The Polana Serena is a historic Maputo landmark built in 1922 by the Portuguese authorities, who were hoping to transform colonial Lourenço Marques into an African Monte Carlo. The notorious hotel is now reliving its heyday when it counted among the finest in the continent.
The hotel rises in the plush Polana garden suburb, seat of Mozambique’s government ministries and embassy villas, on one of the capital’s most prominent boulevards; about 15 minutes’ drive from the airport and two miles from the city centre. On one side it faces a beach and on the other the big FEIRA Crafts Market, a shopper’s (and browser’s) paradise.
Style & character
The style is heavily influenced by British colonial architecture – indeed the external resemblance to Singapore’s Raffles hotel is striking. Its best features are still the original tiled floors and an unforgettable 1927 cast iron lift, the first to be installed in Mozambique. The later Polana Mar wing near the beach is more of a blend of African contemporary and Portuguese colonial design.
Service & facilities
Service is immaculate and the concierge will book you everything from a city tour to a three-day excursion to the Kruger Park, only three hours’ drive away. Facilities tick all boxes: swimming pool, well-tended gardens, tennis courts, chandeliered ballrooms, an Art Deco bar spreading out into a sweeping terrace, plus a glorious and extensive Maisha spa that sports a hidden indoor garden and pool.
- Fitness centre
- Kids’ club
- Room service
- Steam room/hammam
- Tennis court
Almost every room feels as special as the presidential suite that has hosted the Queen, Tony Bair and Bill Clinton. Inspired by Mozambican art and culture, the furnishings vary from a mauve-and-orange ‘beads’ theme to basket-weaving decorations. Rooms have docking stations, USB ports and espresso machines, while the generously sized tiled bathrooms offer a range of Elemis or Africology toiletries.
Food & drink
The Aquarius sushi bar caters for the beach and pool crowd, the Varanda for buffet meals, while the Delagoa fine dining restaurant comes complete with curtained-off privacy. Maputo diets on seafood so this is the place to gorge on lobster, sea bass or the famed Mozambican tiger prawns (£11 per skewer or £30 for the maximum experience at the Varanda).
Breakfast will have you returning to the buffet more times than might be considered gracious – but with seven different fresh juices and smoothies, cereals, European cheese and charcuterie boards, Danish and French pastries, English cooked breakfast staples as well as a gluten-free corner, who cares?
Value for money
Double rooms from $430 (£328) in the Polana Mar wing with courtyard views; or from $470 (£358) with sea views. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi. The hotel clientele – mainly diplomats and businessmen – doesn’t vary throughout the year, so neither do room prices.
Access for guests with disabilities?
There are no stairs to the reception and lifts to all floors. There are no specially adapted rooms but their large size renders them suitable for guests with reduced mobility. The hotel provides wheelchairs and vibrating pillows upon request.
Polana has two interconnecting family rooms. It provides free cots and extra beds on a sliding price scale depending on age. Restaurants have children’s menus and there is also a kids’ club with toy rooms and supervised activities. English-speaking nannies are available upon request.