ZIPOLITE, Mexico- I found a place of refuge from the storm of drunken Mexicans on Christmas holiday at the Posada Carrizo Hostel in Zipolite. The place is owned and ran by a sociable French woman who bought the land twenty years ago and built up a hostel and a restaurant. “I saw a good opportunity and I took it,” she said, as she explained how she got a space on this beach right before it became an epi-center of the backpacker/ hippie/ party traveler universe.
The Posada Carrizo could, without controversy, be called a hippie hostel. I search for a better word to describe this left over, though still vibrant, youth culture from the 60’s, but find none available to me — so I call, perhaps incorrectly, these people hippies and the class of accommodation that caters to them hippie hostels.
Unlike many other hostels that cater to hippies, the Carrizo is clean: each morning there is a girl who comes around and scrubs everything. Even the toilets and showers and kitchen are kept well groomed. When we entered the hostel the owner herself was cleaning the refrigerator — she even partitioned it into sections for each room. In point, the only thing filthy about this place were the habits of a few of the guests.
The bungalows of the Posada Carrizo are constructed of split bamboo, have thatched roofs, and look like something out of the jungle. There are flowers and earthy paintings over many of the walls, there is a large common area full of benches, vines, plants, and, best of all, a guest kitchen.
My family and I took a private bungalow here for three reasons: because we got the boot from our last hotel in Puerto Angel, because of the kitchen, and the price of accommodation stayed consistent at 100 pesos per night — 8 USD — until after Christmas. The owner also gave me the impression that she ran a good hostel (When I look for a place to stay, I look first at the people running it — this is truly what makes a good hotel).
Usually, I will not steer for a hippie hostel — or any hostel at all — when looking for a place to stay. I work as I travel, I also have my family with me, I am an old and crotchety adult: I don’t mind dipping into party central from time to time, but I don’t want to live in it. Hippie hostels are usually places that attract a young clientele who like to smoke dope, drink beer, and party. This is the culture in these places, there is no avoiding it. So I look first for the mom and pop hotels where I can get a room with a measure of privacy, quiet nights, and fresh air.
But the hotels all along the Oaxaca coast were fast becoming booked up — and the price of accommodation doubled or even tripled. Our moving into the Carrizo was a move of refuge: they took us in for a good price. We were out of our element there from the start, but could not complain: we knew the culture within which we were living.
For a week we paid 100 pesos per night for a bungalow with two beds and mosquito nets. We further saved money by cooking our own food in the kitchen and buying 20 gallon jugs of water at 10 pesos each.
The benefits of staying in a hippie/ party hostel
Outside of Europe, hostels tend to be cheap, have guest kitchens, and often come complete with lively common areas. Digging up the cheapest accommodation possible allows me to continue traveling, kitchens can cut a traveler’s daily expenses in half, and common areas full of friendly people often stave off boredom and loneliness. This class of hostel is often good to pass through periodically on long stretches of solo travel, as it is sometimes nice in travel to talk in your native language with people who seem to have nothing else to do than hang out conversing with you.
The party hostel is sometimes an essential stop.
The disadvantages of a hippie/ party hostel
They are often full of hippies.
Even the best run hippie hostel faces the terminal fact that a portion of their clientele are going to be slobs — loafing around smoking up and, in general, spreading themselves all over everything. In point, party hostels may come equipped with kitchens, but don’t expect your fellow guests to do their dishes; they also come with refrigerators, but don’t expect your food to fully make it beyond the grasps of hungry hippies. Expect loud nights, marijuana smoke, talking, laughing, fun.
I knew these parameters as I moved into the Carrizo, and I secretly knew that this place had the strong potential for not being suitable for a family — no matter how well it seemed to have been ran.
Three hippies smoke out traveling family
There were three hippies in this hostel who seemed to do nothing other than sit around all day gorging drugs, laying in their bunks, or napping. They would often sit still for hours at a time, listening to the Best of the Doors on perpetual repeat. Sometimes, if feeling ambitious, they stared at the ceiling or nicked the food of other guests from the communal fridge.
I would wake up in the morning and find this crew either still asleep or lighting up — at 7 AM they were sometimes still partying from the night before. I would make breakfast, smoke my pipe, and get ready for the day. I would then go out to the beach, work, return to the hostel in the evening, and find this group still laying in their bunks or continuing to light up — and a piece of my watermelon or a scoop of my mayonnaise gone for good.
Though most of the guests in this hostel were sociable, sharp witted, humorous, and the after dinner conversations with them were highly enjoyable. My family and I made quick friends with most of the other guests — one would even babysit Petra — and became a part of the scene.
But the loafers eventually came to smoke us out. I would not tolerate people fouling the air with narcotic smoke when my daughter was present, and I found myself at odds with the habitual users. When I would see these hippies lighing up around my kid I would yell at them — sometimes harshly, sometimes cooling. They always listened politely and would sheath their stash for another time, leave the hostel, or go to a room, but regulating their drug use became a real chore — and I am sure that they were not too happy with me.
I put a riff in the community of this hostel.
The owner of the hostel went to lengths to accommodate my family and I, even going so far as telling the stoners that they couldn’t leave drugs laying around the place anymore because we had a child. She also told one of them that they could not just sit around the hostel doing drugs all day long.
But my scant tolerance of these stoners came to an end when I found my daughter running through the hostel with a marijuana roach clutched tight in one of her little hands. She, apparently, plucked it from an ash tray or off the ground.
Perhaps this place was not suited for a child?
This statement is true, but it was made this way because of a few clients who wanted to have their beyond the law Mexico experience, and not because of the management.
Drug use is more or less accepted here in this stretch of Mexico — most all hostels of this class are up in smoke. This may not always be overtly encouraged by the hostel management, but it is convention for them to accept it. Kids from around the world come here for one thing: to party.
Lets get out of here!
But to where?
It is the Christmas holiday season, and the hotels on the coast are flooded with Mexicans looking to party. The hotels have raised their prices double or triple the standard rate, and many of them are full. The owner of the Carrizo took us in, treated us kindly, gave us a good rate on the room, and, ultimately, ran the place pretty well. She also tried hard to make a party hostel suitable for a family, and for over a week we stayed on as guests.
But the presence of my family seemed to create a sort of tension: we were out of our element, and we took control of the scene. The stoners would flee when they saw us coming.
I felt like an ass. I had entered their domain, and pissed my territorial markings all over the place.
Ultimately, as far as this class of accommodation goes, the Carrizo was truly not a bad place — I even recommend it for travelers in fast pursuit of a good time. In point, we were staying at a hippie hostel, and we needed to accept the fact that a reasonable portion of the guests were going to be hippies: some were interesting travelers with good stories who party for fun, others were binge users who party as a way of life.
We have since moved on to another hotel on the beach, where we have a private room a slightly farther removed from party central.