Island Life Backpackers Hostel-Santo Domingo-Dominican Republic


Staff member
Let me preface this review by saying I have never stayed in a hostel previous to this trip so I really did not know what to expect. I have to say I was extremely pleasantly surprised. So much so that I would now chose a hostel stay over that of staying on a resort or in a hotel. I have traveled extensively for business purposes so this review is from that viewpoint. I did stay in a private room with a private bath and AC and was on par with any hotel room I have stayed.

First and foremost Chris and his staff made me feel very welcome from the moment I walked in the door. Check in was easy and simple with no demands for immediate payment covering the length of my stay as some others have reported in reviews.

After check-in that took all of 5 minutes, I was taken to my room. The room was clean. A bit smaller than a typical hotel room and minus amenities such as a in-room coffee maker and television. However I would not expect those amenities in any hostel. To be perfectly blunt anyone expecting those amenities should not stay in a hotel. I did see one complaint in a review about the guest's room being too cold however I was provided a remote for the AC so likely Chris took the feedback to heart and resolved that situation. I found my room and it's amenities perfectly adequate.

I also read some reviews stating the hostel was dirty. Again, this may have been an issue where Chris took the feedback on the chin and fixed the situation as I found it clean and tidy at all times. There are permanent employees dedicated to cleaning every day

The wifi in the hostel was great the first couple of days of my stay but then there was a neighborhood power outage and it became unstable. As I work in IT, I spoke to Chris and asked if I could take a look at it and he agreed. It took me a couple of days--I was on vacation afterall--but I found the issue and the stable wifi I enjoyed the first 2 days of my stay was restored. Any recommendations I made to Chris were not only welcomed but also appreciated with a genuine "Thank You."

Prior to my leaving for this trip I also read a complaint about the beer being portioned out from bottles and being small servings and over-priced. I was poured a mug of beer in a standard size glass from an extra large bottle of beer (around 3 times the size of a "normal" beer bottle) and the price was very reasonable compared to other businesses around Santo Domingo. This is also standard practice here in any of the many business I frequented during my stay. Yes, it is cheaper to go to the store and buy the same bottle but this is true anywhere in the world. I would compare it to being poured a glass of draught beer back home—the only exception was that I could see them pouring from a bottle versus a tap.

The Hostel is in a decent location with many of Santo Domingo's features within a short walking distance (5-15 minutes to many features). Yes, if you take a wrong turn out the front door, a couple of blocks over is unsavory, however Chris and all the staff are very open about this and make guests aware of any potential dangers. Guest safety and satisfaction is clearly a top priority and is very evident to anyone that sits at the bar and watches Chris or his staff check someone in for the first time.

There is a "no passport" policy in place but this is clearly stated in their TOS and on check-in it is one of the first things staff tells you. Locals are always welcome to stay as long as they register like anyone else with a passport. To be perfectly honest this is a pretty standard policy, from my experience, throughout the Caribbean and South American locations. This is for your own safety, and to be quite frank I would refuse to stay any length of time anywhere if this policy was not in place.

I always felt safe at the hostel at all times and the staff was always quick with advice on popular attractions and were all very knowledgeable, always listing the pros and cons for each recommendation--often freely inviting guests along on their own planned outings. If I had to describe the staff's level of engagement I would say they routinely would go over and above what I would expect from employees at a lodging establishment. The staff's ever-present upbeat and friendly demeanor also set the tone in the hostel as a whole as guests reciprocated the warm and friendly welcome any time someone new arrived. Even though most people only stay for short durations a feeling of acceptance and inclusion is constant at all times.

Chris is a constant present onsite and is very "hands-on" managing the business. He spends a great deal of time (is at the hostel every day and almost always open to close. He genuinely wants each one of his guests to enjoy their time and often is quick to offer advice and directions on things to see and do. His explirary leadership example clearly rubs off on the staff as everyone that worked at the hostel durng my stay mimicked his professionalism and genuine personality.
I felt so appreciative of how welcome everyone made me feel I asked Chris if I could take over the kitchen and cook everyone a dinner of Spaghetti and Garlic Bread one night and he graciously conceded.

In conclusion, this was the best vacation I honestly have ever had and am planning multiple return visits. I felt at home. I still chat with Chris and Emma and others from the hostel on a regular basis and am already planning not only my next visit but making it a routine. I honestly feel as though I have found my home away from home.

Thank you so much to Chris, Emma (who took me for a wonderful all-day walk throughout Santo Domingo—better than any paid tour you could get and is also the hostel’s chief cook—thanks for lending me the kitchen!!), Keith (not an employee but a great new friend) Lea, Grandma Jess, Haines, Max, Erik, Amber, and anyone else I forgot.

Of course a very special thanks to Gary, without whom, I never would have experienced this adventure in the first place!!

I hope to get to see you all again soon and miss you all very much!!


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