Because this is the first review of this hotel on this site, we will give an overview of the hotel as well as our comments. We stayed at Hotel Vistamar for one week March 1 – 8th, 2009. During our stay, there were only 2 other North American guests and the remainder were Spanish speaking. With the exception of a conference group, there was probably no more than a dozen guests at one time. Our last night before our return flight was spent at Best Western Las Mercedes (directly across the street from Managua airport – you can walk across the road to check In !). You can check our review of the Las Mercedes on this site also.
The hotel is beachfront at Pochomil, approximately 1 ½ – 2hours from Managua airport, depending on traffic. The community of Pochomil is to the south (left on the beach) of the hotel. To the north (right from the hotel), a 25 minute or so walk will take you to the fishing village of Masachapa.
Vistamar is a small complex with the rooms mostly located around the pool and along the oceanfront. There are 40 rooms in 2 story, 2 unit buildings. We chose an upper oceanfront unit which gave us a large, private verandah with a small table & 4 adirondack rocking chairs and a hammock with sliding doors to the room. Palm trees in front of the resort provided privacy while still giving us a view of the ocean and beach. Some of the lower units have kitchenettes for an extra cost. The grounds are nicely landscaped with lots of tropical plants and trees (almond, cashew, tamarind & palm). There are lots of birds – warblers, kiskadees, jays, bluebirds, doves, sparrows, and the odd woodpecker. There is a good size main pool and 2 smaller ones, and 2 cold water Jacuzzis. There are several palapas around the pool, one with hammocks, and the rest with chairs and tables. There seemed to be adequate lounge chairs for the number of guests that were there. There is a small gift shop on-site. Also, on a few occasions, a vendor family was on the grounds near the pool. They will not approach you or bother you. The little girl, Marivel, was very helpful with helping us to figure out dollar vs. Nicaraguan cordobas for our purchases. The prices were very reasonable – earrings were $1.00 US, necklaces $2.00 US and a ball cap was $5.00 U.S. We found all of the hotel staff to be very friendly and courteous (as were any of the Nicaraguans that we met during our travels). While we were there, only one staff member at the front desk (Marlon) and one restaurant server (Byron) spoke English, so some Spanish is definitely helpful.
Our e-mails to the hotel were answered by Alfredo Gonzales, the manager, whose English is excellent. We booked our stay on-line and everything was handled very professionally, including our pick-up at the airport and return transfer.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE We did exchange some US dollars into Nicaraguan cordobas (the rate given by the hotel was 20 cordobas to 1 dollar which was a better rate than quoted on the internet, or at the airport hotel we stayed at). The front desk did not often have any small Cordoba bills, so US one dollar bills for tips would be a good idea. Although we did exchange some money, it is not necessary because everywhere we went, US dollars were accepted.
Our room was very spacious with a main entry door, and also a set of sliding doors going out onto the large verandah. There was a wall air conditioning unit as well as a ceiling fan. We had a queen sized bed, two bedside tables, a wardrobe and a small desk / dresser with a television with mostly Spanish channels. The bathroom was as good size with a large shower with sliding glass doors. The shower water is “tropical” meaning it is cool. Showers in the morning will wake you up and in the evening, will refresh you. Towels, bathmat and a washcloth were replaced every day. Plenty of shampoo, soap, lotion and tissues were provided. Towels for the pool were not provided, although we were told we could ask for extra ones. When we took our towels to the pool, no clean ones were left in the room until we took our old ones to the housekeeping staff. It might be a good idea to take your own beach towel with you. We found our room to be very clean on arrival and it was cleaned daily by housekeeping.
The beach is a brown to black volcanic sand with lots of shells for collecting. You can walk for a long way in either direction. Please note that the surf here is very strong and it is not recommended that you swim directly in front of the hotel. We found this out from one of the locals after a visitor from Managua drowned out front of our hotel. Apparently, there are a lot of large rocks in the water and large holes in the ocean floor. With the surf, it is possible to get thrown into the rocks, or fall into a hole easily. If you wish to swim, go to the left of the hotel where the surf is not so rough. There were 3 palapas out front of the hotel but at no time did we see anyone using them. There were no lounge chairs there, but you could probably take some down to the beach. As with a lot of Central American beaches, outside the resort area, there seems to be some garbage on the beach. During the week, the beach was quite quiet. While walking, we encountered the occasional local; some fishing, some selling jewellery, some just walking. On the weekend, especially Sunday, the beach to the left was quite busy with local families. ATVs are available for rent somewhere locally, so you can sometimes hear them along the beach in front of the hotel. As you walk along, you can smell the wood fires from the local homes.
FOOD & DRINKS
We took the all – inclusive plan with the hotel because we didn’t know what else would be available in the area. You can do the “hotel only plan” and pay for your food in addition, or use some of the small restaurants along the beach to the left if your Spanish is decent. The Hotel Vistamar menu is posted on their website (www.vistamarhotel.com) with the prices, so it would be possible for you to figure out which option would be best for you. There is a small nicely furnished dining room, or you can dine outside on the patio, or at any of the tables around the pool. Room service is also available.
We found the menu to have good variety with some typical Nicaraguan dishes available. There is a wood oven on-site that is used for pizza and some fish & chicken dishes. Some wood-oven dishes are available for 3 people or more only, and with some advance notice. The fish is fresh daily and purchased from local fishermen.
For the 2 days of our stay when a large group was there for a conference, the meals were offered buffet style for all guests. It was good quality, but with a smaller variety than offered on the menu. The fruit juices are freshly made at the hotel and the choices vary from day to day. The coffee was very good. Bottled water was readily available (included with the all-inclusive) and was often brought to us with our meals without asking. There was no problem getting extra bottles of water at any time of day. We do not drink alcohol, so we cannot comment on the quality or variety of the drinks. Afternoon snacks were supposed to be included with our plan, but we only received them twice in our week stay (one day, a hot dog and the other day a hamburger). They brought them to us where we were sitting around the pool. There are a number of palapas on the beach to the left of the hotel that are small restaurants, but we did not eat at any of them. The first one to the left was “La Cueva of the Sirenas” and the manager’s name is Luis. He speaks very good English. We didn’t meet him until the day before our departure, but he showed us his hotel rooms (very basic but clean for $35 daily, or $50 for 3 beds) and the menu. The food prices looked reasonable. You can call him on his cell phone at 005 05 452 4422 if you would like more information. He is in the process of putting together a website.
There are some excursions listed on the hotel website and you can e-mail the hotel for prices, or to inquire about other things you would like to do. We found the prices to be very high. Instead, we used Oro Travel (www.orotravel.com) and had an excellent day trip to the Masaya Market, Masaya volcano, city of Catarina on the shores of Arroyo Crater lake, city of San Juan del Oriente (pottery town) and lunch overlooking a crater lake near the volcano. Our guide Rudy, and our driver Roberto, were fantastic and we would highly recommend this company. This tour cost us $110 US per person (as compared to $220 per person that the hotel was asking for). There were only the 2 of us on the tour which made it more relaxing. Apparently, Oro Travel has not often picked up tourists at Vistamar, and we appreciated the fact that they drove 1 ½ hours out to the beach to pick us up and then re-traced the same road back to Managua to start our tour. Because of the secluded nature of Pochomil beach and the amount of driving time, we did not do any other tours.
MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT
There was no animation team or activities while we were here. Throughout the day, there was quiet instrumental music playing by the patio and around the pool. Later in the afternoon, a DJ played music, sometimes very loudly, from the pool bar. On two occasions (during a conference when there were was a large group staying at the hotel), there was very loud music /karaoke played until about midnight. We did call the front desk and ask for it to be turned down, and it would be for a short period and then the volume would increase again. We were in room 5B a few buildings down from the pool. As stated earlier, most of the rooms are located around the pool. Building 2 or 3 are the ones farthest away from the pool and might be better choices.
We enjoyed our stay here and have no complaints at all. We loved Nicaragua and found the people to be very friendly and happy to have tourists visiting their country. We did not feel unsafe at any time, even while wandering outside the hotel through the local areas. The Nicaraguan people want potential tourists to know that their country is safe and they are encouraging visitors to come.