hostel review: casa de la iguana, livingston

Private double w/o bathroom $120 GTQ per night, 22nd – 25th April 2014

Vibe: A party hostel pure and simple. During the day very laid back with a nice communal space.

Location: Livingston is quite small, with Iguanas being a 10-15 minute walk from the main street and port. So it's a little out of the centre, but that's not a bad thing.

Best thing: The hostel is in its own lush green grounds which are beautiful to wake up to and enjoy your morning coffee. You are given a very comprehensive and friendly orientation upon arrival. 

Worst thing: Price / volunteers / party.

Its motto states “run by backpackers, for backpackers”. However, with its volunteers often outnumbering guests, you are sometimes left with the impression that it is actually run by the volunteer backpackers for themselves, rather than the guests - often colonising the social area and its facilities for themselves. Given that they do none of the cooking or cleaning, their role is not immediately clear.

The tab system in operation is clearly catered to exploit (if you're in a drinking game with the staff, who do you think is going to get shafted come bill time?)  and surely a better process could be created for a deposit than leaving your passport behind the desk. On our stay, twenty minutes before our boat left, we had to remind and insist that we had left both our passports with them and not just the one they had returned.

During our four-night stay in Las Iguanas, we were without internet for three. Whilst we appreciate that technical issues do happen, it was the response – or lack there of, of the staff that was most frustrating. Encouraging us to 'just go and use the free wifi' provided at other establishments rather making an effort to do more than simply turn the router on an off every few hours.

Lastly, party hostels are fine and there is totally a market for them. However, what sort of impression do travellers/volunteers hope to give off when bass-heavy music is played in a sparsely populated hostel until 1 a.m, within 50 metres of surrounding local family homes. 

Value for money: A 10% charge on top of all food and drinks, when the hostel already has some of the highest booze prices in Livingston, is scandalous and wholly unnecessary.

If you're in the mood for a party, then stay at a cheaper hotel (such as Vijares along the same road) and only come here for the happy hour.

Recommended for: The young backpacker who has money to burn and wants to party.

Top tip: Some of the rooms have no roof, so a mozzie net and ear plugs (especially if there is an amorous couple next door) may be handy during certain times of year. For some strange reason, there are no lockers for the dorms (only a safety deposit box in reception) so keep a close eye on your valuables.

Rating: For non-budget gap year students, 8. For everyone else, 5.  

don't miss the great cooking classes at rasta mesa - you won't regret it!