In the beautiful colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua’s top tourism destination, you won’t find a string of big chain hotels. Not many big hotels at all, actually. Hotel Dario is in most respects the best in town. With just 21 rooms, it offers the kind of intimate B&B service you’d expect in a small boutique hotel, but it has two restaurants, a pool, and a small gym.
It’s actually pronounced Dar-EEE-Oh, like the poet Ruben Darío it was named after—in Spanish there’s an accent over the “i.” Built in 1902 as a grand family manor, it’s located on Calle La Calzada. This is the main drag leading down to the huge lake. It was once the prestige address street in town, where all the wealthiest people lived. Over time it has been transformed into the main dining and drinking area, with sidewalk tables taking advantage of the year-round warm weather. You can order dollar beers or $2 rum cocktails from noon to midnight, so while the grand rooms facing the street are the most evocative and have a view of the cathedral, they’re not for early-to-bed types.
The first impression here is impressive, with the front door leading past a small reception desk to a sun-filled courtyard and a bubbling fountain. Furniture for lounging is placed in some spots, while tables are also set up here for dining or sipping some Nicaraguan coffee. The Chocolate Cafeteria makes an excellent cappuccino and has scrumptious desserts to choose from. There are also a few tables set up outside on the pedestrian-only street (well, except for deliveries and motorbikes).
The larger and more formal El Tranvia restaurant is a white tablecloth affair serving a mix of local and international dishes. The menu is extensive, with a focus on the good local beef, lake fish, and seafood from the nearby coast.
Rooms here are not ostentatious, rather taking their cues from the architecture and the period. With clean lines and muted colors, furniture is made of quality hardwoods and fans hang from the high ceilings. The ones facing the front have big windows and a door to a balcony, while most of the others are quieter but open onto one of the two courtyards.
They are all well-equipped, with complimentary Wi-Fi, TVs that have some English channels, air conditioning, and electronic safes. The one odd omission is that drinking water is only supplied the first night. Apparently you can ask to refill your bottle in the cafeteria, but I didn’t learn that until I was ready to check out. In a place you can’t drink the tap water, this means an extra chore for guests who assume they have to go visit a store to buy water. (Unless they’re smart enough to travel with a SteriPen.)
The swimming pool is not large, but it’s good enough for a refreshing dip after walking the streets of Granada. There’s a whirlpool next to it, plus a gym just upstairs with some basic aerobic equipment. On the street Dario is located on you can find places to get a massage, do yoga, or get a pedicure—all for terrific prices.
Service at this Granada hotel is friendly and if you don’t speak any Spanish, there’s always someone around who can get you what you need in English. Rates are a very reasonable $95 to $130 including breakfast but not tax, the highest rate there being the suite during high season.
See more reviews of the best hotels in Nicaragua.
Review by Tim Leffel, who was hosted at Hotel Dario while researching a magazine article on Nicaragua. Photos by Leffel except the room shot at the bottom, courtesy of the hotel.