Central America and Mexico are popular destinations for backpackers looking for an adventure! The vast countries in the region have much to see and do and often travellers choose to move around to maximise their trip, spending a night or two in a different place.
Hostels are usually the best places to stay, especially if you’re travelling with limited resources. Staying in hostels often means you’ll meet new people, learn tips and discover hidden travel gems. These days there is a plethora of modern places that offer great quality and comfort at budget prices.
But what makes a great hostel? For every individual it’s different, but for me a number of factors can make a stay memorable including; accommodation, cleanliness, food, amenities, activities and atmosphere. Some hostels excel in a few of these areas, where as others seem to have it all!
I have mostly travelled in Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. Dive in to read about some of my favourite, recommended, happening hostels throughout Central America and Mexico.
Flutterby House – Uvita, Costa Rica
Flutterby House is in Uvita, Costa Rica. Flutterby is a lively, sutainable hostel with shared dorms and tree-house rooms situated in the jungle close to the shores of the Marino Ballena National Park and beach. The bustling hostel is popular with surfers and has a welcoming atmosphere, great home-made food and entertainment like games, live music and trivia. I liked the overall vibe of the hostel with its laid-back, jungle-immersed setting. The hostel facilitates surfing with board hire and from Uvita there are many tours and expeditions to explore the National Park and its rainforests and beaches . Zip-lining, mangrove tours and jungle treks can all be found within short distances of Flutterby House.
Bella’s Backpackers – Caye Caulker, Belize
Bella’s Backpackers is a hostel on the island of Caye Caulker, a short boat ride away from Belize City Port. Bella’s Backpackers is a renowned ‘party hostel’ but overall is very relaxed with public spaces, shared dorms and small rooms. I liked the social atmosphere of the hostel with its large terraces that offer views of the ocean island. The hostel provide free-to-use canoes for exploring the shallows of Caye Caulker and communal dinners. The staff at the hostel can advise with activities including snorkelling, scuba diving and water-sports with many tourists arriving to visit the famous Blue Hole. But if the ocean is not your thing, you can still enjoy the energetic island’s beautiful beaches, thriving party scene and recover in a hammock at Bella’s.
Los Amigos – Flores, Guatemala
Los Amigos hostel is situated on the tiny island of Flores on Lake Petén Itzá in the Petén department of north Guatemala. The hostel is deceptive in size, appearing small from the outside but with a restaurant, communal kitchen, clean and cosy shared dorms and a bijou discotheque inside. Their restaurant, ‘The Secret Garden of Flores’, provides excellent food surrounded by tropical plants, cool lights and water features. I loved the welcoming atmosphere of this hostel and the garden vibe. Flores is the most popular destination for travellers looking to visit the Mayan temples and ruins of Tikal National Park, around 50km away. The hostel can help with tours and travel arrangements, and from Flores tourists can enjoy lake activities like boating, canoeing, caving and rope swings.
Zephry Lodge – Lanquin, Guatemala
Zephyr Lodge is located in Lanquin, in the Alta Verapaz department of Guatemala. The large hostel is positioned on the hill above the town and offers incredible views of the surrounding mountains and jungles. The hostel has a stunning pool area with a hot tub and bar, and their restaurant provides a great selection of familiar foods. I liked the hostels spacious, modern dorms and clean showers with mountain views. At night the hostel has a party vibe with turned-up tunes and games. Most travellers arrive here to visit the rivers, pools, waterfalls and caves of Semuc Champey – one of Guatemala’s most iconic natural attractions. The hostel hosts river tubing party trips and other local excursions.
The Mayan Monkey – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
The Mayan Monkey hostel is situated in the upmarket Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico. The Mayan Monkey is one of few local hostels and is positioned close to the lively Port area. The hostel is high-spec, pristine and well equipped with a luxurious pool, terrace, sun loungers and dining area. For me, the Mayan Monkey felt like I was staying in a swanky hotel more than a hostel. The shared dorms were secure, modern and extremely clean. From the Mayan Monkey tourists can do water-sports activities, take ATV tours, whale-watching and marine tours or enjoy the sparkling Cabo scene of beaches, yachts, fishing, shopping and parties.
Bed Friends Hostel – Cozumel, Mexico
Bed Friends Hostel is on the island of Cozumel in the Carribean sea close to the coast of Quintanaroo, Mexico, and within reach of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Bed Friends is a small hostel with a friendly atmosphere and on-site bar. I liked the social aspect of this hostel with many of the guests gathering around the small pool and seating area to take a beer and chat. The bar offers a basic food menu and there are on site kitchen facilities for guests. Cozumel island has many beautiful beaches; some secluded and others more developed with bars, restaurants and resorts. Water-sports, catamaran trips, snorkelling, ATV tours and other excursions are all possible on Cozumel and the staff at Bed Friends helped our group to hire a car to tour the island.
Casa Balche Hostel – Campeche, Mexico
Casa Balche hostel is located in the centre of the city of Campeche in the state of Campeche, Mexico. Casa Balche is a calm, boutique hostel with a grand and colonial feel, high-ceilings, well-equipped kitchen, large dining area and small, shared dorms. I loved the hostels large, roof-top terrace with a great view of the Cathedral of Campeche, just 50 yards away. At night time, from the terrace, visitors can see the Cathedral and the city light up to create some impressive scenery. The hostel is very central to the cities bars, restaurants, sea front and city walls. From Campeche travellers can explore several Mayan archaeological sites including Edzna and Calakmul.
Kin Balam Cabañas – Palenque, Mexico
Kim Balam Cabañas are in Palenque in the north of the state of Chiapas in Mexico. Kim Balam Cabañas offer shared or private cosy, wooden Cabañas in secluded jungle surroundings. On the sprawling site is a restaurant, small shop and large pool area with sun loungers. I loved being immersed in the jungle here, cooling from the tropical heat at the pool and star-gazing around the fire pit at night, listening to the enchanting jungles sounds. Kim Balam Cabañas are situated at the very edge of the National Park where the famous Palenque Mayan temple ruins are located and tours to the luscious waterfalls and cascades of Agua Azul take place daily.
The Driftwood Surfer – El Paredon, Guatemala
The Driftwood Surfer hostel is on the pacific-coast beach of El Paredon in Escuintla, Guatemala and is conveniently located less than 2 hours away from the tourist hub of Antigua. The large hostel has shared dorms and private rooms, a pool, bar, yoga deck and restaurant. I enjoyed my time at the Driftwood Surfer because of the laid-back but lively atmosphere and its setting on the black, volcanic sands of El Paredon. Each night the hostel prepare a ‘family dinner’ for all guests with amazing food themes and vegetarian or non-vegetarian options. The hostel is a favourite with surfers and backpackers and supply boards and beach essentials. They also offer activities like paddle-board mangrove tours, baby turtle releases, horse-riding and night life. El Paredon is a small, tranquil town and it’s far stretching beaches are quiet, safe and perfect for soaking the tropical sun.
Tropicana Hostel – Antigua, Guatemala
Tropicana Hostel is situated in the centre of Antigua, Guatemala. Antigua is a popular stop for tourists and a connecting point for many of Guatemala’s main destinations. Tropicana is a fun hostel with a refreshing pool, two bars, garden and terrace. There are shared dorms and plenty of showers and toilets. The food in Tropicana is great and there are daily happy-hour drinks offers to enjoy on the terrace over-looking colonial ruins and the Agua volcano. I joined their famous Acatenango volcano over-night trek and stayed at Tropicana’s camp on the side of the volcano. Aside from volcano climbs there is much to see and do in and around Antigua including walking tours, coffee tours, ATV tours, museums and galleries. Antigua is a thriving city with fantastic restaurants and buzzing bars.
Have you stayed at any of these happening hostels? Tell us about your favourite hostels in the comments below