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!


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.


*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.


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.

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.


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 Lighthouse Hostel: Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

For our first few nights in Rio, we stayed at The Lighthouse Hostel near Ipanema Beach. We enjoyed our stay, but this is a hostel that is all about “Location, location, location!”

Whereas our favorite hostel in Uruguay, Hostel de la Viuda, was about a thirty minute walk from the beach, The Lighthouse is about five minutes from the beach. And not just any beach, but the world famous “girl-from-Ipanema” Ipanema beach, right next to the Copacabana (hottest spot north of Havana?). There are great restaurants and shops and views just blocks away! And the hostel is tucked into a little side street “village” of hostels and houses that feels pretty safe in the midst of all the fun going on around it. This hostel is simple and aging but an excellent point of departure for a traveler in Rio.

We paid almost $70 a night for their one private double room. I gotta admit, writing that makes me think, “We paid what?” We’ve stayed in much nicer for that. Maybe there was a better deal out there. Probably. (Actually, I just checked and it looks like we could have gotten a nicer Airbnb room for a similar price). But we decided we wanted to be in Ipanema and this is what we found-and the price is more or less appropriate. If it were in a bad location, we would not have been as pleased-but we were pretty happy there.

The ammenities there are pretty much good. The mattress is acceptably comfortable. The two full bathrooms are kept clean enough and are sufficient for the guests in their six dorm beds and one double bed. They have hot water. The WiFi is actually some of the best we’ve seen on our trip. They also have a good computer available downstairs. In the private there’s an okay AC unit, and in the dorm too, but in the dorm they ask that it only be used at night. For breakfast there was fresh fruit, fresh bread, guava paste, cheese, ham, coffee, milk and a George Foreman panini press. There is a cable tv in the private room – if you like that sort of thing – and also in the main living area.

I give them extra credit for the staff, particularly for Alex who manages the place in the mornings. They aren’t really professional, but they are very nice. Alex is super friendly and really enthusiastic about helping guests have a good time. I think bad staff could sink this place, but they have some good kind people working there. Warm and welcoming.

All in all, The Lighthouse is a reminder of what a great asset location can be for a hostel.

Local Hostel: Manaus, Brazil

Emily and I stayed at Local Hostel in Manaus the night before we went on a jungle tour and also the night after. The first night, we stayed in a private room with an ensuite bathroom and the second night we stayed in a six-person dorm room. We really enjoyed our stay. As we looked around, we felt like someone had taken all the notes we’ve been writing on our trip and used them for this hostel. When we asked one of the owners, Matheus, how they found so many good ideas he said they picked up the ideas while traveling and staying in other hostels–just like us! We shouldn’t have been surprised.

One of our favorite things about the hostel was the painted art on the walls. Apparently, they had a visit from an international group of artists who offered to do some artwork for them in exchange for accomodations. I think the hostel got a real deal. The artists took the blank walls and made them vibrant with color. Each room is styled around a different type of Amazon tree.



The hostel is kept very clean and there was always someone behind the desk and ready to help with whatever was needed. They provide cold filtered drinking water for free to their guests. They have an open air area with café tables on the main floor, and also a really nice terrace on the roof. They also have discounts arranged with local restaurants, including a great buffet-style vegetarian place just a few blocks away (we are always very happy to find vegetarian food, especially with a discount!).


They have a pretty good breakfast selection at the hostel in the morning with coffee, hot milk, juices, breads, cheese, fruit, ham, cakes, guava paste, and scrambled eggs among maybe some other items. I particularly liked that they included a Panini press, with which I made myself a delicious cheese and guava paste panini. I wish I had a picture of the breakfast!

The private room we stayed in was simple, but clean and comfortable. I have a travel pillow that I often use in hostels, but they had thick pillows on the firm mattress and I left mine in my backpack. The room also had an air conditioning unit that looked brand new.

On our second night there, I was really excited to walk into the dorm room and see that their bunks were pod-style, with a curtain that gives you a bit more privacy in your bunk (it doesn’t go all the way around, but it’s still nice and protects you from flashlight beams when your roommate gets up at 6:30am to leave for his jungle tour). I had only read about pods on other blogs, so it was cool to experience them!


We were so impressed with this hostel, and when we told Matheus and Daniel (two of the owners) that we have a dream of opening our own hostel one day, they offered to share some of the things they’ve learned in their first year (it will be a full year in March) with their own hostel. They also let us bounce some of our ideas off them. I will share more about that conversation in a sec, but I have to say that we just thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and only wish we could have met the other owner, Camilla, as well.


I don’t want to go into the minutiae, but there were so many little things that made this hostel great. The outlets and reading lights at the head of every dorm bed. The bucket of free earplugs. Such attention to detail.

Matheus and Daniel shared some of the failures and successes of their first year. They told us how they had booked some beds in the hostel for last March but the hostel wasn’t even totally ready when those guests arrived! They said how back in those days a guest might ask for a pot to cook with in the kitchen, and they would run to the store and buy one. They told us how Manaus (like various parts of Brazil) sometimes has public water shortages, and a hostel goes through a LOT of water. They hope to install a well soon, which should make sure there are no more water problems for them in the future– and the well should pay for itself in no time as their city water bill will drop significantly. They talked with us about working with different booking websites, and the software they use for booking guests. They now use a software they paid for, but apparently Hostelworld has a really good free software that they recommend when starting out. They told us how they’ve found that having a guitar available for guest use has been awesome when a talented musician comes through. They often play for the other guests and it really brings people together. They shared how it isn’t too hard or expensive to make pizza for a pizza night from time to time, when the hostel isn’t full. As graduates of a hotel management program, and rookie hostel owners, these guys just really had a wealth of wisdom and enthusiasm to share. We finished the conversation wanting to start our own hostel, more than ever.

Matheus and Daniel did offer one caveat, though. Running a hostel is hard work. They didn’t dwell on it, but we appreciated their candor in saying that we should remember that it’s a 24 hour job and can really take over your life if you let it. Be prepared to be exhausted!

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Local Hostel. It has a professional but comfy feeling that may be something like we’d want for our own hostel one day. And the notes we have from our conversation with the owners will be invaluable whenever we make our hostel dream a reality.

Obrigado, Local Hostel!

Che Lagarto

We haven’t stayed in a lot of chain hostels, and as far as we are aware Che Lagarto is the first one we’ve stayed at on this trip. They have locations all over South America, and the one we stayed at was in Foz do Iguassu, Brazil.

I’ll start off by saying this isn’t really the kind of hostel that we would like to open, but they definitely do what they do very well. The place has the architecture and design of a fairly pricey South American apartment building. It reminded me of an apartment I rented in Palermo Hollywood, in Buenos Aires. The style is very modern, and pretty much looks like a hotel. It has about eight floors, so tons of rooms!

Everything was super clean, spotless really. The staff members enthusiastically greeted us with huge smiles. But that said, you get the impression they have to do that. It’s like being at Disney or something. Our room had four single beds in it, as opposed to the typical bunk beds we’re used to. There was AC in the room and an ensuite bathroom.

Entertainment-wise, they had a floor with a couple of computers, a pool table, a foosball table and a big screen tv. They also had a television in the room, which we a thought was overkill, and kinda annoying. Another guest asked if it would annoy us if she watched tv after we went to bed and we felt bad when we said yes, but it would have annoyed us. What are the chances that four strangers who speak differet languages want to watch the same programs at the same time of day, and can agree on who gets the remote? Sounds like a catalyst for dorm-room conflict to me.

Each night they have a happy hour on the roof by their pool and jacuzzi, with free caipirinhas. We think a free alcohol hour is generally a good idea for a hostel.

Their kitchen was spotless and impressive. Fully stocked. We liked that they had magnetic strips for the serving spoons, spatulas, etc. It made them easier to find and less cluttered.

Oh, and they had key-cards for entering the rooms! We haven’t seen that at other hostels!

Unfortunately, we had to leave too early to eat breakfast, but we heard it was great.

All that said, we felt like this hostel caters to a partying type of traveler that is used to staying in hotels. It felt too industrial or something. People hung out, but it didn’t feel like home, or like a family.

I would definitely recommend a stay at a Che Lagarto, but we won’t be modeling our hostel after them.

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Review: Nomads – Puerto Iguazú

While in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, Emily and I stayed at Nomads hostel. We spent two nights in a private room, and had a pleasant experience. We were pleased, but wouldn’t say it’s one of our favorites.

It is located near the bus station, which is a plus.

All the staff we interacted with there was really kind and helpful. Their breakfast is pretty typical for Argentina, except that they had someone to manage the whole breakfast station and seating area each morning, and she brought bread to your table, cake, and juice. The juice tasted fresh squeezed. The coffee was typical self-serve, dark coffee and hot milk.

There is a small pool, much like we’ve seen at other hostels. Might be nice on a hot day. It’s too bad there isn’t more room to just hang out around the pool. There is one hammock nearby.

There was a quality air-conditioning unit in the room that we used and appreciated (see previous post).

We didn’t meet as many people there, and I think that’s for a number of reasons. People are gone, exploring the falls during the day and that can wear you out. Also, since we were in a private room, we were separate from other hostel guests. I think staying in private rooms can have that effect, but some of our favorite hostels find a way to overcome that with really inviting common spaces.

All in all, this is a quality hostel and we had a good experience.

In the next post, I plan to write about our experience at Che Lagarto in Brazil!



Destino: Hostel de la Viuda


Emily and I arrived in Punta Diablo a little earlier than planned, and we were able to send an e-mail off, using our bus’s WiFi to let Sebastián know. Sebastián is the owner (or manager?) of the hostel, Hostel de la Viuda. He showed up to pick us up in his truck not long after.

The hostel is a bit far from the beach, but that didn’t matter so much because the hostel is just so awesome. It’s a destination in its own right.

First I’ll review it according to the list of “five things” we look for in a hostel that we posted in an earlier blog.

#1 Rating

When it comes to rating, this hostel is a clear winner. With hundreds of reviews on TripAdvisor and Hostelworld averaging out to 4.5/5 stars and a 93%, respectively, we had high expectations.

#2 Price

We paid around $16 each per night in a room with three bunks. I think that’s a good, fair price for high season. That said, I checked today and you can get a bed in a room with five bunks for $11 on Trip Advisor, and $12 on Hostelworld. I think that’s a steal! Either way, the hostel wins in the price department.

#3 Location

Punta del Diablo is a small, chill beach town. The beaches aren’t bad, and the best part is that you don’t have to share them with crowds, especially if you walk just a bit. This is not Punta del Este, which is a plus, for me. Nearby, about an hour by bike, is Santa Teresa, a national park with a bird sanctuary, an old Spanish fort and more beaches. The hostel is on the outskirts of Punta del Diablo, about 15 or twenty minutes away from the beach, walking. If it were closer it would be better, but the location is okay, and the general location is great for a few days of relaxation.

#4 Community

Hostel de la Viuda hits this one out of the park. They have so many places for guests to mingle: the living area, dining area, kitchen, back porch, two-story terrace, several groups of hammocks, THE POOL, firepit, building with a billiards table, and a building in the back of the property with a foosball table where they encourage people to hang out if they stay up late. The hostel also has a very well-stocked, clean kitchen which means allows lots of guests to cook and eat dinner together. They have snacks and drinks available so you don’t have to leave for those things. All in all they give a space that really encourages a community to form in their hostel.

#5 Cleanliness

Hostel de la Viuda appears to follow a very organized, daily cleaning regimen. Every morning the clean all the floors and bathrooms. They lift the cushions off the couches to clean them. They sweep at different intervals during the day, and do a final clean before closing down the main common area every night. I never saw them clean the dorms, but I think they may sweep a little when they set the beds up with new linens. They have two sinks in the kitchen which makes it easier for guests to efficiently clean the dishes they use. We also saw them do lawn maintenance while we were there. In general, the place is very neat and tidy.


There were so many great things about this hostel. They get extra points for the following:

The Pool: The pool is small but clean and inviting. Great for enjoying the sun when you don’t want to walk to the beach.


The “Mirador”: the top floor of the terrace is fantastic for stargazing on a clear night. We really enjoyed looking up at the Milky Way.

The Service: There was almost always at least one staff member available to help us at all times. Usually more. When I went to squeeze limes with part of a machine juicer (I didn’t want to actually use the machine), a staff member saw me and showed me that they had a manual juicer with a container underneath to catch the juice. The staff was attentive and kind.

We had such a great stay. The only caveat I would add is that this is a bit of a party hostel. We don’t usually think of ourselves as the party hostel type, but despite the noise of people celebrating late into the night, we slept fairly well and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Just bring a pair of earplugs.

I couldn’t recommend staying anywhere else if you want to thoroughly enjoy your stay in Punta del Diablo. ¡Gracias Hostel de la Viuda!







Hostel Mora – Mendoza

Emily and I just spent a few days in Mendoza, Argentina, where we drank lots and lots of wine and enjoyed our stay at Hostel Mora.

This hostel has friendly staff and does an excellent job of encouraging guests to hang out and get to know one another. It has a nice shaded outdoor patio area with tables and a hammock, and a spacious lobby/common room as well.



Those spaces facilitate socializing, but the hostel also did a great job of organizing activities, both free and paid, that encouraged people from the hostel to meet one another. On the wall across from the check-in desk, they have a weekly schedule of activities.


Paid activities include things like wine tours, rafting, and an in-hostel asado. Free activities all took place in the hostel, such as a mate (tea) class and a wine tasting, not to mention the free wine happy hour every evening from 8pm to 9pm (sometimes they forget to put out the wine, so just say something if it isn’t there). The free activities tend to run a bit behind schedule, but that isn’t so shocking– you’re in Argentina!

We actually did their half-day wine tour in Maipú and their full day bike-wine tour, and enjoyed both. Their prices were particularly good compared to others we found (half day 250 pesos, bike tour 600).

We also did the free wine tasting, led by the very friendly Maira (“Mai”) who also led our half-day wine tour. The tasting lasted a long time because we were all having so much fun!


We decided to join in their asado on our final night. Emily and I are both vegetarians, but she is more strict than me about it. I make occasional exceptions for things like cultural experiences. Asado is such an important part of Argentine culture I decided to eat meat for a night (and was very happy that I didn’t get sick off it, I haven’t had steak in years and I imagine that will be the last time for a long time!) and they made vegetarian empanadas and grilled vegetables for Emily. We had a great time enjoying the meal with others from the hostel.



And last but not least among the features we particularly liked at this hostel was the breakfast. I am realizing that breakfast at a hostel is more important to me than I have admitted in the past. If there is no breakfast, or a minimal one, I won’t complain (unless they said it would be available), but if there is a good breakfast it’s kinda awesome. Hostel Mora has a decent kitchen (we cooked ñoquis with a vegetable tomato sauce one night), where every morning they provide cereal and milk, hard boiled eggs, coffee, a juice beverage, and pastries. They also have someone there to prepare scrambled eggs and delicious dulce de leche crepes to order. So good!



Since we had breakfast every morning with people from the hostel, and did a bunch of activities with them, we really got to know them more than we usually get to know people at hostels. Also, free alcohol at night doesn’t hurt when it comes to people feeling comfortable to meet strangers.

When I visited an awesome hostel in Flores, Guatemala, Hostel Los Amigos, I remember them saying how they tried to make at least one signifcant, noticeable improvement to the hostel every year and that those improvements add up to make the hostel awesome. Hostel Mora has installed a really nice, modern sink area next to their communal bathrooms and I think maybe they share Los Amigo’s thinking. The facilities are good and clean, but nothing else is quite as impressive as that sink and mirror area. Maybe in a few years the showers and bathrooms will look like this too! (I thought I had a picture of this, but it turns out that I do not).

All in all, we really enjoyed our stay, and I think we’ll consider Hostel Mora again if we ever return to Mendoza.