Granada may not have the same political clout as it once did, but this colonial city on Lake Nicaragua has risen to a new importance as the capital of the country’s new tourism-based economy.
From the opening of tour operators and real-estate offices to new restaurants, shops and bars, Granada is experiencing an impressive transformation fueled mostly by foreign capital. Ten percent of the homes in the historic center of the city are now owned by foreigners, with construction and remodeling occurring on nearly every block.
Even former U.S. filibuster William Walker’s old home on Calle Palenque – a symbol of the city’s bloody and violent political past – has recently been converted into a cozy café and antique-furniture shop. But nothing speaks to Granada’s tourism boom as much as the dramatic increase in new hotels.
As recently as a couple of years ago, Granada suffered a real shortage of hotel rooms. That’s all changed in the last several months with the opening of seven new hotels, totaling more than 120 rooms.
Casa La Merced (www.casalamerced.com, 552-2744), inside a beautiful old colonial home with all the original adobe walls, courtyard, tile floors and stone-laid carriage entrance, is a true architectural treasure. Guests will feel like colonial royalty inside their large rooms with hand-carved headboards and antique furniture. Although the home was built in the 19th century, it has all the modern amenities in its rooms, including wireless Internet hookup, cable TV, and air conditioning. This do-not-miss hotel is directly facing La Merced Church; the bells will wake you in the morning (maybe earlier than you would otherwise get up). Doubles run $75-95, with full breakfast included.
Hotel Plaza Colon (www.hotelplazacolon.com, 552-8489), is the new luxury hotel on Central Park, and promises to soon take its place alongside neighboring landmark hotels Alhambra and Colonial. The Plaza Colón has opened nine of its 30 total rooms inside the old colonial building across from the cathedral. The second-floor rooms have balconies overlooking the park, offering a great place to watch life go by or have a drink and watch the hípica horse show in August from a comfortable distance. All rooms have air conditioning, cable TV, Internet hookup and phone. The hotel also has a parking lot – a rarity in Granada – with a pool, bar and another 21 rooms scheduled to open in August. Doubles run $92-115, breakfast included.
Hotel Kekoldi (www.kekoldi-nicaragua.com, 552-4106), on Calle El Consulado, a quiet street three and a half blocks west of Central Park, has fast become a tourist favorite in its first few months of business, playing off the success of its hotel in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. The pink and pastel hotel has 13 comfortable rooms with air conditioning, hot water and cable TV. The back courtyard has a small bar setup. Doubles run $46, including a buffet breakfast.
Hotel Casa San Martín ([email protected], 552-6185) is a classy eight-room colonial gem, set inside an elegant adobe home with all its original trappings. You can pretend you’re an old-money Granadino while staying here; the bedrooms and courtyards are marvelously comfortable, complete with air conditioning, fan and cable TV. Doubles run $50, with continental breakfast included.
Hotel Patio del Malinche (www.patiodelmalinche.com, 552-2235), a brand-new, 13-room hotel on Calle Caimito, two and a half blocks toward the lake from Central Park, offers a relaxing patio and bar area next to the pool in the second courtyard – a great place to read a book or cool off from the hot Granada afternoons. The view of Mombacho Volcano from the second-floor balcony is killer. Doubles, with breakfast included, start at $53 with fan or $60 with air conditioning.
Hotel Cocibolca #2 (www.hotelcocibolca.com, 552-8519) – three colonial homes were combined to build this friendly and colorful hotel with 27 rooms set on two floors overlooking a pleasant garden. Located on Calle Caimito, also two and a half blocks toward the lake from Central Park, Cocibolca has a common TV room, as well as a common room for breakfast. A simple pool in the back provides a place to take a dip. Doubles run $35-39.
Hotel La Pergola ([email protected], 552-4221), one block farther down on Calle Caimito, is a cozy and more affordable option for people traveling to Granada by car; it’s one of two hotels in town with its own private parking lot. The hotel is homey and colonial, with 12 snug rooms around a courtyard garden, with an upstairs porch deck.All rooms have cable TV and air conditioning. The hotel also has a small bar. For slightly larger groups, La Pergola offers a neat, two-story apartment that can sleep five. Doubles start at $35, with breakfast included.