Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Monrovia was practically dripping with luxury hangout spots, like the now-defunct Ducor Hotel. Then the 14-year civil war swept through, and many businesses shuttered their doors. But after the conflict and the recently ended Ebola outbreak, luxury is back — and it’s supremely affordable, by European or North American standards. Here are five places in Monrovia to eat, sleep, and drink that might just convince the comfort-minded traveler to take the plunge and head to Liberia.
Mamba Point Hotel
Liberia’s most legendary high-end hotel, Monrovia’s MPH is famous for having remained open throughout the country’s 14-year war. The rooms (from US$225) meet four- or five-star standards, with stylish furnishings, plush beds, and lovely Liberian touches. If you’re splurging, opt for a suite, where the bathtubs have ocean views. Even if you’re not staying here, this is one of the best places in town to eat. Slide into a seat on the deck, take in the fresh air and views out over the ocean, and order from the excellent a la carte, sushi or Indian menus. There’s also a lounge bar with a piano and the most comfortable sofas in town, and the sleek Barracuda Bar, serving some of the best ura maki sushi and hot sake this side of Tokyo.
The Royal Grand Hotel
If you prefer staying in Monrovia’s burgeoning commercial district of Sinkor, The Royal Grand is where it’s at. And grand it most certainly is: the entrance is bejeweled with chandeliers, lavish floral displays and golden elevators. The rooms (from US$250) meet high business standards, and are very comfortable. Downstairs, there’s a stylish buffet restaurant that also serves great brunch, fresh juices and sandwiches, as well as a separate donut bar. Need a latte fix? The same building also houses Kaldi’s Koffee, an excellent independent coffee shop that could take on Starbucks any day. Head to the top floor of the hotel for first rate sushi, Spanish wine and a long list of imported beers — either on the open-air rooftop, or in the air-conditioned restaurant. With its baby grand piano, bamboo furnishings and air of luxury, the latter is perfect for a first date or a business supper. In the basement, Glow Spa does the most luxurious pedicures in town.
The Capital Rooms
By far the most exclusive bar in Monrovia, The just-opened Capital Rooms has stunning, sweeping views out over the Mamba Point marshes at sunset and the ocean beyond. Liberian-owned, this is where Monrovia’s elite “A-list” hang out. The design is simple but elegant; think vintage black-and-white photographs of Liberia, luxurious couches, and a piano. There’s a cocktail list (starting at US$10), tapas, regular wines, spirits and beers, and fine wine selection that starts at $60. The cigar bar is beautiful, designed from Liberian rubber wood. Tempted to become a regular? You can even hire your very own wine locker for $600 per year.
RLJ Kendeja Resort and Villas
Liberia’s national airport is about an hour’s drive from the city, not far from some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. RLJ Kendeja, a beautiful beach hotel, is right on the airport’s doorstep (you’ll undoubtedly run into pilots and cabin crew at the restaurant.) The rooms and villas (starting at $250) are first rate, with Liberian touches, and there’s a pleasant spa. On Sundays, groups of friends and families decamp to the sun beds on the beach, shaded by palm trees, for the $15 barbecue, cocktails, and the best surf on the outskirts of the city. While you can surf here, swimming is banned due to the dangerous currents; however, there’s a plunge pool on the deck.
Want to head to the beach in comfort? Hit Tropicana Beach, between Monrovia and the airport, on a weekend afternoon or evening. The furniture in this newly opened resort is designed from gorgeous Liberian wood, with stylish bathrooms. This is a great spot for a romantic dinner or a lazy, wine-fueled afternoon that culminates in sunset. Expect great dishes too — the grilled fish and lobster are both excellent. And if you don’t feel like dealing with the traffic back to town, you can sleep here, too, in beautiful little bungalows (US$150) on the water’s edge.