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Around the Tayrona National Park and Santa Marta area of Colombia there are several hostels that you will always hear in response to asking 'where shall I stay in Colombia'.
We were lucky enough to be able to get booked in at the majority of these spots to check them out during our travels, so now we're sharing our thoughts with you on Colombia's most famous hostels!
One thing is for sure though - if you want to stay at any of these places (particularly in a private room) you need to book way ahead of time!
In the Tayrona National Park region you will hear:
In Minca you will hear:
Casas Viejas by Masaya
Near(ish) to Cartagena you will hear:
Casa en el Agua (House on the Water)
Set on the roadside opposite the famous Tayrona Park; Journey Hostel has become a firm favourite on the traveller route from Cartagena heading north, or from Palomino heading south.
We'd heard about this hostel from numerous people so decided it must be worth a visit - we had to book 2-3 weeks out to get a private room and even then had to change room for our second night as we couldn't get two consecutive nights in the same room. Booking a dorm room seemed slightly easier as there were actual dorm rooms or simple hammocks above the common area to choose from.
Journey Hostel has become famous for it's incredible infinity pool which overlooks endless mountains and palm trees as well as the ocean in the other direction - however for us (and seemingly numerous others), that's where the positives of Journey ended for us!
+ The infinity pool really is a beautiful place to chill out and relax!
+ The private rooms are very nice - we had the 'Lovers Nest' for our second night which had amazing views over the valley and a hammock to enjoy them from! This room really was an experience on it's own.
+ The concept of a 'family dinner' was great for getting everyone together
+ The hang out area overlooking the pool was a nice place to sit and the WiFi worked well from here
The Not So Good..
- Although the pool is beautiful, there's barely any places to enjoy it from! There are only a handful of sunbeds and a small deck area which fills up pretty quickly
- If you like rock hard beds you're in luck! The private room mattresses were extremely firm
- The family dinner style meant every meal was freshly prepared at the same time and then left for a pretty long while on the side to go cold whilst they dished it all out to guests, so it ended up being a little cold and aged
- The hostel website states that you will automatically be included for dinner unless you tell them otherwise (early 2022) - however it appears this is actually the opposite of how they operate - if you don't tell them you want dinner then you won't be included. We watched several people be turned away from the dinner line very confused after having read the website earlier & assuming they were being fed!
- It would appear that the staff (at least when we stayed in April 2022) had no idea what they were doing! There was lots of confusion about room location, procedures and drinks on offer
- There isn't really much of a vibe.. It's a great place to relax and chill out, however don't expect night time activities or music, you'll need to head out if that's what you're after
Overall we thought Journey was a nice place, but it had been seriously over-hyped to us in our opinion and was therefore a little disappointing! If you're short on time or budget, we'd recommend skipping this one out of the three.
Getting to El Rio is a little more difficult than Journey - once the bus drops you off on the main road most people take a moto-taxi (driven by a 16 year old local) the next 5-7 minutes down a very rocky road towards the river and the hostel - with your bag on your back that can be an adventure on it's own!
+ The hostel is set right on the river, so although there's no pool you do have access to the river
+ They have floats and a deck in the river for you to chill and tan on, as well as a little beach area at the riverside
+ El Rio is famous for it's floating adventure which is a fun afternoon and a great way to meet people
+ The food is delicious - probably some of the best we had! The menu has a pretty wide choice and it's all fresh
+ The private rooms were super cute - inside/outside bathrooms and large comfy beds away from the main communal areas making them pretty quiet
+ The 'mothership' dorm room looked very cool - a large circular exposed building set around a large avocado tree
+ El Rio is famous for it's parties - several nights a week they throw some pretty great parties that people from as far as Palomino and Santa Marta travel to go to!
The Not So Good..
- There's no pool - if you aren't keen on the idea of a river swim then you might miss a pool
- Although the floating was great fun, it's 40,000COP per person which is extremely expensive considering you're only paying for two 20 year old guides and a float!
- You only have access to WiFi in the very tiny co-working area which is tucked round the back, extremely hot and an area they allow people to smoke in - so if you have to work it isn't a very productive or inviting environment to work from, and the WiFi wasn't really that great either
- The bar cocktails are pretty expensive, especially given it is still a hostel
- There's quite a few bugs and mosquitos as it's a river location
El Rio was actually our favourite of the three hostels recommended to us in the Tayrona area and appropriately hyped in our opinion!
Costeño Beach might be the most famous of all the hostels in the area thanks to its famous owner and the pool's role in their music video that has been watched millions of times!
+ That pool! The Costeño Beach pool is definitely a great place to hang out
+ The hostel is located right on the beachfront, so it's a perfect location, and there are several other well known hostels such as Los Hermanos just a few minutes walk up the beach which you can visit
+ The food and drinks were actually cheaper than El Rio and also of good quality
+ The private rooms are very nice - especially 'La Casita' which is its own little house away from the main rooms and party area and right on the beach front. We absolutely loved our night in this room!
+ They have a little co-working area with good Wi-Fi and quieter music for those on calls
+ They also throw a party or two a week which get pretty busy for those wanting to party!
+ For those looking for a good night sleep - those parties end by midnight and the music is off
The Not So Good..
- The menu choices were very limited - after the wide choice at El Rio we were a little disappointed! The quality of what they do have however is still very high
- If you're looking to party, it'll be over by midnight here
- The staff didn't seem too friendly or helpful here - they were very busy but were definitely lacking in the friendly area!
Costeño Beach was definitely over-hyped in our opinion, but it was overall a great place to spend a couple of nights chilling out by the pool and beach.
Up in the hills above Minca you will find the famous Casas Viejas property by Masaya with it's famous infinity pool overlooking the mountains and valley below.
+ Like Costeño Beach, the pool at Casas Viejas is famous for a reason! Sitting at the edge of the pool you can look down at the valley below as birds fly past you at eye level
+ The restaurant and communual areas all have incredible views over the pool and valley and are a really nice place to spend time. The WiFi also worked very well in this area
+ The private rooms were very nice with good balconies. The dorms also looked nice and had amazing views from the front deck
+ The sunsets are amazing from up here!
+ The hostel offers tours to a nearby waterfall and coffee plant as well as traditional massages and daily yoga so there's plenty to do
+ The food is very, very good! The food looks more like an upscale restaurant than hostel
+ Anyone is welcome - we had young families with kids playing in the pool through to groups of 10+ early 20s backpackers and everyone in-between
+ The staff were super friendly and helpful - they also all mostly spoke english
The Not So Good..
- It's a long way up the mountain! This means you need to either rent a motorbike in Minca town and drive yourself up (roughly 100,000COP per day rental), take a 4x4 Jeep taxi at a cost of 80,000-120,000COP per car to be split between up to 4 people or you take a moto-taxi up the mountain at a cost of 20,000COP. In dry season a moto-taxi is probably fine, however numerous people seemed pretty shaken by their experiences up the mountain on very rocky, very muddy, extremely steep mountain roads!
- Although the food is amazing, there's only 3 breakfast choices and either meat or vegetarian for lunch and dinner so choice is limited. You also need to sign up for lunch and dinner in time otherwise you risk not having any food and there's nothing else around! They do also offer snacks from 2.30-6.30pm.
Casas Viejas was amazing, we loved every minute here and would highly recommend!
Sat even higher above Minca and Casas Viejas you'll find Sierra Minca - famous for its giant hands and nets for chilling in over the valley below.
We didn't get to stay at Sierra and unfortunately didn't even get to visit to watch the sunset as planned due to poor weather conditions during our stay, so we can't comment too much on this place!
From the photos it looks great, however we found Casas Viejas to be far enough up in the mountains let alone going even further to Sierra!
We were pretty gutted we couldn't get booked in at Casa en el Agua - it looks incredible!
You obviously need to take a boat out to this hostel, which we believe you can take from either Cartagena or the small town of Rincon Del Mar. There's nothing to do except lounge around in the sun and play in the ocean once you're there, but would you really need to do anything else!?
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