Hostal Nicolas de Ovando // © 2011 Hostal Nicolas de Ovando
Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone is a must see for leisure travelers visiting the capital city of the Dominican Republic. The Colonial Zone is packed with rare treasures of Spanish architecture, including the first cathedral in the New World, Nuestra Senora Santa Maria de la Incarnacion, built in 1508; and the Casa del Cordon, where Columbus lived at the beginning of the 16th century. The Colonial Zone also has a rich assortment of restaurants, shops and hotels, as well as the pedestrian-friendly street, Calle El Conde. Since the neighborhood is easy to explore by foot, those wanting to make the most of their time should consider booking a Colonial Zone hotel.
Clients seeking accommodations that evoke Santo Domingo’s past need to look no further than Hostal Nicolas de Ovando, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back 500 years. Hostal Nicolas de Ovando was named for the property’s original resident, Governor Nicolas de Ovando, the first governor of the Americas and a contemporary of Christopher Columbus. The hotel is situated on the famous street, Las Damas, one of the first paved roads in the New World. The property includes three stone houses dating from the early 16th century and some of the original fortress walls are still visible.
During a recent stay, I was impressed by the hotel’s historic architecture of thick stone walls, light-filled courtyards, decorative iron work and shuttered windows. There was definitely a magical connection to the past. What also impressed me was the hip atmosphere. In no way was my stay a stuffy experience; it looked as though the hotel was a magnet for the young and hip of the city, who socialized around the pool, drinking cocktails and listening to merengue music. Another contemporary touch is the free Internet and Wi-Fi access offered throughout the hotel.
The 104-room hotel features 45 colonial-style rooms, including executive suites and three junior suites, as well as 59 contemporary-style rooms with air-conditioning and Internet service. It would be hard to imagine a leisure traveler from the U.S. not enjoying a stay in one of the colonial-style rooms. The high ceilings and architectural details, such as hacienda shutters and ochre tile floors, create a seamless colonial-era experience that continues outside, through the surrounding historic structures.
Given the antiquated nature of the building — and the fact that it was once a home — each of the rooms at the hotel has a distinctly different feel. Rooms and suites either have river, garden, swimming pool or street views. Some guests might not feel comfortable in a ground-floor room facing the street; a pool-view room off the interior courtyard might be a better match for those wishing for a greater sense of security.
While there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance, the hotel offers fine dining at its La Residence terrace restaurant, serving Caribbean and International cuisine (with a nod toward Gallic fare). There’s also a lobby bar with a terrace facing the swimming pool, as well as 24-hour room service. The hotel’s Cibao Bar offers a variety of aged rums from 12 different Caribbean countries as well as a selection of the finest Dominican cigars, including the option to light up a hand-rolled cigar, produced by the hotel’s tabaquero (tobacconist).
Additional features and amenities at Hostal Nicolas de Ovando include three conference and meeting rooms, a gym, a library and a billiards room. If clients are traveling on business, the hotel has a fully equipped business center with secretarial and translation services. The property is able to host cocktails and banquets for up to 150 people.