The Most Unique Hostels Around the World: Selina’s in Panama
I’ll admit it. I love pretty things. I love nicely designed hotels. I love amenities. And luxury. I freely admit all of these things.
However, I am a baller on a budget. I am a backpacker. I like the sound of “$5 dorm beds.”
When a hostel comes along that is pretty AND cheap? I get pretty excited.
I first heard of Selina’s when I was in Panama City. It must have been my first or second day there. A girl in my dorm and I were discussing travel plans. I told her that I would be going to Bocas del Toro.
“You HAVE to go to Selina’s!” she exclaimed. I asked her what Selina’s was. She explained that it was a beautiful hostel that felt more like a hotel, where you could do yoga AND salsa lessons. Right on the water. And, oh yeah, cheap dorm beds.
That was all I needed to hear. I booked my stay at Selina’s (it often gets sold out) and awaited the day I would set foot in it’s hallowed hostel halls.
Here’s what makes Selina’s one of the most unique hostels I’ve ever stayed at:
I already mentioned this, but it’s basically the main distinction between Selina’s and other hostels. Everything is so well thought out, it feels like you are staying at a boutique hotel.
There’s a straight up 70’s style hippie van in the restaurant area.
The dorms themselves are not the cleanliest I’ve ever seen, but they are certainly pretty. Especially the one I was in, the female dorm. Of course, if it’s a female dorm it needs a vanity, right? What does any woman love more than staring at herself for hours? All jokes aside, I LOVED that vanity. I kind of have a thing for vanities, okay?
I was obsessed with the beautiful, bright Caribbean color scheme of the place. It extended everywhere, and the little touches made it even more special.
All of the Food
Selina’s has it all. A restaurant. A self-catering kitchen. AND a juice bar!
Most of the time when a hostel has a restaurant, it doesn’t also have a kitchen where the fiscally minded traveler can whip up a meal for less.
Now, I never actually USED the kitchen. But it’s definitely a selling point that one is there.
As for the restaurant, I wouldn’t say it was the best food I had in Bocas. Nor did they have the best service. But they had food and I could sit and eat with a view like this:
I will never complain when I get food served to me that I don’t have to cook and there’s a gorgeous view of the Caribbean to go along with it. Flyboard not included.
At $14-20 a night for a dorm bed, Selina’s sometimes slides into less budget friendly territory.
While I feel it’s worth it for the design and other amenities, another traveler may not. Where they redeem themselves is with the free breakfast.
It’s not bad for a free breakfast, in that it’s not the dreaded DIY pancakes that seem to pervade Panama.
Other meals at the restaurant cost around $8-10 per meal, so it’s not too off from the prices in the rest of Bocas del Toro.
In the front of Selina’s, they have a juice and smoothie bar. Basically, my favorite thing ever.
You’re covered for whatever kind of food you could possibly want. Well, I guess besides street food. But you can just walk 50 feet outside of Selina’s for that.
If you want to sit by the water and sunbathe all day (or work, like I did), you are certainly welcome to at Selina’s. You also have a long list of activities to choose from if you want to do something more active.
I didn’t partake, but Selina’s has an attached tour company across from the juice bar. This is the tour company of the aforementioned sloth incident, so I personally felt skeptical of going on a tour with them. They’re probably pretty on par with what’s offered elsewhere in Bocas.
Every day at the hostel there is an activity to partake in. When I was there it was free salsa lessons, a bar crawl and a yoga class.
Surprisingly, the only one I didn’t get to was the free yoga class. It was pretty cruel to have a yoga class the morning after the bar crawl.
One of the main complaints I heard against Selina’s was the lack of social atmosphere. Their argument was that it’s just too big a hostel for any real bonding to form.
I definitely see their point. That’s partly why I chose to stay in the 6 bed female dorm.
Selina’s attracts a diversity of clientele. Not only backpackers on long term trips, but groups of friends on a short party holiday, and couples wanting to stay in the romantic private rooms.
The first night I roomed with a group of girls from Argentina who were celebrating one of their member’s birthdays. The next night, with two pairs of best friends. Both groups were more than friendly, but there’s no denying that non-solo travelers don’t have as much incentive to make friends. Therefore, I felt a bit lost and left out during my time at Selina’s.
Luckily, I did meet a few awesome people! A German girl traveling with her mother through Panama, who offered me a place to stay when I get to Europe this summer. A Belgian girl and her French Canadian cohort. The pairs of best friends and I had a very memorable time at the bar crawl when we met two fun Aussie dudes.
No, I didn’t meet as many solo travelers at Selina’s. I still had a great, social time, and I think Selina’s does a fairly good job organizing ways for travelers to meet each other (I mean, there’s little chance that you’re going to make it out of a bar crawl without at least ONE new friend and a couple crazy stories to boot).
Overall, did Selina’s live up to my crazy high expectations born of dreaming about the place for over three weeks? Not quite, but almost. Perhaps the girl who first told me about Selina’s oversold it a bit. Perhaps it was the lack of solo travelers that left me feeling less than enthusiastic. Perhaps it was just the end of my time in Bocas del Toro, where I had so many amazing experiences and Selina’s just could never top them.
Despite it not being the “perfect” hostel that I dreamed of it being, Selina’s is nothing if not unique.
Happy Exploring, Wherever You Are!
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I was in no way paid or endorsed by Selina Hostels. Once again, I am just a happy customer wanting to spread the word.