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Darn Good Digs in South America

Darn Good Digs are the world's best independently owned accommodations for budget-minded travelers, all with rooms under US$150. Darn Good Digs stand out for their originality, spectacular locations, scrumptious food, and great vibes.


  =   Editors' Choice


Traveler Favorite

Bariloche, Argentina: La Barraca Suites
 Nominated By: Audrey, Vienna, Virginia, Aug '10

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: US$20-87 (includes breakfast) # of Rooms: Kid-Friendly: Yes

Why so darn good? "For only a few dollars more than what you'd spend at a hostel for a double room, this hotel provides spotless and nicely decorated rooms with en-suite bathrooms and a nice view of the lake." Read more.

Traveler Favorite

Bariloche, Argentina: Villa Huinid
 Nominated By: Sarah Lavender Smith, Piedmont, California, Nov '09

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: AR$384-AR$1127 (includes breakfast) # of Rooms: Kid-Friendly: Yes

Why so darn good? "Paradise in Patagonia -- Villa Huinid overlooks the Andes foothills and Lago Nahuel Huapi, just a couple of kilometers outside of Bariloche in Argentina's Lake District, so the views are spectacular. The property features a modern hotel and spa as well as several comfortable cabañas. Our family of four rented a one-bedroom cabaña for two weeks (the kids slept on sofas in the living room that convert to beds), and it felt like a ski resort condo with a sort of Ralph Lauren-meets-Martha Stewart style of knotted pine, plaid duvets and gingham window treatments. With a cabaña, you also get hotel amenities such as a breakfast buffet, daily maid service, and use of the pool and fitness center. The service was excellent, and the concierge was exceedingly friendly and helpful. Our kids (ages 8 and 11) loved the property's game room, pool and open space, which includes a play structure." Read more.


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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Bahia (Boipeba Island), Brazil: Pousada Santa Clara
Nominated By: Alison McGowan, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September '09

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: US$65-$120 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 11 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Pousada Santa Clara so Darn Good? Your hosts, Charles and Mark, will make sure your stay is fabulous from start to finish. Their pousada's eleven colorful rooms are scattered amongst tropical gardens with verandas and hammocks for relaxing. The pousada also has an excellent thatched restaurant serving super-fresh local food, a lovely massage space overlooking the ocean, and a library of books for exchange. I could never have imagined anywhere as wonderful as this, and I return as often as I can.

Location: Boipeba is a tropical island, with miles of deserted beaches situated south of Salvador, Bahia. If you need a break from lying on the sand, the pousada is just a short walk from the small village of Boipeba, or you can explore the rest of the island by canoeing the mangroves, hiking the coastal trails, or snorkeling the coral reef. Boipeba Island is a short boat trip across from Morro de Sao Paulo, or you can get the ferry from Salvador to Bom Despacho, then bus to Valenca and boat from there.

Rooms: Pousada Santa Clara has eleven simple rooms with good showers and mosquito nets for the beds. All rooms have fans, and one has an air conditioner.

Food: Food at Santa Clara is first class, and makes use of the best local produce, fresh fish, and seafood. A gourmet breakfast is included in the price, but it is also well worth dining at the Pousada's restaurant whenever you get the chance. In high season reservations are essential as the restaurant only has a few tables.

Vibe: Pousada Santa Clara is an incredible place to chill out and meet fellow travelers.

Things to Keep in Mind: The island has no traffic, except for two tractors, and all access is by boat. You may need to paddle to the shore! Bring enough cash as there are no ATMs on the island, and keep in mind that your mobile phone probably won`t work on Boipeba, and internet access is intermittent at best.

Read more. See the map.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Bahia (Itacaré), Brazil: Artjungle
Nominated By: Alison McGowan, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October '09

Price Range: (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 8 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Artjungle so Darn Good? Artjungle's tree and stilt houses remind you of Tarzan and Jane, but with a bit of luxury and a lot of style. This is a place which is beautiful enough to be used for photo shoots by the likes of Gisele Bunchen and attract visitors like Jade Jagger and Sean Penn, but it is also a non-profit environmental, social, and cultural project. The prices are a fraction of what you would expect to pay for somewhere like this, and I will definitely be going back!

Location: Set in a sculpture park surrounded by Atlantic rainforest, Artjungle is just a couple of miles down a dirt road from the buzzy beach surfing village of Itacaré in Bahia, and boasts superb views over the Rio das Contas and out to the ocean. While Itacaré has plenty of nightlife, the pousada itself is super-quiet, with only the sounds of the birds, the roar of the ocean, and the lone cock crowing in the morning.

Rooms: Artjungle has eight bungalows altogether, including two tree-houses, five stilt-houses, and one apartment which is completely open to a view over the river. All have en-suite bathrooms with solar powered showers, comfortable beds with Egyptian cotton linens, and iceboxes for cold drinks. The lodge also has a large swimming pool with sun loungers overlooking the river.

Food: Artjungle serves a fabulous breakfast of bread, fruit, cold cuts, cake, and amazing juices, all included in the price, and beautifully presented. For lunch or dinner, guests will find a range of excellent restaurants in nearby Itacaré.

Keep in Mind: Most of the bungalows do not have electricity and internet access is intermittent. Also, ArtJungle is near, but not on the beach, so a car is helpful, although taxis are plentiful.

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Traveler Favorite

Ceará (Canoa Quebrada), Brazil: Pousada Luna Rosa
 Nominated By: Andre Franchini, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, October '09

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at whl

Price Range: R$120-R$170 (includes breakfast) # of Rooms: 3 Kid-Friendly: Yes

Why so darn good? "The pousada is very charming and has a beautiful pool with a small and comfortable hut where you can sit and listen to the birds." Read more.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Minas Gerais (Sao Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras), Brazil: Pousada do Capão
Nominated By: Lydia, Glocester, Rhode Island, USA, December '09

make a reservation inquiry directly with Pousada do Capao

Price Range: R$107-R$190 (dinner & breakfast included) # of Rooms: 12 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Pousada do Capão so Darn Good? The Pousada has beautiful cottages and delicious food. Owners Peter and Marcinha make everyone feel like the most welcome guest in their home. In addition, they will arrange any sort of sightseeing, transportation, or guides that you need.

Location: Pousada do Capão is located on the outskirts of the small village of São Gonçalo do Rio das Pedras in the state of Minas Gerais, ninety minutes from the closest city, Diamantina. The town sits along the Estrada Real, or Royal Way, a road built in the 17th century by the Portuguese to transport gold and diamonds back to Lisbon. Today the road is still mostly unpaved, and the towns and villages along the way appear frozen in time with Baroque churches, cobblestone streets, and period buildings. The Pousada is located in the Cerrado, a tropical savannah home to waterfalls, caves, twisted trees, and petroglyphs.

Rooms: The Pousada has eight individual cottages, as well as four rooms with shared bath in the main house. All are decorated with local crafts and are surrounded by beautiful grounds, an abundance of lovely native plants, and mountain views.

Food: Excellent! Peter is a trained chef, and he uses many local ingredients to create inspiring meals combining Brazilian and American traditions. A gourmet dinner is included with the room rate, as is breakfast, which consists of home-made cakes, cookies, puddings, and granola, as well as local Serro cheese, fresh fruits, and juices.

Vibe: The pousada is a peaceful and friendly retreat.

Keep in Mind: Nights are quiet here, so be prepared for some serious relaxation.

Read more. See the map.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Rio de Janeiro State (Buzios), Brazil: Pousada Vila Pitanga
Nominated By: Dutchguy, Amsterdam, Netherlands, November '08

Price Range: R$100-R$150 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 10 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes the Pousada Vila Pitanga so Darn Good? A definite highlight of our trip to Brazil was staying at the lovely Pousada Vila Pitanga in beautiful Buzios. The rooms are very comfortable and smartly appointed, and all have hammocks on their front porches. Denise, the pousada's owner, is a special treat, and she excels at making her guests feel right at home.

Location: Located in a quiet, residential area of Buzios, Pousada Vila Pitanga is an easy ten minute walk to the town center and to some of the nicest beaches on the peninsula. Buzios, a popular resort town famous for its 23 beaches and lively nightlife, is 180 kilometers northeast of Rio de Janeiro. For those without a car, the bus from Rio stops within walking distance of the Pousada.

Rooms: Pousada Vila Pitanga has ten modern and freshly designed rooms, all with private bathrooms and outdoor hammocks on the common balconies.

Food: The Pousada has a great breakfast buffet which includes fresh fruit, yogurt, bread, eggs, and a good assortment of cold cuts. Brazilian coffee with warm milk, tea, and fresh squeezed orange juice are also available.

Vibe: The vibe is relaxed, chilled, and comfy.

Things to Keep in Mind: Denise can help you rent a buggy to get around so that you can make the most of your time spent in Buzios.

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Pouso do Tapaceiro Pouso do Tapaceiro Pouso do Tapaceiro Pouso do Tapaceiro

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Santa Catarina (Gamboa Beach), Brazil: Pouso do Tapaceiro
Nominated By: Alison McGowan at Hidden Pousadas, August '10

Price Range: # of Rooms: 7 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Pouso do Tapaceiro so Darn Good? This wonderful pousada is owned and managed by Henrique, a nuclear engineer turned tapestry artist. His atelier, which doubles as the TV room, is an amazing space full of looms, wall hangings, and rugs. Here you can see what a true artist can achieve using almost entirely recycled materials such as rubbish, leftover fabrics, and beach detritus, and even learn some of his techniques in an on-site hand weaving workshop.

Location: The Pouso do Tapeceiro is located up a short hill just as you come into Gamboa, a small fishing village in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. The pousada is ninety kilometers south of Santa Catarina’s capital, Florianopolis, and fifteen kilometers north of Garopaba, a small beach resort town. The area is renowned for its natural beauty and offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, beach-going, bird watching, and whale watching from July to October.

Rooms: The pousada’s seven light and airy rooms are set in a fabulous tropical garden with a swimming pool and views to the sea or surrounding countryside. Each room has something different to meet your needs; some have their own kitchens, some have separate bedrooms or bunk beds for kids, and some have just a double bed. All have en-suite bathrooms.

Food: Guests can cook for themselves, or the pousada will provide meals at an extra cost. Gamboa has one restaurant, Dezinha's, which serves simple Brazilian fare and a few bars serving shrimp skewers and other snacks.

Vibe: Henrique's idea is that you should feel entirely at home, which means you may well have to make your own bed, bring your own soap, and ask for new sheets and towels as needed. On the flip side, you can totally relax here - cook in the apartment, borrow a DVD to watch a film, or just chill out by the pool. As for exploring the area, just tell Henrique what you want to do, and he will try to organize it.

Keep in Mind: Pouso do Tapaceiro is indeed a hidden place, and getting here without a car may be a challenge, but is not impossible.

Read more. See the map.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Santiago, Chile: Meridiano Sur
Nominated By: Sarah Lavender Smith, Piedmont, California, USA, November '09

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: US$58-$260 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 8 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Meridiano Sur so Darn Good? Meridiano Sur is situated in a beautiful old house just off Providencia Avenue, a lively street with many popular restaurants, bars, and shops. We appreciated the hotel's modern, simple, and tasteful rooms, fresh and filling breakfasts, and friendly feel.

Location: Santiago, Chile's modern capital, sits at the foot of the majestic Andes just an hour from the sandy beaches of the Pacific Ocean. The hotel is located on a quiet street in Santiago's stylish Providencia district, a five minute walk from the closest subway station. The grassy pathways and gardens that line the Rio Mapocho are nearby, and one mile away is the entrance to the amazing Parque Metropolitano, with its spectacular views, hiking trails, and national zoo.

Rooms: Meridiano Sur is a grand old home with early 19th century architectural details. The hotel has five double rooms, two singles, and a loft that sleeps five, all with private bathrooms and thoughtful design touches such as hand-lettered poetry decorating the walls. A lovely garden and library add to the hotel's charm.

Food: Meridiano Sur provides a good continental breakfast of home-made breads, cereals, cheese, and fresh fruit and juices. A couple of excellent restaurants for lunch and dinner are just down the street.

Vibe: The hotel attracts friendly and hip international travelers as well as vacationing couples.

Keep in Mind: The single and double rooms are not very spacious.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Medellin, Colombia: 61Prado Guesthouse
Nominated By: Lisa Lubin, Chicago, Illinois, USA, January '11

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: 40.000 - 75.000 COP # of Rooms: 16 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the 61Prado Guesthouse so Darn Good? 61Prado is cool and clean, with a fresh, modern design rarely found in other hotels at this price in Colombia. What I liked most about the guesthouse, though, was the lobby at night, which feels like a hip lounge with exposed brick, soft music, and glowing white candles.

Location: 61Prado Guesthouse is located in the Prado Centro barrio, just two blocks from the Metro station and a ten minute walk to central Medellin. The many opulent mansions and neoclassical homes from the 1920s and 30s reveal the Prado’s former status as the choice neighborhood for wealthy Medellinenses. The barrio went through some hard times more recently, but today Prado Centro has largely recovered – though guests should still use common sense during the day and take extra care at night. Medellin is Colombia’s second largest city and is known for its perfect climate, the excellent Museo de Antioquia, its orchid-rich botanical gardens, and happening nightlife.

Rooms: Lovingly restored by a Dutch expat named Luc, the guesthouse offers simply decorated rooms with private bathrooms smartly renovated with black-tiled showers and modern sinks and faucets. My room had a hardwood floor, a wood-beamed vaulted ceiling, and a big, flat screen TV.

Food: 61Prado offers a cheap and tasty breakfast every day. The menu includes several choices, but my favorite was the huevos pericos (scrambled eggs with onions and tomatoes), along with toast, fresh fruit, freshly-squeezed fruit juices, and coffee or tea. The big, modern kitchen is also available for communal use.

Vibe: At night, guests can hang out and relax in the candle-lit lobby while quiet music plays in the background. By day, sunlight shines in through the skylights and windows. I also appreciated the spectacular views of the city and surrounding mountains from the rooftop terrace, as well as the free wi-fi.

Keep in Mind: While 61Prado is on a side street, guests in the front rooms may hear some street noise. Again, the neighborhood can be a bit rough around the edges, so while it is considered safe during the day, definitely take a taxi back at night - they are cheap and plentiful.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: le Rendez-Vous
Nominated By: Audrey at Uncornered Market, August '10

Price Range: US$9-$16 (per person including breakfast) # of Rooms: 14 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes le Rendez-Vous so Darn Good? This peaceful and relaxing hostal is meticulously cared for by its French owners. Several rooms surround a tropical garden with views of the red rocks and mountains in the distance, and all rooms have small patios with a table, chairs, and hammock, perfect for reading and writing. We planned to stay three days and had to pull ourselves away after a week.

Location: The hostal is on a quiet street just a few blocks from the main square of Vilcabamba, a small town in southern Ecuador. Situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains, Vilcabamba is well-worth a visit before heading south to Peru or further north through Ecuador. The town lures visitors with spas, restaurants, and handicraft shops, and the surrounding countryside offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The nearby Podocarpus National Park, home to one of the largest concentrations of bird species in Ecuador, is a popular daytrip.

Rooms: The fourteen rooms are simply designed, but well outfitted with new mattresses, European-style sheets, great showers with plenty of hot water, and thick towels. The hotel’s garden, planted with banana and avocado trees, sugarcane, ferns, and tropical flowers, is lovingly cared for by the owners.

Food: Breakfast includes freshly baked bread with homemade jams, eggs, fruit salad, and good, strong coffee. Also, Vilcabamba has plenty of restaurants for other meals, so eating out or picking up take-out to eat on your patio are easy options.

Vibe: The hostal is a perfect place to chill-out and recharge your batteries.

Keep in Mind: For an added daily fee, guests can have access to WiFi.

Read more. See the map.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Cusco, Peru: Hotel Rumi Punku
Nominated By: Mark, Sydney, Australia, May '09

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: US$70-$115 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 30 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Hotel Rumi Punku so Darn Good? Rumi Punku means stone doorway in Quechua, and fittingly, the entrance to the hotel is a very cool authentic Incan ruin. Inside, the service is excellent, with nothing being too much trouble for the incredibly helpful staff. The hotel is cozy, quiet, and secure, and has a prime location just a few minutes from Cusco's main plaza.

Location: The hotel is located on a narrow cobblestone street just a few hundred metres uphill from the Plaza de Armas. Cusco is the historic capital of the Inca Empire and a treasure trove of Incan ruins, colonial architecture, and historic museums. The city is also the logical jumping off point for a visit to Machu Picchu or a hike along the Inca Trail.

Rooms: The guest rooms at Rumi Punku are fairly simple, but comfortable, and have modern bathrooms with excellent showers. Outside your room, the hotel unfolds into a maze of courtyards, gardens, balconies, and rooftop terraces with views of the city all around.

Food: The hotel provides a good, filling breakfast buffet, including eggs to order, bacon, croissants, and fresh fruit, a perfect start to a day of walking up hills! If the altitude gets to you, coca tea is always available in the lobby.

Vibe: Rumi Punku is a friendly place with excellent service. The staff was helpful in planning my trip, and was always happy to take the time to talk to me about the hotel's fascinating history.

Things to Keep in Mind: The hotel offers free airport pick-up.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Cusco, Peru: Torre Dorada
Nominated By: Kathy B. Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA, July '08

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: US$70-$90 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 21 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Torre Dorada so Darn Good? Torre Dorada stands out for its friendly service with attention to the individual. The staff is helpful in booking tours, as well as providing tips on where to eat, shop, and hike. They even printed our airport booking passes prior to our departure! The hotel provides complimentary car service around Cusco and transport to and from the airport.

Location: Torre Dorada is located in the safe and quiet residential neighborhood of Huancaro, away from city noise, but just a ten minute car ride to downtown. Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire, is chock-full of Inca ruins, colonial architecture, and historic museums. It is a great base for the Inca Trail and a four hour train ride to Machu Picchu.

Rooms: Our room had very clean, comfortable beds and our bathroom was nice, with outlets that accommodate hair dryers and hot water with plenty of pressure. The hotel provides bottled water, and a variety of teas, including coca tea, is available in the small lobby.

Food: Torre Dorada serves a lovely breakfast buffet with fresh fruit, eggs cooked to order, tamales, yogurt, baked goods, cereal, fresh squeezed orange juice, and excellent coffee. Guests are treated to beautiful views of the city and surrounding mountains from the fourth floor breakfast room.

Vibe: The hotel is modern and clean.

Things to Keep in Mind: Torre Dorada doesn't have an elevator, but the staff will carry your luggage... plus, climbing the stairs help you get used to the altitude, especially if you are going on the Inca Trek. Remember, Cuzco is close to 12,000 feet!

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