CATARINA – Draped across the bottom of a 21,000-year-old volcanic crater on the windy shores of Laguna de Apoyo is the ambitious Norome Resort & Villas, a vacation destination that has already won national and international recognition, just weeks after its completion in March.
A 40-minute drive from Managua (25 minutes from Granada), Norome is a series of 66 oversized villas staggered along a switchback road that weaves steeply up through the dry tropical forest from the lake’s edge toward the Catarina lookout above.
Five years ago, the only other construction inside the nature-reserve crater was a handful of modest homes, a small language school and the Monkey Hut backpacker hostel.
The arrival of Norome has completely changed the scenario at the lake.
“In three years we have constructed a world-class vacation hotel in a rural zone of Nicaragua where there was no infrastructure,” said Eduardo Latorre, executive president of Norome. “This sends an unmistakable message to the international tourism community that Nicaragua has people with vision, know-how, willingness to work and the capacity to compete with our successful neighbors in Central America and the Caribbean, and any other tourist destination in the world.”
Norome has a total of 142 rooms in the form of villas and hotel suites packed onto the crater’s slope. The rooms are three-star quality, each with air conditioning, satellite TV, hot water and phone lines.
“Norome is the most important vacation hotel built in Nicaragua in the last 20 years; it’s the first built in the last two decades with more than 100 rooms,” Latorre said.
The resort also features a 200-person conference center, a massage spa, hiking trails through the 60-acre reserve and a mid-crater swimming pool with soon-to-be-inaugurated snack bar overlooking the lake below.
But the heart and soul of Norome is not found on the crater slope, but rather at the lake’s edge.
The resort’s main attraction is the cleverly constructed, multi-layered restaurant buttressed by pool and multilevel sundeck on the western bank of the lake.
The 350-seat restaurant, deceptive in size because of its layered seating levels, is stone-floored and thatched-roofed, and maintains a very cozy feel about it, while offering an excellent view across the six kilometer-wide lake.
The food is good, and the dulling sound of the constantly breaking waves below makes private conversations possible even when a crowd is on hand.
Down a flight of stone stairs from the restaurant is a wooden dock perfect for sun-tanning, entering the lake for a swim or sitting back in a chair for a late-afternoon cocktail while pondering the depth of the Red Sox bullpen.
The hotel also rents out sailboats, kayaks and pedal boats. For those who just want to relax in the sun, the flower-lined, multilevel pool deck is a great place to read a book or watch the waves.
Norome also offers a version of all-inclusive packages (three meals, overnight, no booze included), starting at $56 per person in the low season or $66 in high season. While the concept is convenient, the resort may want to rethink its adoption some of the tackier trappings of an all-inclusive resort.
For example, in keeping with the all-inclusive theme, Norome has started a daily activities calendar,which includes pool volleyball, pool aerobics and dance classes – all of which make for a nice way to break up the day and have some low-impact fun.
However, nightly karaoke at the poolside bar and an open-air disco with strobe lights seem to be taking the fun thing to a level that not all guests may appreciate. Granted, the waves and wind are usually loud enough to prevent the sounds of disco and karaoke from wafting over to your late-night dinner table (not 100 meters away), but Norome might want to reconsider its target audience before shifting more toward the all-inclusive model, which often can include too much.
After all, people go to Norome to enjoy the tranquility of the lake, not to hear a guest from Managua sing “Hey Jude.”
For more on pricing and availability, visit www.noromevillas.com, or call 270-7154 for reservations.