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.
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.
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.
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.