For some travelers, a hostel is little more than a bed for the night. For the rest of us, though, hostels can play a make-or-break role in our overseas experience -- which is why it's so important to choose wisely.
Due to its reputation as a backpacker-friendly region, as well as generally low prices against the dollar or pound, Latin America is a prime destination for planning your gap year. Accommodation is easy to find too, with endless hostel options, from major capital cities to tiny coffee-growing towns. There are great choices just about everywhere, but some hostels really stand out from the others -- whether for stunning decor, high-quality food, prime beach access or even an on-site brewery. These 11 unique hostels in Latin America are just about worth a trip on their own merits, though you'll probably want to schedule at least a day or two for exploring the surrounding region.
Most of them aren't necessarily party spots (because let's be real, how many of those are actually unique?), but they all offer plenty of activities to keep guests busy or encourage them to get out and see the sights, as well as knowledgeable, helpful staff that can direct you to wherever the party is.
Because these unusual hostels are fairly popular, they tend to book up well in advance, especially during high season, so it's smart to try to book far ahead if you can. Some hostels allow booking directly through their own sites (or even via WhatsApp), and others you can reserve through booking sites like Hostelbookers or Hostelworld.
1. Cabo Polonio Hostel
- Location: Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
- Rates: Dorms from US$16/25 (low/high season), doubles from $44
- Book here
Want to really get away? Cabo Polonio is the perfect place to indulge your escapist fantasies.
This seaside hostel, located in a community of hippies and fisherman, is so remote that it doesn't even have a numerical address. To get there, take a half-hour truck ride from the coastal road out to the peninsula, hop off at Playa Norte, and walk until you find it.
Cabo Polonio sits on Skull Beach (Playa de la Calavera), which earned its name from the days when local indigenous peoples used to bring their cattle to the beach to sell the hides to European traders. They threw the remains into the sea, and, over time, the bleached cow skulls turned the once-golden sands white.
This spooky history isn't even the coolest thing about the hostel, though. The sustainable site has no electricity, running entirely on solar energy. The four beachfront rooms offer beautiful views of the rolling dunes and the Atlantic Ocean, and the Argentinean owner (and trained chef), Alfredo, serves up fresh homemade meals by candlelight every night.
2. We Hostel Design
- Location: São Paulo, Brazil
- Rates: Dorms from $13
- Book here
From the moment you step into the gorgeous We Hostel Design, you can tell it was created by an architect. Housed in a 100-year-old historic white mansion, the space combines retro and modern décor for a totally unique look that's pure São Paulo chic, putting other hostels in Latin America to shame.
Staff go above and beyond to make guests feel at home, adding amenities like a cinema room and hammocks on the wraparound porch, and personal elements like a chalk message board on the ceiling of the glass-walled entertainment room.
It's not just the beautiful design that helped this spot earn a designation from Lonely Planet as "São Paulo's best hostel," though. The location is also stellar -- on a quiet corner of the upscale Vila Mariana residential neighborhood, just two blocks from the famous Ibirapuera Park and within walking distance of plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs.
3. Cabinas Tina's Casitas
- Location: Monteverde, Costa Rica
- Rates: Dorms from $15, private rooms from $25
- Book here
These adorable, rustic rooms are perfect for anyone with tiny-house envy. The nine little "casitas" offer sweeping views of the Monteverde cloud forest reserve, and you can catch glimpses of the rolling Pacific Ocean from the garden.
From here, you can embark on the many adventures the cloud forest reserve has to offer, including tranquil horseback rides, strolls through the local butterfly garden, a coffee tour or a thrilling ride on Costa Rica's longest and highest ziplines.
Tina's also offers a tree-planting project that allows guests to participate in efforts to reforest the Pacific slope. Deforestation across the region has affected the local ecosystem and damaged the natural habitat of many native species, so you can show your appreciation for the natural beauty around you by helping it recover.
4. Onas Hostal & Suites
- Location: Córdoba, Argentina
- Rates: Dorms from $23, private rooms from $80
- Book here
A lush, art-filled oasis in the northeastern part of Córdoba, there's so much to do at Onas that you might even forget to explore the rest of the city. The hostel's owners draw on inspiration from around the globe to shape the experience, from a plant-lined "forest-like" entryway, through a French Bistro room that transports visitors to the streets of Paris, to a Euro-chic bar that evokes London or Berlin.
Wicker chairs hang from the ceiling of the outdoor walkway, supported by curling vines that look like something out of a fairy tale. One private suite has a bed framed by hanging curtains inspired by Moroccan, while the tranquil reading room features calming blue walls and painted mandalas, and the bar showcases hanging lanterns and walls covered in street art-inspired paintings.
This magical, unusual hostel is such a vacation destination in it own right, nobody would blame you if you never ended up seeing anything else in Córdoba.
5. Earth Lodge
- Location: Antigua, Guatemala
- Rates: Dorms from $8, tents from $11, cabins from $18, tree houses from $35, private cabins from $45
- Book here
This eco-friendly lodge and natural retreat is famous for its breathtaking volcano setting, tasty homemade meals, whimsical tree houses and welcoming staff. Located just a few miles out of the tourist center of Antigua, its altitude (at 6,000 feet up in the mountains) affords it some of the best views in the region -- at a backpacker-friendly price.
Sleep in the canopy in a cozy A-frame cabin, or climb up into one of the lodge's airy tree houses and take in the view of the surrounding mountains and the city below. The onsite kitchen and bar offers a delicious menu of home-cooked, mostly vegetarian meals that are so good Earth Lodge has even published its own cookbook. If you have any spare time in between eating and napping, you can head out on a day hike, drop into one of the daily morning yoga classes and relax in the Mayan sauna.
As if it could get any better, Earth Lodge is also an avocado farm, so you never have to be more than a few feet away from a fresh avocado!
6. Selina Bocas del Toro
- Location: Bocas del Toro, Panama
- Rates: Dorms from $20, private rooms from $70
- Book here
Did someone say "floating hostel"? Selina Bocas del Toro is the life of the party in Isla Colón, the high-energy heart of this sunny archipelago.
Dive straight into the Caribbean from the sprawling water deck, learn how to dance salsa or take a yoga class, rent a bike or paddleboard for exploring, or just grab a drink or snack and hang out at the on-site restaurant. Selina has sleeping options for all needs, from budget-friendly dorms (including all-female dorms), small dorms with private balconies, private rooms, and deluxe suites.
As hard as it might be to tear yourself away from the pool, don't miss out on Bocas del Toro's famous nightlife, which features something for every type of dancer, from all-night discotecas to laid-back beachfront reggae bars.
7. La Serrana
- Location: Salento, Colombia
- Rates: Dorms from $12, glamping tents from $32, private rooms from $35
- Book here
One of my top five all-time favorite hostels in Latin America (and possibly the world), La Serrana is basically heaven. Tucked into the vibrant green hills of Colombia's stunning coffee region, this hostel and eco-farm offers a range of sleeping options, from comfy dorm rooms to private "glamping" tents.
The hostel boasts sweeping views of the surrounding hills, which you can admire from one of the hammocks strung between trees lining the property, or from horseback on a guided tour. The real selling point is the amazing food -- breakfast is included for all guests, and every weeknight, La Serrana's incredible kitchen staff cooks up a hearty, delicious meal using local and mostly organic ingredients, served family-style by candlelight in the communal dining room, along with plenty of wine!
It might be tempting to stay at La Serrana forever (believe me, I've considered it), but don't miss the opportunity to get to know the charming town of Salento and to hike through the mystical Valle de Cócora national park, home to the unique wax palm, Colombia's national tree.
8. Tribu Hostel
- Location: Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo, Mexico
- Rates: Dorms from $10, private room from $32
- Book here
Nestled on a laid-back island just off the Yucatán Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico, Tribu Hostel offers all the beauty and relaxation of the Yucatán beaches, with none of the madness of Cancún or the other major resort towns. This unusual hostel is only a 3-hour drive and a short ferry ride from Cancún, but it feels like another world out on the island.
Just about everything at the Pinterest-worthy Tribu will give you DIY envy. The brightly-colored dorms and private rooms are almost all built by hand, designed for maximum ventilation without sacrificing any of the quirky character. Comfy hammocks in the garden beckon for a mid-afternoon siesta -- a perfect break after morning kite-surf lessons or to gather your energy for a nighttime jam session at the hostel bar.
Tribu is half a block from Holbox Beach, so you never have to let the Gulf waves out of your sight. If you do decide to venture farther afield, staff will provide you with a cute, hand-drawn map of the town's sandy streets.
- Location: Quito, Ecuador
- Rates: Dorms from $12, private rooms from $25
- Book here
Beautiful both inside and out, BoutiQuito offers all the amenities of a lovingly curated design hostel, plus an unreal, panoramic view of the Ecuadorean capital and the nearby Nevado Cayambe volcano. The fully renovated, four-story building sits on the border of uptown Quito and the bohemian Guapulo village.
The staff at BoutiQuito are serious about their commitment to supporting local sustainable economies while sticking to the highest standards of quality, so everything there is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The hostel's walls are adorned with hand-painted works by local artists, and every meal served there is sourced directly from the neighborhood farmer's market.
10. La Nona B&B
- Location: Valparaíso, Chile
- Rates: Private rooms from $55
- Book here
La Nona is perched on a hill in colorful seaside Valparaíso, in the heart of the picturesque Cerro Alegre neighborhood. This location means guests are within walking distance of many of the city's most popular attractions, including the cathedral and Pablo Neruda's house, as well as plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Staying at La Nona feels like staying with family friends who make sure you're well fed, rested and have all the information you need to discover everything Valpo has to offer. Owners René and Carolina think of running a hostel less like managing a business and more like sharing their home with visitors. Rene's mother is even in charge of the kitchen -- talk about keeping it in the family!
11. Adventure Brew Hostel
- Location: La Paz, Bolivia
- Rates: Dorms from $8, private rooms from $32
- Book here
Adventure Brew is the place for outgoing travelers who want to make friends over a cold pint -- all without leaving the comfort of their hostel. The hostel, housed in a recently renovated building in the city's historic center, offers dorm rooms of various sizes, a game room and plenty of opportunities to socialize with other guests or explore the city, plus easy access to the bus terminal for wherever your travels take you next.
After adding the more communal hostel, Adventure Brew converted its original location into a cozy B&B, which offers the same social atmosphere (and beer!) with a little more privacy, for large groups or people who don't like sharing their rooms with strangers. It bills itself as the "only B&B/brewery in South America" -- that title alone deserves a visit, just to see for yourself.