Almost every city in Spain has a palace where royalty are said to have lived.
In Granada, Nicaragua, a colonial town with deep-seeded Spanish roots, the Hotel Darío is perhaps the closest thing to a palace anywhere in town.
While not technically a palace, Hotel Darío is an opulent Spanish-style residence with neoclassical architecture that includes turned mahogany columns and arches throughout the open-air courtyard. Spanish tile lines the floor, and just through the front doors, the sun shines down into the interior space with an elegant mounted fountain at its center.
Originally, the Hotel Darío, which was built in 1904, was a home to one of Granada’s wealthiest families. In 2006, Carmen García and husband Francisco Velilla, from Spain, purchased the home and converted it into Hotel Darío.
“We visited Nicaragua and always enjoyed coming to Granada and the culture and tranquility of the city,” said García. “We thought the home was beautiful and that it could be transformed into a hotel. We’d talked about owning a hotel and decided the property was too beautiful and the offer too good to pass up.”
Off the central courtyard, a large mahogany staircase wraps up to the second floor, where six large rooms face the vibrant Calle La Calzada. From the small porches on the front of the hotel, guests are offered some of the best views of the city. Perched high above the street, to the east you can see Lake Nicaragua and the treasured isletas, which are 365 small archipelagos near the shore of lake. To the south is a view of the jagged, green Mombacho Volcano. To the west is Granada’s central cathedral and vibrant plaza.
Inside, the view is rich as well. Rooms are spacious and comfortable with two large beds, a wardrobe and closet, private bathroom, television and a small desk. On the opposite side of the hotel, through the central courtyard, the hotel’s 17 rooms surround a quaint open-air pool and spa.
“There aren’t any other hotels in the city with a similar layout that offer the ambiance that we have here,” said Daysi Pilarte, the coordinator of events for Darío. “When I try to organize events or entertainment here, the first thing I do is invite people to come visit and get a feel for the hotel. Usually when they see the courtyard and the design and beauty of the hotel, it’s hard for them to say no.”
In recent months, Hotel Darío has begun to offer “Noches típicas,” which are nights of traditional Nicaraguan music, folkloric dance and food. Hotel Darío has also become a popular venue for regional and national conferences, concerts and weddings.
True to Spanish tradition and values, food is also an important part of the experience. At the front of the hotel, Darío offers the Tranvía Restaurant to the right of the front door and Café Chocolate to the left. Both offer outdoor seating and have doors and windows that open to the street for fantastic people watching.
The food selection at Tranvía is wide, offering savory traditional gallo pinto (rice-and-bean dish) in the morning, salads, sandwiches and Spanish-style bocadillos, or appetizers, for lunch and an array of Spanish, Caribbean and international dinner platters that includes salmon, steaks, seafood, and grilled and sautéed chicken. An extensive wine selection is available to accompany the meal.
Café Chocolate also offers rich options for food and beverage. There are several thick, strong coffees to choose from and the menu consists of breakfast options, such as croissants and fried plantains, as well as traditional Spanish tapas such as a delectable tortilla Española and Serrano ham, which García brings directly from Spain.
“There are certain things that my husband and I considered to be necessary to have here, and excellent food was definitely one of our top priorities,” García said. “We felt the hotel wouldn’t be complete without offering some of Spain’s best foods.”
Outside the Darío, the Calle La Calzada always stirs. Lined with cafés, bars and boutiques, the pedestrian-only pathway hums with conversation and laughter, as artisans exhibit their latest crafts against the gentle sounds of passing horse-drawn carriages.
La Calzada is a reminder of Central America’s Spanish roots and specifically of the history of Granada, which was settled by Spaniards in 1524.
From the second story balcony of the Darío, visitors overlook people stirring on the street from one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
During my visit, a friend on the street called up to me on the balcony and asked that I throw him down some change to pay for a coffee. When I did, Pilarte joked that the action seemed regal.
“It’s like you are a king throwing money down to the people,” she said.
You certainly feel that way at Darío.
The Hotel Darío is located in Granada, Nicaragua, on the northwest corner of Lake Nicaragua.
International bus lines such as Tica Bus, TransNica and King’s Quality make stops in Granada off the Inter-American Highway. These buses leave from San José and pass through Liberia en route to Nicaragua.
Granada is also located an hour south of Managua, the Nicaraguan capital. International and regional airlines, such as Taca and Nature Air, fly to Managua. From Managua, buses and taxis are available to take you to Granada.
Once in Granada, Hotel Darío is located on the Calle La Calzada, which branches off from the town’s central plaza.
Range from $80 to $135 depending on the size of room and season. For more information: http://www.hoteldario.com/