Where to Stay in Manila—MNL Boutique Hostel
As an avid traveler, I meet so many people on the road who end up visiting the Philippines through my recommendation. One of the most common questions they ask me is where to stay in Manila (i.e., in Metro Manila, not just the City of Manila).
I always just tell them to check out Hostelworld or Agoda, because as a local, I never had the chance to stay in any of the backpacker places.
I’m glad, then, that I now have something concrete to recommend, something I have experienced myself and can be proud to send fellow travelers to: the MNL Boutique Hostel.
MNL (in short) just started their operations in January of this year, and they officially launched only on March 9th. In a span of less than 3 months of operation, however, they have already gathered a strong following, getting a lot of excellent reviews from their guests and benefiting from word of mouth marketing. I was glad to learn firsthand what the fuss was all about.
The hostel is very strategically located. The map at their website shows the route one would take with a taxicab, but my friend Alan and I took the jeepney from the EDSA-Buendia station, got off at Makati Avenue, and walked all the way to the hostel, a short walk that didn’t even leave us sweating.
Just across the hostel is the A. Venue Mall where you can find everything, from posh cafés and restaurants, to grocery stores and other shops. Since it’s located very near Makati Avenue, loads of other establishments are within a few minutes’ walk away, from massage parlors (both clean and of dubious reputation) and banks, to convenience stores, clubs, and bars.
The hostel is very accessible to tourist spots in the city of Manila, too. I took Alan around; we went to the Manila North Cemetery, Quiapo, and Intramuros, the latter just two jeepney rides from the hostel. We ended the day with dinner at Barbara’s Restaurant, and the cultural show was something that he, as a visitor to the Philippines, really enjoyed. (Our itinerary was a revised version of this: What to Do in Manila in One Day.)
What I like best about the MNL Boutique Hostel, however, is its cool and hippy vibe. The facade is sawali-inspired, and indoors you would find a range of colors that are meant to lift one’s spirit and make one feel at home.
The light and homey atmosphere encourages the guests to bond together, greeting each other like long-lost friends at first sight. The moment we arrived, for example, all the guests lounging in the lobby said hi, and common interests were immediately established. Within minutes after our arrival, my friend Alan was already talking to some of them about their travels and interest in Crossfit, among other things.
Seeing the walls splashed with colors, shapes, and doodles, one can’t help but think that this place is well-loved. From the mural of a world map, to the scribbled quotes on the walls, it was clear that the people who decorated the place had a lot of fun. Surrounded by such energy, it was difficult not to get carried away as well!
We had a twin bed accommodation, and I was very pleasantly surprised at their mattresses. It was thick (8 in.) and firm, perfect for those who are finicky with their sleeping requirements.
The room is not so big, and there is no window, but it was more than enough for us. The dormitory rooms (from P650/bed), however, are definitely more spacious than the ones in other hostels I’ve been to!
This is another thing I loved about MNL. Their wash area, toilets and bathrooms are always clean and well-supplied. There was always hot shower (not a big thing for me, but I know foreign guests always look for it! #firstworldproblems), and they even have free stuff for guests, like body lotion, sunscreen, body pain cream, among others.
Continental breakfast is free with the rooms, too. At their rate, it’s surprising there was even free food. In other hostels I’ve stayed in (both in Europe and Asia), the only free food were those shared by other guests.
As a freelancer, I also appreciated the strong Wifi connection in the lobby which remained on 24/7. I have stayed in places where they turned off the Wifi after 10pm! The signal’s not that strong in the room; then again, you’re not supposed to stay in there. The concept of MNL strongly encourages interaction with other travelers.
When I met the founders and managing partners of MNL Boutique Hostel—Celina Cruz, Maica Lao, and Gonz Santos—I realized why the whole concept works. They were all young, enthusiastic, and well-traveled. They came up with a concept based on their experiences on the road.
According to Celina, she and Maica, a childhood friend, initially thought of putting up the hostel. They had traveled together since 2009, spending time in Greece, Paris, London, Ireland, Taiwan, India, and around the Philippines, and they had experienced what it was like to stay in hostels.
None of them had experience working in the hospitality industry, nor did they have a background in business. Celina was in Development Studies in Ateneo de Manila University, Maica graduated with a Family and Child Development degree in UP Diliman, while Gonz was a nursing grad from UST. Yet they all had something in common: the love for travel, and the yearning to translate their passion into business.
It took the partners four months in 2012 to look for a good location, hire an architect to turn the place into what they envision a hostel should be, and now, barely three months after they started receiving guests, they are already gaining the reputation of being THE place to stay in Metro Manila, ranking #1 in TripAdvisor out of 21 specialty lodgings in the area.
Indeed, MNL Boutique Hostel is a dream come true, not only for Celina, Gonz, and Maica, but for the increasing number of travelers as well who have fallen for its charm.
You can book a room at MNL Boutique Hostel through Hostelworld or Agoda.com.
MNL Boutique Hostel
Valdez St. cor. Santiago St., Poblacion, 1210 Makati
Phones: +632.511.7514, +63.906.446.5617
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Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!