The Hostel Experience in Puerto
“The essence of a hostel is shared spaces, a sense of community, and
a place to lay your head at night.”
—Jussi Walker of Hostel Chicatana.
Hostels sure have changed in my lifetime and maybe yours. Back in the day, in Europe at least, they were like single-sex college dormitories. There were curfews and lots of rules, certainly no bars and pools. Now when many hostels have more private rooms than dorms — having the option of paying for a bed in a shared space is what differentiates a hostel from a hotel — the main attraction, besides price, is an atmosphere designed to help travelers connect.
Since the hostel movement started in Germany in 1912, we decided to visit five hostels in Puerto Escondido that have international owners and international and national guests. Naturally, we started with the Hotel Mayflower, Puerto’s oldest (it opened in 1990) and best-known hostel — it is recommended by Lonely Planet, Frommers, Let’s Go, Routard and Anders Reisen.
Minne Dahlberg, the Mayflower’s owner, is a German who lived for many years in Canada and is also a Mexican citizen. A world traveler, she prefers to stay in hostels (although in a private room) wherever she goes - most recently Peru and Ecuador. So it’s no surprise that travelers of all ages (typically from 17 to 65) and nationalities feel comfortable here.
The Mayflower boasts of a large communal kitchen including industrial size refrigerators and stoves. (Being just a block from the Chedraui supermarket helps with the shopping.) It also has a computer area and, among other communal spaces, a large lounge area with a library, grand piano, and an ocean view. This is what Minne calls the quiet room.
Located above the Adoquín, on Andador Libertad, the Mayflower
has eight dorm rooms — some with only two or four beds —
that accommodate 40 guests. There are also 12 double rooms with
private baths and ocean views. Dorm prices range from $100 pesos
to 175 during Christmas and Easter.
Serious surfers on a budget who want to be as close to Zicatela’s big waves as possible stay at the hostel Chicatana (formerly Pakololo) which is just across the street from the beach. The surfers come mainly from Australia, Argentina, Israel and Scandinavia.
Jussi Walker, a Scot, and his Mexican wife Patricia Guzman didn’t plan on having a hostel when they opened their restaurant Auakate in 2012. Then the landlord offered them the hostel and pretty soon they expanded to the hostel next door. Next they added a swimming pool and bar for their guests. And they are still at work making improvements like solar panels for electricity and hot water. Meanwhile the restaurant is doing well with its big portions of mostly organic and natural food at cheap prices. Just what a surfer needs to keep going.
The two dorm rooms sleep 12 and 14 in bunk beds and share
a terrace overlooking the beach. There are also 10 double rooms
and an apartment that can accommodate up to 8 people. A bed at
Chicatana costs from $80 to $120, depending on the season.
The boutique hotel and hostel One Love on calle Tamaulipas in the Punta is a place of elegant (for Puerto) repose. The collaboration of a Mexican architect and a French restaurateur, its common spaces include a small pool in a tropical garden, a small communal kitchen and a large palapa covered terrace with a view of the undeveloped part of Zicatela beach. Yoga classes and surf lessons available.
One Love’s restaurant is another attraction featuring a unique mix of Mexican, French and Asian cuisine at moderate prices. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 9:30 pm everyday, except Monday, and the bar serves until 11.
One Love has two dorm rooms, one reserved for women only.
Each room has two bunk beds and a private bath and a private palapa
porch with a hammock. There’s hot water in the winter. A dorm
bed is ten dollars U.S.
Meanwhile, at the busier part of the Punta where sometimes it’s safe to go in the water even if you are not a surfer, there is the hostel Buena Onda, Av. Alejandro Cárdenas Peralta near Heroes Oaxaqueños. This hostel is actually on the beach. It has a communal kitchen, a big palapa on the beach for eating or resting, and space for camping.
Founded in 2000 by Frenchman Oliver Diderot and his Mexican wife Yara Brito, the grounds of the hotel/hostel are a veritable tropical paradise. The guests are mostly young, 20 to 30, and come from all over the world, especially France, Germany, Australia, Israel and Argentina. It’s also a favorite of Mexican college students during vacation breaks.
There are 10 cabañas and two dormitories, each sleeping five,
and four bathrooms, four showers and a communal kitchen. There
is also camping on the sand. A dorm bed costs $120, and $150 during
Christmas and Easter. Campers pay $70.
At the very end of Av. Alejandro Cárdenas Peralta where the dirt road meets the beach is Puerto’s newest hostel, El Lugar. Opened in 2014 by the Australian Sue Repanellis, this hotel/hostel attracts international and Mexican tourists of all ages.
The communal kitchen and dining area is often the site of impromptu
barbecues (of course, it’s Australian) and the restaurant/
snack bar claims to have the coldest beer in town besides its traditional
Australian dishes like meat pies. Its friendly atmosphere and
great location has made it an instant success, with guests staying
an average of 10 nights. There are two dorm rooms, one sleeping
four and the other two. A dorm bed costs $120 and $200 for Christmas