At a Kigali hotel, luxury and light

The Retreat, Kigali, Rwanda

No. 5, KN 29; 

The Basics 

Owned and run by an American entrepreneur, Alissa Ruxin, the Retreat is the second of her two hotels in Kigali — the first, Heaven Restaurant & Boutique Hotel, is next door. Built almost entirely by Rwandan workers, the 11-room upscale property opened in late 2017 and emphasizes design, art and eco-friendliness: the aesthetic of clean white exteriors and walls mixed with woods is contemporary African and pays homage to Rwanda. Work by local artists hangs in the public spaces and rooms, and there is a lush indigenous garden. Rwandan builders custom-made the furniture from sustainable Tanzanian teak wood, and the property is run entirely on solar energy. 


The Retreat, in the Kiyovu neighborhood, is on a leafy and peaceful residential street but is near the attractions of downtown Kigali. Taxis are readily available, and the streets around the hotel are pedestrian-friendly. 


From $350, inclusive of breakfast; a welcome amenity of wine and fruit; a 30-minute massage; and evening wine and cheese. 

The Room 

The hotel offers two categories of rooms, a 400-square-foot deluxe king and a 645-square-foot superior king suite. All have private decks, high ceilings, floors of sustainable bamboo wood and 48-inch flat-screen televisions, while the suites also have outdoor back terraces with daybeds and showers. My light-flooded deluxe king room overlooked the hotel’s outdoor walkway and had a comfortable teakwood king bed fitted with an organic handmade mattress from England. 

Given the Retreat’s small size and personal service, I felt as if I was a guest at a friend’s luxurious private home. I checked in close to midnight, following a nearly 24-hour journey from New York, and a staff of three was waiting to warmly greet me with freshly squeezed passion fruit juice and chilled towels. One of the cooks was still on-site and ready to whip me up a late dinner. 

The Bathroom 

My large, black-tiled bathroom had double sinks and was stocked with slippers and a robe from Mitre Linen, a luxury brand from Britain, and toiletries from Cinnabar Green, a skin-care line from Kenya that uses natural ingredients. The huge walk-in shower had a rain-forest showerhead with strong water pressure. 


An open-air gym equipped with the latest machines from Technogym; a sauna; a pool with a hot tub; a fitness studio with meditation, Pilates and yoga classes; a spa offering facials and massages; and a high-end restaurant. 


A room service menu is available, but the hotel’s all-day restaurant serves memorably tasty dishes, using produce mainly grown in its gardens. Come sunset, the restaurant turns into a buzzy spot, where a four-course prix fixe menu emphasizing Rwandan ingredients, for $75 a person, is the only option. Breakfast comes with a stay and includes a buffet of cold dishes and a menu of hot ones. I enjoyed a bowl of sweet papaya, mango and tree tomato; in-house baked gluten-free bread; and a spinach and zucchini omelet, accompanied by a sweet potato mash and a spicy house-made pili pili sauce. To drink, it was dark and smooth coffee, made from Rwandan coffee beans. 

The Bottom Line 

In a city where most of the properties fall either into the mid-tier category or are chains, the Retreat is a much-needed addition to the hotel scene. It is luxurious, individually owned and envelops guests with a kind of hospitality that may leave them feeling wistful when it is time to check out.

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