Hostels and Budget Accommodation in Central America and the Carribean
Types of Accommodation For the purposes of this article, we'll include all of the Caribbean island nations plus Central American countries of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. Other Latin American countries can be found in the South America article.
Central America is thin stretch of land connecting North and South America. Even though it is small in size, it is made up of many countries, with some of the most popular countries for travelers being Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama. Likewise, the Caribbean islands include many countries, as many of the smaller islands are their own nations. Countries such as Aruba, Cuba, and some of the smaller tropical islands are very popular with travelers, too. In these more popular countries, you'll find no shortage of backpackers and budget travelers. Hostels are a popular option with budget travelers, young backpackers, and students, all who are looking for the most affordable places to stay in order to maximize their budget and extend the length of their trips. Long-term travel is quite popular in Central America due to the low cost of travel. Hostels usually offer social and fun environments at an affordable price.
If staying hostel isn't your style, then you'll also find plenty of budget hotels and guesthouses throughout the region. If you're traveling as a couple and plan to stay in a private room, prices in hostels and budget hotels are often about the same as they are for singles or for hostel beds. The main difference between these two options is that many hostels offer kitchens and common areas where you can hang out and meet other guests. Hostels are known for their social setting, so if you want a more quiet and private environment, then a budget hotel may be more your style. But if you're on a particularly tight budget, having access to a kitchen can significantly cut down on costs as you'll be able to cook many of your own meals.
Traveling Alone Independent travel and solo backpackers are a very common sight in Latin America. This is a popular region of the world for budget travelers, and many nations offer a pretty good means to get around for those that wish to navigate on their own. It's also not hard to meet other travelers with similar interests. If you're traveling by yourself, the most affordable accommodation option is usually a dorm in a hostel. The size of the rooms can range from just a couple of beds to dozens of bunks. The price of a bed is often lower in the larger rooms, but the noise is predictably louder. If you're hoping to meet other travelers, look for a hostel that organizes activities and tours for guests, offers plenty of common space, and has a kitchen. Meal times can be a great time to meet fellow guests, especially if the hostel provides free meals such as breakfast.
Looking for a Party Some travelers head to specific locations in Central America, such as the beaches of Costa Rica, specifically for surfing, sun, and of course, partying. Destinations such as Jaco, Tamarindo, Panama City, and the islands of Belize are known for their party scenes, which attract young travelers from around the world. It is not hard to find hostels that cater to these crowds. These "party hostels" often have nightly bar crawls, on-site bars, and music. If you're looking for a good night's sleep, then these hostels might be best avoided, but if your goal is to hit all of the best bars and clubs, then these hostels are for you.
Dorms vs Private Rooms Plenty of hostels in Central America offer both dorms and private rooms. Dorms usually have bunk beds for multiple guests and a shared bathroom. In general, dorm beds are the cheapest option for solo travelers. It's also not uncommon for small groups of friends to fill a whole dorm room. Private rooms appeal more to travelers who have companions with them or those who desire a private bathroom. Some rooms have twin beds while others have double beds. Both shared and private bathrooms may be available, but private bathrooms are typically more expensive. Do note that just because you're in a private room, it doesn't always mean you'll escape the noise of a social hostel. If a quiet place is a priority for you, you might do better in a private hotel room.