Affordable Luxury

The World’s Best Hostels 2011
(Part I)

Hostelbookers is one of Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite websites for booking cheap hostels, inexpensive inns and budget hotels. In addition to offering a wide selection of accommodations (most of which aren’t available on sites like Travelocity or Hotels.com), what’s cool about Hostelbookers is their extensive database of customers reviews—they’re a huge help in separating out those hostels that are high value from those that are cheap for a reason.

Hostelbookers reviewers grade properties on eight criteria: atmosphere, location, facilities, fun, staff, cleanliness, safety and value.

Below is the first of our two part review of the budget lodgings that Hostelbookers users rated the best over the last year. Scroll down to read through them all. Or click on the region you are most interested in:

Part I Part II
Africa Europe
Asia Oceania
Canada South America
Caribbean/Mexico United States

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Dive Into Jelly(fish)

It's a surreal diving experience, moving around in water that is itself a moving gelatinous mass

On the Pacific island nation of Palau you’ll find Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite inland scuba diving location: Jellyfish Lake. Though it wasn’t always a lake.

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Tour Europe in a Retro, Affordable Camper Van

One way to save money on hotels and a rental car while traveling western Europe is to get your accommodations and transportation together. You could rent your typical mobile home. But the cheaper and cooler option—to say nothing of the more stylishly retro—choice is the Tonke Camper.

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The World’s Best Candy Stores

This store is as close as you can get to a real-life Willy Wonka experience without wrangling some umpa lumpas and opening a shop yourself

Travelers with a sweet tooth weakness, do not proceed any further in this post. What follows is Spot Cool Stuff’s selection of the 6 most interesting-looking, diabetes-inducing candy stores. A trip to any one for these shops (well, except for the last one) is likely to result in a sugar overdose. Ye be warned.

Note: These are all primarily candy stores. We’ve reviewed our favorite chocolate stores in a separate post.

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Discovery Cove: Orlando’s Un-Theme Park

A vacation to Central Florida often leaves people feeling like they need another vacation. That’s especially true after traveling with children to Orlando’s crowded, mayhem-filled, nickle-and-dime squeezing theme parks.

Spot Cool Stuff’s suggested remedy: Spend a day chilling out at Discovery Cove.

At Discovery Cove won’t find yourself standing in line for rides. There are no rides.

You won’t find yourself amongst a mob of other vacationers. There is no mob — Discovery Cove requires reservations and the number of guests allowed in is strictly limited.

And you won’t pay again and again for extra fees, incidentals or even food. Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive park.

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5 Cool Artsy Berlin Hotels

Berlin a city of many layers—a cosmopolitan melting point beyond the division by The Wall, where the booming arts scene and numerous unconventional accommodations create crisp originality and guaranteed surprise effects. Experience the city that keeps on reinventing itself and never stops its fascinating metamorphosis by sleeping in one of its funky boutique hotels.

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Stay in a Bubble-Bungalow

A housing bubble eventually brings about an economic collapse. But an unusual hotel bubble? Now that’s just cool.

So it is at the Museumotel in northwest France.

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5 Wonderfully Earthy Glamping Sites

Camping has traditionally brought sophisticated urban dwellers out in hives, but the emergence of glamping—a hybrid of “glamor” and “camping”—has changed things. Now, luxurious yurt and tepee sites boast 100% cotton bedding, organic welcome hampers and indecently abundent tea lights. So no more struggling with a tent and airbed!

Glamping sites range from little more than a pre-erected tent with simple Ikea furnishings to something more akin to an upmarket hotel. Along the way many have missed the point—either too basic or too plush and removed from the natural surroundings.

Here is a look at five luxury camping sites that have achieved the perfect blend, providing absolute immersion in the great outdoors whilst maintaining a just-so degree of indulgence and luxury:

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