Hall of Fame Hostels

I seek to stay in hostels everywhere I go, not just to save money and maintain on the cheap, but to meet other travelers in a more social setting than a hotel. The communal habitat promotes more interaction and communication, and the exchange of vital information, pointers and tips can be priceless. I’ve met some terrific folks on the road, and many of us prefer places such as these. Keep in mind, however, people move, places change and sell, get worse or improve, so nothing lasts forever. So this compilation will be dynamic, and always changing, and definitely not static. An example is a hostel I would include on this list, if only it hadn’t gone out of business. RIP 41 Below in Bariloche, may you rise again like a Phoenix. So dig, if you will, and may the hall expand and extend……

The Buddha, Laureles, Medellin, Colombia

I was lucky enough to find and book this place before landing there, and even after I later moved to Medellin and got an apartment nearby, continued to frequent the place for a beer and meeting other wanderers. Spacious interior and stellar garden with a lot of places to relax, and a location that provides easy access to the dining and entertainment stretch of Carrera 70 towards the stadium. Super cool staff with lots of ideas and a collective feel to the big casa.

http://buddha-hostel.hotels-in-medellin.com/es/

La Terraza del Centro, Cordoba, Argentina

There are very few cities that have as vibrant a zone of restaurants and assorted entertainment as bodacious as Cordoba, and so proximity to that Guemes neighborhood is always a factor for me. The Terraza is located in a favorable part of the center, with everything close, and the vibe is friendly as all hell. Once again, it’s the people who make the difference, and the staff here are about as good as it gets, in all categories. The digs are snug and clean. and the rooftop patio and parilla is a congenial spot to watch the sunset and toast your new friends. Everything worth seeing is within walking distance, and one of South America’s best bar scenes is an easy15 minute stroll away. The only real negative is tied to its’ ‘close to everything good’ location, so traffic noise outside makes earplugs almost compulsory. Never the less, I won’t stay anywhere else in Cordoba, one of my favorite cities in Argentina. https://www.booking.com/hotel/ar/hostel-la-terraza-del-centro.es-ar.html

La Humahuacasa, Humahuasca, Argentina

I stayed two nights here exploring the vast quebrada and it is cozy, convenient, everything works, and the hosts, Paola and Juan, are ultra helpful and generous with their time and suggestions. Breakfast is tasty, the wifi solid, and the fully equipped kitchen and outdoor grill are ready to go. The casa feels like it grew out of the ground here, rustico, autentico, and truly relaxing. Two blocks from the plaza, and three from the bus station, it’s a fine base for exploring the supernatural far north of the country.  http://www.humahuacasa.com.ar/

La Casa del Viajero      El Bolson, Argentina

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The main commmunal cabin at El Viajero

Agustin Aporro built the first hostel in El Bolson, a couple of kilometers from the town center but much closer to great hiking trails, such as the stellar Catarata Escondida. His funky compound of private and communal cabins is on a big lot with a trout pond, organic garden, and greenhouse, a little slice of heaven on the other side of the river. He is likewise a wealth of vital info regarding the entire region not to mention El Bolson itself. It’s a cheap taxi or a leisurely walk to town, and it’s my base whenever I get to Patagonia, which isn’t often enough. http://www.lacasadelviajero.com.ar/

Hostel del Gualicho    Puerto Madryn, Argentina

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Big lockers, comf beds, individual reading lights and all the intangibles

Four blocks from the beach, and five from the bus terminal, a prime location isn’t the only thing Gualicho has going for it. Sparkling clean, organized and spacious common areas inside and out, along with an excellent breakfast buffet. But again it’s the people that make the difference, and the staff here is a great example. Always friendly and ready to share the ‘inside’ information, the Gualicho gang puts guest service into the A+ category. Individual reading lights in each bunk bed is indicative of doing the little things that add up big. http://www.elgualicho.com.ar/

Secret Garden, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

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The Secret Garden is one of those places that I found out about through the grapevine and it lived up to the hype 100%. A couple of hours outside of Quito, it’s actually closest to the small town of Machachi, but the imposing legendary volcano is front and center, offering a sensational view. The Garden offers a bunch of different lodging options, from trippy Hobbit Homes, to birdhouses in the trees, to small cabins with wood stoves. The prices include 3 meals a day, free coffee and tea, a wood heated hot tub, free maps and picnic lunches, and a complimentary two hour hike to a beautiful waterfall right out the backdoor. There are lots of tours offered at very reasonable prices, including a hike to the snow line on Cotopaxi at 5000+ meters altitude, which is $ very well spent. The food on offer is healthful, nutritious, and delicious, and the international staff is super cool, always accommodating, and fun loving. The Secret Garden makes for a tremendous stop for travelers looking for the absolute best of Ecuador.  http://secretgardencotopaxi.com/blog3/

Punto Verde Eco Hostel, Montanitas, Ecuador

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One of the locals that hang around the Ponto Verde

This was another surprise that exceeded expectations after arriving on the Ecuador coast during the mayhem of New Years. This hilltop hacienda is the creation of Joos, a dynamo from Holland who traded her houseboat for this property sight unseen, an amazing leap of faith. She built several new additions to the original cabin, and completely created an astonishing oasis just a 15 minute walk into the heart of party central. She really learned by doing, using local materials and indeed constructed an outstanding lodge at the end of a dirt road just a short walk up off the highway. The beach is closer, and the distance from the nocturnal commotion is a blessing in terms of peace and quiet. Solid bunk beds, lockers and hammocks, a couple of sensational sunset patios and a setting that just puts you at ease. With a place this unique, the visitors likewise are uncommonly cool.

Good local breakfast, solid wifi, and Joos and the staff do everything to make you feel at home. I stayed almost a week here, more than I had planned, just because it was so chill. Tell Joos I sent you-  https://www.booking.com/hotel/ec/punto-verde-casona.es.html

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That’s Joos’ place up on the hill to the right

Cotopaxi & Secret Garden

                     Cotopaxi is often shrouded in clouds

The closest town to Secret Garden, and the mighty mountain, is Machachi, about an hour south of Quito. There it’s a slow 45 minutes on a prehistoric stone road to the ‘best hostel in Ecuador.’ It’s surrounded by cherry farmland and cows, along with 3 Llamas out front. A dead volcano rises up behind the cluster of buildings, which is the main lodge, some cabinas, 2 dorms, and the owner’s cush pad above the rest. The staff here was super friendly and helpful, and the volunteers were from Australia and England, spending a few weeks here on the ramble while traveling the continent. A big Brit, Eddie, led a 45 minute hike up a close gorge to a couple of 10 meter waterfalls along with a beaut Dalmation, Milo and an energetic Dachsund, Daisy. The top section was sporty and slippery, scaling some rocks with lots of exposure and vertical.

Rubber boots are handy for this terrific hike up behind the Secret Garden

http://secretgardencotopaxi.com/blog3/

The communal meals were simple but hearty, and there was unlimited coffee, tea, and water. Many of the guests were here to climb or at least get close to Cotopaxi, directly to the west but constantly covered by clouds.There was even a gas heated hot tub, which I enjoyed with 4 nubile college chicks from Boulder, Colorado. The dorm had a wood stove, which got toasty that night. It may not be in a class by itself, as the saying goes, but it sure don’t take long to call roll.  Superior, and a great vibe.

        Secret Garden Hostel, a couple of bus hours south of Quito

Next morn was an early breakfast and loading into a van bound for Coto. The trip took an hour and a half, and the big parking lot was filling up on a Sunday. This was already 4000 + meters in altitude, and everybody piled out and began slogging up the pumice. The refugio, the climbers hut, was the goal, about 500 meters up, and Mully was bent in two, using two walking sticks to yank himself up the hill, a gruesome sight. Eventually, he made it to the shelter, and I followed the drivers wife as she led the way another 200 meters to the bottom of the glacier. The snow and ice looked ultra thick and intimidating, and I would not look forward to scaling that even with crampons and an ice axe. The clouds lifted, the rain and corn snow stopped, and the landscape was multicolored red, black, white and every shade of grey.

          Views from the slopes of Cotopaxi are eye popping

The trip down was easier for sure, and the views almost reached the other side of the big valley and SG. The last morning the clouds briefly shifted and Coto revealed herself in full, with a snowcap that seemed Everestesque, an amazing sight. $35 a night got 3 squares and a cush place to flop, and most of the outings cost the same…Of course, as time marches on prices keep going up. But no matter the number it’s a fine stop on the road to Utopia.

                         Ready to take the cool plunge