What Makes A Great Backpacker Hostel In South America?
We could write all day long about what makes a great backpacker hostel, but we will keep this simple. In our opinion, a great backpacker hostel has these four things:
- Clean, comfortable, spacious dorms with pod-style beds so you can have privacy, your own charging station, and a relatively uninterrupted night’s sleep.
- A separate social area (usually a bar) that fosters interacting with other travellers, making it easy to meet people and make new friends: along with daily activities and friendly staff that get everyone involved, helping you meet others and creating a fun and lively atmosphere
- Free or paid activities during the day to help you explore and immerse yourself in the culture
- A unique feature like a rooftop bar, pool or incredible location that sets it out from the crowd. Not every hostel on this list has all these things but will mostly tick two or three boxes. Some on the list are on there simply for the jaw-dropping location and uniqueness of the hostel.
Here’s a list of the best backpacker hostels in South America that meet these criteria in one way or another:
The Best Backpacker Hostels In Colombia
1. The Dreamer Hostel - Santa Marta
✓ Great pool, bar area and atmosphere
✓ Super friendly and helpful staff
✓ Lots of organised daily activities from hiking to salsa
✓ Delicious buffet breakfast and restaurant on site
The Dreamer Hostel is in the town of Santa Marta in the north of Colombia. It’s one of our favourite hostels we’ve stayed in whilst travelling South America and it ticks almost every box on our list above.
The dorms are built around a decent sized pool and bar area set in the middle of the hostel. During the day most people are relaxing by the pool or going on one of the trips organised by the hostel such as trekking in Tayrona National Park.
It’s this communal area set around the pool and bar where all the magic happens though with an activity going on almost every night from salsa lessons to pool competitions. Then, every Saturday a DJ sets up for an epic pool party.
It’s impossible not to meet people here and make new friends. They also have a great sister hostel up the road in Palomino which is just as good and worth checking out.
Another great hostel in the town of Santa Marta is La Brisa Loca. It just misses out on this list as the dorms don’t have any aircon and aren’t as nice as The Dreamer.
It has a huge rooftop bar and dancefloor which is why it’s one of our top party hostels in South America though!
For more on the best party hostels in South America:
2. Casa En El Agua - San Bernado Islands
✓ Hostel in the middle of the sea
✓ Amazing location surrounded by beaches and islands
✓ Great party atmosphere
This is one of the hostels that makes it on to the list simply for its uniqueness. Casa en el Agua is only accessible by boat and the two-hour trip from Cartagena is well worth it.
Not many people can say they have stayed at a hostel in the middle of the Caribbean sea before.
The hostel is built on a concrete foundation under the water which has since grown a collection of coral and attracted some colourful sea life. You can find guests swimming and snorkelling around the hostel during the day looking at all the fish. They also organise tours to the beaches close by such as trips to Tintipan or Mucura beach, or snorkel tours to one of the nine surrounding islands.
Don’t expect to sleep much here though if the crowd is a lively one. Whilst you can easily relax with a beer during the day and swing lazily in hammocks watching the sunset, if there’s a big crowd then get yourself ready for a wild night as the sound system starts up.
3. Los Patios Hostel - Medellin
✓ High quality dorms rooms with huge bunk beds
✓ Lots of activities
There are so many backpacker hostels in Medellin that could have made it onto this list. We will list them below as they are all fantastic, but Los Patios is the best!
Firstly, Los Patios has an amazing rooftop bar with fantastic views out over the rooftops of Medellin.
They will organise yoga, salsa, or Spanish classes every day to help you bond with your fellow travellers, and there’s even a gym too!
It’s the dorms here that take it to the next level though. The bunks are huge and come with individual lights, charging points and privacy curtains. You’ll also have your own fan too to keep you cool in the intense Colombian heat.
Other hostels to check out in Medellin include:
- Masaya Medellin – another hostel with a huge rooftop area and pool
- Viajero Hostel – boutique style hostel with another great rooftop
4. Rio Hostel, Santa Marta
✓ Unique jungle setting
✓ Private river beach
✓ Lots of nature activities
✓ Great volunteering opportunities
It seems like Colombia is home to the most unique hostels in South America.
Rio Hostel can be found on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, built on the Buritaca river between the town of Palomino and Tayrona National Park. Theres no town here so you really are staying in the middle of nowhere.
This is the type of hostel that’s perfect if you’re looking to escape the big cities and immerse yourself in nature.
The hostel has a private riverside beach, sundeck and garden. They regularly organise tubing down the river and encourage family-style dining so that everyone in the hostel comes together to socialise.
This hostel isn’t just a load of random shacks in the jungle though. They understand that backpackers want a little luxury every now and then and offer private cabanas alongside dorms.
As well as paddle boarding, volleyball, pool and ping pong at the hostel, they also organise loads of activities nearby. Once a week you can enjoy an explosive game of tejo, Colombia’s national sport. Tejo incorporates beer and gunpowder in an explosive but fun game.
El Rio also organises local volunteering for backpackers, and you can help out with the El Rio Foundation with educational, sporting or environmental projects.
This is an incredibly unique hostel that is well worth a stay if you are exploring the Caribbean coast in Colombia.
The Best Backpacker Hostels In Ecuador
1. Secret Garden Hostel - Quito
✓ Pod style beds
✓ Super cheap
✓ Lots of activities
Secret Garden Quito is a great hostel. They have a fantastic rooftop space with a bar, hammocks, and sofas, perfect for both socialising or just relaxing and enjoying the views.
They also run a busy schedule of activities with beer pong tournaments starting mid-week and a bar crawl on both Friday and Saturday night. Whilst you can have a good party here, the rooms are also comfortable, and each dorm has pod-style beds if you want a quiet night.
They also have a sister hostel in Cotopaxi National Park and will run you down there for free if you book, and you should! It’s the next hostel on this list.
2. Lulu Llama, Quilotoa Loop
✓ Luxury hostel in the middle of nowhere
✓ Resident Llamas
✓ Hot tub
Lulu Llama Mountain Lodge is a small eco-friendly lodge situated right on Ecuador’s most famous trekking route, the Quilotoa Loop.
The Quilotoa Loop is a 3-day, self-guided trek through the Andean countryside that takes you through three villages and ends at Ecuador’s most famous landmark – the Quilotoa Crater.
You wouldn’t expect to find such a luxury hostel in the middle of nowhere but its one of the the most popular choices along the Quilotoa Trek now due to the hot tub, morning yoga and resident llamas.
Lulu Llama is built in in harmony with the community and the environment, and the lodge is surrounded by impressive volcanoes, breath-taking mountain views, traditional highland villages and friendly indigenous people.
It’s the ideal hostel to rest and recuperate at after a long day of trekking.
For more on Ecuador’s epic 3-day trek known as the Quilotoa Loop, including how to plan for it, packing lists, and other great hostels along the way, head to the complete guide linked below:
3. Secret Garden Hostel - Cotopaxi
✓ Incredible garden with benches and hammocks to sit and watch Cotopaxi volcano
✓ Cosy dorms and common room with wood-burning fires, sofas, and hostel dogs to keep you company
✓ Great value for money package deal with all food and tours included
Secret Garden Cotopaxi Hostel was one of our overall favourite hostel experiences in South America.
It’s one of the best ways of visiting Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador, especially if you are a backpacker and want to experience an amazing hostel and meet other like-minded travellers.
The hostel is situated in the middle of the national park, directly opposite Cotopaxi Volcano: this is one of the best views from a hostel you will probably ever have.
Every day you will wake up to incredible views of the volcano and you get to see it at multiple points throughout the day from sunrise to sunset.
The hostel and its grounds are also beautiful. You may have come across one of the photos on Instagram as it often goes viral, making backpackers and travellers drool with envy. Honestly, every time we look back over our photos, we want to be back there sitting in the hammock, watching clouds swirl around Cotopaxi’s snow-capped peak.
Check out their YouTube video for a brief drone tour:
The standard three-day/two-night stay is offered as a package tour which costs $95. This deal includes all your food (three meals a day with snacks and drinks included) and two free guided treks. You can then book any other tours you want through the hostel.
Read our full review here if you aren’t convinced:
The Best Backpacker Hostels In Peru
1. Kokopelli Hostel Barranco - Lima
✓ In the trendy bohemian district of Barranco
✓ Big, comfy pod beds
Barranco is the bohemian district of Lima and a great place for backpackers who want to escape the busy city centre. The area is known for its laid-back vibe, artisan coffee shops and huge colonial-era mansions that have been renovated into bars and restaurants.
Kokopelli has transformed one of these architectural gems into top quality backpacker accommodation by turning the huge rooms into dorms or private rooms. They haven’t ruined the building or architecture though, with almost all the rooms keeping their 20th-century European style. Staying here will feel like a step back in time.
They also have a coffee shop to relax in on the front patio, and a trendy bar and restaurant in the backyard.
The location is ideal as well, two blocks away from Barranco’s main plaza and all the best bars & restaurants. This is the place to stay whilst in Lima.
2. Kokopelli Hostel Paracas - Paracas
✓ Only hostel with a pool in Paracas, ideal for escaping the desert heat
✓ Great sunset watching as it backs onto the sea
✓ Cheap tours into Paracas National Park
Most backpackers visit Paracas to visit Paracas National Reserve – a huge coastal desert filled with natural wonders.
There aren’t many hostels in Paracas as it’s such a small town, but Kokopelli is the only one with a pool making it the perfect place to escape the intense desert heat.
It also has a substantial outside bar area, and a mix of comfortable dorms and private rooms. The bar can get lively in the evenings and the hostel staff are great at getting everyone involved with drinking games and pool tournaments.
The hostel also backs out onto the beach and sea, so it’s a great place to sit and watch the sunset in the evening.
The staff will also organise tours into the national park as well, and these are some of the cheapest and best tours we have come across whilst visiting Paracas.
3. Banana Adventure Hostel - Huacachina
✓ Great pool and outside bar area
✓ Free activity for every night you stay
✓ Clean and comfy dorms
Huacachina is the perfect town for backpackers who love adventure activities.
If you are looking catch some serious air in a dune buggy and sandboard down some of the tallest dunes in South America Peru then Huacachina is a must.
Banana Adventure Hostel is one of my favourite hostels In Peru. It has a much more laid-back vibe compared to the Wild Rover down the road but still has a great social atmosphere.
The best thing about this hostel is that you get a free activity every night you stay with them. This may include the dune buggy tour or the BBQ they have each night. Make sure to pick the buggy tour and sandboarding tour when you stay there as this is a great deal (they usually cost around $20-30).
Banana Adventures has everything you want from a hostel – great atmosphere, nice rooms and lots of activities to make it feel social. It will always make it into my overall top list of hostels in South America.
4. Selina Hostel - Arequipa
✓ Huge pool and outside bar area
✓ Fantastic co-working spaces with great wi-fi
✓ Spacious gardens with lots of hang out spots
Selina hostels first started in Central America and quickly built a reputation as great places to relax, co-work and meet like-minded travellers.
They have since branched out into South America and are starting to establish the same reputation there as well.
One of their best hostels is in Arequipa, which is the city you visit the epic Colca Canyon from.
The hostel is set in the middle of a huge walled grounds, with a big pool and outside bar where they host events. The gardens are huge and are full of sofas, bean bags and treehouses so you will always have somewhere to escape to and relax.
And as it’s a co-working space, the Wi-Fi is the best around and there are lots of inside areas with aircon, desks and plugs to sit down and work away if you need.
5. Wild Rover Hostel - Cusco
✓ Big separate bar area and garden
✓ Best party around
No list of best hostels in South America is complete without a Wild Rover hostel.
Wild Rovers can be found in most major cities in South America but the one in Cusco is the best in our opinion.
This is the best place to meet people if you are looking to have a good time and party. Well known for its huge bar, lively bar staff, and general drink themed events, this is one of the best party hostels around.
The bar is separate from the rooms, set across the other side of the garden, which is ideal if you’re looking to get some sleep and not be kept up by reggaeton throughout the night.
Whilst the rooms are basic and they don’t focus much on activities outside of drinking games, you know that staying here means you will be treated to one of the best party hostels in South America.
As Cusco is such a big city, there are many great hostels that also didn’t make the list, with Kokopelli and Selina also having places in town.
The Best Backpacker Hostels In Bolivia
1. Adventure Brew Hostel - La Paz
✓ Great BBQs hosted by the hostel
✓ Separate bar, terrace, and balcony area with great views of the city
✓ Great location close to the bus station and most tourist attractions
The Adventure Brew Hostel is housed in a huge 19th-century colonial-era mansion.
It’s in the perfect location just 5 minutes from the bus terminal and close to the central historic district close to Plaza San Francisco. From here you will be able to get to most of the popular tourist attractions such as the Witches Market and the cable car.
They have on-site food services with a nice restaurant that serves affordable meals. They also have a grill area where they will host weekly BBQs.
The best part is the terrace attached to the bar where you get some incredible city views.
Bolivia isn’t as well travelled as the rest of South America so the backpacker hostels outside of La Paz, whilst still great, don’t make it on to the list of best hostels in South America.
For more backpacker hostels in La Paz, head to the post below:
The Best Backpacker Hostels In Argentina
1. Milhouse Avenue Hostel - Buenos Aires
✓ Huge hostel guaranteed to have a lively atmosphere
✓ Argentinian BBQ and wine nights
✓ Best party in town
Milhouse is famous across Argentina and South America and is known as one of the best hostels in Buenos Aires.
They now have two venues (Avenue and Hipo), and the Avenue venue is the place to be for a livelier time. The Avenue building has enough beds for hundreds of guests, and they are always organising events to keep the huge crowd entertained.
They host in-house DJs, tonnes of themed party nights and they will get you a discount on selected nightclub events in Buenos Aires. With a friendly and vibrant staff that also organise tango lessons and trips to football games, you won’t struggle to meet people and make new friends here.
The best nights will start with drinking on the rooftop as the staff work away on the classic Argentinian barbeque, whilst bringing round jugs of wine to keep your cup refilled. Then after everyone is full of meat and wine, everyone finally heads out to a club to carry on until the early hours of the morning.
The Argentinians know how to party, and you will experience it first hand when staying at Milhouse.
The Best Backpacker Hostels In Chile
1. Chili Kiwi Hostel - Pucon
✓ Perfect lake-front location
✓ Incredible view of Villarrica volcano
✓ Helpful and friendly staff
✓ Great selection of activities
Pucón is the adventure capital of Chile, and there are so many great activities on offer in this city.
One of the best hostels here is Chili Kiwi Hostel which won HostelWorld’s Best Hostel in Latin America in both 2017 and 2018.
This hostel is in an unbeatable location on the shore of Villarrica lake, directly opposite the majestic Villarrica Volcano and only a short walk from downtown Pucón. The hostel has a nice garden with swings, hammocks, and treehouses where you can catch sunsets over the lake and volcano.
The dorms are clean and comfortable or for extra privacy, you can book one of their charming new treehouse rooms with lake views or a cosy hobbit house set in the garden.
They also aim to keep you busy here and will fill your days with adventure. The staff are so helpful in organizing tours for you including horse riding, kayaking, volcano trekking and much more.
Chili Kiwi is another fantastic hostel in South America that takes the hostel experience to a new level.
For more articles like this on other great countries in South America and why you should visit them, head to the posts below:
The Best Backpacker Hostels In Brazil
1. The Search House Beachfront Hostel - Barra da Lagoa
✓ Perfect beach-front location
✓ 9km of private beach
✓ Great selection of activities from surfing to yoga
✓ Great atmosphere with regular party nights
Barra da Lagoa is a small fishing village near the city of Florianópolis, Brazil.
The town has several hostels but there’s none better than the Search House, set on the white sand beach of Barra Da Lagoa with its own private beach area!
The hostel itself is surrounded by lush green gardens. It has a poolside patio, yoga area, skate ramp, meditation space, hammocks, and you can walk straight onto the white sand of Barra Da Lagoa Beach.
The hostel staff are an active bunch, and they will encourage you to take advantage of all on offer in this incredible location including surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and skating.
If you prefer a slower pace, you can explore the wonders of this magical island by foot or take advantage of their dedicated yoga and meditation spaces. If that doesn’t take your fancy, then you can simply relax by the pool or take in the sun while reading a book on their private beach area
If you didn’t think this hostel could get any better, they also have a fully equipped outdoor bar with a great sound system, and they will host everything from pool parties to live concerts on a regular basis.
This hostel really has it all!
The island of Florianopolis has 42 beaches and is an incredible party destination. Check out the post below for more on the best party beach destinations in South America:
For more great backpacking guides, be sure to check out our most popular posts on travelling around South America: