El Viajero is a group of hostels you can find in the South America countries of Colombia and Uruguay. They are the only hostel on San Andrés island, but I had the pleasure of staying in the highly recommended Cartagena hostel.
El Viajero is great. All the workers at reception are bilingual; Spanish and English, so you can always get help with whatever you need. There is always someone at the front (and usually two people), which is a necessity, because this hostel is always packed. Located inside the historic walled part of the city, El Viajero is in the perfect location. It’s a 10 minute walk to the marina, 10 minutes to get outside the wall to the ocean, there are 2 grocery stores within a 5 minute walk, and you really are in the middle of everything. And you can rent bikes.
The rooms themselves are great. We stayed in the 12 bed dorm, which is furnished with comfortable bunk beds, 12 keypad entry wall safes (perfect size for storing your money and passports. I could even fit my Canon 7D and 2 lenses inside the safe). Each bunk has 2 huge under-bed storage lockers you can lock with your own padlock. And the beds are solid. Not only are the mattresses super comfy, the wooden beds barely move when someone climbs on the top bunk.
Also, the rooms are air-conditioned. During the day, they usually turn the AC off at the breaker at reception (to be more eco-friendly), but if you want to take a midday nap and get out of the heat, they are more than happy to turn the AC back on for you. Just ask at reception.
The only thing I didn’t like, was the placement of the outlets. outlets. Next to the door was a bunch of outlet slots, plenty for multiple people to charge phone, cameras, etc. at once, but the shelf above the outlets was tiny and could only fit a couple phones. Anything else (say a laptop) would have to sit on the floor in the direct path of anyone entering. The bed next to the outlets has easy access to charge a laptop while sitting in the bed, but everyone else would be putting a cable in the direct path of the door entrance and aisle, just asking to trip someone. I wish they had run extensions around the room to each bed instead of having one grouping of outlets, so each bed had easy access to outlets, and if I was working on my laptop, and the battery died, I didn’t need to get up and go to the dining area. But this does force you to not stay in your room all day and get out and enjoy the beautiful weather.
The communal areas are amazing. the main patio is a long rectangular, multi-tiered area, with all the room off of this main patio. This ample size and shape of the patio, allows for small groups of people to hang out while still being social to others. At nights they set the bar up in the middle of the patio, and the whole hostel has a very open community feel to it. It is the perfect mix of being able to be by yourself and still be part of the group at the same time.
They also have a giant reception area with large windows with seats you can sit in, and couches throughout. They also keep the dining area open all day with ample tables and chairs and two computers you can use for free. There is a TV room off the reception area too, partially sectioned off, but still open to the reception room, with a comfy couch, a large flat screen TV, and a really cool wall decorated with old, classic, and cult movie posters. Next to the TV is a bookshelf with take and leave books for your pleasure.
The hostel also has a huge kitchen area. The stove itself as a traditional small stove, so only a couple people can cook at a time, but the counter space on the opposite end of the room is enormous. They also have two fridge/freezers for guest storage, and a 3rd for the employees. There are lots of plates, silverware, and cups for use, and a bunch of pots of various sizes. They don’t have any oven pans, but I found the metal top of a giant pot, turned upside down, worked great for cooking my pizza, with the metal center handle fitting in the oven rack so it held in place.
Sometimes you get creative in hostels.
The other awesome part of this hostel is the bathrooms. They have giant communal toilet/sink bathrooms, with 3 private toilet stalls in the girls, and 2 sinks in a large counter.
The shower complex is in its own room, multi-gender room, with 6 private showers, each with a full door, and enough room to lay down in if you want. they also have a hook (or you can throw your towel/clothes over the top of the wall, and a place to put shower items. There is no temperature control, but in Cartagena, where it is hot and humid all the time, cool water feels amazing, and the water never gets cold. It stays at a perfect, slightly cool temperature day and night.
El Viajero Cartagena also has complimentary breakfast. Toast, cereal, pastries, butter, jam, milk, orange juice, and coffee are offered for free every morning between 8 and 10 am. Just stumble in and take what you want. Free breakfast is always a great way to start your morning.
El Viajero also offers excursions all around Colombia. We booked our trip to the Mud Volcano with them. They have a whole book of different excursions and activities you can book through them. They are also more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the city – like “Where’s the best fish place in all of Cartagena?” (Pargo Rojo), and “Where can I get a super touristy rum drink?” (on the beach, it’s called Coco Loco, and it’s served in a coconut shell).
The employees are amazing, the layout is awesome, and the vibe is always upbeat. It is no wonder this hostel won best hostel in Colombia, in South America, and placed 6 in the world, with Hostel World’s most recent awards.
The only things I can complain about is the layout of outlets in the bedrooms, the lack of outlets on the patio area, and the Wi-Fi. (Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does it is usually quite slow). But, you are also in Cartagena and should be out exploring the city and having Coco Loco on the beach, and not being on Facebook all day, anyway.
I totally recommend El Viajero, and recommend them to anyone going to Cartagena.
Their bartender is great and makes awesome mojitos. He also teaches Salsa and Conga dancing on Frida.