Staying at the HI Hostel in Toronto

HI Toronto Hostel

As many of you already know, one of my favorite ways to travel and to save money is by staying at hostels.

Early June when I made the drive to Toronto to attend TBEX I found myself making my way to HI Toronto.

HI Toronto was one of the local hostels really going out of their way to help out bloggers attending the huge gathering for TBEX. They offered discounts to attendees and made sure that anybody staying with them was comfortable.

Even before I arrived their character was already coming through.

The moment I arrived, I felt comfortable. Backpackers were hanging out and socializing outside. Walking in there were several bikes that were available for rent, a couple of computers and overall a pretty welcoming entryway.

As I was booking a room for the night with the friendly staff I noticed that opposite of the front desk was a wall filled with information on the area and pamphlets on things to do. Right next to it was large chalkboard lining out a weekly schedule of local happenings, events and tours that you could take with HI Hostel.

HI Toronto Reception Area

After getting my room key, getting the rundown and exchanging some banter with the workers I made my way to my room.

On the main floor, just past the desk is the commons area. Comfortable couches, a pool table, vending machine and some awesome art made the place feel relaxed and inviting.

HI Toronto Lounge

From the commons area, guests can take either the elevators down to the Cavern Bar and Bistro or up to the rooms.

Wanting to get settled in I made my way up to my room. I met a few backpackers there that had been there for a while. We talked for a bit then I left to check out the rest of the place.

Just down from the room were the community showers and restrooms along with the laundry room.

An accessible laundry room is a huge plus for long-term backpackers! Had I stayed for a longer period I definitely would have utilized them.

Having checked out the digs I made my way down to the Cavern Bar and Bistro. It was a pretty sweet little bar the hostel was running (good burgers). The main small bar area felt like an underground cavern, but then expanded out to more of normal room with additional seating.

HI Toronto Cavern HI Toronto Cavern and Bistro

The one thing that I think would get a bit irritating is the arch of the cavern. It can’t be helped, it’s a cavern. lol It gave an awesome appearance and feel, but anybody sitting along the wall will be forced to hunch over a bit.

Aside from that, the hostel overall was pretty great. The rooms had A/C to stay cool and the entire place had a welcoming atmosphere. They also have a rooftop deck that I missed out on.

The first night I hung with some other backpackers and went to an Irish Pub down the block then made the walk more towards downtown for some more drinks.

The following few nights were all spent hanging out with TBEX attendees. Many would go out to eat/drink/party/whatever then come back for some food or more drinks down at The Cavern.

It was a great place to stay and I’m not sure when I’ll be going back to Toronto, but when I do, I’ll definitely consider staying here again!

Additional Information

Address: HI-Toronto Hostel
76, Church Street
Toronto (Ontario)  M5C 2G1
416 971-4440  |  1 877 848-8737

Costs: Shared dorms go from $31 – $51 or less if you’re a HI Member. Private rooms go from $119 – $139.

Perks: A/C, free wifi, lockers, laundry room, kitchen, bike rental, hostel offered tours and a hostel bar downstairs

What it’s like to stay in a hostel

 

(Note: My first night staying with HI Toronto was on my dime, however the nights that followed were courtesy of the awesome folks at WE Hostels (Hostel/Hotel booking service) and a giveaway they had open for TBEX attendees. All opinions are my own and this post was not in exchange for a stay at the hostel.)

Casa De Olas – San Juan Del Sur

BASIC INFO:

 

What? An excellent hotel/hostel in Nicaragua

Where? Overlooking the surf town of San Juan Del Sur

How Much? From $11 US to $45 US depending on dorm or private.

For booking or more information check out their website!

THE STORY:

 

I was in Costa Rica during my summer backpacking trip when I met a random backpacker at the hostel that I was staying at. He was headed south and I was headed north to San Juan Del Sur.

I asked about the hostel he stayed at and he mentioned Naked Tiger Hostel. He wasn’t particularly fond of it.

Apparently he had been traveling for some time and the rowdiness was too much for him.

Curiosity, as it always does, got the better of me. I decided to check it out.

I made my way to the Naked Tiger hostel to find that it was overbooked. All dorms/hammocks and even couches were spoken for.

Before I made my way out, they suggested to try the hotel/hostel next door, Casa De Olas.

I make my way through their gates, see the infinity pool with a monkey lounging next to it and I knew it was the better choice for me.

Me and Buzz the spider monkey hanging out early morning :)

 

Casa De Olas’s beautiful hotel/hostel and hospitality combined with a stunning view of the harbor made for a great stay.

Right away their friendly staff greeted me, found me a dorm bed and handed me a beer.

It was twice as much as the Naked Tiger but well worth it. A nice pool, Buzz (spider monkey), beer, pancake breakfast and knowledgeable staff made it quite easy to pay the $11. (Yeah, even then, it’s only 11 dollars)

This hostel is not in the town of San Juan Del Sur but up on the mountainside overlooking it.

This offers one of the best views possible and getting to town is no problem. They have a driver that makes frequent drives to town throughout the day.

Along with being a hostel they also offer surfing lessons and rentals. During my time there they were housing a group of sponsored surfers. They would leave in the morning, surf all day, then return back for a dinner at the hostel.

I forgot to mention, if you’re not sure about what to eat and don’t want to worry about it, you can pay a little extra for a nice homemade meal every night!

Needless to say, I had an amazing time at Casa De Olas!

We had a movie night one night, went to the local rodeo one day and had a fantastic time getting to know one another over drinks at night.

If you find yourself in San Juan Del Sur I highly recommend you check out this hostel as an option for where to stay.

(This reflects my own personal opinion. I was not paid to write this review)

 

 

Un Dia En Bocas (A travel romance story)

Before you dive into this one, I just gotta warn you, it’s a sappy travel romance story (actually I don’t know if it’s sappy…cute maybe? I don’t know, you can decide).

In traveling you meet a lot of amazing people. With those amazing people you have some incredible times.

This is one of those times. A possibly romantic, possibly cute, possibly something else time. Either way, one of the best days I’ve ever had…so now

Un Dia en Bocas

Now imagine your screen goes hazy, and you’re mentally transported to a little island off of Panama called Isla Colon.

I had just arrived via water taxi to the cluster of islands known as Bocas Del Toro. It was early morning. The sun had only been up for going on an hour when I entered my hostel.

Arriving so early and without reservation it took some time before my hostel dorm bed was ready. I decided to lay in a hammock. After 15 minutes of dozing in and out I was handed my room key.

As I was walking to my room she walked by.  She was about 5’6 with blue eyes and shorter dark brown hair. She had these colorful owl earrings, white headband and amazing smile/smirk.

Our eyes met for a second and I froze. I didn’t say or do anything, not even good morning or hello. nothing… so stupid.

I walked past, head shaking, straight to my room to finally get some rest.

I was there, in that hostel for a few days. Every day I would walk past her. Each time I couldn’t bring myself to say or do anything. I even asked my dorm mates about her. Who is she? Has anybody talked to her? Is she with anybody?

She was stunning, I wanted to say hi and hold a conversation but just couldn’t do it. What made it worse was that we would always look at each other. I thought/hoped that she wanted me to say hi too.

Fast forward through those few days of me being a pansy to the day that I leave. Finally, it was going to be my last morning there, I was going to hop in a water taxi and keep moving on. I had it set in my mind. It was time for me to go. Another day there would have me fearing that I would get stuck in Bocas.

I get up and go to make breakfast and it’s pouring outside. This was a sign. For the past few years, every time I was on a trip, the day I would leave, it would rain. It was like a ritual by this point.

A couple of friends are in the kitchen and there she is, sitting in the corner just listening, watching and drinking some coffee. I was debating with my friends on whether I should stay or leave. They all wanted me to stay one more day, they weren’t leaving yet. Throughout the conversation I kept glancing towards her to see if she had any reaction.

Finally, I talked to her. I asked her, “What do you think? Should I head out or stay one more day?”

“Do you have to leave?”

“I probably should, but I don’t HAVE to leave.”

“Then stay.”

Decision made, the gorgeous girl said yes, I stayed. “Hi, I’m Pablo by the way”

And that’s how we first introduced ourselves.

We went on to talk for a bit. I was telling her how it always rains when I leave, but how since I was staying, I might have to explore the town while it rains. I don’t always get to do that  and that’s one of my favorite things to do.

I threw out the idea that she could come with me. I can’t quite remember the response. I just remember, that it seemed like she said yes but she may have just been nice.

I head upstairs to change and get my umbrella hoping that she’ll be accompanying me for the rainy day adventure.

When I walk down I didn’t see her in the kitchen or the living room area. Right as I figured that I was going to be on my own, there she is, already waiting outside with her raincoat.

“Still planning on walking around in the rain?”

“Definitely, just had to grab my umbrella.” I say smiling.

So off we go into the rain into a somewhat unfamiliar little town. We walked everywhere that day.

Initially we walk up this street and come across the body of an old plane with some of the guts still inside. She pulls out a camera to take a picture then has me hold her coffee and be her “coffee bitch for the day.” That had me laughing. This is when I find out she’s a high school Spanish teacher from New Mexico

My entire family is Mexican, I was raised speaking Spanish and still am fluent, but I’m betting she knows more Spanish than I do. haha

We keep walking and slowly moving towards the shore. Before reaching the beach, we come across the base cement structure of a building that was never finished. Balancing our way across the cement walls, which are upwards of 10ft off the ground, we go to the edge and look out over the beach and ocean waters.

It reminded me of the beach on the opening scene from Across the Universe. I remember telling her the same thing.

We’re walking along the beach now and find a starfish that wasn’t fast enough to go back in with the tide. Being that she is an ultimate frisbee player I tell her she should frisbee the starfish back to the ocean.

Good deed done for the day.

We walk up and off the beach and back into town. We take a few more pictures, explore a cemetery and continue our adventure.

Making our way back to the hostel, all I can think is, “she has to be tired of me.”  I’m just thinking I could easily spend the entire day with her.

It’s about lunch time when we begin getting closer to the hostel.

“Are you hungry?” she asks me.

I smile, I guess she’s not tired of me. “I could eat.”

She drops off her bag, we get a suggestion for food by our buddy Juan Pablo and head out again.

We enjoy some lunch all the while talking. Around this time we start talking about how she plays the banjo.

Right? Pretty fricken awesome.

We head back to the hostel and relax on top of the roof. It’s like a living room commons area. We hangout there until early evening. We share some music. I saw her hilarious class video. She shows me some stuff on her banjo. We realize we have a lot of weird coincidences and things in common.

This moves us on to the night. We separate to get ready before a party at the hostel and before going out to the local bars.

I come down from showering and getting ready. I see her in a black dress that ties around her neck, leaving her back exposed. I didn’t know what to say…

I was stunned. I didn’t say anything, I probably just looked stupid with a boyish grin on my face.

On top of looking and being amazing, what does she say?

“I just went out and bought some beer, do you want one?”

Of course I took a beer, how great of a night was this starting out to be?

We stick around the hostel for the birthday party then leave a little early to one of the bars.

The bar has a dock out back over the water. The water is lit up and you can see starfish hanging out and schools of smaller fish swimming around. We talk and flirt with each other, feet in the water, laying down looking up the stars. Our friends show up and we make our way inside for a little bit of dancing before we head out to another bar.

We decide to leave and check out this other place.

Quick note – Throughout the day, from my point of view, it seemed like we both enjoyed each others’ company but were afraid to say too much. Maybe not, I know on my end that’s how I felt. I was afraid that I would say or do too much and scare her away.

On the way there I decide that it’s time I do something to make my interest evident. I’m the fun/sappy type and came up with a risky idea that could be fun.

I asked if she wanted to play a game. The object of the game was to not have to pay for a single thing at the new bar we were going to. The way to do this was to go in as newlyweds on a honeymoon. After I said this, I stuck out my hand in hopes that she would stick hers in mine and she did. She said she loved that idea.

I tell her, in order to sound convincing, we need to get our story straight. So fingers interlocked, strolling down the middle of the street we began to reminisce about the past two years, where we first met, what we did, how I proposed, what our plans are.

I asked her if she remembered how I proposed. She quickly jumps, “I remember exactly how that happened. I’ll tell you that story.”

She begins going into detail about how 6 months earlier we were off traveling somewhere around the world. We were walking through a city while rain was pouring down. There, in the middle of the street, I stop, I look at her and say, “It’s time.” She responds with, “time for what?” I look at her, “time for us to get married” and I propose to her in the middle of a foreign city with rain coming down all around us…

We get to the new bar, which the entire place consists of paths of dock lit up over ocean waters. Fish and starfish are seen everywhere moving and swimming around. Christmas lights hang from tropical trees. There’s only roof cover over the bar so the stars are seen beyond that. I walk her to the furthest part next to this gazebo overlooking the water away from the people and music.

At this point, we’re both in awe of each other, it was like a climactic build up to this one moment. She was talking about something, I don’t remember what exactly. I put my finger to her lips to stop her, looked her in her eyes, slight smile, and I moved in and kissed her…

Romantic first kiss right? I’m pretty sure my heart stopped. I’m not lying when I say that. Not just the first kiss, but every kiss was like that. My heart was freaking out.

You would think that was the end of it… psh nope haha

We leave enamored with what had happened, each other, the night, the island,everything…

We make a pit stop at the hostel to grab her ipod and mini speaker. She put on some songs and we walked around the town under the street lights with our own personal theme/movie music. Dancing, smiling and enjoying each others’ company.

After a trip to the dock at night we head back to the hostel together.

The next morning we wake up and spend some time together. I make my pancakes and she has her coffee. Then I pack my bags, meet her outside of the hostel and we say goodbye…

Un Dia En Bocas

 

 

What it’s like to stay in a hostel

Did you ever watch that movie Hostel back in 2005?

Three backpackers are in Europe making their way to a hostel filled with attractive European women who lust for foreigners. When they get there, it turns out to be a trap for backpackers. High paying bidders buy backpackers to torture them, kill them and whatever else they like.

Staying in a hostel is exactly… not like that movie.

First off, what is a hostel?

A hostel is a form of budget accommodation.

Imagine a hotel room, now take out the tv, take out the wardrobe, take out the dresser, change the beds for bunk beds and squeeze in two to three more bunks and you have yourself a hostel dorm room.

Instead of one or two people spending upwards of $70 for a room, you have anywhere from 4-12 people each paying $5-$25 for a nights stay.

I have to let you know, this is definitely not for everybody. Even for those with budgets.

Have you ever watched that show, The Real World on MTV? It’s like that sometimes.

Some hostels seem to simply be a transition spot. People show up to rest and then move on to their next location. These tend to be fairly quiet and basic. No extras, just a bed to sleep on and a shower to use.

Others are definitely geared towards the outgoing backpacker personality. They’ll have the basics of course, but along with that they’ll have computers to use, hammocks to lounge around in and sometimes pool tables and table tennis. I’ve stayed in a few that have their own bar which added to the backpacker style and personality.

So what is staying in a hostel like???

 

  • It’s trying to sleep while throughout the night newcomers or inebriated roommates stumble in.
  • It’s sometimes being the one intoxicated trying to maneuver your way around luggage, bags and shoes towards your bed.
  • It’s people snoring and waking up at 4am to catch a bus to their next destination.
  • It’s sleeping in a pool of your own sweat because a large majority of hostels don’t have air conditioning. (At least in Central America and if they do have it, it’s extra)
  • It’s layering up and shivering on cold nights because the hostel has no heater.
  • It’s meeting people from around the globe and learning about their ways and culture.
  • It’s trying to learn new phrases, languages and accents.
  • It’s random hook-ups with somebody you just met.
  • It’s being extremely annoyed with the previous and wishing they would get a private room. (it’s not that much extra between two people)
  • It’s becoming quick friends and going on adventures with people you just met.
  • It’s being attacked by mosquitoes, random bugs and the occasional scorpion.
  • It’s cold showers in the morning but not minding because of how hot it is.
  • It’s falling in love with someone you meet and might never see again.
  • And at the end of it all, it’s about no matter what happened the night before, finding yourself awake the next morning in a new part of the world with an entire day ahead to explore whatever may surround you.

 

Have you stayed in a hostel before? What has your experience been like?