Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trips to Investigate Nicaragua - Accommodations

We have had two trips to Nicaragua to investigate the cities that appealed to us as future homes.  For our first visit in August 2009 we stayed in Granada and did very little travel outside of the city. We knew we would be having subsequent visits to Nicaragua and wanted to get a good feel for the city.  We chose accommodations that, for the most part, were small hotels and off the main tourist path. We tended to stay in medium priced accommodations. Also, since we were in Nicaragua we wanted to stay in accommodations that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy at home – something that was more “typical” Nicaraguan. 

Our second trip in September 2011 was split between Granada and León. We were able to find a suitable apartment to rent in Leon and loved being a part of the local community. We felt that this enabled us to “experience” what it would be like to actually live in the city. Although we did enjoy some of the local restaurants we also had the pleasure of shopping at the local markets and supermarket.  We also got into the routine of purchasing our daily fruit and veggies from the woman who would walk past our house at 6:30 in the morning shouting out (really loudly) that she had some fruit for sale.  Once she knew she had potential regular customers it was no time at all and she was stopping at the gate to see if there was anything we needed.

Following is a summary of the various accommodations we enjoyed while we were vacationing in Nicaragua.

Hotel Mozonte – This hotel is located in Managua near the Austrian Embassy and Laguna de Tiscapa. It is in the style of a Spanish colonial with the rooms around a central courtyard with a nice pool. The room we had was large with 3 double beds. It was clean but not “modern” and could use some updating. The bed was comfortable but I remember thinking that the sheets were “scratchy” and could use some fabric softener. The room price includes breakfast and there was a nice selection; it was served in a little dining room. The staff spoke good English and was very professional and helpful. We had arranged with the hotel to have a driver pick us up from the airport and the driver was on time – we had a huge sense of relief when we came through the doors and saw a sign with our name on it.  All of our arrangements were made via email. This is the only hotel where I have been charged less than I was expecting which was a nice surprise. The price on the website must be for “high-season” and we visited during “off-season”. There is a computer in the main lobby which has internet and is available to guests. We stayed here August 2009 for our first night in Nicaragua.

Hotel Patio del Malinche – This hotel is located in Granada just two streets away from La Calzada – the main tourist street of the city. It is a large Spanish colonial building with two central courtyards. The room we had was small but sufficient for our needs and was located right off the pool on the lower level. The staff was very efficient and all arrangements were made online prior to our arrival.  Breakfast is included in the price (there is a small selection to choose from) and is served in a nice courtyard setting.  At no extra charge we were able to store our suitcase while we travelled and picked it up when we returned to the city. Laundry service is available as well as internet. We stayed here August 2009 for two nights.

Isla El Roble – This place is located on one of the islands of Granada. They have “all inclusive” pricing which included your accommodations, food and a tour of the Isletas. When you book this retreat you are reserving the whole island for your group – which can be a couple up to 12 guests. The price increases per person. The cook and housekeeper come on a daily bases, however the boatman will sleep on the island at night and acts as a night watchman. We enjoyed the island to ourselves every afternoon as they all went home for a couple of hours.  There is a nice swimming pool as well as an area to swim in the lake and two kayaks were also available for use.  The staff spoke limited English with us since we were trying to improve our Spanish – they were efficient and never intrusive.  Mealtimes were set to our schedule. The food was local Nicaraguan fare – very flavourful and good portions. One beer was included with your meal; however, wine was extra. It was truly a relaxing time with amazing views. Arrangements were made online and we met with the local contact when we first arrived in Granada to finalize arrangements. He had a lot of practical information and suggested areas of Granada that we should avoid (for safety). This company can also arrange tours to other parts of Nicaragua. We stayed here August 2009 for three nights.

Casa Silas – This quaint Bed and Breakfast is located in the heart of Granada only a short walk away from the main square. It is a recently renovated Spanish colonial with a central plunge pool – just perfect for cooling off after an enjoyable day of sight seeing. The room was large and comfortable with a good sized bathroom – the owner’s artwork is on the walls. Breakfast is served in the dining room and is delicious – especially the smoothies.  Laundry service is available and if you are planning an excursion and want to take a lunch with you then just ask and they will have one ready for you.  The owner is Canadian and has lived in Granada for a number of years.  He is very knowledgeable about Nicaragua and Granada in particular. He knows the best places for meals and has good suggestions for things to do around town. All arrangements were made online and they had Skype available to call home. They will arrange airport pickup as well as put you in touch with an excellent tour operator. We stayed here in 2009 for the majority of our trip and returned in 2011 for two of nights.

Hostal El CarmenThis is a newly opened hotel not far from the central square in Granada and is a good value for the budget minded traveller. We rented an “apartment” for $21.00 per night (Sept. 2011) and felt it was a great bargain. The kitchen has everything you need if you are planning to make some meals while you are in Granada. The apartment also has a TV with cable. The bathroom is large and the bed is comfortable. The only problem we had was that the ceiling fan was located over the dining room table and the air didn’t flow to where the bed was. If you rent a “room” it is also nicely appointed and a great bargain. Our friend paid $10.00/night (Sept. 2011).  It was a basic but clean room with a good sized bathroom. There is no TV in the room.  The owners told us that they are planning on installing a swimming pool in the courtyard in the near future which will certainly add to the appeal. This couple also manage a house located in another part of the city where they rent rooms or the whole house at a reasonable price. They are very friendly and knowledgeable of the area. All arrangements were made online. We stayed here in September 2011 for three nights.

Apartment in León – We found this apartment online (not listed with any company or travel website that I know of) and communicated with the owner via email. The location of the house is just outside of the downtown area, an easy walk through the local community. The owner lives in the US and has family in León that looks after the day to day management of the apartment. It is called an apartment but is more like a little “row” house. There is a little front porch that you can sit in and enjoy the activity in the neighbourhood, a dining area, TV area, good sized kitchen and bathroom and there are two bedrooms. There is a washing machine available to use but no internet. The place is a good size and clean. However, it isn’t immaculate. It is obvious that the family lives there when it isn’t rented and could use a nice coat of paint to freshen the walls.  It is a nice place to stay if you want to have a real taste of what life is like in León. All arrangements were made online and a deposit was sent to the owner in the US. We were met at the Cathedral and taken to the home and given instructions on how everything worked.  Although the owner speaks good English the family speaks mainly Spanish.  We were provided with a cell phone to use while we stayed at the apartment which was a nice perk. We stayed here in September 2011 and rented it for two weeks but ended up staying for only nine nights because we unexpectedly returned to Granada for our final few nights.