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Where to stay in Santa Fe, New Mexico | El Farolito Bed and Breakfast Hotel Review

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The two of us Girls love almost nothing more than a road trip and our recent New Mexico road trip was a major highlight of 2013. Every day brought incredible landscapes, dusty Spanish outposts and fire-hot chiles. Every night, however, the hotel quality was left to the luck of the draw – especially in the southern part of the state. Motel life was fine for a while, but after ten days on the road we arrived to Santa Fe via the Turquoise Trail from Albuquerque and pulled in to a Bed and Breakfast so perfect, at first it felt like a dream.

El Farolito B&B Santa FeEl Farolito Bed and Breakfast is set in a typical Santa Fe-style compound which involves several one-story adobe buildings around a central open space. The compound was built and owned by an extended Spanish family who had settled here in the 19th century. Just a ten minute walk to the center of Santa Fe, the compound was eventually sold off as individual units before owners Wayne and Walt purchased it several years ago and turned it into the quiet little haven that it is today. El Farolito offers the exact experience you hope for at a Bed & Breakfast: personal attention, personal recommendations and a home-away-from-home feeling.

El Farolito B&B Santa Fe New MexicoDani and I were easily twenty years younger than the average guest, but it is hard to know whether this would always be the case – who else vacations mid-week at the end of September other than retirees and digital nomads like us. In these situations with older couples, we sometimes feel awkward when our relationship is understood as friendship until we have to make our status as a lesbian couple clear. At El Farolito we felt even more at home as Wayne and Walt are a gay couple who has been together for years and years.

el farolito santa fe signThe Rooms

After packing up and moving hotels almost every day on the trip, it was so great to settle in to these gorgeous rooms for three nights. Each of the eight casitas is individually decorated, all with features like rough cut exposed ceiling beams, Spanish tiles and adobe fireplaces built into each room. The first night we stayed in the Santa Fe suite, which had bedroom with en-suite bathroom and a separate living room. The following two nights we stayed in the Madre Acequia room, which, although it didn’t have two rooms, was open and spacious and felt like somewhere we could have settled and moved into for a week or two.

El Farolito B&B Santa Fe SuiteAll rooms have a fully equipped wet bar, with coffee maker and coffee, bottle openers, bottles of water, a sink and small refrigerator, so it was that much easier to feel at home. On the big wooden dressers there were candy bowls filled with chocolate, and each room has an outdoor patio, some more private than others, but all of them are perfect for relaxing in the fresh air. What we loved about the rooms inside is that instead of a desk and stiff backed chair, our rooms had big comfy sofa chairs to relax.

Bathrooms are modestly-sized but beautifully decorated with Spanish tiles and I love the designated black towels for make-up removal. I always feel terrible getting mascara on a hotel’s bright white towels. That first night we arrived we both immediately changed and threw on the big comfortable robes which were so puffy they were almost like pillows.

El Farolito B&B Santa Fe CasitaOur time in Santa Fe was limited so we were out and about relatively late at night (they seem to roll the sidewalks up around 9pm in this town), but both nights our rooms had private outside entrances, so we could come and go as we pleased without interrupting any of the other guests. Because the property is so spacious it would have been easy to assume the Wi-Fi wouldn’t work at the casitas further from the main house, but we had lightning fast internet in our casita, the suite and in the common area.

El Farolito B&B Santa Fe Casita & TerraceThe common area and breakfast

The owners and innkeeper were so friendly,we could have sat in the common area and talked for hours on end, but they are also entirely respectful of privacy and you have as much discretion here as you’d like. But either way, you would come out for breakfast, which is as good if not better than any restaurant you would head to in town. There is a hot and cold buffet each morning with one delicious hot dish and a side, plus cereals, granola, greek yogurt, coffee, tea, water, a plate of fresh fruit and two plates of freshly baked pastries/banana breads. Our vegetarian diet was catered to without question,and on the first morning we passed on the breakfast pizza that had meat and enjoyed our own delicious fritata! Every afternoon the scent of freshly baked cakes and cookies and piping hot coffee waft into your room and tease you out to eat a piece or two, entranced and possibly against your own will.

El Farolito B&B Santa Fe BreakfastThe owners collect art, and the whole compound is beautifully decorated. Some guests return year after year, choosing their casita based on the artwork that hangs on the walls and the pieces in the common room reflect the intense desert landscapes of northern New Mexico.

El Farolito B&B Santa Fe in New MexicoThere are bookshelves spilling over with guidebooks, maps and reading related to Santa Fe. We didn’t need a guidebook at all, with Wayne and Sherry on hand to answer any questions and make on point suggestions according to our own travel style and tastes. We may have skipped out on a visit to Canyon Road, an entire winding road filled with art galleries and big bold sculptures, but thanks to Walt’s suggestion, this turned out to be one the highlights of our far too short time in town.

El Farolito B&B Santa Fe ArtThe location

Yet another positive about El Farolito is its location. You can walk almost anywhere – ten minutes to Canyon Road and ten to get to the famous plaza. In the other direction ten minutes, too, is the up-and-coming Railroad/Guadalupe district, where we walked have coffee and hit the farmer’s market. With the proximity to almost everything of importance and the city’s free shuttle bus we definitely didn’t use our car while in town, and the B&B has plenty of parking for all guests, as well.

el farolito santa fe cookiesOverall

Wayne and Walt have infused their experience of running not one but two local bed and breakfasts (the other is the nearby and equally loved Four Kachinas) and their passion for Santa Fe and the Southwest in general into creating a home away from home that predicts your needs before you are aware of them yourself.

El Farolito B&B in Santa Fe New Mexico

Details

Location: 514 Galisted Street, Santa Fe
Price: Double rooms start at $190 in low season
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes, there was plenty of space to work and the wi-fi worked excellent.
Amenities: Full breakfast included, book and newspaper library, terrace, communal lounge, sweet afternoon snack and coffee, free wi-fi, free parking spots, in-room coffee maker and fridge
Website: www.farolito.com

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Where to stay in New York City – The Nolitan Hotel

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Plagued by jetlag the first day in New York after our summer in Berlin, I laid half awake and watched the black sky turn pink as the sun rose over the Chinese produce shop across the street from our hotel, the Nolitan.

Next to me, Dani was deep asleep on our cloud of a bed, cuddled up against the soft white pillows. This was just what we had both planned after our 29 hour door-to-door journey the day before, but here I was, wasting all that comfort, laying awake and frustrated.

As soon as it was light enough, I hopped up and grabbed the red foam Nolitan yoga mat and spent an hour doing sunrise yoga, getting energized for our first full day back in New York.

The Nolitan Hotel New York CityThe Nolitan is a boutique hotel without being precious, for better or worse. The building itself is stylish, with a mix of raw concrete ceilings and wooden floors, and the dark, sleek facade gives it serious presence on a corner on Kenmare Street in Nolita, or the area ‘North of Little Italy’. Just a five-minute walk to two subway stations, Kenmare is also the feeder street to the Williamsburg Bridge, which leads right over to the trendiest of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.

Here in Nolita, you have a great neighborhood vibe in lower Manhattan without any of the tourist trap experience you might get with a stay in Midtown or Times Square.

Nolita Neighborhood from Nolitan Hotel

The Room

The rooms have a minimalist design with an open feel and a glass shower just next to the bed. The vanity area (sink/towels/mirror) was also open, but The toilet was in its own very private room, with a European-style wall flush. Nolitan-branded toiletries are of excellent quality, and I jumped right into the bathrobe and slippers each night after my shower. A typical minibar with drinks is in the small fridge in the closet with the yoga mat, robes and ironing board/iron. A second box of goodies with chocolate, nuts and a ‘lover’s box’ was on the bottom shelf of one of nightstands, which also had glasses for drinks.

The Nolitan Hotel ManhattanWe had a 6th floor balcony room which opened out onto Kenmare St. As the sun rose, the crescendo of sounds of the urban jungle rose with it and by 8am delivery truck doors were slamming, the occasional car was honking and a the staccato of the motorcycle mufflers as they thundered by. Any later than that in the room, and guests would be wasting their time in New York City anyway, and this urban soundtrack wasn’t an issue for us at all.

The Amenities 

Extras were thoughtful, if sparse, though we would have appreciated a coffeemaker in the room nor did we see coffee down in the lobby in the mornings, either. We had a folder jam-packed with restaurant menus to order in despite the onsite Cantine Parisienne restaurant, and there was no mention in the folder or from the front desk that breakfast was included and served at Cantine in the mornings.

The Nolitan Hotel and Cantine ParisienneWe loved the two-hour champagne and canapé reception each evening in the lobby, and always tried to stop back in for an afternoon rest. We read, ate cheese and fruit plates and Dani sipped champagne on the leather couch nooks. The sunken floor and tall bookcases give this area a fun, classic library feel.

The Nolitan Hotel LobbyThe Nolitan has bicycles available for guests, free of charge, and although we would have expected two solid city cruisers, we loved hopping on our shoddy hipster bikes and speeding across Manhattan each day during our stay. It felt great to avoid the subway, even if Dani had to do so entirely in first gear – we’ll take advantage of anything that makes us feel even more like local New Yorkers! We also could have taken out their two skateboards, but our attempt at skateboarding just out in front of the hotel was a mess. If the bikes are already taken, The Nolitan also has two annual passes for the new citibike bike-sharing system as well.

The Nolitan Hotel Dani Skateboarding

Highlight – The Rooftop

The hotel rooftop is the gem in this hotel’s crown. With views far and wide, standing up on the rooftop puts you right in the heart of the city. There are views all the way to the Chrysler building and the Empire State building. We stopped up at noon and could have stayed until the lights of the city began to sparkle, but alas we had to catch a flight.

The Nolitan Hotel Rooftop

Room for improvement – Communication

The Nolitan has loads of neat extras included in the room rate – the problem was finding out about them. Missing out on a sunset up on the roof was really a shame, there was the breakfast we didn’t know about, plus use of iPads and available daily passes to a nearby 24-Hour Fitness we only found out about later which would have been great with our health kick.

The Nolitan Hotel

Room for improvement – Weak Wi-Fi

A sight warning to digital nomads and business travelers, the wi-fi signal was weak in our 6th floor room, not sure if other floors had the same issue. Bring an extender if you’re looking to do internet-heavy work or any streaming.

The Nolitan – Overall Experience 

With those sexy city views, a great location, its young vibe and enough extras to entertain everyone from skateboarding yogis to cycling suits, The Nolitan has the potential to offer a truly quintessential New York experience.

The Nolitan Hotel in New York City

The Details

Location: 30 Kenmare Street | New York, NY 10012
Price: Special offers starting at $269 per double room
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: As long as your room is near a wi-fi router, yes.
Amenities: Complimentary wine and cheese reception in the afternoon, rooftop terrace, free breakfast in the morning, yoga mats in each room, fitness passes for 24hour Fitness available, iPod docking stations, complimentary newspapers, Cantine Parisienne restaurant on the ground floor, wi-fi included, bicycles and skateboards free for rent, laptops and iPads available for rent, 1pm checkout
Website:
www.nolitanhotel.com
The Nolitan Hotel NYC

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Uruguay Hotel Tip: Hostal de la Viuda, Punta del Diablo

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Having local friends show you around is the best way to explore a new town. During our stay in Punta del Diablo, we had a gang of three four-legged friends from our hostel lead us down the organized grid of unpaved roads, up and over the massive sand dunes and along the beach. They waited patiently while we bought groceries to cook in the Viuda’s well-equipped kitchen and laid by our feet after dinner at night for cuddles.

Luckily the owners and staff were just as helpful and nice as our furry friends – which is the actual reason we’re recommending Hostal de la Viuda for a stay in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay.

Hostal de la viuda Punta del Diablo UruguayTo be honest, our stayed ended on a much more enthusiastic note than it first began. Our bus pulled into town around eight in the evening, and a pick up truck from the hostel was waiting to take us there. That was a good sign, but the minute we drove out of the village center – which quite literally took under a minute – it was still a bit of a drive through pitch black, dusty roads to get to the hostel.

We immediately wondered how we would ever find our way back for dinner (we were starving) and just what we had booked ourselves into. I’m actually quite shy, and when we opened the door into a room of over 20 people lounging in the living room and kitchen area of the giant yellow house, I felt immediately intimidated. To be fair, most people glanced up shortly from their smart phones, iPads, laptops or the movie that was showing on the flat screen. The next day, Dani and I would both realize that they were sucked into the relaxing trance that Hostal de la Viuda puts on you, and we would also be entirely caught up in it.

Uruguay Hostel De La ViudaWe were checked in by the same friendly guy who drove us back from town, and after he showed us to our room, he said that he and a few others were heading back in to town and offered to take us in ten minutes. We quickly settled in to our private room on the ground floor. It was small but tastefully decorated. The bed was narrow but comfortable, at the foot of it, a 20inch TV with DVD player sat on the desk. Right across the hall were the three shared bathrooms, which were cleaned early each morning before breakfast and throughout each day of our stay. There are dorms and bathrooms upstairs, plus two more private rooms and two small dorm rooms downstairs. We quickly freshened up and rummaged around in our bags to find our flashlights for the trip back from town later.

Uruguay Hostel de la viudaAlmost everything about the fisherman’s village of Punta del Diablo is just perfect, but the food selection leaves much to be desired. Just that one time, we shoveled the overpriced, mediocre tourist food down and made sure to stop in two different grocery shops in town. We bought enough to cook for the duration of our stay, and headed for home.

There could be more signs pointing the way, but it was easy and we felt perfectly safe walking home that night and every other. We would never walk alone again anyway, for the four days we spent in town. Our dogs were always by our side and our favorite Great Dane mix even walked us all the way to the bus at 8am on the morning we left for Punta del Este.

Hostel de la viuda punta del diabloWith Brazilian songs pumping happily in the background (it is only an hour to the border from here), breakfast each morning consisted of big, puffy white and wheat rolls with oodles of butter, fresh marmalade and dulce de leche, plus bottomless coffee, tea and mate. After months of traveling through South America, this was easily one of the best versions of this breakfast we had ever been served. Three giggly yet stylish girls prepared breakfast each day, and were also around most the afternoon baking and cooking together, always assuring fresh pastries, cakes, quiches and empanadas were available (for purchase) throughout the day.

Even when they were in there cooking, there was enough space, utensils, appliances, stove tops, dishes, pots and pans for us and others to cook along side each other. The kitchen was easily one of the highlights of Hostel de la Viuda, especially considering the 20 minute walk into town where all the restaurants are.Uruguay Hostel De La Viuda BreakfastAfter breakfast each day we tended to go for a walk with the dogs, up over the sand dunes to walk along the beach. The weather in March, Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, was chilly at dawn and dusk, but after hours is the hot afternoon sun, we meandered back through the sandy streets, past the vacation homes, each designed by professional architects. We would dream of renting one the next time we were in town, but in all honesty, after getting back to the hostel and setting up our computers to work at the tables in the cool afternoon breeze, we didn’t ever feel like we were missing anything during our stay. We worked until the kitchen got busy around dinner time (which is later in South America, so we had a good five or so hours to work each day). The Wi-Fi here was strong enough for guests to all sit around on their devices, Skyping or emailing in the evening, and because it was off season, there wasn’t much other to do in the evenings than that, or watch movies sprawled out together on the leather couches and armchairs in the living room.

Hostel De La Viuda in Uruguay Punta Del DiabloStand Out Feature: More than meets the eye

During our stay, we spent a lot of time actually hanging around the hotel and every day we discovered new amenities. There is a pool in the back, plus a multi-level sun deck with ocean views, loads of space to barbecue, sun chairs, hammocks, tire swings, even a volleyball court. In addition to the freshly baked goods in the kitchen, there is also a fridge selling beer, water, soda, chocolate and other snacks at nearly the same price as in town. Any time the jeep heads into town, someone does offer to take you, but there are also bikes for rent for $5 a day. There are also brand new apartments for rent off site, if you are looking to stay longer term or have more privacy.

Hostel de la viuda Punta Del Diablo UruguayRoom for improvement: Signage

I can’t ask the hotel to move closer to the beach any more than I can ask the beach to relocate nearer to the hotel. All I would like is for the information on the website to reflect the reality that it’s a 15-20 minute walk into town, not five minutes, and I wouldn’t mind one or two lit signs on the main road and on one of the darker side roads lighting the way a bit more clearly to hostel. I really wonder if I would have found it at night as easily if I didn’t have my real-life GPS Dani with me.

hostel de la viuda signsOverall

Overall, staying in this big yellow house feels like the parents have gone away, only to leave their enthusiastic kids in charge. There is a happy, chilled vibe that immediately relaxed us during our stay. We got a bizarre amount of writing done, in a sort of serene haze, not lazy, just no stress whatsoever. With a cool, laid-back vibe, Hostal de la Viuda manages to meet every need before you know you’re missing something, and made us so welcome and comfortable that we extended for one extra night, just so we could hang out for one more day (and play with the dogs, obviously).

Punta del Diablo

Details

Location: Calles San Luis y Nueva Granada, Punta del Diablo, Uruguay
Price: Starting at US$10 for a dorm bed, US$40 for a double room (shared bathroom)
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Yes
Amenities: Complimentary breakfast, fully equipped kitchen, food and drinks available for purchase, free wi-fi, swimming pool, comprehensive book and DVD library, terrace, hammocks, bicycle rental, apartments available
Website: www.hosteldelaviuda.com

Warning: In Punta del Diablo the ATM (Cash machine) only works in January and February!

We booked this hostel through

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Hotel Tip of the Week: Posada al Sur | Montevideo, Uruguay

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If you are an urbanite at heart, then you are likely familiar with that sense of relief you get upon arriving to a city after an extended trip to rural locations.

We spent six weeks traveling down from Valparaiso, Chile south through Patagonia to the southernmost tip of the Americas, and it took us just under four hours to fly back up and into Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo. Wildlife was suddenly replaced by city life and we couldn’t wait to soak up the hustle, and its partner bustle. What we really needed, however, was a good rest after weeks of overpriced, grungy youth hostels, the only accommodation available – for the most part – for under $50 a night in the region.

We were desperate for a grown-up place to stay with all the amenities and comforts of home at a fair price.

posada al sur montevideo b&b
That’s exactly what we got with Posada al Sur, in Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja neighborhood.

The area itself is not the best, as much of Montevideo has gotten a bit rougher in recent years. The street the posada is located on is particularly dark at night and look out in a couple of weeks for a She Said, She Said post on our attempted robbery experience in Montevideo (don’t worry, they got nothing and we made a huge scene!).

posada al sur montevideo viewOnce inside the Posada, however, our cares melted away. Posada al Sur is exactly the kind of hotel we appreciate for its balance of functionality, cleanliness, design and wallet-friendliness.

Set inside two neighboring renovated colonial buildings, the high ceilings make the property feel particularly spacious, and we loved the original high wooden doors and window frames, plus Spanish tile work. We checked in first at reception, set in one building along with a new dormitory room with several beds. Most of the action takes place, however, in the other building next door. There is an entirely separate entrance opening onto a flight of marble stairs. The second floor has five rooms, four private (one en suite) and one spacious dorm room with six beds. The rooms, along with a common room and kitchen, all open to the center of the classic colonial building, where an iron spiral staircase leads up to a rooftop area and separate apartment, fit for a family of four.

posada al sur montevideo b&b uruguayOur room was spacious, with one queen mattress as well as a single bed, plus a desk and a large open set of shelves – with three warm blankets for the chilly autumn weather that had just started to settle in during our stay in March. Because the room opens into the building, it stays dark in the mornings with no window for natural light, but because sound tends to carry (as in all colonial-style houses) we could always hear when folks started stirring in the kitchen around breakfast time.

posada al sur montevideo bedroomBreakfast at Posada al Sur is easily one of the best we came across in Argentina/Chile/Uruguay thanks to fresh bread, organic honey, delicious fresh jams (and the ubiquitous dulce de leche spread), plus fresh fruit, an actual coffee maker with freshly brewed filter coffee, all laid out on the family-sized wooden table where up to 8 guests at a time can eat together – until the comfortably late time of 11am.
posada al sur montevideo b&b breakfast tableThe kitchen itself is really well-equipped, including plenty of dishes, pots, pans and utensils, and a large, clean fridge to store groceries. We cooked several meals here during our stay, and being able to relax in the early afternoon with wine and cheese or coffee and sweets felt like having a home away from home. Even if you are like us and prefer to prepare your own meals while traveling, make sure to stop in at Jacinto, a cozy upscale restaurant just a couple of blocks north of the hotel with sophisticated yet simple meals.

posada al sur montevideo b&b breakfast and kitchenWith the exception of the en-suite corner room, guests share the three toilet and shower rooms tucked on the side of the 2nd floor, which were clean and bright and it felt more like using a friend’s washroom than a shared hotel bathroom and plenty of hot water no matter when we showered.

posada al sur montevideo bathroomsThe common room is large with two heavy wooden doors that open out onto small balconies overlooking the street and Ciudad Vieja. This was great for people-watching from above, and certainly here in the afternoons could have felt very romantic – unfortunately this room is not as comfortable as it could be. There are two computers with internet in the corner and a bookshelf along the wall, but the main places to sit are either around a large table or in two antique chairs made for show, not comfort. We felt like the owners have missed a major opportunity here because if this room had a couple of big, lazy chairs and/or a comfortable couch, Posada al Sur would feel so cozy we may not have wanted to leave.

posada al sur montevideo uruguay common roomBut we respect their intentions as well as all their efforts to offer, in general, such great value for money in the heart of a capital city. None of the owners were particularly talkative (though they may not have warmed to us much after our screaming robbery drama of the first night), but they were all incredibly helpful whenever we had questions.

When we arrived we were given a big map of the whole city and the woman marked down so many points of interest and tips for getting around the city. Dani had a dental issue during our stay, and another one of the four made calls around town to find the best option for foreigners not on the national insurance program of Uruguay. The hotel also rents bikes at competitive prices ($5 half day, $10 full day), and yet another of the owners took the time to map out a good ride along the coast. Montevideo is perfect for cycling with a promenade all the way from the old city to Pocitos, home to the glitzy high rise condos along several sandy beaches.

dani and jess at the beach in montevideo uruguayBest of all, for digital nomads at least, was the fast, reliable Wi-Fi that allowed us to get plenty of work done and refresh our podcasts which hadn’t been updated more than a few at a time during the journey to the end of the world.

Stand Out Feature: The ambience 

No matter whether it was from a rain storm that hit one afternoon, an adrenaline rush from our attempted robbery and Dani’s trip to the dentist, or a wind-whipped ride along the coast, once we escaped inside into Posada al Sur, we always felt immediately at home. Again, it has the feel of staying with friends, the natural light keeps the house bright during the day, our cavernous room and comfortable bed were great to escape to at night and we felt welcome to spend time working, cooking, snacking and conversating in the kitchen together with other guests or each other. There was art on the walls and bookshelves stuffed with quirky books, dolls and other knick-knacks that added to the homely feel.

posada al sur montevideo uruguay

Room for Improvement: Locks and Keys

Uruguayans love their big, gold skeleton keys and old-fashioned locks, but we can’t stand them. Here at Posada al Sur we found them particularly problematic because, especially at night, we just wanted to slip inside off the street, and were often fumbling with the door, trying to get it lined up right and it took several attempts until we got the hang of it. There was also an issue locking our room one night, and while we did manage to get it sorted, we would just really appreciate new locks and modern keys on this already renovated house.

Room for Improvement: Missed opportunities

The hotel is a co-op, owned by four (or so) local 30-somethings who seem to have a bit of trouble translating their very good intentions into reality. For example, we chose the hotel for its promise of organic breakfast and while we were still obviously impressed compared to what we were used to, the breakfast, outside of the honey, was not organic, and serving sugary junk food cornflakes instead of a homemade (or locally bought) organic granola, for example, was a bit of a slap in the face. Also, in addition to the common room missing a cozy factor, there were also large (think conference-sized) posters promoting social responsibility and other posters, brochures and pamphlets in support of specific women’s and indigenous groups. However, while these messages were quite in your face, it was entirely unclear how the co-op owners were involved with any of this and how much, if any, of what we paid actually went to help anyone at all.  The intentions are noble, relevant and important, which is why we would like to see more evidence that these aren’t just superficial marketing techniques to sell rooms to a niche of mature, socially conscious clientele.

posada al sur montevideo decoration

Overall

Our stay at Posada al Sur was what we were looking for – it is as functional as it is comfortable with quality mattresses in big rooms, a fully-stocked kitchen, plenty of hot water, clean bathrooms, great Wi-Fi, a big breakfast, strong coffee and access to the machine to make more later. For their sake we hope that the Ciudad Vieja area starts to live up to its potential because as soon as it does, Posada al Sur is perfectly placed between the port, the coast, a great market and the Plaza Independencia.

posada al sur montevideo sunset from rooftop

Details

Location: Perez Castellano, Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay
Price: Starting at US$16 for a dorm bed, US$50 for a double room (shared bathroom), US$60 for a double room (private bathroom)
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Yes
Amenities: Complimentary breakfast, free wi-fi, library, rooftop terrace, hammocks, bicycle rental
Website: www.posadaalsur.com.uy

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Hotel Tip of the Week: Hosteria Yendegaia | Porvenir, Chile

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During the 1980s, the last sign on the way out of Porvenir said simply, “El ultimo apaga la luz.”

If you’re the last to go, turn off the light.

So much of the population of this small Chilean town fled to the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego in search of work during that time, Porvenir could easily have become a ghost town. Not everyone left, however, and three decades later there are roughly 5,000 people living here. It feels more like a ghost town, in an eery yet exciting way. Unlike the large Chilean city of Puntarenas across the Straight of Magellan, or Ushuaia, the southernmost city on the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego, Porvenir is isolated, there are no cruisers squawking around the city on their South American cruise around Cape Horn or adventure seekers ready to jet off to Antarctica. Visitors here are bird watchers or those Transamerica cyclists who detour here on their way from Alaska to Ushuaia. Porvenir truly feels like the end of the world.

yendegaia hosteria porvenirScattered among blocks of rundown houses are a few tourist cabins and one sterile hotel outside of town, but there is only one place you want to stay in Porvenir: Hosteria Yendegaia.

A beacon on a hill 

Perched high on a hill in the center of town, this just slightly oversized yellow house can be spotted from just about anywhere. While it doesn’t exactly stand out, it is clear from its refurbished look and fresh coat of paint that Yendegaia is something special. We could not have been more relieved when, once inside, this Bed and Breakfast was so well-run and cozy that it felt more like we were in an English B&B than here at the end of the world.

yendegaia hosteria porvenir chairsThe bedrooms are all en-suite, with clean, bright bathrooms and showers with scalding hot water – a detail of utmost important here. Our visit was in mid-March, which is only early autumn in the southern hemisphere, but between whipping winds and pounding rain, the weather was bone-chilling for the two of us summer-chasers.

Luckily, along with warm showers, carpeted floors, strong heaters, fluffy towels and thick, pillow-y blankets for refuge, Vicente’s priority when refurbishing the house two years ago was putting in double pane windows to keep out the weather, whose presence here is always palpable.

yendegaia hosteria porvenir old stovesUpstairs there are ten bedrooms just like ours, each with a TV and a set of oversized twin beds. The absence of queen beds irked me at first, until I realized that, with guests almost exclusively groups of birdwatchers, the beds are in fact quite practical. This isn’t really a couple’s retreat spot – yet. Porvenir, which means future in Spanish, has quite a future, indeed, Vicente assured us.

Time moves slower here and we have plenty of time to chat during our two-night stay, so it is easy to see why he is so enthusiastic, no matter how bleak things looked to us outsiders on the surface.

yendegaia hosteria porvenir beds

The future is bright 

During our stay the hotel was full with a group of eight French tourists, birdwatchers, of course, but we imagined how quickly things would change if there were just one smart entrepreneur who opened a tourist information office and created tours our into the true Patagonian wilderness. With absolutely no public transportation in this area of Tierra del Fuego there is no way for tourists like us to see much outside of the town (which boasts exactly zero tourist sites). There is plenty to be experienced, it just needs to be packaged better: in addition to the birds, there are penguin colonies, and there could be plenty of guided hikes and adventure sports set with a backdrop of that incredible, otherworldly Patagonian landscape. With not much to do, had there been a ‘city’ tour, we would have taken that, too, in order to learn more about life in this isolated but interesting place.yendegaia hosteria porvenir bottlesAttracting tourists should become less of a challenge with the great-value accommodation of Hosteria Yendegaia already in place, which also boasts the best kitchen in town. Vicente’s brother-in-law is the live-in cook and the only other person to talk to during those stretches without guests. Our first dinner was a delicious soup and bread, while the French group devoured a sophisticated three-course menu of various succulent meats. After chatting about Chilean food with Vicente that next afternoon, they threw together a special vegetarian version of Chorillana, an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink dish set on a bed of french fries that is typically piled high with meat. It was an interesting result, but we just so pleased with their playful experimentation, all on our account.

Breakfast was the only aspect that was not as good as a British bed and breakfast, but miles beyond the usual hotel breakfast in Chile because, in addition to white rolls, butter and jam, we were also served two eggs any style. Tea, coffee or hot chocolate are available all day at no charge, and it was so comforting to fill our bellies with warm green tea throughout the rainy afternoons.

yendegaia hosteria porvenir chile

Stand Out Feature: A True Refuge

You go to end of the world, to a place like Porvenir, because you want a feeling different to bustling Puntarenas in Chile or tourist-saturated Ushuaia in Argentina. And you certainly get it. For hundreds of miles around Porvenir there is nothing but wilderness, an almost unsettling barrenness. In the town itself, there are no places where people gather together, no cafes, and very few, very empty restaurants. For us, this solitude could easily become one of loneliness without knowing we could return to the comfort of Yendegaia, after a day fighting 30-40 mph winds, cold and rain on walks around town each day.

Coming back in to this safe haven made us feel the right balance of comfort and adventure. In fact, when we said our goodbyes and began our hitchhiking adventure across Patagonia (we’ll cover that in a post soon) we both found ourselves dreaming of Yendegaia’s comforts and hoping that, should we successfully arrive in Ushuaia that night, our hotel would provide the same comforts (it wouldn’t, no where near it, in fact).

yendegaia hosteria porvenir tierra del fuego

Room for Improvement: Living Room 

This is a big reach, as the hosteria is as good as it gets anywhere. But…the only thing we can come up with to improve upon is the downstairs area. Next to the dining room there are several chairs around two coffee tables, but these are covered in books that Vicente and his photographer father co-authored and published, and native artwork his mother creates. These products are gorgeous, top quality and worth purchasing, but it feels more like a store than a living room, so all relaxing has to take place in the bedrooms upstairs.yendegaia hosteria porvenir living room

Overall

At the time of writing, Hosteria Yendegaia is the absolute only choice to stay at in Provenir. A beacon of warmth and friendliness, this is exactly the type of accommodation we would recommend anywhere in the world; be it in the British countryside, a world-class city or here at the end of the word. If you are nearing the end of your trans-americas cycling trip, planning a bird-watching adventure or just curious about Tierra del Fuego, you should definitely stay here!

Details

Website: www.hosteriayendegaia.com
Location:
Croacia 702, Porvenir, Tierra Del Fuego, Chile
Price: Double rooms are CLP$35.000 in high season (US$70), single rooms CLP$22.000 (US$44), triple rooms CLP$45.000 (US$90)
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes – this is easily the fastest wi-fi in connection in all of Porvenir!
Amenities: Breakfast included, TV in room, private bathrooms with toiletries, living room, free wifi, tours can be booked

yendegaia hosteria porvenir key

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Hotel Tip of the Week: Kospi Boutique Guesthouse | Bariloche, Argentina

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Welcome to our Hotel Tip of The Week series. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay at countless hotels along the way – some are true gems, while others are absolute nightmares. We started this series together so your holidays are filled only with the gems! We have personally stayed in and tested each and every hotel we recommend. 

Just as I swung my 60 liter-pack on my back after arriving in Bariloche, Argentina, the best thing ever happened. A young, bearded stranger saddled up beside us, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Are you Jess?”

I hesitated, hopeful yet unsure. Could he possibly be there to pick us up? Would we be able to avoid the stress of the take-the-long-way taxi ride or navigating the buses as fresh arrivals? Not wanting to get too excited about what would be a great relief, I responded only with a ‘Yes’.

He stuck his hand out and said with a warm smile, “I’m Juan, from Kospi, nice to meet you.”

Kospi Boutique Guesthouse in BarilocheKospi Boutique Guesthouse had only been open for six weeks at that time, and I am sure Juan and his wife Lucia won’t have time for such a personalized pick-up service in the future. The effort, however, shows the level of customer service and genuine enthusiasm this young couple has for their new guesthouse. After completing their degrees in Buenos Aires a few years back, Juan and Lucia went traveling and ended up working for over a year and a half in luxury five-star hotels and resorts in New Zealand. They returned to Bariloche to fully renovate Juan’s grandfather’s house to open Kospi, set on Mitre, the main tourist drag, 15 minutes from the buzzing Bariloche center.

All eight rooms are en-suite, and though the space feels cramped, the beds and pillows are very comfortable and everything feels very new, which we found was offset nicely by the home’s original 50s era features like the beautiful tiles and toothbrush holders built right into the wall.

kospi guesthouse bariloche toothbrush holderThe kitchen and living room also have plenty of antique touches like old radios, retro music posters and a gorgeous flat top wood-burning stove, now converted to gas. We used the second, modern stove while in the kitchen, which is a large, open space completely equipped with everything from cutlery and crockery to a clean refrigerator, microwave and wide wooden table to cook and eat around. Lucia can often be found in the kitchen either pouring over work-related papers on her laptop or cooking up a storm.

If she offers you her homemade granola, try it – you’ll struggle to find better in South America.

A flat screen TV with hundreds of international channels, movies and excellent surround sound hangs in the living room. It is a welcoming, relaxing space to chill out, as is an upstairs nook which has a loveseat, chairs, a workspace where they’ll have a couple of computers soon set up, a budding tomato plant and views of the lake just beyond the massive Araucana tree across the street.

Kospi Boutique Guesthouse Living Room and Work Space

Stand Out Feature: Excellent Customer Service

Juan and Lucia have taken all their five-star luxury experience and re-shaped it into an attentive, comfortable home away from home feeling right here in their own home town. They both speak excellent English and gave us countless ideas for day trips, recommendations on vegetarian restaurants to try, and they weren’t shy on sharing Lucia’s homemade lemon cake with us as we all watched the Oscars together, either.

Kospi Boutique guesthouse in Bariloche Argentina

Room for Improvement: Ambience

Considering we were seeing this guesthouse so early on after its opening, there is much to be said for how little needs to be improved at all. What does need work is the follow through on the overall ambience, most likely an issue only of overeagerness. The soft jazz music playing in the mornings when Lucia served the breakfast (they trade early shifts) was wonderfully relaxing, but Juan tends to talk a lot, holding mini-lectures both during breakfast and often when guests are on their way out. In time, we’re sure he’ll relax a bit and join Lucia in hosting the party rather than trying to be the life of it, allowing guests to organically speak with each other or just enjoy the silence.

Kospi Guesthouse in Bariloche

Room for Improvement: Breakfast

Not many would complain about enjoying baskets of homemade bread and cake, butter and local jams in the morning – and we’re not either! Argentinians seem fine with instant coffee, mate or tea and toast for breakfast, however, and we feel that, for room rates upwards of US$50 per night, international guests will expect something fresh: fresh-squeezed orange juice or fresh fruit. In fact, after sampling Lucia’s granola, we think granola, fruit and yogurt would be the perfect, hearty breakfast guests need for a day of hiking and outdoor adventure.

kospi guesthouse bariloche breakfast

Overall

We felt right at home and were able to both work and cook comfortably here. Not only did we extend two extra nights, but so did friends to whom we had recommended Kospi. Guests of all ages and backgrounds should find it immensely easy to connect with this warm, friendly and well-traveled couple. Juan and Lucia’s combination of passion, experience and energy ensure that Kospi will continue to be one of the top accommodation choices in Bariloche.

Kospi Guesthouse Bariloche Argentina

Details

Website: Kospi Boutique Guesthouse on Facebook
Location:
Mitre 1361, San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
Price: Double rooms start at US$45.00 in low season
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
Amenities: Breakfast included, kitchen use, living room with TV, free wifi

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: Margouya 2 in Puerto Varas, Chile

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We almost missed the blackboard with ‘Margouya 2’ scrawled hastily on it hanging from the front door of a historic home on a quiet side street called Purisima, which, roughly translated, means ‘super pure’.

What was a chance booking at a Puerto Varas hostel turned out to be a ‘purely super’ accommodation experience. The French owner, Pierre, is a former travel journalist and photographer who has been able to nail down exactly the kind of hostel experience we are always on the look out for but rarely find. The space he has created and his staff maintains is organized and controlled, yet with the comfortable ambiance that allows travelers to relax and enjoy time together.

Puerto Varas Margouya 2 HostelAfter checking in, we were taken on a tour of the hostel and then Pierre sat down with both a town map and a topography map of the surrounding region, proceeding to lay out how to do a quick two-hour walking tour of town, followed by a full explanation of the types of tours and activities that are easiest to do from Puerto Varas using the other map. Margouya 2 runs tours for guests, including sunset kayaking and hiking tours, or guests can grab one of the new, sturdy mountain bikes perfect for making the full-day cycle trip to the German town of Frutillar or other independent trips. Our three days in Puerto Varas were planned out within minutes thanks to his expert advice and maps. While the staff could be friendlier, they helped with anything and everything we needed during our stay.

Puerto Varas Margouya 2 Hostel bikes and toursThere are seven private double rooms and two four-bed dorm rooms on two stories of this well-preserved colonial home on Chile’s Patrimonial Hertiage list. The well-lit doubles are entirely adequate in size, with comfortable beds in sturdy wooden frames and the rooms have desks, chairs and power strips to plug in several electronic devices at once (hostel/B&B owners worldwide: please invest in power strips like Pierre – we all have multiple devices and one outlet just doesn’t cut it!). The only thing we found missing was that there were not enough hooks in the room. Dani’s theory is that this is a historic home, so making holes in walls is frowned upon. Speaking of the walls, they are thin and noise does carry, but this wasn’t a problem during our stay as the average age of the guests was around 35, so there were no gap year backpackers shouting over bottles of beer late into the night.

Puerto Varas Margouya 2 roomsTaking in the vibe of the house, I immediately noticed how grand it feels, nothing like your average hostel. I wondered why Pierre didn’t go the ‘extra mile’ and make it into a Bed and Breakfast. We later discovered why, when, on our last morning at the hotel, Pierre asked why he didn’t see us watching the movie last night. We had passed out early after a full day exploring town (and, maybe, eating too much cake…).

In his lovely French accent he explained, “Oh, what a shame. It was beautiful last night, you know, with everybody gathered around the TV in the living room, drinking wine and watching a black and white film from 1942 together.” He went on to explain how much he prefers the energy of hostel life, the togetherness of a hostel you just don’t have with a more sophisticated Bed and Breakfast. It’s true. The living room would be filled with five or six small tables if this were a B&B, but instead there is one long wooden table where everyone eats meals together or relaxes on an oversized couch (the most comfortable in Chile, Pierre proudly claimed) on rainy evenings to watch one of the 300+ films available together. We later learned that the noncommittal chalk sign outside is on purpose – the name Margouya 2 was inherited but it will change soon (and we will update this review as soon as we are notified of the change).

Margouya 2 puerto varas communal roomYears of hard-earned travel experience plus love of hostel life means that Pierre brings together all the best parts of other hostels and keeps away those that give ‘hostels’ a bad reputation. Guests here receive loads of local information, tour information without any pressure at all to take part, a communal environment great for couples and travelers over 20 years of age, plus coffee and tea available all day and dependable, plus super-fast Wi-Fi.

There is a spacious garden in the back with a grill, hammocks, and a grass volleyball court for good weather, while inside there are stoves and heaters original to the house that keep everyone toasty warm on the chilly nights. The location is an additional plus. The street is quiet, but just around the corner from the main drag and is a five minute walk down the hill into town.

Margouya 2 puerto varas coffee

Stand Out Feature: The kitchen 

Unlike cheapie hostels requiring one-pan pasta meals, this kitchen is made for cooking. With room for roughly half the hostel to prepare meals at once, the spacious kitchen is fully stocked with stacks and stacks of pots and pans, more than enough silverware, including razor sharp knives and several full sets of dishes (and fresh, clean sponges to wash them with when you’re done). There is a new blender, a coffee press and a coffee machine, an electric kettle to boil water, a toaster and a large table in the center of the kitchen with large cutting boards for everyone to stand around and prepare their food together. During our time there, people were making lovely stews, an interesting baked chicken, cheese and endive meal, and big, leafy salads. Two large refrigerators keep guests’ food separate and easy to find, with markers and bags in a basket on top to label food so nothing goes missing and, when checking out, guests leave any leftover ingredients – fresh fruit/veg, oil, spices, bread – on a designated table for anyone to use. We particularly loved this feature as we not only hate seeing food we buy go to waste, but also dislike having to buy new oil / salt every time a hostel has a kitchen!

Small talk and wine drinking ensue as people talk over and under others in a myriad of languages, with just the sort of energy that we assume Pierre had in mind when he opened the place.

Puerto Varas Margouya 2 Hostel kitchen

Room for Improvement: The showers

The bathrooms are cosy, with extra toilet paper rolls, soap and fresh towels, but the showers are original – which unfortunately means they are a bit shabby and in need of a refurb. I’d like to see modern plexiglass shower cabins, rain shower heads and shelf space for toiletries inside. Truth be told, the bathrooms are fine for your typical backpacker hostel, but as the rest of Margouya 2 is that wonderful step up from such an experience, why not invest a bit here to match the high level of all around quality.

Margouya 2 puerto varas bathroom

Overall

This is a hostel for grown-ups that gets the whole experience just right. With the same rates as other hostels in Puerto Varas, the value for money here is off the charts.

Details

Website: Margouya2.com
Location:Purisima 681, Puerto Varas, Chile
Price: Dorm beds CLP8,000 (US$16), single room CLP15,000 (US$30), double rooms with shared bathroom CLP20,000 (US$40), double rooms with private bathroom CLP26,000 (US$52)
LGBT Friendly:Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
Amenities: Kitchen use, lounge room with TV and comprehensive DVD library, tour desk, bike rental, free wifi, garden with sun chairs and BBQ

Margouya 2 puerto varas communal room with table

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Hotel Tip of The Week: Bosque Nativo | Valdivia, Chile

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Welcome to our Hotel Tip of The Week series. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay at countless hotels along the way. For all the dingy, disappointing budget digs, there are as many budget accommodation gems. We post one hotel tip of the week, every week, of places we feel confident recommending after having tried and tested them ourselves.

I had this feeling of dread on the way to Valdivia that I just couldn’t shake. After a couple of rough sleeps and rainy days, I needed a hot shower, a good night’s rest and peace and quiet to get some work done. Traveling in the height of Chile’s vacation month, we had to book two nights in a dorm room – something we almost never do for plenty of reasons. Because we were coming off one of our worst-ever hostel experiences, I wasn’t expecting much better from this hostel in Valdivia.

Instead, what we got was a spacious, clean, well-run hostel experience at Hostal Bosque Nativo. Set just a few blocks from the river near most everything in this small city, the hostel is ranked number 1 of 19 specialty lodging on Tripadvisor for a good reason.

bosque nativo valdivia dorm roomAfter signing in at reception, we were brought up a wide, wooden staircase to a large six-person dorm room that never felt cramped. The Wi-Fi was lightning fast, it was generally quiet enough for us to get work done and we both slept like rocks on the quality, comfortable mattresses. All the bunk beds were made out of sturdy wood, as are the doubles in all four private rooms and the bunks in the other 6-person and 8-person dorm. All rooms are named after a tree native to the area around Valdivia, as the name, Bosque Nativo, or native forest, would suggest.

bosque nativo valdivia rauli roomThis is because the hostel is the revenue-generating arm of a nonprofit organization that works in the sustainable management of Chile’s native forests, an issue of significant importance in Valdivia, where forestry and wood pulp exportation are big business and threaten both the forests and the species of animals that live there. With such an important purpose, we felt like the message could have been translated through to the guests more, but the family who runs it doesn’t communicate much with the guests.

They do keep the place spic and span, though. Separated into ladies and men’s, each had two toilets and three showers that were super clean, if a bit cramped. In the morning, each room was assigned a table down in the dining area, where a typical Chilean breakfast of white toast, jam, marmalade and cake is laid out beforehand. Not a healthy breakfast that some eco-hostels prefer, but considering their relatively inexpensive rates ($20 per dorm bed, private rooms starting at $43 in high season), we weren’t expecting much else.

bosque nativo valdivia breakfastOff the dining area are the kitchen and also a cozy living room. The kitchen was very clean with plenty of plates, cutlery and enough pots and pans to make a good meal, though cutting boards were sorely missed. The living room has couches, a flat screen TV, a wood stove for chilly nights, plus books and magazines to read. It’s a good place to hang out and socialize.

bosque nativo valdivia living room

Stand-Out Feature: Value for Money

Taking into account that Chilean prices, especially during high season, are on par or  higher than in Europe or the U.S., the rates at Bosque Nativo are on the lower end of budget accommodation and hostels in Valdivia. What you get in return are hot showers, towels, breakfast, use of a clean, well-equipped kitchen, good wi-fi, dorms have big lockers for backpacks + locks, private rooms have cable TV, there is plenty of communal space, all set in a great location.

bosque nativo valdivia kitchen

Room for improvement: Impersonal staff

Everything in the hostel worked like clockwork, and there is nothing negative to say about the family running it at all. But they were not overly friendly, helpful or communicative. Breakfast was already laid out, so no one had to talk to us, and we really appreciate when we are given a map of the city and told a bit about what there is to do, but we were quickly checked in and shown to our rooms. When we left, we were asked for our keys without any question as to our next stop or mentions of bon voyage. This is a shame especially considering that this a clean, well-run eco-hostel that is part of such an important and interesting non-profit.

bosque nativo valdivia private room

Overall

Impersonal staff aside, Bosque Nativo is a great option for a short stay in Valdivia. The clean, comfortable and cozy hostel is just a few blocks from the point where three major rivers meet in Valdivia, home to the famous fish market and spot where all the tour boats leave from. Plus, all city center restaurants, bars and grocery stores are within a 10-15 minute walk.

bosque nativo valdivia breakfast room

Details

Location: Fresia 290, Valdivia, Chile
Price: High season (October – March): $20 for a dorm bed; $50 for a double room with private bathroom, $43 for a double room with shared bathroom; Low season (April – September): $17 for a dorm bed, $43 for a double room with private bathroom, $37 for a private room with shared bathroom
LGBT Friendly: Not outwardly
Digital Nomad Friendly: Good wi-fi connection and work space in the communal areas
Amenities: Free wi-fi, complimentary breakfast, kitchen use, laundry service, lockers with locks, TV in private rooms, towels
Website:
www.hostelnativo.cl

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Hotel Tip of the Week: Casa Kreyenberg | Valparaiso, Chile

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Welcome to our Hotel Tip of The Week series. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay at countless hotels along the way. For all the dingy, disappointing budget digs, there are as many budget accommodation gems. We post one hotel tip of the week, every week, of places we feel confident recommending after having tried and tested them ourselves.

Atop Valparaiso’s Cerro Alegre hill on Avenida Alemania (Germany Avenue), sits Casa Kreyenberg, run by Chilean husband and wife duo Juan Pablo and Lucia.

Lucia’s grandfather inherited the house from his close German friend Herr Kreyenberg, who had the house built in the early 20th century. They first started renting out rooms here roughly six years ago, first to local boarders until they found more success with a sign they hung outside to attract travelers.

Valparaiso Casa Kreyenberg B&BNow it is an award-winning hostel that feels like staying at a German grandmother’s house. Everything here seems totally original, from antique radios and ceramic spice jars to the dining room wallpaper and bone-handle knives we use each morning to spread large pats of butter on rolls at breakfast. Included in the price, breakfast is a familiar affair, with all guests sitting around the wooden dining room table and talking travel over fresh fruit salad, cheese and ham, rolls, butter, marmalade, tea and coffee.

Valparaiso Casa Kreyenberg B&B BreakfastNormally it might be hard for us to make conversation so early in the morning, but in this house, we really get to know many of the other guests. Several mean to stay two nights end up staying a week – even we extended from five to seven nights. Plus, people tend to gather on the terrace in the evenings with Juan Pablo and Lucia, who are always happy to sit down and have a glass of wine and a chat with the lights of Valparaiso’s hills twinkling below.

Valparaiso views from Casa Kreyenberg B&BThe beauty of Valparaiso appears everywhere you look. We are in a double room with amazing views of the port and the colorful houses on the hills out of the window as well as from the small balcony we share with the triple room next door. The dorm room, which has six beds, and the double private room downstairs also both have great views. The walls of every room are decorated with Lucia’s paintings. She is an incredibly talented artist and the house is her own private gallery.

Valparaiso Casa Kreyenberg B&B paintingsOur room is perfectly equipped with a comfortable big bed, with bedside tables and lamps, antique wardrobe and dresser and wooden floors that thankfully do not creak one bit. The room is spotless and spacious, and though it doesn’t have an en-suite bathroom (none of the rooms do) we could easily have rented this livable room for a much longer stay. We sleep soundly, as one of the benefits of being this high up the hill is the lack of traffic at night, though buses do run right from outside the house down and into the center of town throughout the day.

Valparaiso Casa Kreyenberg B&B room and viewThere are two bathrooms upstairs and one downstairs that felt clean and always well equipped with toilet paper and soap. I find this remarkable because if I noticed one thing about the guests here at Casa Kreyenberg – they linger. They hang out. Not just at night, but all day long guests sit outside on the terrace, or in the living room on the couch. With full use of the kitchen after 1pm, it’s easy to cook up a meal or make tea and you genuinely feel at home and welcome here to just rest, relax and take in Valparaiso.

Valparaiso Casa Kreyenberg B&B living room

Stand Out Feature: The views from the terrace

I’ve already said it, but it is worth emphasizing. I doubt there are many hotels in this price range with such perfect views out over the city, the port, the naval ships in the water, the colorful houses lining the hills. Sitting on the bed writing this, I am constantly distracted watching the sun glisten off the water out in the Pacific below. Even if you have a bed in the dorm you can sit out on the terrace and take in the sunrise, sunsets and glimmering lights in the dark – the views here are incredible 24 hours a day. If you will be in Chile in December, book a room at Casa Kreyenberg for seriously perfect views of one of the most spectacular New Year’s fireworks displays in all of South America!

Valparaiso Casa Kreyenberg B&B terrace and view

Stand Out Feature: The owners – Juan Pablo and Lucia 

Lucia and Juan Pablo are some of the friendliest hoteliers in the business. On Sunday night they organized an impromptu ‘asado’, a typical Chilean barbecue. All the guests ate together and got to know each other that way. The two of them are gracious hosts, going above and beyond with travel advice and any other assistance you might need.

Casa Kreyenberg Valparaiso bbq

Room for Improvement: A bit of renovation would go a long way

While the original fixtures and furnishings are part of the charm, renovating a few elements could give Casa Kreyenberg a pleasant facelift. Shower heads in both bathrooms could be upgraded, for example, and dishes, cutlery and pots and pans in the kitchen could use an upgrade. None of these things detract from the hostel’s charm; instead it would just take the guest experience to the next level.

Overall

A quick glance through the TripAdvisor reviews will show you we are not alone in our love of Casa Kreyenberg, but staying here has made us nervous – as we have read more than one reviewer call this the best place they stayed in all of South America. This is our first stop of many, many more budget accommodation stops to come, and we think we may have already stayed at the best!

Valparaiso Casa Kreyenberg B&B

Details

Location: Avenida Alemania 4626, Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso (In Google maps there is an error – if you search for Casa Kreyenberg the address is correct, but if you look it up using the address, the location comes up wrong. Don’t get lost!)
Price: Single room CLP16,000 (US$32), double rooms CLP23,000 (US$46), triple room CLP34,500 (US$69), dorm beds CLP7,900 (US$16)
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Yes!
Amenities: Complimentary breakfast, free wi-fi, kitchen use from 1pm till 9pm, terrace with sun chairs
Website: www.casakreyenberg.cl You can also find Casa Kreyenberg on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hotel Tip of the Week: Mountain Paradise Hotel | La Fortuna, Costa Rica

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Through the security gate and up the winding driveway, past prehistoric looking flowers and exotic grasses, we knew we were too early. 11am is not exactly a polite time to check in to a hotel – just after breakfast, guests checking out, rooms being cleaned. Before we were dazzled by the gorgeous gardens, we only wanted to drop off our bags and head back down to hike the base of the volcano in the Arenal National Park. Entering the lobby, we were dazzled immediately by the staff as well.

Mountain Paradise Hotel Arenal Costa RicaGreeted with refreshing cold towels to freshen up before filling out the check-in forms, a waiter then appeared with a small blended fruit drink for both of us. After waiting ten minutes sunk into one of several comfortable couches in the lobby, our bags were loaded onto a golf cart, and we were whisked away across the spacious property, following narrow little paths winding around lush, tropical plants and colorful cottages.

Mountain Paradise Hotel in Arenal Costa RicaMountain Paradise Lodge is exactly as the name suggests. Thirty or so cottages are spread out throughout this Costa Rican Eden, and our massive  room makes up half of one such cottage set fairly far back on the property. Our back patio has a Jacuzzi and two rocking chairs to watch nature pass by. Just on the fringe of the national park, the hotel property is alive with songs and sights of hundreds of incredible birds – from the flittering hummingbirds chasing each other around the bushes to giant turkey-like black birds with bright yellow beaks that casually crossed over our back yard. Called Great Currassows, these birds brought guests out of several nearby cottages, as none of us even knew creatures like this existed until that moment.

Mountain Paradise Hotel in Arenal Costa Rica with hummingbirdsBack inside the room, we were almost tempted to stay in and blow off our hike…we could have made ourselves coffee in the little machine on the table, sprawl out on either the king or the queen beds in the room and watch a little something on the flat screen TV above the patio door…or we could have just hung out under the waterfall in the bathroom.

Mountain Paradise Hotel Arenal Costa Rica roomYes, our giant bathroom, really more of a wet room, has a waterfall shower, complete with rocks and flowers around the sides. Next to it is also a stand-up Jacuzzi shower with several jets and nozzles to massage the entire body as you shower. There is a small toilet room, a sink, white fuzzy towels and all different levels of lighting to choose from in the bathroom, which is larger than several hotel rooms we have stayed in on our travels.

Mountain Paradise Hotel in Arenal Costa Rica bathroomAs luxurious as our room feels, however, we are also tempted to spend the day down in the pool area. Mountain Paradise Lodge has a large, heated pool with a swim-up bar where guests of all ages mingle day and night. There is also a small whirlpool set behind a waterfall for guests looking for a bit more privacy in the pool, plus either sun chairs or hammocks to relax in a covered area behind the pool.

Mountain Paradise Hotel in Arenal Costa Rica swimming poolWe actually made it past the pool and back into the car for a long hike at the volcano and a trip to the giant La Fortuna waterfall that day, and came home that first night so tired we could only sleep like babies in that comfortable king bed.

Both mornings we ate at the generous breakfast buffet, which is included in the room rate. There is an omelet station for made-to-order eggs, classic Costa Rica dishes like Gallo Pinto, plus fresh tropical fruits, yogurts, cold cuts and cheese for sandwiches, toast and jam, plus small brownies and cupcakes, fresh juices and bottomless coffee. The large restaurant, just off the pool area and across from the lobby building, is also open for lunch and dinner, but we found it a little overpriced, even considering the perfect vistas of Volcano Arenal from almost any table.

Mountain Paradise Hotel Arenal Costa Rica Breakfast BuffetEvery member of staff we met was friendly and helpful and the waiters were always up for a chat with the guests over breakfast.

Stand-out feature: The beautiful grounds

Mountain Paradise Hotel is truly appropriately named. Sure, we loved having our own private waterfall, and our own Jacuzzi, and the heated swimming pool area…but just walking down to breakfast along the paths past exotic plants spotting blue morpho butterflies bigger than the hundreds of hummingbirds in the trees is better than most jungle hikes we’ve been on – in Costa Rica or otherwise.

Mountain Paradise Hotel Arenal Costa Rica FlowersRoom for improvement: The Wi-Fi

It is easy to assume that almost all guests are here on vacation, so the fact that the wi-fi in the cottages is patchy is not a major issue. Not everyone is a digital nomad like we are. However, in the mornings and evenings  as we sat working on a couch in the sitting area in the back of the restaurant, there were several guests also seated near the Wi-Fi router, checking emails on their smart phones and a few on their laptops, too.  A full strong signal in each of the rooms is the only detail missing in this mountain paradise.

Overall

On our last day in the area, we took a little drive to find the best view of the volcano to take some photos. When we returned, we realized that the greatest views of Arenal were right there at the hotel.

There are a number of hotels along the road between the volcano and La Fortuna, and some appear very grand while others seem comfortable, cute and quaint. They are probably all great places to stay, but from the minute we checked in to our hotel, we could have cared less about the others.

We honestly feel like Mountain Paradise is the perfect hotel in the La Fortuna/Arenal area. We appreciate the amount of luxury included in the affordable room rate, which makes this paradise more accessible than other more ’exclusive’ resorts nearby.

Mountain Paradise Hotel in Arenal Costa Rica flowersLocation: Del centro de la Fortuna, 7KM camino al volcan Arenal, Fortuna, Alajuela Costa Rica
Price: Starting at $150 for a double room including breakfast in high season / $110 in low season
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly:  Passable wi-fi in reception, patchy in the rooms.
Amenities: Heated swimming pool with swim-up bar, complimentary breakfast buffet, restaurant, Jacuzzi or private pool in the room, waterfall shower, free wi-fi, free shuttle service to La Fortuna, tour and transportation booking service, free parking
Website: http://hotelmountainparadise.com/

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