Hotel Tip

Hotel Tip of The Week: Hotel Elysée | New York City

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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 in countless hotels, and at over 500 days as nomads, we have stayed some of the best (and worst) accommodation the world has to offer. We cover everything from budget to luxury accommodation, and believe that any hotel worth recommending must be clean and comfortable, offer good value for money and treat people as guests, not clients. We have personally stayed in every hotel we recommend to you here on

We emerged out of the subway with two uncharacteristically heavy bags prepared for a possible long slog, but lucky for us, the Hotel Elysée is perfectly located between Park Avenue and 5th Avenue in the heart of Midtown Manhattan (the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park and the Rockefeller Center are within walking distance). Although the building doesn’t look like much from outside, the minute we passed under the Elysée awning and into the lobby we were instantly enveloped by Parisian charm, and despite a distinct lack of a French accent, the front desk staff were equally charming and made our comfort their ultimate priority – who doesn’t love that!

hallway & sofas elysee hotel new york city

We stayed in one of the hotel’s eleven suites, which had a full living room, an office area and a private bedroom with en-suite bath. The antique European furniture and decor throughout the room (and the hotel) made us feel as though we had a Parisian pied-à-terre. In fact, looking out the window in the morning, we almost expected to see the shops along the Champs-Elysées in Paris, not the skyscrapers of Manhattan. While it could be presumed to be pretentious, this Parisian hideaway is actually friendly, laid-back and has a super varied clientele. We saw luxury retirees mix with young couples, families and even backpackers during the evening reception.

room hotel elysee new york

All 86 bedrooms come with down blankets, 100% Egyptian cotton linen, flat screen TVs, DVD players and MP3 docks, while the gorgeous marble bathrooms come with signature bathrobes, slippers and Gilchrist and Soames toiletries. In our suite, the living room had a comfortable couch, sitting chairs, a second, large flat screen TV, a phone and several lamps for perfect lighting. Guests receive complimentary bottled water and a bar of chocolate from Leonidas chocolate shop (just up the road) upon arrival. In the morning, I grabbed my free gym pass got in a good workout at the nearby gym while Dani got some morning shots of NYC.

bedroom hotel elysee new york

As with all four HKHotels, Hotel Elysée offers a lavish free breakfast spread each morning with bagels, rolls, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, fruits, yoghurt, cereal, tea, coffee, milk and juice, plus the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other magazines and newspapers to read. From Monday through Saturday, the hotels offer a three hour complimentary cheese and wine evening reception. At the Elysee this is held in the Club Room, and includes delicious nibbles, the Prosecco is cold, and because the reception lasts three hours, we never felt like we had to race back to the hotel to take advantage of this great little snack time. In fact, coffee and tea, water and snacks are available 24 hours, so we were able to grab a small bite to eat no matter what time we were up working or getting home from a night out.

hotel elysee breakfast & snacks

The free wi-fi throughout the hotel works like a dream. Hotel Elysée is not a business hotel, but we were able to get plenty of work done here in addition to some major relaxing.

Stand Out Feature: The Club Room

Whether its a luxury hotel room or a budget dive, we don’t spend much time inn our hotel rooms, and almost never in a hotel’s public spaces, but we were so drawn to the Club Room at the Elysée that the first thing we did after discovering it was grab a cup of strong coffee and read the newspaper for nearly an hour. The Elysée’s Club Room, which serves as the breakfast and wine and cheese reception area each day, is such a comfortable and relaxing space that guests are reading or working here nearly all hours of the day on the cozy red velvet cushions. In addition to the newspapers and magazines made available each day, there is an adjacent library room with a great book selection, plus a piano and computer, all free for guest use.

hotel elysee club room new york

Stand Out Feature: Value for Money

What is so excellent about Hotel Elysée is that when you lock into your room rate, there is no up-sale. Everything else is included in the price: the breakfast, the wi-fi, evening reception and the coffee, and you can have as much as you’d like (within reason). The further up the luxury accommodation ladder we climb, it seems, the less that comes included in the price. A guest house in Costa Rica or a B&B in Scotland will include breakfast, all day coffee, free wi-fi and water in the price of the room, whereas an international hotel chain we recently frequented charged $6 for a bottle of water and did not provide in-room wi-fi. Hotel Elysée is the perfect combination of luxury and welcome. It has been a long time since we have felt so much like guests in a four-star hotel (rather than constant deflection of the over-price up-sell) – a testament to the great policies in place at the Hotel Elysée.

hotel elysee breakfast & snacks new york city

Room for improvement: Variety of foods at the evening reception

Yes, we are fishing for something to include here, as there was almost nothing we would suggest for improvement. Each night, the evening reception has exactly the same cheese and hors d’oeuvre available, but after a few nights as a guest, a little variety would be appreciated. That’s it.

Overall, Hotel Elysée is a comfortable yet elegant, luxurious and welcoming Midtown Manhattan hotel offering some of the best value for money accommodation available in New York.

hotel elysee new york bed

Location: 60 East 54th Street, New York, NY, 10022
Starting at $225 per night. Book online in advance for the best deals.
LGBT Friendly:
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Free wi-fi, complimentary hors d’oeuvre in the afternoon, breakfast included, free gym passes.

Like this hotel? Book it here.

Although we received complimentary accommodation, the opinions expressed here are strictly our own.

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Hotel Tip of the Week: Hotel Hesperia Sevilla | Spain

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Welcome to our weekly 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 disappointing  digs, there are as many 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.

A few years ago we flew in to Seville for the first part of our Train through Spain vacation and, both enamored by this steamy southern Spanish city; we knew we would be back. When the time came for us to visit again this year, we also knew that we would again book in to the Hesperia Sevilla. The Seville hotel sits right in that sweet spot of location, price, service and room quality that made our decision to stay there again this year easy to make.

After a quick 15-minute ride from the international airport, we found ourselves standing in the cool marble lobby at the Hesperia Sevilla, which oozes Spanish style from its public spaces to the Art-Deco style rooms. Because the hotel is located outside the historic center, the bright rooms here are a spacious, purpose-built 24 square meter size with deep, comfortable beds, making it just as satisfying to spend time in the room as enjoying Sevilla. The bathrooms are equally spacious and bright, towels are perfectly fluffy, and toiletries include everything from the sewing kit to a full-size toothbrush.

The free in-room wi-fi connection worked without a hitch. Simply pick up a password at the front desk and sign-in one time and you are connected for the duration of your stay. The staff at Hesperia Sevilla, though not masters of the English language, is guest-oriented and helpful, while the large leather couches arranged in the lobby are great to sink into meet with friends at night or read the paper in the morning. The on-site parking lot is great for those guests traveling by car. We opted not to eat at the hotel Tapas bar, choosing to dine instead at a couple of ‘cervecerias’ nearby.

We appreciated the location of Hesperia Sevilla, in a bustling neighborhood where locals drink their morning coffee, gossip over late lunches with friends or enjoy tapas late into the night at the many tapas bars. The four-star Seville hotel conveniently sits right on the main Avenida Eduardo Dato so cabs are readily available, but Hesperia is only a 15-minute walk to the center of the Andalusian capital, just up the road from the train station where high-speed AVE trains leave for destinations throughout Spain, and around the corner from good shopping/dining options at the El Corte Ingles shopping mall, a Spanish shopping institution.

Stand-Out Feature: Value For Money

Hesperia Seville offers competitive rates for a four-star Spanish hotel. The hotel works closely with several booking websites and also offers deals and packages on its own website. When a bed in a shared dorm room can cost around $25-35 per person in most European cities, a rate of $70 for two at Hesperia Sevilla is that much more attractive. The hotel is perfect for business travelers (offering business & meeting facilities) but the price and location make it also perfect for families, couples and even large tour groups.

Room for Improvement: The Noise Factor

In a city like Seville, where there are ways to fill your day from morning until the wee hours, most guests spend limited time inside the hotel. If that sounds like how you travel, the paper-thin walls might not bother you in the least. But for loved-up couples or parents with vocal children – your neighbors will hear you and you will hear them.


We found Hesperia Sevilla to be a bright, stylish mid-range hotel in a great location with all the necessary services and facilities to meet the needs of both business travelers and tourists to Seville.

Location: Avenida Eduardo Dato, 49, Sevilla, Spain
Price: from 50 Euros for a double room
LGBT Friendly: yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
Amenities: wi-fi, meeting rooms, desks, mini-bar, oversized bathtubs

Like this hotel? Book it here.

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: Casa Valeria in Samara Beach, Costa Rica

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Welcome to our weekly 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 to show you how budget travel can be possible as well as enjoyable.

One sweltering Sunday afternoon in the landlocked town of Nicoya, Costa Rica, we stood at the bus station with hopes to get down to Montezuma, but it was late and the only direct bus driving anywhere toward the beach was headed for nearby Samara Beach. We had no idea this would become one of our favorite Central American destinations when we spontaneously hopped on and an hour later were walking up the main street, our noses sunk into our Footprint guidebook for advice on where to stay. None sounded great and by looking around most seemed far above our budget. On a whim, we checked out Casa Valeria.

Luck was with us that day, as it turns out, as we couldn’t have been more satisfied with our choice of accommodation in Samara Beach. Casa Valeria sits on one of Samara’s two main streets, which runs parallel to the beach and hosts a slew of beach front hotels and restaurants. The hotel is a bit plain compared to its neighbors when seen from the street, but as we poked our head around the large entry gate, we were pleasantly surprised by the view: five stand-alone beach-side bungalows on either side of a yard with palm trees, plenty of tables and chairs, and hammocks further down towards the beach.

Casa Valeria bungalow Samara Beach

Rather than book into a bungalow for $50, we opted for one of the two budget rooms for $30, knowing we would spend most our time out at the gorgeous beach at less than a minute walk from the door to the water. The rooms are simple, but the beds are big, clean and comfortable, the waves lull you to sleep at night quickly. Every room has a private bathroom with a hot water, fluffy towels and creative décor.

Unlike the standard hotels in the area, Casa Valeria offers a practical experience. Rather than setting up an overpriced restaurant on-site, Casa Valeria makes available a large kitchen for guest use. The kitchen is clean, and while nothing fancy, has the necessary dishes, pots, pans and silverware to cook up and serve simple but complete homemade meals. Two showers are set up in the middle for washing off the sand, and plenty of clothesline space is present, outside but well-hidden, for guests to hang their wet clothes to air dry overnight, keeping your room free of that musty half-wet swimsuit smell.

Samara beach from casa valeria

Stand Out Feature: Value for Money Bungalows

The beach bungalows are excellent value for money: for $50 per night, guests stay in a private bungalow that couldn’t get closer to the beach, and yet a five minute walk from a well-equipped supermarket and plenty of restaurants and bars.

Stand Out Feature: A spacious kitchen

The usage of a good kitchen is one of the few advantages of hostel stays compared to hotels, and even though Casa Valeria is geared more toward mid-budget travelers, the kitchen, with its large fridge and plenty of counter space, is a great way to save cash on a at least a couple of meals and certainly on coffee. For budget travelers, Costa Rica accommodation can be pricey, so a beach front hotel with its own kitchen means a couple (or two friends) can quite easily stay here for around $40 per day per couple, food included.

Casa Valeria Hammocks & bungalow

Room for improvement: Lack of Wi-fi

We almost never stay somewhere without Wi-Fi and Casa Valeria was an exception to the rule. One evening as we sat writing (and probably getting more work done without distracting gossip blogs, videos and Twitter) we overheard the son pointing us out to his mother, explaining the need to install wireless internet. His argument was convincing and we’re fairly certain that Casa Valeria will over Wi-Fi sooner rather than later.


Casa Valeria is one of the best budget beachside hotels that we have seen so far. The owners are a very friendly family who keep the hotel and the yard spotless. The extras (free coffee, clothes lines, beach showers) are the icing on the cake. Casa Valeria embodies one of those strange travel conundrums, where budget hotels at times offer much better free and guest friendly services than their luxury counterparts up the road. It is a place where you can truly forget and ‘log off’ for a week or two – right at the beach and at the same time close enough to all the delicious restaurants, juice bars, nightlife and a small, but quality supermarket to gather ingredients for some cheap and easy cooking.

Casa Valeria GardenLocation: Beach front in town, near supermarket
Double room bungalow with private bath and hot water $50, budget double room (no entire bungalow) with private bath $30
BT Friendly: As far as we could tell, yes. Not directly discussed.
Kitchen, hammocks, outside sitting area, coffee & tea, kitchen with fridge, stove, books
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Not until they get wireless internet
No website, but listed with phone number here.

Sunset Samara Beach Costa Rica

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: Belmonte Vacanze in Tuscany, Italy

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I had spent 12 days in Tuscany before the true meaning of the Italian expression ‘Dolce Vita’ became clear. This happened roughly two hours after checking in to our apartment at Belmonte Vacanze near Montaione in the Chianti region of Tuscany. The Italian expression means ‘the sweet life’, or the good life, and while the lifestyle involves a dedication to eating platefuls of pizza and pasta and necking down countless carafes of delicious Italian table wine, to really feel the Dolce Vita, you must reach a state of such intense relaxation that the concept of stress is lost from your mind entirely. This feeling struck us both somewhere between attending the early evening on-site wine-tasting at Belmonte Vacanze and watching the glowing spring sun set over the rolling green hills with a belly full of truffle fettuccine.

Belmonte Vacanze Sunset

The resort property has a variety of double, triple and quad apartments in three buildings set on 200 hectares of truly breathtaking countryside. Each apartment offers comfortable beds, a bathroom, a living room with a sofa and large dining table, a fully equipped kitchen with four stove hobs, all yellow 1950s American style refrigerators and an outdoor patio with a second table for al fresco dining. There is high speed wi-fi in all apartments.

Kitchen at Belmonte Vacanze

As comfortable as the apartments are inside, the well-manicured lawns outside allow guests to sun themselves in their own front yards while sipping their morning coffee or a glass of red or white each night. Here you can enjoy the breeze as butterflies and birds whiz past your head, or play peekaboo with the tiny green Tuscan lizards that scuttle by along the hot concrete sidewalks nearby.

Belmonte Vacanze holiday apartments in Tuscany

The Lotti family, who own and run these Tuscany apartments, have thought of every last detail to keep their guests free of stress, including a morning delivery service from the local market. Using a shopping checklist, you can order milk, coffee, chocolate croissants and anything else you might need for breakfast, and the market delivers the food to your doorstep first thing in the morning. On arrival, we were also presented with a full listing of restaurants and services in the local area and a map.  The family is incredibly attentive in this way, and get to know most of the guests on a first name basis. A visit to their Facebook or Twitter page reveals online conversations with past guests – from greetings and well-wishes to promises of plans to see each other next summer.

Belmonte vacanze breakfast on terrace

Belmonte Vacanze’s web presence is maintained by Lauro Lotti, whose grandfather bought the property over 40 years ago. Back then, farming of olives and grapes, as almost everywhere in Tuscany, was the main source of income. Today, as in most of Tuscany, tourism is the focus at Belmonte Vacanze.  Lauro and his parents, who took over the property in 2003 and converted it into self-catering apartment rentals, go above and beyond, pouring their heart and soul into customer satisfaction. They also focus on creating an environmentally-friendly resort, incorporating eco-friendly policies at every turn.

Belmonte vacanze vacation rental apartment

The resort is perfect for families of all sizes, offering everything from a large, clean pool, bikes for rent, horse stables with eight horses (kids can be dropped off for a day of riding lessons and activities), a playground and acres and acres of safe space to play. With the kids here having so much fun, the parents seemed to feel just as relaxed as the loved-up childless couples drinking Prosecco and gazing out at the verdant view. Belmonte Vacanze is also a pet-friendly vacation property, providing plenty of space for pets to roam.

View from apartment Belmonte VacanzeStand Out Feature: Location

Not known for its nightlife, Tuscany holidays are all about spending your days out enjoying the countryside, villages and towns. Belmonte Vacanze is perfectly located for exploring Tuscany. The property is just 15 minutes from (our secret gem) Montaione in one direction and the medieval towns of San Gimignano (our absolute favorite Tuscan own) and Volterra in the other. The popular city of Siena can be reached within an hour, and you can even comfortably visit the Northern Tuscan cities of Pisa, Florence and Lucca and be back by sunset. During our stay we made the 2 hour ride to the Cinque Terre region one day, and the beaches along the Tuscan coast can be reached in about 90 minutes.

Belmonte vacanze olive trees & view

Standout Feature: The Friendliness Factor

We can’t emphasize this enough: the good people at Belmonte Vacanze run a family-friendly, LGBT-friendly, couple-friendly, pet-friendly and environmentally-friendly resort – all while managing to simply be the most people-friendly hosts we met in Italy.

Standout Feature: The Swimming Pool

The swimming pool is the centerpiece of this Tuscan farm holiday resort, and when the sun is shining, guests of all ages gather here to swim, tan, or gaze out at the view. Dozens of comfortable deck chairs surround the pool, with another handful point away from the water and out at the Tuscan hills. This is easily the most relaxing and fun element of the property.

Belmonte vacanze pool & view

Room for improvement: Signposting

After you book your stay at Belmonte Vacanze, go directly to the website and copy down the directions word for word. Once in the car and on your way, enter the exact address into your navigation system. Using both, you should arrive without a problem. Directions in Tuscany can be difficult to follow, which is why reading the directions on the website is key to stress-free arrival. It would be great if  Belmonte Vacanze would have a few signs along the way from the highway and San Gimignano. Tip: In addition to following the directions on the website, follow the signs along the way to Parco Benestare. You’ll run right into Belmonte five minutes before reaching the nature park.


Belmonte Vacanze might be a family operation, but this is no mom and pop affair. As guests here, we felt we had the full attention of a four or five star hotel with the freedom of having our own apartment. Despite spending nearly two weeks in this fairytale region of Italy, it was our stay at Belmonte Vacanze that became our defining moment of what it truly means to escape to Tuscany.

Location: Via Torri 62, 50050 – Montaione
Starting at €35 per person per night, but check the website for special weekend or last-minute offers.
LGBT Friendly:
swimming pool, sunchairs & umbrellas, fully equipped kitchen, living room with dining table and sofa, each apartment has its own balcony or terrace, wi-fi internet, free parking, sulfur springs, horse stables, tennis court, table tennis, playground, barbeque, bicycle rental, laundry facility.
Tuscany Holidays

Bedroom belmonte Vacanze

Like this hotel? Book it here.

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Hotel Tip of The Week: La Barranca Hostel, Suchitoto, El Salvador

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Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. 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.

Villa Balanza Sign

We had arrived to Suchitoto, El Salvador during a music festival, and while this guaranteed us an eventful time while in town, our only accommodation option the first night was a room at a well-known but sub-par American-owned place. While strolling around town, we came across Villa Balanza restaurant, and as they had received a glowing review in our Footprint guidebook, we decided to sit down here for a bite to eat and ended up booking a room at the hostel for the next night at the same time we paid our restaurant bill.

This is not your typical backpacker hostel with restaurant (read: bar) attached. La Barranca is a peaceful hostel set at the bottom of a rather long, steep hill, a five minute walk from the restaurant with views of the major tourist draw, the famous Lake Suchitlan. The way down the hill with luggage is a challenge, even harder is the slog back up after check out, but for those who are reasonably fit (or have a car) the serene setting of the accommodation is more than worth it.

Lago de Suchitatlan

La Barranca is made up of a two story main house with five bedrooms upstairs over a very homey kitchen and living room downstairs. A second building just behind it houses another five rooms with doors opening out onto a peaceful courtyard with tables and chairs. Staying here feels more like staying in a suburban home, with all the appropriate comforts. The clean, well-decorated rooms have double beds, plenty of space and en-suite bathrooms. (The bathroom is built into the room, has a saloon-door entrance and is open on top, so we recommend staying at La Barranca with someone you know fairly well, as you will be sharing your bathroom noises with everyone in the room.)

The kitchen has beautiful mahogany cabinets, a squeaky clean fridge, all the necessary appliances and is roomy enough to fit a decent sized kitchen table with space to host dinner for a few friends.  The living room is equally spacious, with a couch, chairs, a TV, and a computer with internet for those who do not travel with their own laptop. For those who do, including us digital nomads, La Barranca offers free, hi-speed Wi-Fi, which works perfectly everywhere in the main house, fairly well outside in the courtyard, but unfortunately did not reach to the rooms in the second building.

Stand Out Feature: The restaurant – Villa Balanza

As we mentioned, our meal at Villa Balanza hugely influenced our decision to stay at La Barranca, run by the same family.  Set just off of a quiet park five minutes from the Suchitoto’s central plaza, this restaurant serves up stylish versions of typical Salvadorian food for just pennies more than the street food vendors in town, while the quality of the food would rival any Latin American restaurant in any major city.  The food itself is just one aspect of what Villa Balanza is really setting out to do, which is to define through food, art and history, what it means, and what it has always meant, to be Salvadorian. Hanging over the entryway to Villa Balanza is a large scale (‘Balanza’ means ‘balance’ in Spanish). On one side sits a 750 pound weapon from the armed forces during the fairly recent civil war, on the other, a stack of tortillas. The scale is meant to symbolize the counterbalance of the town’s history in the war with the country’s deeply rooted traditional ‘culture of corn’. Inside the restaurant, the walls are lined with a mix of contemporary oil paintings, centuries’ old photographs and some of the most delicious food in town.


Room for improvement: In-room wi-fi

This is often a frustrating, if not downright picky, request as so often hotels in countries like the USA and Germany rarely offer free wi-fi at all. However, for those who spend time travelling in Central America, free wi-fi is a given in almost all hotels, especially those in the budget category. Plus, La Barranca offers free-wi to guests. With a second router, the hostel would have gotten perfect marks from us, as we often work late into the night after a day of sightseeing, and would have preferred working from our room rather than out in the living room until after midnight.

Location: Barrio San José N° 7 Next to the San Martin Park, Suchitoto, Cuscatlan, El Salvador
$25 per room per night
LGBT Friendly:
Kitchen, wi-fi, lounge, yard
Website: (ignore the prices on the website as they are completely unrelated to international travelers, and also, the images on this very basic site do the hotel no justice at all!!).

Suchitoto Tree-lined street

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Hotel Tip Of Week: Cabinas Atlantic Surf in Cahuita, Costa Rica

hotel tip of the week

Editor’s Note: It looks like this hotel may have closed (if anyone can confirm this, I’d appreciate any information!), but luckily a number of hotels and guesthouses has opened since I first visited Cahuita. I am sharing the best rated hotels in Cahuita in 2018:

Shoestring Budget:

Budget Hotels in Cahuita:

Private Villas / Houses in Cahuita:

  • New Caribe Point (Villa with pool for 4 people from US$100 per night) – 9.5/10
  • Casa Marcellino (Cabin with two bedrooms from US$85 for two people / $105 for four people) – 9.7/10

Airbnb in Cahuita

There are also quite a few private houses, bungalows and private rooms on Airbnb. The cheapest private room I’ve found was US$26, entire houses/ bungalows start at around US$50. Check out Airbnb homes in Cahuita here.

If you’re not signed up with Airbnb yet, use my referral code and get up to $40 towards your first trip!

Cabinas Atlantic Surf Review

Cabinas Atlantic Surf may be a modest and moderately-priced hotel, but the managers are five-star all the way. Sometimes we rave about a hotel’s amenities, other times it’s all about the beds, showers or the view. At Cabinas Atlantic Surf, we ended up staying an extra night at the hotel thanks to Wendy and Javier, the super-friendly couple in charge of this hostel in Cahuita, Costa Rica.

Cabinas Atlantic Surf Cahuita

The cabinas themselves are sturdy wooden rooms with large screened-in windows. Each room has one large double bed and one small single bed – both comfortable and clean – and an en-suite bathroom with shower (some hot, for $$ extra).  The house is surrounded by a luscious green garden and resident cat, with a path leading to a newly-built kitchen built by Wendy and Javier at the back of the hotel (see Stand Out Features below).

Cabinas Atlantic surf room Cahuita

Not to be confused with the actual owners, Jenn and Shannon, this Tico/American couple to manage the hotel. Javier, from California, splits his days between keeping the hostel in top condition, chatting with guests, and playing the guitar with a couple of other hotel owners on the block, while his girlfriend Wendy, from Heredia, Costa Rica, tells stories and makes you laugh while she sweeps away. The four of us talked about everything from road trips and music to ideas for new companies and renewable energy. For two digital nomads to stay two nights in a hotel with no wi-fi means we must have been plenty charmed by this pair.

Cabinas Atlantic Surf terrace with hammock

Stand Out Feature: A clean & spacious kitchen

Wendy built the kitchen, so it is brand new, spotless and comes fully equipped with an electric kettle, traditional Costa Rican coffee maker, toaster oven, toaster, a stove and a fridge. Wendy even keeps spices, oil and other basic ingredients available for guests to use. There is a small table with chairs, but the kitchen could use an additional dining table would have been nice as it was awkward to eat at the table.

Cabinas Atlantic Surf kitchen

Stand Out Feature: Stay for free!

Cabinas Atlantic Surf offers free accommodation in return for help at the hostel, a fabulous deal for long-term travellers looking for an extended stay in Cahuita, Costa Rica.

Room for improvement: Wi-fi

Cabinas Atlantic Surf does not have wi-fi. You can try to get online from the neighbor’s connection, but it is not reliable. We know not all hotel guests require wi-fi, but having had internet access in far more remote locations, it should be possible in one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destinations. Who knows, we may have stayed even longer, too!


Cabinas Atlantic Surf offers basic, clean and spacious rooms at a good price. All rooms have a private bathroom as well as a little balcony with hammocks which makes for a great space to relax with one of the huge cups of fresh Costa Rican coffee. The kitchen is an inviting space to prepare meals and is the perfect place for travelers to mingle. The proximity of the hostel to the (free) National Park makes it a breeze to spot sloths or monkeys any time of day.

Cabinas Atlantic Surf garden Cahuita

Price: Double rooms with private bath and hot water US$25, single rooms with private bath US$20, rooms with private bath without hot water US$10 per person
Friendly: yes
Kitchen, balconies, 5 minutes walk to the National Park

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: Posada Ziga in Mazunte, Mexico

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Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. 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 to show you how budget travel can be possible as well as enjoyable.

The night before we discovered Posada Ziga had been the most disgusting, dirty, dreadful night of our trip to date and at the break of dawn we left the makeshift ‘hostel’ in search of a better hotel in Mazunte. A quick trip up and down the beach and we had completed the survey of available hotels in this beach village. Located 1 hour from the eco-resort town of Huatulco and 40 minutes from Puerto Escondido, Mazunte itself has only 700 inhabitants who share a few unpaved side streets running off of one main road with visitors. This charming little beach town has several nice hotels in the budget range, but none that swept us off our feet for the price. That is, until we discovered Posada Ziga, the very last hotel on the beach, and coincidentally right next to the hostel we were trying to escape.

View from Posada Ziga MazunteThese two Mazunte hotels may be neighbors, but they are worlds apart, in the way that Posada Ziga does just about everything right, and its neighbor, well… we won’t give names because it will probably have changed hands a few times before you get there anyway. Back to Posada Ziga. The small hotel has only 14 rooms at the time of our visit, 8 of which have private bathrooms, though builders were hard at work with at least six brand-new rooms that should open soon. The best feature of the hotel is that each room has a little terrace (see Stand Out Features) with views out over the Pacific. The rooms are clean, spacious and kept in top condition, each has a little table and wardrobe, is equipped with mosquito nets and a small in-room safe (rare in budget hotels!) are kept spotless by the cleaning ladies. Staying here also means contributing to the local economy, as Posada Ziga is run by a local Mexican family, contrary to most Mazunte hotels which are owned by foreigners who relocated to the area.

Room at Posada Ziga MazunteSituated high on the rocks that form the frame of the bay, Posada Ziga really offers unparalleled views of the beach, especially good from the restaurant. While the menu leaves a bit to be desired (see Room for Improvement below), the free wi-fi works best here, although attempting to concentrate on anything work-related can prove quite a challenge, especially with the set of stairs beckoning you to the beach straight from the restaurant. We did actually manage to write our First 100-days post from here, since Posada Ziga was the spot for our first 100 days’ celebration.

Our terrace at Posada Ziga MazunteStand Out Feature: The Terraces

Each room shares a terrace with one other room and each one has ocean views, a table, chairs and a very sturdy hammock. The hammocks are new, well-maintained, and hang just right so there is no scraping the floor with your behind. The terraces are roofed, so that even if it rains, you can still sit outside and enjoy the breeze from the ocean.

Hammocks at Posada Ziga MazunteRoom for improvement: The Restaurant

The staff at Posada Ziga does a fabulous job, and there is only one thing that could be improved: The restaurant – specifically the restaurant prices. The clientele at Posada Ziga are budget to mid-range travelers, but the prices seem to be inflated to squeeze too much out the guests. With the fantastic range of delicious restaurants on and off the beach, the hotel restaurant at Posada Ziga could probably compete much better if prices were lowered. The menu was also a boring selection of seafood and soup, managing to leave out most of the dishes that make Mexican food so delicious.

Posada Ziga Restaurant MazunteOverall

Posada Ziga is a great hotel for the budget-conscious traveler who wants to escape Mexico cities; it is the perfect place to relax, swing in a hammock and enjoy a good read. The restaurant terrace offers tremendous views over the entire bay, and views can also be had from your very own terrace. This Mazunte hotel is a clean, quiet place perfect to recharge and chill out for a few days.

Location: The last hotel on the beach (east end of the village)
Double rooms with private bathroom $34-$42, double rooms with shared bath room $25-$32.
LGBT Friendly:
We think so.
Wi-fi, mosquito nets, hammocks, restaurant, views
Digital Nomad Friendly:

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Hotel Tip of The Week: Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda | Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

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Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. 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.
Sitting on the bus from Quepos to our hostel near Manuel Antonio National Park, we knew that, at $10 per night per person, the Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda would not actually be paradise. And on arrival, it was clear we were right. But even though we can provide a list of imperfections with the place, we still highly recommend this budget hotel in Manuel Antonio, an obligatory stop on any Costa Rica vacation.
Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise Manuel Antonio Costa Rica
The best thing about Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda is that the rate, $10 per person per night, applies regardless of what type of room you stay in – whether its in a bed in a 4-6 person dorm or in a private single or double room. Rooms are spread out over two floors, and while the dorms are a bit dark and grungy (but still far better than the 12 to 14 bed dorms we have seen!), the single and double privates are basic but nice, with comfortable beds, strong fans and peace and quiet despite the location of the rooms at the back of the popular restaurant. Call ahead to secure one of the private rooms, to make the most of that $10 price.
Double Room Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise
Bathrooms, also shared with restaurant guests, are cleaner and brighter than might be expected. Despite heavy use by guests and diners, the bathrooms in this Manuel Antonio hotel always had plenty of toilet paper and were never overly dirty. The showers are clean, and come with large rain showerheads and good water pressure. As far as shared bathrooms go, we have seen much, much worse.
Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise Bathroom Girls
The front of the building is the restaurant/bar and is hopping morning, noon and night on the weekends. The menu is basic, cheap and good for international tourists of all ages, made up mainly of pasta and rice dishes, and the breakfast (see below) was certainly a stand-out feature of a stay at this hostel. During the week, the restaurant is closed after breakfast and before dinner. When not hanging at the beach in Manuel Antonio, hotel guests are welcome to hang here all day, drinking the bottomless cups of free coffee and tea on offering, and using up as much of the free wi-fi connection as they would like. The hotel also offers a laundry service (expect to wait at least one day longer than you’re told to get the clothes back) and the most comprehensive collection of German books we have seen in any book exchange anywhere.
Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise Restaurant
While we’ve mentioned the location of the hotel as a Stand Out Feature below, we want to mention that both the pristine beaches inside the park and the main town beach are absolutely beautiful. Plan in two or three days of utter laziness around your Manuel Antonio National Park visit, and make sure to soak up some Costa Rican sun here.

Stand Out Feature: Location

Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda is the only budget accommodation option located directly in the small town of Manuel Antonio itself, and is just 100m from the entrance to the National Park and a two-minute walk from the beach. The rest of the budget spots are located a half an hour away in the main town of Quepos, requiring a 30min bus ride not only to get to the National Park (the main reason for your visit), but also to the beach and back every day (there is no beach worth visiting in Quepos).
Manuel Antonio beach view
Stand Out Feature: The Price
This great location is available for $10 per person per night, easily half the next best hotel price Manuel Antonio town. The majority of hotels throughout Costa Rica are comparable to U.S. prices, making Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda an absolute steal. In fact, we hope the owners don’t read this and realize just what a bargain they are offering!
Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda Price List

Stand Out Feature: Breakfast

For 1800 Colones, or $3.50, the breakfast served up at the restaurant is large enough to fill you up until dinner. The first plate is spilling over with slices of fruit, and is followed by a second plate of scrambled eggs, bread and a heaping mound of our beloved Gallo Pinto.
Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise Breakfast

Room for improvement: Disorganization and apathy

Last week we recommended Hotel Hansi on Bocas del Toro, Panama and stated that it was no surprise that the German-run hotel was so organized and spotless. This hotel is also German -owned and couldn’t be less organized if they tried. As you will find from the reviews on TripAdvisor for Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda, the hotel is filled with imperfections. Our negative experience centered entirely around customer service staff who were constantly stressed: the ladies in the kitchen were also responsible for the laundry, the waiters were also responsible for check-in and check-out. This led to everyone always waiting for something.
The staff at this Manuel Antonio hotel seem to rely on the honesty of their guests, as our food bill was often wrong. This was sometimes in their favor – which we contested – and other times in our favor. While we were honest about really owing more, how many other guests wouldn’t take a free night’s stay or free bottles of water? When the wi-fi went out one day, the entire staff and the owner all just shrugged their shoulders and made no attempt to help – even when specifically showed the problem with the router and how to fix it.


The lack of customer service and professionalism means that guests at Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda do actually get what they pay for – what more can you expect for $10 a night?! However, the location and the price literally can’t be beat, which is why we recommend budget travellers to take the bad with good, and book this hotel in advance for their Manuel Antonio visit.
Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise
Location: Turn left into the road up the hill at the main bus stop in town and walk for 100 meters. You will see Costa Linda Backpackers Paradise on the left side.
Price: $10 per person in a single, double or dorm.
LGBT Friendly: No idea, they would never notice.
Amenities: Bottomless coffee and tea, free wi-fi, book exchange, laundry service


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Hotel Tip Of The Week: Hostal Hansi | Bocas Del Toro, Panama

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Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. 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.

Much to our surprise, we arrived to the island of Bocas del Toro in Panama just in time for the annual Carnival celebration. While this made for an unending supply of cheap beer and celebratory mood, it also revealed a temporary disregard for anything relaxing whatsoever. We suffered through one of the loudest nights of our lives at a dingy hostel (to remain unnamed) and the next day we headed straight to Hostal Hansi where, for exactly the same price, we had peace, quiet and comfort.

Hostal Hansi Bocas del Toro PanamaNamed after her beloved black cat, Hostal Hansi’s owner runs the place  in just the efficient and organized manner you expect from a German. The rooms are clean, comfortable and spacious. Private double rooms with an ensuite bathroom, TV and balcony are available for $30. We stayed in a triple room with private bathroom for $36, and while there was no TV, the three single beds felt brand-new and were a dream to sleep on. The en-suite bathroom had three cups, three towels, three hooks to hang the towels, plus hot water and even a toilet brush. See Stand Out Features for more raving about attention to detail, but the fact that the German owner cleans the entire hotel herself each day means that she personally guarantees cleanliness.

Hostal Hansi Private Room Bocas del Toro PanamaHostal Hansi is the perfect place for both short and long-term visitors to Bocas del Toro, particularly because of the comfort of these communal areas. Both upstairs and downstairs have tables and chairs, and the fast and free wi-fi reaches all levels and even (to a lesser extent) into the guest rooms. There is a carefully curated trilingual library available for guests, who can borrow books in German, English and Spanish for beach days or quiet evenings in (should you visit the island during the 51 remaining weeks of the year during which Carnival does not turn the world upside down).

Hostal Hansi communal area

Surprisingly, the main town of Bocas del Toro does not offer visitors access to great beaches, which means that Hansi is not a hotel tucked away on a hidden private beach, but rather a practical town center hotel. It is located three blocks from the main arrival dock, one minute from the town’s largest supermarket, close to all the restaurants and three minutes walking distance off the main drag.

Stand Out Feature: Attention to detail

The attention to detail at Hostal Hansi is remarkable. Each guest is provided with a lock and a wooden locker inside the room – large enough to hold all your valuables, plus a small backpack. The key, which comes inserted into the padlock, is attached to a key ring along with the room key and main house key. Revisiting the hook issue – not only does the bathroom have hooks to hang towels, the room itself has sets of three hooks for each guest, plus shelves with hangers underneath long enough to hang all your clothes. Why budget accommodation owners so often fail to put in hooks is unclear, but the fact that Hansi has just the right amount of hooks and hangers puts the hostel in a class of its own. Likewise, it is not customary for accommodation in this price range to provide towels, but Hostal Hansi not only provides guests with fluffy fresh towels, but also replaces them on a daily basis.

Hostal Hansi Bathroom Bocas del Toro PanamaStand Out Feature: The Kitchen

Hostal Hansi is clearly a hostel, not a B&B. There is no promise of breakfast here, but the kitchen is so clean and organized we could barely wait to make our own food. The refrigerator has a glass door similar to those in the supermarket, and each guestroom is assigned a clearly labeled shelf number which fairly allocates space and reduces  food theft. All appliances, cutlery, plates and cups are provided to  cook up any meal. For those who do not cook, there are several cheap restaurants on the main street just two minutes away where you would be hard pressed to spend more that $4 to stuff yourself silly!

Hostal Hansi Kitchen Bocas del Toro PanamaRoom for improvement: No Reservations

Hostal Hansi does not take reservations online or over the phone. We have developed quite a nose for good accommodation, and after discovering Hansi’s website, it was our top choice for our stay on Bocas del Toro. However, unable to make a reservation, our first night on the island was spent in utter agony. Luckily the next day Hansi had a free room and we moved right in, but our island getaway would have been better had we been able to stay there from the start.


Compared to the hostels in the same budget range, Hostal Hansi is a dream. After a few nights at the hostel for between $11 and $15 per person per night, you begin to ask yourself how, for the same price that others run chaotic roach motels, Hostal Hansi is able to run a place where everything is done just so perfectly right.  Even travelers accustomed to three or even four star  mainstream hotel chains would find comfort in this clean and very favorably-priced hostel.

Hostal Hansi Kitten Bocas del Toro Panama

Location: Ave. D & 2nd. Street, Bocas del Toro, Panama
$30 for a double room with private bathroom, $25 for a private room with shared bathroom, $12 per person in a triple, $13 for a single room with shared bathroom.
LGBT Friendly:
Kitchen, wi-fi, towels, communal area, books & games

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: La Estancia in San Salvador

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Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. 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.

Set along a winding road in a quiet side street, there is no sign marking La Estancia, but almost every cab driver in the city knows the place. If arriving on foot, look out for a purple gate. Popular among Peace Corp volunteers and budget travelers from around the world, La Estancia’s chintzy wood paneling and decades-old furniture feel like a well-worn pair of shoes – the ones that look ugly but are your go-to, reliable pair.

The hotel has two dorms and four $30 double rooms. Our room, Room #5, is apparently the best. It had two double  beds, a large, clean private bathroom with hot water (real hot water, not an electric shower head), a TV with a DVD player and DVDs, and even a private (small) outdoor patio with a plastic table and chairs.

The dorm rooms have six beds and appeared safe and secure for $12, and dorm guests can also enjoy a range of DVDs on the 42-inch flat screen in the living room. Here there are two comfortable couches and a reclining chair, a DVD library and a small library as well with a good selection of books thanks to the many longer-term volunteers who pass through the hotel. A second living room has a TV (no DVD player), two couches and opens up onto a tiny patio space with a fountain. The wi-fi works well in all shared spaces and we were able to get some good work done in between all the DVD watching (oh, and sightseeing, of course). The fully-equipped kitchen, open to guests, is split into two parts – a cramped cooking/washing up space, and an open space with a very clean fridge, 8-seat round table, and plenty of dishes and silverware.

Breakfast is served out here, although it leaves much to be desired (see Room for Improvement below). Free coffee is available all day though, and cooking for yourself is no issue at all, thanks to the two mega-supermarkets located at the Metrocentro just five minutes’ walking distance from the hotel.  In fact, it is the hotel’s location that we found to be the best aspect of our stay at La Estancia.

Stand Out Feature: Location, Location, Location

La Estancia is five minutes from the Metrocentro Mall on Boulevard de Heroes, which is a North American style mega mall with supermarkets, restaurants, coffee shops, a 12 theater Cineplex and a healthy range of shopping options from high fashion to basic needs. Depending on how long you have been on the road, even those who like to avoid such mall monstrosities can appreciate the chance to run every conceivable errand around the corner from their hotel.

The Metrocentro is also a major transportation hub. Almost every city bus line and taxis pass by here, which makes getting home from a day of exploring the city that much easier.

Room for improvement

Breakfast is included in the price, but it is prepared grudgingly by a member of the cleaning staff. It just did not taste good. A toaster oven and a loaf of white bread is made available for anyone to prepare their own toast – certainly a wiser option.


El Salvador’s capital city of San Salvador, more specifically the swanky Zona Rosa district, has attracted several four and five star international hotel chains which jut enthusiastically out of an otherwise muted city skyline. Far from this glitz and glamour, visitors on a budget might have a hard time finding affordable, yet comfortable accommodation in the capital. La Estancia may not sparkle, but in terms of practicality, this budget hotel is hard to beat.

Location: Av Cortés 216, Centro, San Salvador
US$12 for a dorm, $15 per person in a private room
LGBT Friendly:
Unknown to us
Wi-fi, kitchen, free coffee, DVDs, hot showers
Contact: +
503 2275 3381

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