If you like to plan adventurous, active vacations, it can be hard to prioritize doing nothing at all — but at Piaule, a new landscape hotel in New York's Catskill mountains, it's easy to do just that.

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Piaule Catskill, a minimalist designed serene cabin and spa in the woods
The main house at Piaule Catskill, a minimalist, serene landscape hotel and spa in upstate New York.
| Credit: Sean Davidson

Some travelers, myself included, prefer their trips to be active, adventurous, and on-the-go. I don't typically "relax" on any of my vacations — but after the chaos of the last year and a half, I knew I needed a true, restful escape. So one weekend this August, I resolved to do something new: nothing.

At the sleek, minimalist landscape hotel Piaule Catskill, which opened this July, doing nothing is easy, even encouraged. With 24 standalone single and double cabins — each with floor-to-ceiling windows and spacious rain-shower bathrooms, and some with decks and living rooms — tucked discreetly into the forest, all I had to do was show up, and sit and stare at the nature surrounding me.

Piaule Catskill, a minimalist designed serene cabin and spa in the woods
A double cabin
| Credit: Sean Davidson

Like the cabins, the main house (a short walk away) invokes both Japanese and Scandinavian minimalism, emphasizing natural materials with simple white oak furnishings and bluestone floors (the hotel is actually on the site of a former bluestone quarry). Floor-to-ceiling windows allow natural light to pour in.

Piaule Catskill, a minimalist designed serene cabin and spa in the woods
The main house
| Credit: Sean Davidson

The main house feels like an aesthete's ski lodge: there are several plush couches and chairs for lounging, a central two-way fireplace that would be a welcome place to wile away the winter hours, a small shoppable shelf with handmade pottery, and some dining tables — but no knick knacks or kitschy antlers on the wall. It feels like a space that breathes, and invites you to do the same.

After checking in, I met my massage therapist, Garunga, in a sparse but stunning room in the ground-level spa, right under the main house. The spa consists of a steam room, sauna, yoga room, and one treatment room (guests can opt for Swedish massage, as I did, or select a Thai massage or soundbath).

Piaule Catskill, a minimalist designed serene cabin and spa in the woods
The pool and cedar sauna
| Credit: Sean Davidson

As Garunga dug into the deep-seated muscle tension I'd accumulated from 18 months of working from my kitchen table, I slipped into almost-sleep. Afterwards, I sank into the spa's small pool, which I had all to myself, and let an hour pass by just taking in the sweep of the Catskill range, right outside the window (there is also a tiny, no-name room next to the sauna, with two almost child-size chairs, where you can sit and gaze.

Piaule currently only offers dinner on Friday and Saturday; since my first night was a Thursday, I ventured into the town of Catskill only a ten minute drive away. A woodfired pizza and a farmhouse ale from Subersive Brewing did the trick, and not long after 8:00 pm I was back at my cabin, watching the tree branches make shapes against the pale walls for just a few minutes, before drifting off.

Piaule Catskill, a minimalist designed serene cabin and spa in the woods
A Piaule cabin
| Credit: Sean Davidson

The next morning, I took a mellow walk in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest to see the famous, tiered Kaaterskill Falls (it seems I was unable to fully kick my active-trip habit.) But that afternoon, back at my cabin, I did a whole lot of nothing: I watched the clouds change and the tree branches sway, listened to the gurgle of the brook running just downhill, and kept thinking that I'd like to bottle this feeling, this stillness.

Soon enough, it was time for dinner. On weekend nights, the hotel offers a four-course prix fixe menu ($65); there are plans to expand dinner service to other nights of the week later this fall and winter. Guests can dine indoors in the main house, or outside on the large patio. either way, you are facing the Catskill range, and it is hard to focus on much else.

I started with a glass of wine outside. While the daylight still held, I flipped through a book detailing the history of the great Catskill hotels and camps, occasionally glancing up to check that those postcard-view mountains were still there, seemingly just an arms-reach away.

Piaule Catskill, a minimalist designed serene cabin and spa in the woods
A relaxation room in the spa; a trail winding through the Piaule property
| Credit: Sean Davidson

There were four couples on the patio, all of them, unsurprisingly, also from New York City. One couple had brought their energetic Whippet, who provided the night's entertainment by racing through tall grasses at top speed, catching crickets (and at one point, presenting his owners with a dead frog.)

Even seated at our own tables, everyone talked and exchanged stories about their plans for the weekend. But once the dinner plates started to come out, conversation died down, and for good reason: we were all too busy mumbling to ourselves, "wow, this is really, really good." Up first were slices of local peaches with fennel and balsamic, lightly crisped with bread crumbs; next, a pile of Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers in a sauce of garlic scape, plum, and basil; the main event arrived as a hunk of charred cabbage with tahini, fresno chile, and sesame brittle (everyone agreed the brittle was the hit of the night.) We finished with a chocolate, pistachio, and currant meringue.

After one last glass of wine, I walked in the dark down the path back to the cabin. There was no hope of staying up late: bedtime came swiftly. I watched the tree branches make shapes against the pale walls for just a few minutes, before drifting off.

Before departing the next morning, I had an early brunch of pancakes, eggs, and bacon back at the main house. I took my time, sipped my coffee, trying to savor the last minutes before the drive home.

Heading down the path toward the car, I stole one last look at the mountains. I wanted to remember them: the blue-gray slopes that were a constant presence over the past few days. Months later, I still do.