Whilst backpacking Latin America we visited over 80 different towns, cities and locations sometimes staying in a few different hostels in each place so I have a fair few to choose from. We stayed in a mix of large party hostels, quiet hideaways to get away from it all and small, family run places. When choosing this list I had no set criteria – I’ve just picked the hostels I liked the most. This could be due to amenities, atmosphere, location or just that the staff were accommodating.
So what are the best hostels in Latin America? Read on to find out.
HOSTEL MUNDO JOVEN CATHEDRAL, MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
Our first stop on our Latin American journey was Mexico City and the first place we stayed remained one of our favourites. Hostel Mundo Joven Cathedral is a huge property with practically everything we could have needed to get settled on our first week away. Located right off the Zocalo, the location doesn’t get any better and with a rooftop bar overlooking the heart of Mexico City, it’s a perfect place to meet fellow travellers and swap stories over a few cervezas.
AZUL CIELO, OAXACA, MEXICO
We arrived in Oaxaca to the sight of a drunk man chasing two others through the cobbled streets welding a guitar over his head and threatening to hospitalise his victims. As we gawped out of the taxi window and the unfolding drama, our taxi driver just chuckled and stated ‘Ah, es Mexico.’
If you need a sanctuary from Mexico’s craziness, Azul Cielo is the perfect place – A tranquil garden surrounded by spacious dorms and private rooms.
EL HOSTAL, ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA
Speaking of tranquil sanctuaries, El Hostal is the perfect place to escape the streets of Antigua. The dorms surround a serene courtyard where the guests seem to be living at a slower pace to the rest of the city. It’s the perfect place to sit with a coffee and read a book or contemplate your next adventure. I can’t forget the breakfast, a feast of coffee, fruit and eggs done however you would like.
If things are too quiet for you, the hostel is opposite our favourite bar in Antigua, Cafe No Se.
ZEPHYR LODGE, LANQUIN, GUATEMALA
Every backpacker in Guatemala heads towards Lanquin to bathe in the stunning natural pools of Semuc Champey and it seems that the majority of them head to Zephyr Lodge. Set up high on a ridge overlooking a pristine valley, if you’re not taken in by the views, you will be by the atmosphere. The dorm rooms give a spectacular panoramic over the valley and the swimming pool is in the perfect place for you to float and contemplate your next adventure. Surly owner aside, this hostel has everything you could want – great food, amazing bar area, tours to Semuc Champey and any other amenity you could want. We met some great people there that we would continue to travel with throughout Guatemala.
PAUSE HOSTEL, CAYE CAULKER, BELIZE
We arrived in Caye Caulker in the dead of night after an moonlit (and therefore pretty dangerous) boat ride through the mangroves of Belize’s cayes. Searching the back streets of the island we stumbled across the sign for Pause stating ‘Where animal lovers stay’. You really do need to be an animal lover to stay here. The owner, Madi, has given half of her home over to the 80 cats that she has rescued from abusive owners, poor conditions or that were generally just found stray and wandering. If you want somewhere to stay for free, then volunteer your services and Madi will put you up for free providing you help her look after her army of cats and dogs – We were the only paying guests during our time there.
The amenities aren’t the best but there is a working kitchen, hot showers and decent WiFi throughout, plus the added bonus of an awesome jetty complete with kayaks that you can borrow to explore the island. However, the amenities don;t matter when you know that all money made from the hostel goes towards feeding, vaccinating and neutering the animals. Plus, Madi is an absolute delight.
BOCAS ISLAND LODGE, ISLA BASTIMENTOS, PANAMA
After a long bus ride from San Jose we hopped a water taxi to Bocas Town and then another to Old Bank, Bastimentos. after hauling our packs around this little island village we wandered in to a raging house party, the speaker stacks shaking the little shack top to bottom with the sounds of reggae. It turns out that we were in the wrong place – We needed to hitch another water taxi to Red Frog Beach, the idyllic location of Bocas Island Lodge.
This Hostel was the perfect place to spent a few days in Bocas Del Toro. Set back in the jungle and only a short walk to stunning beaches this hostel has everything; incredible food, cheap drinks, a cinema and even some resident sloths. The owner, Willy, is the true selling point though. He is helpful, accommodating and is happy to get involved in the partying. A highlight was him managing to blag us tickets to La Iguana Surf Club’s birthday party (intended for local buisness and hostel owners only), were we could gorge on free drinks and food all night. Willy drunkenly driving 6 singing gringos through the jungle on a golf cart to reach the water taxi in time was quite the experience.
MASAYA HOSTEL, BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA
Located in the Candelaria district, the historic center of Bogota, Masaya touts itself as an arts and cultural hostel but it is much more than that. Walking in from the cold Bogota evening we were happy to find that the rooms were cosy, the bar was well stocked and the hostel’s heated patio areas were the perfect place to relax with an Aguila. The hostel also offers a range of cultural events such as cooking classes, dance lessons and live music.
EL CIELO, MONTANITA, ECUADOR
Anyone that has visited Montanita will know that it is a town with a split personality. During daylight hours this is a surfer and hippy paradise – dubbed the ‘little Amsterdam’ due to the local authorities tolerance of the town’s cannabis culture, people while away the days on the gorgeous beach whilst listening to the reggae pumping from local bars and open air cafes. However, once night falls, this is one of Ecuador’s premier party destinations with the town’s bar lined streets heaving with people dancing until the sun comes up.
If you wan to catch some sleep in Montanita it can be practically impossible as the majority of hostels are located in the town centre, often above the bars, meaning that if you want to catch 40 winks you will have to contend with the bass shaking you out of bed.
We came across El Cielo completely by accident. We didn’t want to stay in the loudest part of town but all hostels in the quieter area of El Tigrillo were booked. We could only see one place that was newly opened and so far had no reviews on any sites. We took a risk, booked the room and we’re incredibly happy that we did. seasoned travellers Danny and Monika had only opened a few weeks before but from the moment we stepped out of the taxi they were the perfect hosts and welcomed us with open arms. It was like staying with family rather than a regular hostel. Monika went out of her way to do anything we needed in terms of booking excursions (using her connections in town) and Danny makes one of the best breakfasts in South America.
COBANACOPA, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
It’s two days before the start of Carnival and you have only just decided to fly to Rio. All the Air BnBs Are booked and every hostel is extortionately priced – What do you do? We bit the bullet and booked in to Cobanacopa for the sole reason that it still had beds available for less than $50 a night but it became my favourite stay in the whole of our trip. The rooms may be basic but the hostel more than makes up for it in other ways.
Located in a prime spot next to Cardeal Arcoverde metro station and just a short walk to Copacobana beach in a secure, gated community you can’t get much better. During Carnival the staff listed all the best Blocos of the day and made sure you could find them as well as providing a rack of fancy dress outfits so you can look the part. I had literally the time of my life at Cobanacopa, met some amazing people and experienced the World’s greatest party.
CHILL HOUSE, BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Buenos Aires is known for it’s all night party culture but if you’re looking for a place to get away from it all, then Chill house is exactly what it’s name suggests. We had a few sleepless nights at Milhouse (another great but more party focussed hostel) and this was the perfect place to catch up on sleep. The owners are incredibly helpful and the rooftop terrace is the perfect place to nurse a hangover.
CHILI KIWI LAKEFRONT HOSTEL, PUCON, CHILE
Pucon is well known for it’s Villarrica volcano that backpackers flock to in their droves in order to strap on their crampons and summit. What do you do if said volcano has inconveniently decided to erupt dramatically the day before you arrive? Well, like us, you can spend your time chilling by Lago Villarrica in the wonderful Chili Kiwi. Not only does it have great dorms, you also have the choice of sleeping in a campervan, cabin or tree house.
We arrived late from a long night bus ride but the staff were incredible and willing to spend half an hour talking us through the town and surrounding area. So buy in a bottle of cheap wine ($2 for 3 litres in the local supermarket!), hang by the lake and relax in stunning surroundings. Who needs to climb a volcano anyway?