Buddha Hostels: Gourmet Food, Great Scenery, Fun Trips, Funky Art

A private room at Urban Buddha.
A private room at Urban Buddha.

The hostels that succeed find a niche, something that makes them unique, maybe a location, a service, something else good.

Buddha Hostels has its specialty.

It’s the gourmet food, a product of the owner, Mariano, a charismatic caballero of Spanish and Egyptian descent who comes from a family of chefs.

He travels sometimes, but if you’re lucky enough to be there when he’s there and the place is almost full, you’re going to eat well. Dinner is 18,000 pesos (about $9), higher than average in Colombia, but the food is well above average so you won’t be disappointed.

There are four to eight-course meals with paella being one of Mariano’s specialties, and the breakfast omelettes are delicious too.

Breakfast and dinner are great times to meet other travelers and plan other activities. Mariano gives you options, everything from day trips to Guatapé to paragliding, to a night out for rumba, anything to make your experience a memorable one, something you’ll talk about with your friends, and don’t forget the photos.

There are two sites — one in Laureles, one in La Estrella. Dorms cost 19,000 to 22,000 pesos (about $10 to $11) a night, single rooms 50,000 to 60,000 ($25 to $30).

Both places are clean, the staff friendly and knowledgeable. There’s funky art on the walls (all of it for sale) of the eclectic backdrop at the Laureles location, and a beautiful natural scenery surrounding the La Estrella house. It’s no wonder Buddha is already popular on Hostelworld and TripAdvisor.

The garden, decked out with a mural and a koi pond.
The garden, decked out with a mural and a koi pond.

I stayed at the Laureles location while I looked for a new apartment and I’m happy I did. I didn’t take any excursions through the hostel but I tried the food and met some great people.

There was Teun, a funny Dutch guy addicted to traveling. There was Sebastian, a young Scottish lad too shy to talk to the paisa girls, something that possibly, hopefully, eventually, endeared him to them. And there was Victor, a Swedish backpacker who ended up getting a job at the hostel while providing constant entertainment with his quips, usually at the expense of Jay, an English girl who worked there too.

My second night, we went to Papayera, more commonly known as El Eslabon Prendido, or just Es La Bon. It was Tuesday and that Centro club is famous for its live salsa music that night.

There was a bit of irony, going there. I had been only a couple times before and my first time there, I ran into Vado, one of my first paisa friends. He was with several friends…Santiago, Valentina — and Mariano.

That night, after the club closed, Mariano invited us back to the hostel for a couple of beers and a few hours of socializing.

Several months later history sort of repeated itself, only this time I stayed longer.

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  1. Nice Ad! What is the reference to tripadvisor – way over the top. It is kind of hard to come to this blog for objective opinions when the content is like this.

    Also – WTF does buddha have to do with Medellin. Always weird to see these hostels that promote a generic culture rather than embracing the culture of where they are located.

    • Thanks for the feedback on Ryan’s post.

      It’d be nice if hostels always chose names that reflected the culture, but of course it’s a decision made by the owners, and some will have personal reasons for naming it something different. I’d chalk it up to a lack of originality, or a fear of stepping out of the norm.

      I have no idea why Paul named his place Casa Kiwi Hostel. We can only guess he has an affinity for New Zealand. A hostel’s name doesn’t mean anything to me when I’m deciding where to stay. Sure it’s nice to stay at a “Tango Hostel” in Argentina, but it’s hardly original (there’s one in every city), even if it does reflect the local culture.

      Probably easier to market a hostel with a familiar word like “Buddha” then a local word like “paisa”, which tourists won’t recognize until they’re already in the city. Maybe he wants to purposefully set his apart, and give off a relaxed vibe (vs most of the city’s hostels, which are all about partying).

    • Like Dave, I am a positive person. If I really like something, I will express that in my writing. I’m sorry you feel that way, but I don’t share your opinion so we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

  2. Hi Dave,

    Its not just the name – its the koi pond, the buddha walls. I mean respect their right to exist but cant understand why anyone would come all the way to Medellin to La Estrella and surround themselves with pseudo enlightement culture instead of discovering the rich culture around them. but horses for courses. im sure it is a fantastic place.

    my issue is more with the hostel ads than the name anyway – if this is a paid feature – identify it as such and there is no conflict of interest. if not – it appears like an advertorial.

    • It’s neither a paid review, nor a paid advertorial. If it were either, I’d have included a disclosure statement.

      Ryan will probably respond to your comment as well, however I think he just liked the place and wanted to put out a positive article about it.

      I tend to be a positive person too. If you read my review of dinner at El Cielo Restaurant, you’ll find I absolutely loved the place.

      I paid $100 out of my pocket for that dinner, AND spent a few hours writing about it, because I wanted to promote the restaurant (and hopefully get some traffic to the site as well).

  3. OK Dave – i know you are an honorable dude. like im said im sure its a fantastic place. but the “It’s no wonder Buddha is already popular on Hostelworld and TripAdvisor.” kinda turned me off it from being a legit opinion piece.

    anyway – its your blog – you are free to include whatever you want. and in general i think the blog is great.

    • and i think dave did a good job summing everything up. i did pay to stay there, the same as everyone else. and the bottom line is, i just really liked it. i became pretty good friends with a bunch of the travelers i met there, and i always felt so comfortable and relaxed there. i think my post expressed that.

  4. I am an adversary of uniformity. It can be a dangerous hole that can lead to ignorance and prejudice. Buddha Hostels exist because people who wish to live an experience in a setting where universal languages knock the collective unconscious also exist. This experience is not defined nor defied by any one individual traveller but by the interaction that takes place within the traveller and its native surrounding. It is up to the indivudual to bring that within out, and to absorb what he/she sees fit from outside within. Hence, growth occurs.
    Our hostels are settings that allow for both the external and the internal to interact in equilibrium.
    As a traveller all my life I can express my conviction in the assertion that we seek to travel not only in places but also through faces. This is where the footprint of a memory lies. Don´t be fooled by t he cognitive bubble that tells you a place can steer the people whatever its name maybe, it is the people that make the place.