A clawfoot bathtub in a room at Hotel Emma. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

With an increasing supply of luxury hotels and resorts across the city, many San Antonians are opting for staycations to celebrate special occasions such as Valentine’s Day. Whether catering to locals or visitors, local hotels offer myriad options for those willing to pay for premium perks.

One of the most in-demand features at high-end hotel properties is the spa-like bathroom.

“There’s a huge trend of people wanting luxury bathtubs,” said Beth Smith, vice president of marketing for Hotel Emma at the Pearl. “Our Artesian rooms are the first to sell out.”

The hotel’s 17 Artesian rooms, scattered throughout the hotel, feature classic footed bathtubs with showers as separate amenities. With the clawfoot’s Old World elegance, tinged with Pearl Brewery rusticity, it’s easy to imagine Emma Koehler dropping her robe and sinking into a fragrant brew of bubbles. Since she supplied her name for the hotel, she could have stayed for free, but you’ll pay at least $395 for the privilege. River suites start at $795 and go up to $5,000 or more.

Smith is herself one of those discriminating travelers who judges a hotel by the elegance of its bathtubs. At the very least, they must be ceramic.

“When I visited my daughter in Manhattan during the holidays, I looked at three hotels and ended up spending a little more on one that had a large, luxurious tub,” she said.

Though Smith considers jetted bathtubs passé, the pricey Mokara Hotel and Spa on the San Antonio River finds its Jacuzzi-equipped Spa guest rooms are nearly always booked. Tubs in the four rooms, each with large balconies overlooking a quiet, cypress-lined stretch of the San Antonio River, are deep enough for a neck-high soak even when the bather is sitting upright. The rooms, which average about $500 per night, all have direct access to the hotel’s spa – no stairs or elevators to interfere with a guest’s relaxation.

The Mokara’s other 95 rooms also have jetted bathtubs, and “bath butlers” are offered as a complimentary service. A bath butler is a hotel employee who prepares the bath with warm water and bath salts so you and yours can slip in without delay.

Before it became the Mokara, the luxury property was a subsidiary of La Mansión del Rio, called The Watermark. La Mansión’s concierge said Watermark guests asked to purchase the exact bathtubs from their room when the property was sold and refurbished.

If it’s funk you want, head north up the river to the Hotel Havana. You can catch a concert at the Tobin Center across the street after a cosmic cleansing. The hip Havana, built by a grocer in 1914 to house visiting suppliers, offers three rooms with baths decorated with tile designs reminiscent of their Cuban namesake.

The most modest is in Room 12, but the Hemingway Suite’s bathroom is guaranteed to stimulate. Navy and white geometric-patterned Mexican tiles wrap the tub and its surrounding walls in an embrace of Talavera-like psychedelia. Average price is $225 a

The two-story Penthouse Suite offers the pièce de résistance: a floor-to-ceiling tiled shrine to hygiene. Even the tiled ceiling forms a peak, chapel-like, and the aqua tinge of tile and tinted windows produces a sense of aquamarine solemnity. The built-in bathtub tilts downward and is equipped with shiny chrome knobs and faucets. The other half of the “chapel” forms a tiled shower capped with a rain showerhead. This bathing
experience, part of the suite’s second floor loft, will set you back approximately $375.

The bathtub in the Penthouse of Hotel Havana.
The bathtub in the penthouse of Hotel Havana. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Also on the river, in the King William neighborhood, the Ogé House is a well-kept secret in plain sight. Besides its architectural grandeur with an acre-and-a-half of gardens extending to the river, it offers a three-person Jacuzzi tub in a two-person room. Owners Don and Liesl Noble transformed the previously bric-a-brac B&B with a carton of European furnishings and fabrics reminiscent of a Parisian apartment. They went high-tech with the tub, adding a massage device and a soothing LED light experience called chromatherapy. A period chandelier and antique dressing chest fitted with a marble sink serve to ground the bather to Mother Earth. The Riverview Suite goes for an average of $359 a night.

A block or two north, the quaint and pretty Inn on the Riverwalk was built as a home on the river just south of the Bexar County courthouse in 1916. A.D. Zucht renovated it into a hotel in 1990 and it is now owned by Roland Cavazos. The Inn offers 13 guest rooms with newly renovated baths, eight of which offer two-person or standard tubs with Jacuzzi jets. The bathroom of the third-floor Penthouse Suite has a view of the Tower of the Americas and runs about $289.

At the Grand Hyatt Hotel and Marriott Riverwalk, guests must secure the presidential suite to luxuriate in a lavish bathtub. The other hundreds of bathrooms have standard tubs with showers.

Across Houston Street from the Alamo, the Emily Morgan Hotel’s junior suites are positioned for prime Fiesta parade viewing from a garden tub. Occupying the southwest corners from the second to 12th floors, the tubs allow you to look down upon floats flowing along Houston and Alamo Streets – for this year, at least – as you enjoy bath bubbles and a bottle of bubbly.

When the storied St. Anthony Hotel across from Travis Park completed an extensive renovation in 2015, the redo included bang-up beautiful bathrooms. Guest rooms offer large showers encased in glass; premiere suites feature shiny white tubs built into black marble surrounds. In the presidential suite, a free-standing sculptural tub gleams in front of a chocolate-colored tile wall, marble floors, counters, and walls.

The Historic Menger Hotel has decidedly modern jetted tubs in some of its rooms. As at other hotels around town, the presidential suite takes the prize, with a sunken tub surrounded by a ledge for candles.

In the Menger’s basement, the Alamo Plaza Spa offers full services for anyone in the downtown area. Among its offerings are the Menger Massage, the Roosevelt Rub, and the San Antonio Scrub & Rub.

Well north of downtown, the Éilan Hotel & Spa is part of a Tuscan-inspired retail and apartment village on Interstate 10 near La Cantera. The bathrooms feature Carrara marble flooring. Desiree Jean, head of guest services, said many guests request separate bathtubs. Several suites have large soaking tubs, while others have tub/shower combos, and the presidential suite has a big, jetted affair.

For in-depth soaks, the Spa at Éilan offers a full range of spa services, open to all.

The 600-acre J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa is a village unto itself boasting two PGA-certified golf courses and a nine-acre water park. Its rooms and suites have marble bathrooms with separate bathtubs and showers ranging in price from $259 to $1,699 for a two-bedroom, two-bath suite with golf course views.

At La Cantera Resort & Spa, the handsome and roomy Villas offer oversized tubs as well as hot tub, pool, and poolside bar on a private terrace overlooking the Hill Country. Prices range from $689 to $1,629 depending on the Villa’s size.

With all these possibilities for local residents to take staycations, there’s really no excuse for being dirty or stressed out.

Nancy Cook-Monroe is a local freelance writer and public relations consultant. She has written about San Antonio arts and civic scenes since she could hold a pencil.