El Rio Hostel began as a dream for two university friends, Guy and Ben, from the United Kingdom. They first visited Colombia back in 2009 and subsequently travelled together several more times over the years. They often spoke about opening up a hostel together, but they lacked the means. Eventually, after taking time to work and save money, Ben joined Guy in France in 2014, where they began to plan out their hostel project. After an exploratory trip back to Colombia in 2015, they finally took the plunge and bought the land that would become the site of the best hostel in Colombia.
The next year, 2016, was dedicated to the construction of their dream hostel. The land they purchased was located on the banks of the Buritaca River, a gorgeous jungle river that flows down from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains to the Caribbean Sea. They used local construction teams, as well as volunteers who helped with many of the artistic details which make El Rio such a memorable place to visit. Their goal was to create a higher-end hostel with affordable rooms and a strong social element. They opened their doors in December of 2016, and have been welcoming happy guests to their little slice of paradise ever since.
And what a hostel they created! El Rio really does live up to its lofty reputation. With its own private river beach by a river as clean and clear as any you are likely to see, a fantastic riverside bar and sundeck, El Rio offers something for every traveller. The accommodation and facilities are excellent: with seven private cabins available, plus several dorms and a hammock area, there is an option for all types of traveller and all budgets.
The emphasis on socialising is a real bonus in this age of smartphone travel, and there’s no wifi, either. At El Rio, there’s no excuse not to meet fellow travellers, swap stories and make new friends, and the design of the hostel fits perfectly with this ethos. As well as the riverside bar and sundeck, there’s a large beer garden and a family-style dining area, plus an excellent sound system. The hostel hosts regular parties and social events, including a huge, themed monthly party.
But it’s not just relaxing at the beach, socialising and enjoying the bar at El Rio: they also organise plenty of fun and enjoyable tours and activities.
The highlight is tubing along the Buritaca River – as far as we know, it’s the only hostel in Colombia where you can go tubing straight from the back door. You can go tubing any day of the week, but you can also go kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing at a nearby beach, horse riding and hiking – there are maps with trails at reception.
The most popular hike is an incredible and unique one, which at 4am takes guests to a remarkable viewpoint overlooking both the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains and the sparkling Caribbean Sea. Alternatively, you can enjoy a daily yoga session on the deck overlooking the river.
When you are planning your trip to Colombia, make sure to put aside a few nights to enjoy some time at the best hostel in Colombia and one of the best in Latin America: El Rio Hostel, a traveller’s paradise in the heart of the Colombian Caribbean jungle.