In order to enjoy one or more of Nicaragua’s great resorts — Nekupe or Jicaro Island Ecolodge — it’s often necessary to overnight in the country’s capital, Managua. An earthquake severely damaged this lakeside city in 1972, leveling most of its center, meaning that much of Managua today dates from a less-than-soul-stirring architectural period. But even unremarkable cities sometimes have lovely hotels, and I hoped that would be the case in Managua.
Always in search of a hideaway, I first tried the 18-room Elements Hotel Boutique, a relatively new property near Managua’s most upscale shopping mall as well as numerous bars and restaurants. A friendly barman served us dinner at the poolside restaurant, where we were the only guests aside from a quinceañera (15th birthday) party. My whole fried red snapper was delicious as well as inexpensive. Our Executive Room, the largest option, had a stylish stone-tile accent wall behind the bed, which was flanked by two colorful hanging lamps. Seating was limited to a desk chair and an armchair. The dimly lit bath had an immense shower stall and plenty of counter space around its single vanity. Alas, the towels and bathmat were thin and scratchy, and the soundproofing was nonexistent.
Our large (if dimly lit) bath; the friendly and helpful restaurant staff; the satisfying food; the price.
The cool welcome at the front desk; the poor soundproofing; our room’s small size; the lack of views.
This hotel is walking distance to the InterContinental and the Metrocentro Mall.
The soundproofing at the nearby 157-room InterContinental Managua at Metrocentro Mall, while not flawless, was at least good enough to allow us to get a good night’s sleep. Surprising for a large chain, the hotel also had a sense of place. The bright and stylish lobby, for example, had vaulted brick ceilings, ceramics from San Juan de Oriente and pillows covered in traditional textiles, contrasted by a contemporary chandelier and midcentury-modern armchairs. Our room on the club floor also had a chic mix of styles, with a wood-beamed ceiling, silvery padded headboards, a navy lounge chair and framed crafts such as wooden bowls and colorful abstract works in grass. I also appreciated the plush bed linens, ample bottled water and well-lit (if compact) marble and mosaic-tile bath.
The small club lounge presented an appealing breakfast buffet, and I liked its dramatic wood ceilings, but an overlarge television on one wall spoiled the atmosphere. Downstairs, arrayed around an outdoor pool, were inviting restaurants and a lively bar. I was impressed by the energy of the venues, which seem to be popular gathering places for expats in Managua as well as guests of the hotel. I decided against eating at Factory Steak and Lobster, since my hometown has no shortage of steakhouses, and sat down to dinner instead at the hotel’s new Market restaurant. There we had a simple and satisfying meal of lobster cocktail with mandarin-infused leche de tigre (a citrus-based marinade that cures seafood in a ceviche) and shredded coconut, and pork scallopini in a lime-caper sauce atop orzo with (unfortunately bitter) basil pesto.
We sank into two armchairs on the terrace by the pool for a nightcap, and a waiter came immediately to take our order. Local 18-year Flor de Caña rum made for a fine digestif.
I won’t go out of my way to stay in Managua again, but should the need arise, I certainly won’t have any qualms about booking a night at the InterContinental.
The chic mix of traditional objects and contemporary décor; the lively restaurants and bars; the fresh feeling of our room; the efficient staff; the inviting outdoor spaces.
The ample size of the hotel; the not-entirely-effective soundproofing; the large television in the club lounge.
Higher floors have better views, some extending to the lake, and more distance from street noise. After looking at the appealing menu of Factory Steak and Lobster, I regretted eating at The Market.