Airbnb has changed the way I travel. Instead of pouring hours of research into finding unique accommodations during my Central America trip, I decided to rely on Airbnb and found private islands, organic farms and artistic, off-the-grid homes in the lap of active volcanoes – all at prices I could afford!
Behold, the coolest places to stay in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama:
1) The Eagle’s Nest: Guatemala
Perched above Lake Atitlan in the village of San Marcos La Laguna, this all-wooden, solar-powered studio was my home for a blissful week. Swaying on my hammock with surreal views of three magnificent volcanoes and the azure lake melted away my writer’s block. The breeze carried with it aromas from the coffee and cherry farms nearby, and like an eagle perched in her nest, I keenly observed the local Mayan people (Read: Living With a Mayan Family in Guatemala) in the village below as they went about their daily lives.
INR 1595 (US$26) per night; San Marcos la Laguna; www.airbnb.com/rooms/3369707
2) Dolphin Bay Cabanas: Panama
I can’t forget the surreal feeling of waking up in a cozy cabana to the calming sound of the Atlantic Ocean in our front yard. From our relaxation rancho, we saw wild dolphins and their kids, a sting ray jump out of the water, schools of fish emitting a silver light, shooting stars in the dark skies, and bioluminescence (glowing algae) in the dark waters! We snorkeled amid magnificent corals and scores of starfish, and were enthralled with stories of island-living by our Belgian-Colombian hosts. It was like living inside a National Geographic film!
INR 3696 (US$60) per night; Bocas Del Toro islands; www.airbnb.com/rooms/2164933
3) Finca Montania Segrada: Nicaragua
After days of hiking, volcano boarding, crammed buses and the staple gallo pinto, this organic finca (farm) hidden away in a forest on Ometepe Island rejuvenated my soul. Our rustic-looking hut came with creature comforts (Wifi included) and panoramic views of Volcan Concepcion and Maderas, whose summits are perpetually veiled by a halo-like cloud! We spent our days kayaking and cycling around the volcanoes, and feasting on delicious pastas cooked by our Italian hosts.
INR 2279 (US$37) per night; Merida, Ometepe island; www.airbnb.com/rooms/854048
4) Surf Vista Villas: Costa Rica
I can’t stop dreaming about being perched in that trendy room, watching the sun set on the majestic Pacific Ocean. I spent half my Costa Rica trip (Read: Costa Rica Wasn’t the Country I Imagined) cycling along the stunning blue waters and soft beaches of the Pacific, chatting with fishermen and city dwellers-turned-islanders, and observing puffer fish at low tide – and the only thing missing was a private hilltop to call my own!
INR 4927 (US$80); Santa Teresa; www.airbnb.com/rooms/21839
5) La Villa de Soledad: Honduras
Honduras’ scary labels almost scared us off (Read: We Travel to Realize Everyone is Wrong About Other Countries), but we fell in love with the country the moment we arrived at La Villa de Soledad. This boutique B&B is the home of a Hondureño-Mexican family, straddling the Pico Bonito and Nombre de Dios National Parks, with the River Cangrejal soothingly flowing below. We spotted toucans from our hammock, and spent our days mountain biking, kayaking and zip-lining in the surrounding forests.
INR 5851 (US$95) per night; La Ceiba; www.airbnb.com/rooms/3937462
6) Blue Morpho: Costa Rica
While looking for a place to crash near the airport before an early morning flight out of Costa Rica, I stumbled upon an eco-conscious retreat called Blue Morpho, and wished I could stay longer. It’s a five-minute drive from the international airport, but a world in itself, with an entire forest in your backyard and a pool fed with spring water deep within! Enough said.
INR 3080 (US$50); Alajuela; www.airbnb.com/rooms/4155703
7) La Pepita de Marañon: Panama
I haven’t yet shaken the thought of staying in a little cottage made with recycled bottles that shine with kaleidoscopic colors as the sun rises! And the little that I could find online about Las Lajas made it sound like my kind of village, with a glimpse of the native tribal culture in a country where the expats seem to outnumber locals, and an unspoilt stretch of the Pacific coastline.
INR 2710 (US$44); Las Lajas; www.airbnb.com/rooms/433689
8) The Wood House: Nicaragua
I met so many Airbnb hosts on this trip who gave up their urban lifestyles, found a piece of land to call their own, and built something incredible. The Wood House on the River San Juan is one such place. A fifteen minute boat ride away from the remote fishing village of El Castillo near the Costa Rican border, it gave us the chance to live like the river dwellers of Nicaragua – amid the sounds of the forest, howler monkeys, exotic birds, jumping fish, lashing rain and countless rainbows.
INR 2464 (US$40) per night; Rio San Juan; www.airbnb.com/rooms/2546241
9) ‘EnSuite Volcano’: Guatemala
My love affair with Guatemala began with the ancient and charming Spanish city of Antigua (Read: My Impressions of Guatemala). 15 minutes away from the bustling city centre, I stayed in this artsy colonial-style house in a traditional residential neighborhood. My mornings began on the rooftop, with uninterrupted views of Volcano Agua and a glimpse of the locals going about their chores in their courtyards. I cycled around the cobblestoned lanes, rode on the chicken bus, and practiced my broken Spanish with friendly neighbors.
INR 1848 (US$30) per night; Antigua Guatemala; www.airbnb.com/rooms/1879790
10) El Respiro Ecolodge: Nicaragua
Pure serendipity. Our last-minute travel style left us scrambling to find a nice place to stay in the busy Christmas – New Year week when everything was sold out. We took a chance on the newly listed El Respiro Ecolodge on the countryside of Granada and were completely blown away. This is the beautifully handcrafted home of a French-Hungarian couple, in the lap of Volcano Mombacho, run entirely on solar power, with rainwater harvesting and its own organic farm. We couldn’t get enough of the panoramic views from our deck, the starry skies, the gourmet food (the hosts used to run an Italian resto) and the infinity pool.
INR 6159 (US$100); Granada; www.airbnb.com/rooms/4128408
If you’re not on Airbnb yet, sign up with my referral link to get INR 1500 (US$25) off your first booking!
Note: I handpicked all Airbnbs for my Central America trip (the ones listed above stood out; you can read my reviews for all others through my Airbnb profile). Airbnb India partnered with me to put together this list.
What is the most awe-inspiring (yet affordable) place you’ve found on your travels?
Check out: Why I’m Using Airbnb and Why You Should Too