1ra. Avenida NE y 2Da. calle NO, Leon, Nicaragua
You'll be forgiven if you mistake Hotel La Recolección for a charmingly restored Catholic convent—instead of a brand-new boutique hotel with all the modern comforts. That was the intention.
Constructed from the ground up in the heart of León, Nicaragua's second largest city, this handsome colonial-style hotel boasts arched doorways, tiny balconies and shuttered windows designed to evoke centuries-old Spanish architecture. The creamy exterior contrasts with classic mud-red roof tiles crafted in La Paz Centro, a small town about 20 miles away. The hotel fronts golden La Recolección Church. Completed in 1786, it's a stunning baroque creation with towering spires and a massive bell tower.
Known as Nicaragua's city of poets, artists and politicos, Leon boasts some of the oldest, most colorful colonial buildings in Latin America. They are arranged in Spanish style around a large central plaza, with the grand Leon Cathedral as centerpiece. In crafting Hotel La Recoleccion, architect Kelton Villavicencio's goal was to create a modern three-story building that blended right into that landscape, taking cues from the gorgeous church next door.
Local craftsmen created the period details, including a spiral entry staircase and intricately carved wooden fixtures. All the spaces in the hotel, including corridors, rooms and bathrooms, use classic cement tiles colored with the traditional red mud color. Fanciful art pieces by Nicaraguans are scattered throughout.
Before I discovered the hotel's true origins, I even wondered if the basement might have a secret tunnel through which cloistered nuns (in the old days) might have scurried across the street to attend Mass. I was surprised to discover that Hotel La Recolección was completed in October 2017, making it not only León's newest hotel, but also one of the newest in Nicaragua. Billed as "the first modern building built in this century, in the colonial city of León," it's a companion piece to nearby Hotel El Convento, which actually is a restored colonial convent. Reconstruction there took more than a decade because the abandoned convent had fallen into such disrepair.
In contrast, La Recolección took only a year to build. It has four Master Suites, six Junior Suites (two outfitted for guests with special needs), 2 Studio Rooms, 20 Standard rooms and 18 Double Standard rooms.
Offering a calm retreat in a lively city of 200,000 people, the cream-colored guest rooms hint at austerity, but the beds are comfortable, and the rooms come with well-sited reading lamps and wooden furniture created by local craftsmen. Bathrooms are well-outfitted with spacious showers. Master Suites have living rooms as well as bedrooms, plus views of La Recolección Church.
The ground-floor restaurant, La Esquina, offers American and tipico Nicaraguan breakfasts of rice, fried plantains and beans. It's also open for lunches, casual dinners and dessert (be sure to check out the many cakes and pastries on display). The bar serves western-style cocktails, wine, beer and Nicaraguan specialty drinks. Rum-laced passionfruit juice was my favorite. The hotel also has a gym, Business Center, free parking, air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.
Since León was built for walking, the hotel's central location is key. It's easy to stroll or take a cab to the Central Plaza, León Cathedral, the fabulous Ortiz-Gurdian Foundation Museum, the Museum of Legends & Traditions, La Perla Casino and other attractions. We enjoyed joining the local people in nightly walks around the gracious plaza, checking out the street vendors and craftsmen. We also liked three-course dinners at Al Carbon Steak and Coffee House, a short walk from the hotel.
The front desk can arrange side-trips into the countryside. Surfing and sunbathing are popular at Las Peñitas Beach on the Pacific Coast (14 miles west). Like many visitors, we sand-boarded on Cerro Negro (15 miles east), the smallest of Nicaragua's volcanos and the only one opened for boarding. We also enjoyed the public tour of Flor de Caña Brewery (19 miles northwest), where some of the world's finest rum is made.
In a city that only gets a smattering of foreign tourists, Hotel La Recoleccion will make you feel comfortable and welcome.
Web Address: www.larecoleccionnicaragua.com
Total Number of Rooms: 50
Published rates: $75 to $175 + taxes including continental breakfast.
Review by Candace Dempsey, photos courtesy of the hotel except for pastries plate.