San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hotel Darío Blends New and Old World Granada

The elegant, Moorish-influenced colonial home that was recently transformed into Granada’s newest luxury boutique hotel, the Hotel Darío, looks almost exactly the way it did when it was first built more than a century ago.

The open-air courtyard of this two-story home was already the perfect place to relax and drink a coffee, and the front balconies came with stunning views of the Mombacho Volcano and the cathedral.

Indeed, it was as if the old home had been built in preparation for the city’s recent tourism boom.

The only hold up, says the general manager, was the surprising choice of colors that covered much of the historic interior, including the beautiful decorative woodwork and furniture that was buried for years under layers of heavy oil paints.

“There were different coats of paint everywhere,” said Luige Roy, pointing to the staircases and ceilings that have since been resorted to their natural wood colors.

Workers painstakingly chipped off the bright red and green oil paint that covered the columns, staircase and archways, exposing the original craftsmanship that went into the house. But in the end, the layers of paint turned out to be a stroke of good luck.

“The paint kept the wood in perfect shape,” he said. “We were lucky.”

The hotel, which opened its 24 rooms in late December, is the latest entry to Granada’s increasing number of boutique establishments. It overlooks the city’s pleasant and newly reconstructed pedestrian boulevard on Calle La Calzada, which compliments the colonial feel of the Darío.

Inside, the building has been restored, but Roy has said he was careful to keep to the spirit of the original home. Known as the Casa Verde, or green house, by its previous owners, the new hotel takes the surname of Nicaragua’s most famous poet.

Yet the Darío remains true to form, with a green-and-white façade and tastefully decorated garden area surrounded by the same light colors.

Guests can unwind in an interior patio that once entertained Granada’s most prominent families. The home’s original chandelier still hangs in the front foyer and some of the original furniture, floor tiles and wood floors remain as a window to the past.

Even the new rooms of the hotel were tiled by the same family business in Granada that made the original floors a century ago, Roy says.

“We’ve restored everything and kept it alive,” he said.

The Darío also has all the amenities of a modern hotel, including a pool, jacuzzi, exercise room and a bilingual staff that can arrange tours and help guests rent a car. The result is mixture of old Granada charm and modern convenience.

From a second floor balcony, the city looks much like it did a hundred years ago. Lounging on the beds, guests can watch the latest movies on a flat-screen television, while they lie in comfort on pillows propped up by a headboard made of iron and wood.

The best rooms, which go for a $100 a night, overlook a lively, but quiet street, with views of the volcano and the cathedral.

Roy, who speaks four languages, including English, hasn’t let a detail go untouched. There’s a café in the hotel for those who want something light, and a high-end gourmet restaurant for those who want fine dining.

A conference room can hold parties or meetings of up to 120 people, while a 40,000-gallon water tank and underground generator ensures that guests do not go without a hot shower or Internet, even when the rest of the city has its water or power shut off.

“I wanted to solve any problems ahead of time,” said Roy, whose design of the hotel was influenced by the recent water shortages and blackouts that have plagued the country for the past six months.

Roy has even done his part to improve the surrounding neighborhood. The hotel has put up traditional red tiles on some homes that had tin roofs, and a building across the street is scheduled to receive a fresh coat of paint so that it will be “pleasant on the eyes.”

Everything, Roy says, is to make sure that guests have a beautiful time in Granada.

For more information, visit the hotel’s Web page


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