The JW Marriott Hill Country Resort Review

A few weeks ago, my family and I decided to celebrate my birthday with a staycation at the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort.  The boys and I have stayed at a number of family-friendly resorts over the past few years, and I was really excited to have a few days to relax and enjoy the hill country.  Not having to drive more than a few miles was also extremely appealing for fairly pregnant me.

And long story short, we had an absolute blast.  In fact, I have recommended this place to as many people as I possibly can.  When my mom told me she planned to stay at the JW during her trip to Texas, I was more than willing to make the short trip out to meet up.  Now that we’ve had multiple opportunities to check out the JW Hill Country Resort, I want to share why I think it’s one of the best options for a relaxing get away in Texas.

The JW Marriott Hill Country Resort Location

First things first, while all JW properties are beautiful, the location of the Hill Country resort makes it just a little more special. It is just outside of the San Antonio city limits, over looking the rolling hills of central Texas. The landscape makes the property naturally scenic, with beautiful views, while being close enough to enjoy the amenities of Texas’ second largest city.

Being just North-East of San Antonio means that guests have access to the small town atmosphere of Bulverde and Spring Branch, while being just a 25 minute drive to downtown San Antonio.  So whether you’re looking to take small town Texas, or check out the Riverwalk, you’re in luck.

The Property

The first thing I noticed when we arrived at the resort (after the amazing landscaping) was the giant, Texas sized lobby.  Both times that we’ve visited the JW Hill Country Resort were during holiday weekends, and while there were plenty of people enjoying the property, the space meant that we didn’t feel overcrowded.  Checking in was also a breeze, and it took less than 10 minutes to grab our waterpark wrist bands and get to our room.

But honestly, I probably wouldn’t have minded too much if check in had been slower.  And that’s because the large lobby (which is accented with modern stone and oak features) opens up to an even larger lawn.  Set up with games and space for the kids to run around, and intelligently close to a bar with an outdoor patio to keep an eye on them.

Once we did get checked in, we almost immediately ran over to the central attraction of the resort. The on property waterpark. The resort actually seems to center around three amenities that are sure to make everyone in the family more than happy; the waterpark, a scenic golf course, and a beautiful spa. Like I said, something for everyone.

In addition to the large amenities, guests can enjoy an arcade, fitness studio, and plenty of space to stretch out.  When you start to get hungry, there’s seven onsite restaurants and 5 bars.  Most have a mix of outside and inside seating options.  Finally, the guest rooms themselves are roomy, modern, and relaxing.  We definitely appreciated being able to enjoy some Netflix on our tv after a long day at the pools.

The Waterpark

If you’re traveling with kids, it’s likely your first stop will be the waterpark.  And you won’t be disappointed.  It offers three full sized pools to start out.  One perfect for families with small children (complete with age-appropriate water features and slides), a second that is deep enough for the bigger kids to swim in, and a third that is reserved for adults only.  The entire park and pools are built around the 1,200 foot lazy river that winds throughout the entire space.

For older kids and adults, there are 5 water slides to enjoy. Both of my boys had a blast going down the slides, while the bump and I floated around in the lazy river. When we were ready for a break, there were plenty of lounge chairs to take a seat, along with cabanas that were available for rent. The outdoor waitstaff is great about delivering food and drinks throughout the park, but I have to say that the cabana service is incredible. Plus, it doesn’t suck to have a nice, covered reserved space during the hotter days of the month.

I have to say that I was really impressed with the quality of the food in the waterpark.  I’m used to settling for chicken tenders or pizza as poolside fare, but there were really delicious options.  Like grilled fish tacos and giant burgers, along with the kid-friendly options.  Initially I thought we might want to take a break during the day, but the huge heritage oak trees that surround the park offered more than enough shade for breaks.

What We Loved

I mean honestly, there wasn’t anything we didn’t love.  We didn’t spend any time golfing or at the spa (though I have heard from friends that the spa is a full experience on its own), but we enjoyed every other aspect of the resort.  Here were a few of my favorites.

  • The food options – I really appreciated that there multiple options to choose from, and that the quality of food was great at each restaurant in the resort. Too many family-friendly resorts are limited to overpriced kid food or bar snacks, but the JW had fresh food that never disappointed.
  • The additional wrist bands – When you check in, you are immediately given 4 wristbands to the waterpark. If you ask, though you can grab 2 extra’s. We really appreciated this option when my mom invited us to come hang out for the day.
  • The family friendly events – During our stay, there were multiple scheduled events for our son to enjoy. There are parents night out options, movie nights, and fireside s’mores, along with organized lawn games.
  • The size – The JW Hill Country Resort has all the amenities without being overwhelming or overstimulating. It doesn’t feel like an overdone kid-centric playground, but there is so much to do that no one is bored or left out.
  • The service – All of the staff seemed genuinely attentive and friendly; from check-in and concierge services to waitstaff, we were never disappointed in the service.
  • The atmosphere – I mentioned earlier that the resort is the perfect combination for us; it feels family friendly without being a circus (which I don’t love). The décor is both upscale and comfortable, but spread out enough that you don’t feel like you’re on vacation with other families you don’t know.
  • Efficient check in procedures – There’s nothing worse than waiting when you have small kids who are excited to get to the action. My family and I have stayed at plenty of places that require more patience than I personally have just to get set up. At the JW, however, there were no long lines, standing around, or waiting for extended periods of time.

Recommendations

My main recommendation is that if you’re looking for the perfect location for a weekend getaway, book a room at the JW.  However, after having spent some time on the property, there are also a few other things that I think will make your stay even better.

  • Views – Definitely request a room with a view and balcony (if that’s feasible). In the past, I’ve found that Marriott properties are really great about room selection if you are a BonVoy member. Don’t be shy about asking about view availability while booking and checking in. The scenery is beautiful, and you won’t regret it!
  • Stay two nights – There’s a whole lot to do at this resort, and honestly it’s hard to take full advantage if you only have one night. I do really appreciate that the property allows guests full access to the waterpark on days that they check in and out. So if you have the time flexibility, don’t wait to check in until 3, and don’t sleep on the opportunity to spend a few extra hours at the pool after check out.
  • Pool bag – That being said, if you can get there early, or hang out after check out, make sure you pack a separate swim bag. There are full restrooms to change into a dry set of clothes before heading out, and they definitely came in handy when we left well after 3pm.
  • Sunscreen – Bring plenty of it. Wether you’re hanging out with the family on the lawn, hitting a few holes on the golf course, or spending the day at the waterpark, it’s likely that you’re going to outdoors a good amount. If you do happen to run out of sunscreen, the gift shop has plenty, but it doesn’t suck to avoid the resort mark up.
  • Timing – Get to the waterpark early. While there’s plenty of chairs and cabanas, there are definitely a few “choice” spaces. If you think you’ll spending most of your time near the kids pool, it pays to grab a spot in the area early. We also found that the lines for slides were much faster in the morning hours!

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