Hostel Review: Kokopelli Paracas

  

We tried to book a couple of beds at Kokopelli Paracas three or four days before our arrival in Paracas. Unfortunately, all their beds were booked. We met lots of travelers who had also wanted to stay there and couldn’t. We didn’t understand why they sold out so fast until we stopped by. It’s a massive, impressive hostel, with more hanging out space than sleeping space!

  

The common areas have tons of shaded seating, a big pool, a pool table, a foosball table, a well-equipped bar, and a door that leads directly to the beach. We liked the interesting art they had painted on the walls. In the bar, we recommend their mango slushy drink, it’s pretty good. Breakfast is included each morning, unlike other hostels in town. They also have indoor seating areas with a couple of computers for guest use. The dorms look nice, though we didn’t get a chance to stay in them. Someone who did stay there told us they got a bit hot at night, but they do have fans.

  

It has a bit of a party atmosphere at night, but not crazy and the place is so big I don’t think the noise would bother someone in the rooms.

  

We recommend staying at Kokopelli when in Paracas, just make sure to book way in advance. And if you don’t get a bed, you should at least swing by for a drink!

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Hostel Review: Paracas Backpackers House

Emily and I chose to go with “Perú Hop” for our transportation between Lima and Cuzco. Our main stops along the way are Paracas, Huacachina, and Arequipa. The Perú Hop service is pretty convenient since they pick you up at your hostel, so no taking a taxi to a bus station or arriving 30 minutes before your departure. You also don’t have to worry about buying bus tickets along the way, and printing them out if you buy them online (a frustrating requirement of Cruz del Sur). And to top it off, the bus makes some extra site-seeing stops along the way in places like Nasca.

For our first stop, Paracas, we stayed at Paracas Backpackers House.

  

Paracas is a small beach town where the main tourist draws are the Ballestas Islands (sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s Galapagos”) and the National Reserve, both very beautiful and worth a visit. The wildlife we saw reminded us of our boat tour in the Beagle Channel, but it was so much cheaper.

  

Paracas Backpackers House has the second best rating on Hostelworld, second only to Kokopelli, and we think it deserves that rating.

The beds were comfortable, they kept the place clean, and always had soap by the bathroom sink. The showers always seemed to have hot water. We liked the shaded seating areas, and particularly the patio with hammocks and chairs, shaded by a small pavilion and a large, hanging tarp. The WiFi was decent most of the time, and better than we expected for such a small, remote town. While there were no towels in our four-person dorm, a bar of soap and a towel were provided to each guest in the private rooms. The kitchen is small, and you could cook in it if you wanted. We just used the fridge and also microwaved some leftovers for lunch one day. The location is good, just a couple blocks from the ocean.

  

On the negative side, there wasn’t much air circulation in our ground-level dorm room which meant it got uncomfortably warm at night, and unbearably hot in the middle of the day. Also, there were two pet cats which is never a pleasant surprise for us since Emily and I are both allergic. Thankfully, we didn’t experience any notable allergy symptoms while there.

The staff was kind but quiet, though they did warm up to us some by our last morning there (we stayed two nights). While we waited for our bus, we had a nice conversation with an Italian man who is working at the hostel for a couple of months.

  

All in all, it was a good stay and we would recommend Paracas Backpackers House if Kokopelli is all booked up. We will write about that hostel in a later post.

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*Also, for vegetarians I recommend the restaurant by the pier, Punta Paracas. A lot of times Peruvian servers don’t understand the whole vegetarian thing, but when I ordered the vegetable thai rice, the server clarified that I was okay with egg in the dish. I do eat eggs, but the server’s awareness that I might be vegan–that impressed me. They have a number of vegetarian dishes on the menu.

Hostel Experience: Huanchaco

Emily and I went and spent four days and five nights at the Peruvian beach town of Huanchaco, per the recommendation of a friend whose boyfriend is from Trujillo. We enjoyed the time to relax by the ocean, learn about the caballitos de totora, and our visits to local archaeological sites like Chan Chan and Huacas del Moche. While our stay was a pleasant one overall, we learned more from what this hostel did wrong than what it did right. If I have mostly negative things to say about a hostel I avoid mentioning it by name, unless it poses a danger to travelers. My post will remain on the web for a long time, possibly long after they’ve resolved these issues.

This hostel recently came under new management, and was renamed just a few months ago. It gets pretty positive reviews, probably because the managers know how to get a party going and promote a really laid back vibe.

Other positive points are the big terrace with tables and chairs where lots of guests hang out all day, sunning and looking out at the waves. The location is pretty good, and the WiFi works well on the first couple of floors. Also, all or most of their rooms face the ocean. Rooms are cleaned regularly and the bathrooms are taken care of.

Those positive points kept our stay a good one. We didn’t move to another hostel (though we know others did), but our stay could have been so much better if they improved on their weak areas which fall into a few categories: information, facilities, and service.

Information

There were a lot of communication problems, starting with wrong information on their Hostelworld site. They indicate “breakfast included” but when we asked about breakfast the first morning, they said, “Oh, we don’t do breakfast.” We double-checked their page and saw that while in one place it says breakfast included, in another place, it says they don’t serve breakfast. We also saw they had flyers around town that said they serve breakfast. Hostelworld also says nothing about outside alcohol, but when a guest went to open a bottle of wine, the manager came over to say they don’t allow that. There is nothing on Hostelworld about that, no signs on the walls about it, and nothing said at check-in. He let her drink the glass, but made it clear this was an exception. Later when I asked what time checkout was, the person at the front desk said 11:00. Hostelworld and the sign in our room said 12:00. We signed up for a tour that they arranged and were told it would be in English and we might have to pay an extra ten soles to get into the attractions. The tour was in Spanish, and we spent 25 soles extra to get into attractions. 

It was just pretty frustrating to never really know if the information they gave us was accurate. It might seem like a small thing but it is important to make sure that information is accurate when given verbally, on your website, on Hostelworld, on flyers or on signs.

Facilities

The worst facility issues were in the bathroom. We stayed at this hostel for five nights and had just one hot shower, even though Hostelworld says they have hot water. The shower head kinda sucked and the knob on the bathroom sink had broken off, making it hard to use. It couldn’t cost too much to replace the knob in the sink and get some decent shower heads. They have a small kitchen area but it’s closed to guests. The blinds were broken, making them difficult to open and close. While AC isn’t really necessary because it cools down most nights, some fans would be awesome on the warm nights.

Service

The service wasn’t bad, it was just unprofessional. It kinda felt like you were staying at a chill frat house for a few days. They often put up signs in the reception saying they could be found elsewhere. Maybe watching a football game in the café area or chatting up a female guest on the terrace. Sometimes there was no sign and nobody to help you. You didn’t get the impression that the managers were really invested in the enterprise. It didn’t get under our skin so much but we ran into another guest who was bothered enough to move to another hostel. He said he was staying at Meri Surf Hostel in a room with three others who had also moved there separately from him.

Until we found out about the people who had changed hostels, we were thinking that maybe a good vibe is able to make up for the small shortcomings. But now, we really see that is not the case. We weren’t the only ones who were disappointed. No matter how good the vibe, the little things do matter.

Oh and also, we got drinks at Meri Surf Hostel our last night in Huanchaco and it looks really cool. We recommend staying there if they have beds available when you visit Huanchaco.

Travel Talk #3: Affording Travel – Accomodation

One traveler’s thoughts on hostels, and some photos of her favorites.

SEEK THE SKY

For this third post in the series, I’m talking about accommodation when traveling. As I’ve stated previously, when I travel I like to pack my days full of sightseeing, food, and generally being out and about. As such, I’m very much a no-frills person when it comes to accommodation. Why spend hundreds of dollars on rooms you’ll only sleep in? The beauty of European travel is the prevalence of inexpensive accommodation.

Europe 804Dining room at the Youth Hostel Füssen.

When I traveled in Europe in 2011-2012 I stayed almost exclusively in hostel dorms. To date I’ve stayed in at least 22 different hostels for between one and five nights each. Despite a few sketchier/shadier ones, I’ve had very good experiences and absolutely recommend them to everyone traveling in Europe. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up:

Europe 2241
Hostel California, Milan.

1) Be Bold. Be sure to speak…

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Hostel Review: Red Psycho Llama



We flew to the Lima airport and our hostel had arranged a taxi driver to meet us and take us to Miraflores. We stayed in Miraflores for three nights in a private room. Despite the fact that I (Teo) was fighting off an illness the whole time, we had a good stay.

THEME/BRAND

Red Psycho Llama is all about some branding. I love their name as it’s fun, memorable, and makes for some great logos. The red llama inside the green recycle/reduce/reuse triangle is excellent.

Their theme is protecting the environment and the theme permeates the building. They encourage you to fill your water bottle (for just one sol, or .33 cents) instead of buying bottles of water that may end up in a land fill. 



A lot of the decorations are made out of recycled materials, and the rooms are named after recyclables! In our room, vidrio (“glass”) they had a chandelier made out of glass bottles, and also blue glass bottles going through the wall to the bathroom as decoration. They also plastered the wall with a message about the environmental impact of making glass.



Other rooms were named for recyclable and reusable materials like lata, papel, tela, and p.

They also had a place for discarding recyclables in their common room.



We liked our room. The shower had good water pressure and hot water, though the knobs to control the flow of the water took a minute to figure out. There was no AC, but the room stayed pretty cool even in the heat of the day.

They had a lounging area with lots of pillows for people to relax, read, watch television, etc.

The Little Things 

We’ve been traveling for two months now, and we’ve stayed in over 15 different hostels. In every hostel we take note of what we like and what we don’t like. We notice how we feel about the hostel and ask ourselves why we feel this way. 

As we’ve gone along we’ve realized that having a great hostel isn’t so much about doing one big thing super well as it is about doing a lot of little things well. It seems the more of these little things a hostel does well, the more impressive the hostel is over all. 

While hostels with a really great vibe and community can sometimes manage to seem great even when lacking some of these details, it seems to me that focusing on the details is a good place to start when trying to run a successful hostel. 

So what are some of these little things? 

Soap! While I never expect hostels to have little shampoo and conditioner bottles waiting for us, I’m shocked by how many don’t put any form of soap by sinks for hand washing. Especially in a shared dorm, I want people be able to wash their hands after they use the bathroom!

Hooks/shelves- hooks and shelves are small easy additions to rooms that can allow people to store personal items within reach, dry towels/clothes, and in general keep their things better organized. Big lockers are a great addition to a dorm room too, allowing people to store away their whole bag and leave the room much neater.

Mirrors- when mirrors are placed in the rooms and not just in the bathroom it can make it easier for multiple people to get ready at the same time, especially in an ensuite dormroom.

A place to put your shampoo- On the topic of storage, a shower caddy or shelf to place shampoo/soap on while showering is a nice touch. Bonus points if it’s one that a small travel bottle won’t fall out of easily. 

Give guests a map- Again, it’s a small but appreciated touch. It’s even better if you also offer advice about things to do and places to see. 

Outlets for charging- It’s always appreciated to have outlets in convenient locations in rooms or common areas where people can charge phones, camera batteries, tabkets etc. Cruz del Sur hostel in Ushuaia, Argentina gets bonus points on this one. They not only had a lot of outlets, but they had power strips at each one with a few different types of plugs, so people from other countries didn’t need converters. 

Wifi password posted- Guests are going to want to get online, so having the wifi password posted in easy to fnd locations like the back of doors, walls of the rooms, or the fridge in the common area is appreciated. 

Music in common area/reception- A little music, nothing too loud or distracting can add a lot to he feel of a hostel from the moment guests walk in. 

These are just a few of the more basic things that I think all hostels can do to make their guests comfortable without too much extra expense or effort. 

What would you add to this list? 

Brief visit to the USA

Emily and I are spending this semester exploring Latin America, but we spent this past week back in the states for my sister’s wedding in Campbellsville, KY (pretty much the middle of nowhere). I had thought I would get ahead on some blogging, but I actually got very little accomplished. We did think a bit about the hotel we stayed in, Holiday Inn Express, and tried to see if there were any aspects of their service that we might be able to implement one day in a hostel.

One interesting thing we saw was a pancake machine. We’d never seen anything like it before!

image 

 It actually made some decent pancakes. You push the button one time for one pancake, two times for two, etc., and it takes about a minute for the pancakes to fall on your plate . I think I prefer the similar waffle irons I’ve seen in some hotels, but this was interesting. The pancakes were part of quite the array of breakfast offerings: bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits, yogurt, cereal, cinnamon rolls, bread, juices, milk, coffee, and more! Probably a bit elaborate for a small hostel, maybe possible for a huge one.

While the hotel is “smoke-free,” you could definitely tell that someone had smokeds in my parents’ room at some point. I just take it as a reminder of how smoke seeps into the walls and floors and furniture of a room. Probably a good idea to make your hostel’s smoking policy very clear.

Our biggest take-away from the hotel experience was the importance of customer service. We were impressed with every staff member we spoke with from the front desk to the room cleaning staff. They were friendly and helpful, and even remebered our names and things we told them about ourselves. While the hotel appeared new, had spacious rooms and comfy beds, it seemed a bit expensive to me for a 2.5 star hotel. That said, the value at this location was in the quality of the service. Friendly and engaging service can really make guests feel like their money was well-spent. I hope that the friendly attitudes are reflective of staff members that feel valued and fairly compensated.

One thing we saw that we don’t expect to deal with at our future hostel is snow. A snowstorm dropped about 8 inches in our area in just one night. I guess if someone has a hostel in a colder climate they should have bags of salt and shovels on hand for these circumstances, but if we have a hostel in Central America like we’re thinking, that shouldn’t be a problem. 

Having grown up in a small town in Georgia, Emily had never seen snow like that in her life!