PLAYA CONEJO, Tola – Like an oasis rising from the dry and inhospitable landscape, Hotel Punta Teonoste towers above its surroundings with one of the biggest and most magnificent thatched-roofed constructions in Central America.
After bouncing down the hot and dusty road for 20-plus kilometers toward Tola, Punta Teonoste is a sight for sore eyes, rising above the stunted beach trees like a welcoming promise of shade and cold beer.
The main reception building, which doubles as a large open-air restaurant and bar, is an architectural treat, with enormous tree-trunk posts reaching upward at various angles to support the enormous palmthatched roof 30 feet overhead. Brightly painted tribal patterns adorn the walls, offering a brilliant contrast to the surrounding natural browns of the dry-season landscape surrounding the hotel.
A curiously constructed reception bar made of hundreds of beach stones piled one on top of another sits in the middle of the room, offering a place to slide up a stool and gaze out at the inviting swimming pool and the crashing ocean surf 100 meters beyond. To the right and left rolls the nearly deserted whitesand beach of Playa Conejo, whose large surf break has recently been discovered by more experienced surfers.
After several minutes of respite with a cold drink to get the body temperature back down to something more livable, it’s off to see the hotel’s cabins – 16 individually designed thatched-roofed structures, each with its own stylistic flair.
The sight of all the thatched roofed cabins set against the dry landscape of brown grass and twisted trees can’t help but remind one of the Savannah, even if one has never been to Africa.
“The fact that the region, especially along the coast of Tola, has little development is the principal attraction for a large segment of the international market,” says Walter Bühler, general manager of Punta Teonoste.
“We have tried to create an infrastructure that meets the needs of the traveler while complementing the natural virgin beauty of the surroundings.”
Anyone who sees the hotel’s cabinas would have to agree that Punta Teonoste has achieved just that. The cabins echo the same rustic yet elegant artistic style as the main building, with tall thatched roofs covering two floors. The rooms are a combination of carved wood and rustic brick floors, with the thatch roof allowing for air circulation throughout.
The bathrooms are another treat, built in a semi-circular walled courtyard patio. Each bathroom has open-air “seating” and a rustic, cascade-style shower set in the middle of the garden, allowing you to bath and water the plants all at once.
The cabins are also equipped with a small living room area, a mini-fridge and a phone to call the reception area, where the hotel’s helpful staff is quick to respond.
A hammock tied up on the shaded front porch offers a great place to lie with a book and listen to the large waves crashing onto the nearby shore. The sunsets there are especially dramatic.
The beach is home to a protected turtlenesting site. If you’re lucky, the turtles’ visit to Punta Teonoste will overlap with yours.
The hotel also has a great swimming pool bookended by two thatch-roof palapa beds, which are a great place to get out of the sun and read or sleep next to the pool.
At certain times of the year, the winds across Playa Conejo are particularly ferocious, whipping across the hotel grounds, rattling the thatch roofs and creating wave sets in the pool. During a visit last March, the winds were so strong it felt like the edge of the earth – all clothing, books and towels that weren’t properly secured on the pool deck were a flight risk.
The evenings are also very enjoyable at Punta Teonoste, with the restaurant serving up fresh fish and pasta plates, with beers and drinks flowing to calm the afternoon sunburn.
The mood is set appropriately by background world music (one of the few beach establishments that thankfully doesn’t play reggaeton) to remind people that they’re here to unwind and relax. In-ground lighting illuminates the trees around the pool, and solar-paneled tiki torches lights the way back to the cabins.
Punta Teonoste, 2 ½ hours from Managua, with a spa project coming in the future, is in a different league than any other tourism project in an area, most of which cater to backpackers, campers and budget surfers.
Being such, it can – and does – charge considerably more for its services. And since there are no other food options else within walking distances, your final restaurant tab can run up quickly after several days of doing very little. But in a rat-race world, relaxation can be expensive.
“Our principal market for Punta Teonoste is foreigners,” Bühler said. “We currently have lots of guests who are foreign residents in Nicaragua, but we want to also appeal to foreigners who are visiting our country.”
For more information, or to take a virtual tour of the hotel and its different cabins, visit their award-winning Web site www.puntateonoste.com.