Tiara guards the door. Monica guards the cash register. What began as a Halloween party nine years ago, with over 600 party-goers arriving, has turned into one of Antigua’s most successful and oldest hostels.
Antigua is host to over 75 Spanish schools: students come south and learn to speak Spanish for a few weeks. The city is also on the tourist trail for back-packers who’ve come to see Lake Atitlan and Copan. The result is that there is a constant need for affordable housing for those at the lower rung of the economic ladder. Monica saw this many years ago, and created the model. From what was a shell of a very old house, with no toilet, electricity or kitchen, she had a vision of building something different. An architect by trade from El Salvador, with a sense of purpose and business, she was able to persuade some friends to move in, help her with the remodeling and begin the project.
Halloween was coming, one toilet had been crudely installed and the overgrown patios were beginning to emerge from years of neglect. She decided to throw a party and charge for drinks (they ran out of liquor in the first two hours). As the crowd of revelers continued to party until the early morning of the first party, one of the guests was heard to complain, as he climbed over the tangled vines, “this is a jungle party”. Hence the name, ‘˜Jungle Party Hostel.’
The entrance is modest and the sign even more so. She runs at 100% occupancy most of the year, and during high season, twenty to thirty people a day are turned down. There’s a bar, kitchen and hot water. There are comfortable colorful casual chairs and hammocks, plus computer workstations. The existing 40 beds will be increased to 50, with a spa and remodeled rooms.
The atmosphere? Casual, fun and a theme party every week or so: next up is a Toga Party. She has no competition: she was the first and set the bar for running a successful hostel. Being located across the street from the Christian Spanish Academy doesn’t hurt.
The gate? Tiara, the aging golden retriever, had a yen to bite a passing bicyclist who annoyed her, back when she could move more quickly. Regulars return, year after year. Proposals of marriages are made there. The place is a legend. Come visit, if there’s room. For the price of 60 quetzals or $7.20 a night, the party never stops.