

The 36 holes of golf at La Cantera Golf Club are among the finest in Central Texas. The Palmer Course is an indulgently hilly golf course with outstanding panoramic views and breathtaking water features. If you want to give someone a master class on golf in the Texas Hill Country, this layout is tremendous place to begin. It helps if you’re driving the ball well and have a high tolerance for forced carries.

The Resort Course, built in 1993, recently saw renovations to all tees greens and bunkers. What stands out about this Jay Morrish-Tom Weiskopf collaboration 25 years after its debut, is what a genuinely good routing it has and how well it fits its sweeping Hill Country landscape.

“Golfers are going to find a more playable and strategic golf course and I hear a lot of people say the natural features of this great, hilly setting are more on display now,” says director of golf Aaron Green.

La Cantera’s Resort Course hosted the Valero Texas Open from 1995 to 2009. The event crowned an assortment of major winners (Zach Johnson twice, Justin Leonard thrice), journeymen (Duffy Waldorf Alley has a nice ring, no?) and first-time winners during a decade and a half of absolute birdie fests. The average winning score during that stretch was 18-under-par, a per-round scoring average of 67.5 for the victors. The event branded the resort to a national audience saw dazzling moments like a fresh-out-of-college Tiger Woods chasing eventual champion David Ogrin and Tommy Armour III’s seven-shot victory and 26-under total in 2003.

Still a formidable par-72, 6,954-yard test for recreational golfers, the resort course has a thrilling pacing of holes and nifty collection of short par-4s to give even the shortest knockers hope for birdies. “You’ll want to drive the ball well on this golf course and understand that even there’s not many penal Risk/Reward scenarios, the risk of missing greens, landing in bunkers or coming in from the wrong angle can add up on this course,” says Green.

The par-five first hole on the Resort Course used to stretch to a nerve-rattling 665 yards. To accommodate construction of the luxe, cliffside Loma de Vida Spa, the hole was shortened to a manageable 561 yards with a more open view of the ample landing zones. The result is a potentially home-in-two hole that sets the tone for the round in a much more fun and invigorating manner.

“I love the change to #1 from a pace of play standpoint because it presents the opportunity to start the round hot and settle your nerves,” Green says.

The Resort course has an enjoyable pacing of holes. “I think if I can play the first four holes even par, I’m set up for a good scoring round. There are birdie changes on the (dogleg-right par-5) fifth hole and with short par 4s at seven and eight,” says Green. Then, the uphill ninth and picturesque par-five 10th bring demanding shot values right back in the play.

As you play the scenic stretch of holes from 10 through 12, be sure to take in the views.  From the 10th green and back tee at #11, you can see almost all of San Antonio and breathtaking glimpses of the surrounding hill country.

You would be hard-pressed to find a hole that typifies golf in this region better than the 415-yard, par-4 12th hole. Well-guarded by oak on either side, the hole demands a good tee shot to set up a forced carry over a beautiful, rocky water feature that’s accented by a tumbling waterfall.

The Resort Course is a course someone could play every day and not get tired of the challenges and scoring opportunities. After two and a half decades, it still holds up as one of the best daily-fee layouts in the state.

If it’s been a while since your last stay at La Cantera, you’ll notice some outstanding new features. The 36-unit Villa enclave– located below the spa in alongside the Resort driving range– has been completely revitalized with new design features, landscaping and wall-to-wall restyling of the interiors of the spacious villas. This section is ideal for guests who prefer a more secluded vacation getaway with all the comforts of home.

SEVEN is La Cantera’s newest luxury adults-only guest experience. The seventh floor of the hotel is designated as 21-and-up and offers guests complimentary valet, a private check-in, and a dedicated SEVEN concierge. Access to Loma de Vida Spa and complimentary nightly hors d’oeuvres and champagne are also perks guests at SEVEN receive.

The hotels rooms and suites were all renovated in 2015 with the latest conveniences and décor, so there’s a “newness” throughout all of La Cantera’s 550 acres.

It’s entirely likely someone could fly into San Antonio International Airport and base their opinions of San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country solely on their time spent at La Cantera Resort and Spa. As a lifelong Texan, I’m kind of okay with that. This property embodies the modern Texan lifestyle with a few unforgettable touches that make it one Texas’ finest vacation destinations.

Nearby Six Flags Fiesta Texas, The Shops at La Cantera and the Rim at La Cantera Shopping and Dining Center are all on the complimentary shuttle route, while TopGolf, Sea World and the famous River Walk are only a short drive away. For me, though, once I’m at La Cantera, there’s no need to leave.

Learn more at https://www.destinationhotels.com/la-cantera-resort-and-spa.

By Carl Mickelson

 

 

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