Friday, April 11, Kolibrí Hostel, Pereira
The row of bikes lining the wall suggested this place would be something special.
It was obvious, in this tiny hub in the heart of the Eje Cafetero, that the owners of Kolibrí Hostel wanted to show their guests another side of Pereira, a side that doesn’t just reinforce the stereotype it has gotten over the years as a place for parties and pretty women.
That’s what I had heard about this place, that Manizales and Salento are the best parts of the coffee region, that Pereira is a stop along the way to have some fun between enjoying the natural landscape near its more popular neighbors.
I was so wrong.
I should have found out for myself a couple of years ago, when I traveled to Manizales with a friend who was visiting from the states, but before we could get to Pereira and Salento, she decided she wanted to return to Medellín, to be in a bigger city again, her comfort zone.
I have been eager to return to this area since, to explore the last two corners of the coffee triangle.
Kolibrí Hostel — its named derived from the Spanish word for hummingbird (although to catch your attention the owners spell it with a “k” instead of a “c”) — did not exist the last time I was in this region.
The hostel is fairly new, only open one and a quarter years now, the first guests arriving in November 2012. There are nine private rooms and three dorms, with prices ranging from 20,000 to 75,000 pesos (about $11 to $38), depending on holidays and peak season.
It all started when Daniel, a Dutch traveler, went to a travel agency to find out what there is to do in and around Pereira and one of the beautiful young employees helped him get familiar with the city.
Daniel and Alexa are now a happy couple.
“She wasn’t very professional,” he said as they both laughed.
They decided one day that they wanted to open a hostel and they found a space they liked in Circunvalar, the city’s prettiest neighborhood, as they were walking around, eating hot dogs.
It was too expensive so the Realtor showed them another location nearby, the location where they are now.
It’s next to the Zona Rosa, the primary nightlife zone, and a handful of restaurants, including Thai, Peruvian and Argentinian.
But I didn’t come to indulge in the nightlife or meet the local women. I was too busy trying to learn more about this city of half a million people and the hostel that works to give you a different perspective.
It’s not a party hostel, not even close. It’s a quaint, clean and quiet atmosphere.
Daniel, Alexa and their staff can help you do a number of things: cycling tours through the city, hikes to waterfalls, a visit to a coffee farm, a trip to the Otún Quimbaya, and (my favorite) a day at the natural hot springs.
Saturday, April 12, El Centro, Pereira
Before I explored the beauty just outside the city, I wanted to see its heart.
I had met two travelers in Medellín, Tom from New Zealand and Alex from Portland, Ore., the latter’s name easy to remember because I have a nephew by the same name who lives in the same city.
They’re teachers and planned to check out the job scene in Pereira, a place I wanted to see for the Semana Santa holiday, so we all went together.
It was a 20-minute walk downtown, and like many downtowns, there were a lot of people there.
We first went to the Plaza de Libertad, where we got separated for a moment because Alex jaywalked, and Tom and I were forced to cross the proper way, first one street, then the other, to stay in the crosswalks.
It put us across the street with north and southbound traffic, but south of the street with east and westbound traffic, at the corner opposite where Alex stood.
He didn’t see us cross so we stood back for a bit, watching him gaze across the street toward the plaza, trying to find us, and we let it go on for a few minutes, which was probably a few minutes longer than we should have, but we didn’t think about that while we were laughing out loud.
We continued on to Plaza Bolívar, because most cities, including Medellín, have something to honor the liberator, and we just sat and watched all the people for a while.
We failed at getting close to the Rio Otún, so we headed back to the hostel, climbing quite a flight of stairs on the way.
Sunday, April 13, Termales de Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa de Cabal
The guy at the ticket booth said, “Dos mil, dos cientos,” and I smiled in disbelief, surprised the cost to get there is only $1.25.
As we pulled into town, a guy yelled for the bus driver to send him anyone heading to the hot springs, so we got off at the corner and followed him to a street lined with jeeps.
It’s 20,000 pesos to get to the hot springs, so each person in our group, now with five people, paid only 4,000 pesos, or just over $2.
Where it got a little pricey was at the entrance, 32,000 pesos (just over $16), up from 20,000 because of the holiday. With the 10 percent discount the hostel worked out for its guests, we paid just under 29,000 pesos, or about $15.
The path you follow takes a big turn to the right and when you look up you see a big waterfall. We saw people standing underneath a part of it once we got close, what we learned was the way they cooled off after sitting in the hot springs.
I didn’t do it. The cool rain and crisp air made it unnecessary so I would just get out of the water, sit along the edge of it, then get back in when I got cold.
These hot springs are the attraction my friend Niall used to sell me on this trip. He wanted to come but ended up having to stay in Medellín, to work and save money.
I tried to enjoy everything the way he said I would, and I did, staying for a few hours. Once we got back to the hostel, it wasn’t long before I fell asleep.
Monday, April 14, Alytorres, Pereira
The restaurant attached to Kolibrí Hostel serves great food. We found out our first meal was no fluke because we ate there two more times.
The last dish was my favorite.
It was pork cooked in a tangerine sauce with mixed veggies and rice. We got a soup and salad to start, and some kind of dessert that had the consistency of custard.
We paid 8,000 pesos, or just over $4.
We had a discount, like we did at the hot springs or would have gotten had we gone to the café downstairs, because the hostel has worked that out for its guests in a handful of places, but 10 percent off the normal price means it’s still cheap for a complete gourmet meal.
Alex and I gathered our belongings after lunch, preparing for our trip to Salento, and as I got ready, I already thought about coming back.
Daniel and Alexa are adding a new terrace and a private suite, and who knows what other amenities will follow.
I’ll find out because at some point next year I plan to write a post about the best hostels in Colombia, a sequel to my “Best Hostels in Medellín” post.
You shouldn’t be surprised if you see Kolibrí in the Top 5. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up in the Top 3.
Ryan’s stay was compliments of Kolibrí Hostel.