Some people collect passport stamps, others collect international hangovers.
It’s pretty much a backpacker’s rite of passage to wake up with a sore head from the local spirit in every hostel you stumble back to. But some places have a vibe so infectious that you can’t help but crank the volume up to ‘night I’ll never forget’, regardless of how much home-brewed beer you’ve consumed. If you’ve drunk the Full Moon shark buckets, painted the UV paint and worn the neon-coloured vest – bonus points if you kept yours and didn’t take it off to jump the fire skipping rope – then you’re ready to graduate to the next-level of out-of-this-world backpacker parties. Trust us, they make the hangover look like child’s play.
Curated for the hard-core ravers, the up-all-night party animals and the barefoot drum and bass beach goers, we’ve danced, DJ’d and got up to no good to find the best backpacker parties across the world. All in the name of research, of course 😉.
1. Carnival – Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Taking place in Trinidad’s capital Port of Spain, Carnival is four-days of crazy rum-fuelled street partying, accompanied by a soca-soundtrack and the beat of steel drums. Taking place just before lent, the whole island turns into an al-fresco arena geared up to having a good time. As music blares from dusk until dawn, follow the scantily clad dancers wearing feather and sequin costumes to hop from one celebration to the next, topping up your plastic cup of homemade rum punch as you go. Soak up the lethal levels of alcohol by trying some of the street food stall staples like fiery curry crab, pillowy dumplings and pelau (a pot of rice and meat). After the outrageous activities are over, retreat to Tobago, the sister island, for some well-needed Caribbean chill out time. This is one of the best backpacker parties that both locals and travellers love!
When is it: Mid-February (24-25 February 2020).
Where to stay: Need a cosy retreat from the heat? The hostels in Port of Spain will do just that. Pearl’s Guest House is minutes away from the sequin-filled streets and welcomes all its guests into a family atmosphere.
2. Oasis Festival – Marrakech, Morocco
If you take the influencers out of Coachella, bid goodbye to Glastonbury’s mud baths and sweep away the dust from Burning Man, but keep the banging beats and energetic crowd, what are you left with? Oasis Festival – a pioneering party slowly changing the rave scene in Marrakech. Pitching up in a boujee boutique venue on the outskirts of the city, Oasis brings music-minded travellers and curious, cosmopolitan locals together for a night spent dancing beneath the stars. Two intimate stages, rooftops for smoking shisha and a handful of African pop-up galleries give off the impression you’re partying in a friend’s house – but a very rich, very well-connected one. This shouldn’t put you off though, this party is in its early days so is still relatively budget-friendly. Go now before it grows.
When is it: Mid-September (11-13 September 2020).
Where to stay: The hostels in Marrakech are just as cool as you are. Did you even go to Marrakech if you didn’t stay in a riad? In the heart of the medina, Riad Eva is ideally located to explore the chaotic souks and throbbing city square. Probably best to do it on a day without a hangover though…
3. Curlie’s Beach Party – Goa, India
A haven for hippies on the hash trail in 1970’s, head to Goa’s palm-fringed beaches to experience one of the best backpacker parties, complete with psychedelic, trippy feels. It’s totally groovy, man. Curlie’s has grown from a standalone shack to a buzzy beach party that takes over the whole of Anjuna’s sandy shores, with psytrance raves stretching from Tuesday through to Wednesday evening. What started as a low-key community of hippies letting their hair (read: dreadlocks) down has grown into one of the wildest midweek parties in the world, attracting thousands of backpackers every year. Shuffle along to the trippy beats, paint yourself with neon colours and sip spiked (alcoholic) chai – you can even recycle your Full Moon Party vest as everyone wears bright colours.
For something a little less wild, head to the ‘nightclub in the sky’. Cocooned on the cliff top between Baga and Anjuna, Club Cabana’s open-air pool, terraces dotted with Balinese-inspired day beds and expertly mixed cocktails give it serious Ibiza vibes. Wednesday is ladies night, so girls drink completely free.
When is it: Year-round. Avoid going in June – September, as the area sees heavy rain during monsoon season and most of the best parties get cancelled.
Where to stay: If you’re in need of a hippie haven while in India, the hostels in Goa have you sorted. Meet your new session squad at That Crazy Hostel, an insanely social hostel that serves 24-hour food to soothe sore heads.
4. Beach Parties – Jericocoara, Brazil
In the northwest of Brazil, you’ll find Jericocoara, or Jeri as it’s known to locals, a town that attracts the barefoot and bohemian. A haven for wind surfing, this small fishing town is one of the few places in the world to experience emerald sunsets. Each evening the sun sinks below the horizon and glows a luminous green colour – race to the top of the sand dunes to get the best views. After sunset, join the throngs of locals and in-the-know backpackers laughing, drinking and dancing on the beach, where a cluster of rickety wooden beach bars serve street food snacks and homemade sugar-cane spirits. Music plays from a pop-up DJ parked in the sands and free-poured caipirinhas from the makeshift bars are generously passed around. This is the chilled-out version of the mental parties in Koh Phangan, but there’s honestly nothing better than bonding over freshly shaken cocktails with new found friends.
When is it: Year-round.
Where to stay: Bohemian backpackers won’t struggle to find their dream stay at one of the many hostels in Jericoacoara. Hang out in Natural Hostel Jeri, a design-driven darling just seconds from the sand.
5. Full Moon Party – Koh Phangan, Thailand
This big hitter on Thailand’s Koh Phangan is where you go to party as if it’s your last night on earth – it’s basically a rite of passage for every wild backpacker. Yep, it’s the infamous Full Moon Party. Join tens of thousands of travellers from around the world under the glow of the full moon, as you dance and drink all evening and well into the next morning – while EDM, techno, rock and pop music fill different areas of the beach. If you need to refuel, you can even take a nap in one of the designated sleeping zones! To get to this beachside fiesta, you’ll need to book a boat that will take you to the island if you’re not already staying in Koh Phangan. Entry to the legendary party is 100 baht (about £2.50), plus as many cocktail buckets as your body and budget will allow. Be free, you wild things!
When is it: Every month, either before or after the full moon.
Where to stay: The hostels in Koh Phangan take partying VERY seriously. The celebrations don’t end once you leave the beach! Slumber Party Hostel Koh Phangan isn’t the innocent sleepover it sounds like. Here you can take part in a massive pub crawl, large scale drinking games and there’s even free cocktail shots each night! Check out some of the top hostels for the Full Moon Party here.
6. Labadai Beach Party – Accra, Ghana
Fondly nicknamed La Pleasure Beach, Labadai Beach in Accra is by day a horse-strewn beachy playground dotted with food stores grilling spicy kebabs and dishing out bowls of jollof. As soon as the sun sinks into the sea and the water becomes too cold to swim, bonfires are lit, beer cans are passed around and competitive dance offs take place to the sounds of afrobeats blaring from retro boom boxes. Everyone is welcome and you’ll find dance groups, locals and travellers all competing to see who’s got the best whine.
If you’re a fan of afrobeats and African fashion and art, you should seriously consider attending Afrochella. Africa’s most popular festival pitches up on the shores of Accra each December through to January to celebrate African culture. Retreating to La Pleasure beach afterwards is somewhat of a tradition, and you might find the likes of Burna Boy and Stefflon Don joining in on the fun.
When is it: The parties on Labdai Beach take place every Friday to Sunday, while Afrochella is in late December to January.
Where to stay: The hostels in Accra are known for their welcoming hospitality. Championing Ghanaian craftsmanship, Somewhere Nice houses a collection of locally made goods and upcycled metal, tires and old wood that’s been transformed into furniture. There’s even a swimming pool for when the weather really heats up.
7. La Placita de Santurce – San Juan, Puerto Rico
Proving Mexico isn’t the only place to party in Central America, San Juan’s famous market La Placita de Santurce transforms from a peaceful plaza by day to a full-blown wild fiesta by night. The two-tiered market square goes from somewhere to buy fresh fruit on a sunny morning to a lively party that you won’t want to leave until sunrise. This is truly a local party, with people gathering from about 6pm to kick back, dance some salsa and revel in the carefree beats. Snack on fried empanadillas while you sway along to thumping techno and sultry jazz. Sure, Mexico has Los Cabos and Spring Break favourite Cancun, but scoot across to the lesser-explored Puerto Rican capital to discover a city pulsing with Latin flair and Caribbean charm.
When is it: Fridays and Sundays from 6pm.
Where to stay: Looking for a beachside paradise? The hostels in San Juan wouldn’t look out of place in Maui or Cancun. Situated on San Juan’s sun-bleached sands, Mango Mansion puts on a breakfast spread so delicious you’ll want to leave the party early to make sure you don’t miss it.
8. Sunday Funday – Tamarindo, Costa Rica
There’s no such thing as the Sunday slump in this tiny surfing town in Costa Rica. Each and every Sunday backpackers pile into Sharky’s Bar for beers and cocktails before being bundled into an all-American school bus blaring tunes and headed for the three secret parties that makes up the town’s legendary Beach and Pool Crawl. The first place you’ll party is a private pool full of instantly Instagrammable floating flamingos and on-tap margaritas. Next, you’re taken to a hidden beach where you’ll play boozy games like beach beer pong and forfeit-or-a-shot volleyball. Your last spot (and personally my favourite) sees you get taken to the beach to watch the sunset and dance next to a blazing bonfire. Tickets cost US$50 on the day or US$40-45 in advance.
When is it: Every Sunday, departing at 1pm from Sharky’s Bar.
Where to stay: All hail the tropical hostels in Tamarindo. Housed in a striking yellow hacienda, Tamarindo Backpackers has a string of hammocks that are the perfect place to sleep off that inevitable hangover.
9. Beach Parties – Tel Aviv, Israel
Beach parties pop up all over the port and promenade of Israel’s hipster capital Tel Aviv, both on the sands and in the day-to-night beach bars scattered along the coastline. Some, like the ones on Gordon Beach, start as early as 2pm with groups congregating over cooler boxes and beers, while beaches like Hilton Beach are reserved for after, after parties. You know, the kind that start somewhere around 3am and go until the sun starts to come up.
Free spirits and fans of The Rolling Stones will want to head to Drummer Beach on a Friday afternoon. At about 3pm, next to a building known as the Dolphimarium, crowds of drummers congregate for a group session with everyone pounding out the week’s frustrations. It’s very bohemian, quite therapeutic and probably one of the weirdest pre-drinks you’ll ever have, but equally it’s pretty awesome. If this all sounds too ‘kum by yah’ for you, then take shots of tubi, a sweet Israeli alcoholic drink, at Shalvata instead – it’s one of the best and biggest beach clubs in Tel Aviv.
When is it: sporadic
Where to stay: The hostels in Tel Aviv don’t hold back on the celebrations. Tel Aviv Beachfront Hostel really gets the party started, while the free breakfast at Florentine Backpackers is the ideal way to cure a hangover before you explore Old Jaffa’s flea market.
10. Full Moon Party – Zanzibar, Tanzania
Thought because you’ve toured the whole of Thailand you’d completed the Full Moon Party? Think again. The Spice Island puts on one of the best backpacker parties that will fill your glass with rum, your body with laughter and your head full of the worst hangover you’ve ever had the next morning. Held on the north west of Zanzibar island, on the white sandy shores in front of the Kendwa Rocks Hotel, this party takes place every Saturday after a full moon. A BBQ buffet filed with seafood and delicious grilled meats – trust me, it’s way better than a greasy kebab – kicks off the celebrations before a traditional African dance troupe gets everyone up and dancing on the beach. Fire breathers, circus performers and local artists then put on a spellbinding performance all along the sands around you. Cranking it up an octave, the DJ then takes to the decks to spin a selection of reggae, dancehall, afrobeats and soca to keep everyone dancing until 7am.
When is it: Every Saturday after a full moon.
Where to stay: As Tanzania is emerging on the backpacker scene, there are more and more quality hostels springing up in Zanzibar. Your Zanzibar Palace is budget-friendly, beachside and probably as close as you’ll ever get to heaven on earth. Here you can spend the day laying in a hammock under a straw hut overlooking the palm trees, white sand and endless ocean views.
11. Thermal Spa Parties – Budapest, Hungary
Ready to turn the party gear up a notch? How does a massive pool party sound? The historic Szechenyi Baths hosts a huge monthly bash, where party-loving backpackers can drink, rave and roast in hot thermal pools (with temperatures around 26-38 degrees celsius) until 3am. Laser lights, pool inflatables, fire twirlers and pulsating beats flood Budapest’s most bonkers celebration, where dancing and splashing go hand in hand. Grab your best bathing suit and hurry up, because this iconic Budaparty is waiting for you! Tickets cost 25,000 HUF (£63) on the door and you can buy them in advance on the website with added drink cards. While it might make a dent in the humble backpacker’s budget, it’s worth it to experience this unforgettable and one-of-a-kind event.
When is it: Every Saturday from February to December.
Where to stay: Might as well stay at one of the many party hostels in Budapest to keep the festivities going hey? Retox Party Hostel ranks high among the world’s best party hostels. The hostel hosts the Alcoholympics (competitive boozy challenges), so you’ll always have a drink in hand.
12. Sunday Funday, Nicaragua
Go backpacking in Nicaragua and you’re bound to end up in the backpacker favourite town of San Juan del Sur. This unassuming beach town hosts one of the world’s best backpacker parties – the weekly hostel pool crawl ‘Sunday Funday’ which draws in party-loving backpackers like a magnet. Beginning at Hostel Pachamama and ending at Naked Tiger Hostel, you’ll check off different poolside bars, down cheap alcohol and dance to non-stop techno music. Admission is US$30, which includes entry to five bars, a shot on arrival at each one, transport and a tank top to get yourself fully involved. Backpackers all over Central America talk about the legend of Sunday Funday, but it’s not until you do it yourself that you’ll understand the carnage (and hangover).
When is it: Every Sunday.
Where to stay: It makes sense to stay at either Hostel Pachamama or Naked Tiger Hostel, as then you’ll only have to pay US$15 for your Sunday Funday ticket! Hostel Pachamama is all about the chill vibes while still having a fun time. Activities like pool beer pong and bonfire nights are on regularly, and there’s also daily free breakfast. At Naked Tiger Hostel you’ll feel welcomed from the get-go with a free drink! They’re all about the hostel fam feeling, with movie nights and BBQ nights when they’re not having one of their killer parties.
Do you have what it takes to booze your way through these legendary backpacker parties around the world? Have you taken on any of them already? Tell us below!
About the author:
Fleur Rollet-Manus is a fully fledged travel addict who can often be found racking up air miles, sitting on an oversized suitcase wrestling with an already strained zip or clutching an extra large coffee whilst penning her latest fashion/beauty/lifestyle/adventure/disaster.