Calle de la Calzada, Centro Granada, Nicaragua
The city of Granada is a favorite travelers' hangout in Central America, with its pedestrian-friendly streets with horse carriages and lots of good excursions nearby. Several fabulously refurbished Spanish colonial hotels dot the historic urban center. This beauty, named in honor of Nicaragua's most famous poet, Rubén Darío, is in most respects the best.
Hotel Darío occupies a neoclassical 1902 landmark structure, with an eye–catching and ornate facade that dominates the pedestrian promenade of Calle La Calzada, lined with outdoor cafés and fine restaurants. This wedding cake of a building, carefully painted in shades of aquamarine, has served as a private residence, a revolutionary headquarters, then a boutique hotel. It's a prime spot for Granada's best families to dine or drink coffee. For some guests it's a great place to observe the city, cathedral, and ragged crater of Mombacho Volcano from the wonderful balconies that now front its street–side rooms.
The dramatically arched entrance of the hotel, paved in hand–painted Spanish tiles, opens onto a flower–strewn courtyard garden where doves frolic in a cooling fountain. On all sides, fantastic woodwork has realized classic Moorish archways that lend this exquisite interior an exotic flavor, which can be enjoyed by both guests and those who visit the hotel's fine–dining restaurant, El Tranvía, serving elaborately presented Nicaraguan fusion cuisine in elegant environs beneath a high, soft–lit ceiling.
Those with smaller appetites can enjoy this architectural artistry from the onsite café, Chocolate, where the excellent complimentary breakfast is also served and tempting cakes are on display. The cafe spills onto the sidewalk where you can have a beer or cappuccino and people watch.
Only guests can continue to the second interior courtyard, where a small, sunny pool surrounded by lounge chairs provides cool respite from the moist tropical heat for which La Gran Sultana (Granada's nickname for half a millennium) is known. There's a small gym above with a few aerobic machines. The exquisitely decorated accommodations are in this section facing toward the pool courtyard, facing the larger courtyard, or with large windows that open to balconies over the street. Though the rooms fronting the busy street have those fine balcony views, you might prefer the quieter interior rooms. None are particularly large, but all are masterfully designed for the illusion of spaciousness, with wonderful high ceilings and simple but pretty furniture crafted from wrought iron and rich hardwoods.
In addition to a smattering of antiques to compliment the conscious echoes of colonial Spain's Moorish flavor, modern conveniences including satellite television, frigid air conditioning, complimentary Wi-fi, and drinking water—though oddly that water isn't replenished after Day 1. The front desk staffers can offer advice in fluent English and arrange any sort of tour. There's an Avis car rental desk in the hotel if you'd like to explore the rest of Southwest Nicaragua on your own. There's no spa here, but there are plenty of places to get a massage or pedicure for a very reasonable price within a few blocks.
This is not a huge hotel with lots of facilities—there are only 21 rooms after all—but for historic ambiance and good service, Hotel Dario is tops.
Web Address: www.hoteldario.com
Total Number of Rooms: 21
Published rates: $95 - $130 double BB
Original review by Paige R. Penland. Updates, photos, and video tour by Timothy Scott.
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