If you’re seeking a sense of Old World history in the Caribbean, look no farther than Hostal Nicolas de Ovando, a renovated five-star Accor hotel built on the site of the home of – and thus named after – the first Spanish Governor of the Dominican Republic’s capital city, Santo Domingo.
Classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO and located on Las Damas Street, which is believed to be the first paved road in the colonized Americas, the 104-room, five-star hotel lies in the heart of the historic downtown area dating from 1502, a two-minute walk from the former home of Christopher Columbus, who claimed the island for the Spanish empire.
Architecturally, the hotel – part of the MGallery collection – presents a seamless blend of old and new, with a façade of thick sandstone block street-side with decorative lamp-posts and polished and steel and glass entrance doors. Inside is a chic, stylish lobby in ocher décor with sofas and chairs as furnishings and the reception and concierge desks opposite each other at either end.
A short walk from there along a corridor well-lit by hanging chandeliers leads to a wide, open area with a series of ornate, beguiling arches stretching above, with the distinct feeling of walking through the compact grounds of a large luxury hacienda. Here, on a large-open terrace overlooking the Ozama River as it flows into the Caribbean Sea and the land on the far bank where Santo Domingo was first founded is a swimming pool with comfortable, cushioned lounge chairs and glass tables spread around. A few steps away – in a shady niche is the Cibao Bar serving a wide range of drinks.
Rooms are reached along a short, stone-tiled walkway that winds its way behind and around tropical foliage. Rooms are comfortable without being overly spacious, reflecting a cool neutral décor accented with traditional dark wood furniture and understated touches of local art. Old-style hacienda shutters and ochre tile floors is an admirable attempt at replicating historical authenticity.
Guests have the option of eating inside at La Residence restaurant, enjoying the luxury of a high-ceiling ballroom, rich in tones of red and crimson, with medieval-like chandeliers and high-backed wooden chairs, with brass palm trees decorating the walls; or outside in a Spanish-style tiled patio, among lush potted palms, a decorative fountain and wicker chairs and tables. Breakfast is also served here.
Service at Hostal Nicolas de Ovando was warm, personal and efficient, with France-born Erwan Daussy, food and beverage manager, being particularly friendly, describing the challenges of finding consistently fresh produce on the island and a smiling Carmen Volquez, head concierge, imparting tidbits of information about the locale and on more interesting places to visit.