This is, without question, the best hostel experience I have ever had. As a general rule, hostels are all quite similar - cheap places to crash, with varying degrees of cleanliness and noise levels. But rarely are they worth more than a quick sentence in my posts, much less an entire blog dedicated to them. But such is the magic of Ciao Hostel!
Despite Labuan Bajo being the launching-point for anybody who wishes to see the famous Komodo dragon in their natural habitat, Ciao Hostel was really quiet when we visited in late May. The month is a middle-ground one for tourist numbers in Indonesia, with the summer months seeing the highest numbers. However, I couldn't find anything on Labuan Bajo specifically so I'm not sure if this city/island reflects the national trend. What I do know is that there were far fewer tourists here than there were in Bali, with the locals going so far as to ask us to spread the word that Labuan Bajo is worth a stop too. And I mean, lads, those bed views alone should prove that point!
The hostel is clean and well-maintained (save for the rather hole-y mosquito nets, which is a genuine issue but I am not sure anywhere else would have provided better ones), but what turns Ciao Hostel from a nice hostel into a blog-worthy one is the view that I am absolutely saturating this post with. My friend Alyssa and I walked into our room and actively gasped at what we saw. It takes a lot to get two well-traveled people (nearly 100 countries between us) to have their jaws on the floor, but who wouldn't be in awe of this scene if they knew it was what they would fall asleep and wake up to?!
We stayed in the large room at the very top of the hostel, which was completely open to the sights and sounds of the city (aka there were no windows). The other, smaller dorm options all had windows, which might make bug-weary travelers happier but frankly this arachnophobe LOVED our room. The other rooms were basic rooms with windows and plain white walls. But ours was a bamboo, wooden, lush tropical paradise. Open to the elements, yes. Perhaps not the best room during rainy season. But it was perfect in late May. It was perfect for us.
In addition to the fantastic room, there is also a bar (located on the top floor on the other side of the bamboo wall from our room) that provides a serene setting to enjoy the scenery. And finally, there is a restaurant that provides both Western - specifically Italian - and Indonesian fare. The Italian food was better than other takes on the cuisine that I’ve had in developing countries but it still definitely is not ‘authentic’. As far as the Indonesian food, I much preferred what we had in Bali. But it was perfectly fine, and the atmosphere and vibe more than made up for any complaints I had with the taste.
Labuan Bajo is rather small, so our free day in the city was spent walking for an hour and then enjoying the hostel. Obviously the nearby islands are the main attraction in the area, but in the city itself I would 100% say it's Ciao Hostel. The rooftop bar has thatched-roof-covered tables to protect you from the equatorial sun and are a perfect place to relax with your $3.15 large beers as you survey some of the best hostel views that exist in this world. All in all, I cannot recommend Ciao Hostel enough.