New York restaurateur Jean-Marc Houmard spent the past year or so dragging suitcases full of bright textiles and Turkish rugs to Nicaragua. The destination? The seven-room boutique Tribal Hotel (tribal-hotel.com) he and a partner have opened in the colonial city of Granada. "The goal was to have a very eclectic and personal look, something that was the opposite of a generic chain," says Houmard, a partner in New York hot spots such as Indochine, Acme and Tijuana Picnic. "We did it all on our own and didn't use a designer. So it was a fun project in that sense."
The result? A hotel that's caught the attention of Conde Nast Traveler and features a mix of worldly decor, mid-century modern thinking and local craftsmanship.
When he wasn't working on the hotel, Houmard spent a lot of time exploring the historic Central American city. Here, he shares five top stops.
"Besides just spending a day strolling around town, I think one of the most appealing things is taking a boat trip on the lake. [Granada is on Lake Nicaragua.] It's very charming to hire a little boat to visit a couple of the hundreds of tiny islands that are near the town. It's really lush and there are monkeys on some of them and some have places to eat or grab a beer."
"There are many volcanoes in Nicaragua, most dormant. One of the closest is Laguna de Apoyo, which has a lake inside the crater. You can hire a driver to take you to the rim. It's about a 45-minute drive from Granada," Houmard says. "You follow the road to the crater and have this incredible view of the lake. There's a road that goes down to the shore and you can just hang out there and swim."
"There's an outdoor market in Masaya on the road to the Apoyo volcano. It's not as much of a shopper's dream like Guatemala or with the metalwork of Mexico, but there are some nice handmade masks, hammocks and other objects." Town of Masaya, about 45 minutes from Granada
Las Colinas restaurant
"It's very much where local families go. It has a hard mud floor and looks like a hangar. A friend of ours brought us there. The food is really good and features whole fish from the lake, like guapote. It's a nice experience that feels very local." Calle Atravesada, south of city centre past the Mercado Municipal
"It kind of feels like a Williamsburg restaurant. The owner lived in New York so he has that kind of aesthetic. The furniture is done by him using, for instance, recycled car parts to make table legs. It's very cool and the food is really good. It's continental in a way and has a very small menu. It can be like osso bucco or cheeses and artisanal hams from the countryside. It's about 10 minutes from the centre of Granada near the church La Merced." Calle Real Xalteva, espressonista-granada.com