Keen to put on your backpack and discover the absolute best hostels in California? You’ve landed on the right guide in that case!
We decided to explore the major destinations in California and collect the coolest hostels worth a visit. From San Francisco in the North, to hostels in Southern California in hot destinations like Los Angeles – this guide has you covered.
From California youth hostels, to epic stays by the beach and mountain lodges with a health spa. Excited?
This US western state follows the Pacific coast for nearly 900 miles.
Get ready to enjoy Sierra Nevada mountains, palm-lined beaches and the home of Hollywood entertainment.
In this guide we take a look at California hostels in:
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- South Lake Tahoe
- Yosemite National Park
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Cruz
- Point Reyes Station
- All Best Hostels in California on a map
- Destination not listed?
- More guides for USA hostels
Interesting fact: Due to the hotel lobby cracking down on hostels, dorm sizes are kept small in some cities with usually a maximum of 4 people per room.
What about 5 star hostels? Whilst there aren’t any (yet) in California, check out:
- The Crash Pad: An Uncommon Hostel in Chattanooga
- The Bivvi Hostel in the Rocky Mountains
- Freehand New York in NYC
Here’s a handy map showing the location of all the hostels mentioned in this guide.
Overview: Best Hostels by Traveler Type
|🌁 Best Hostel in San Francisco:||Green Tortoise Hostel|
|🎥 Best Hostel in Los Angeles:||Samesun Venice Beach Hostel|
|🏖️ Best Hostel in San Diego:||California Dreams Hostel|
|🏊♀️ Best with Swimming Pool in Los Angeles:||Freehand Los Angeles|
|⛰️ For Mountain Lovers in South Lake Tahoe:||Mellow Mountain Hostel|
|🌄 For Nature Lovers in Yosemite:||Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort|
|👫 For Socializing in Santa Barbara:||The Waterman|
|🥳 Best Party Hostel in Hollywood:||Banana Bungalow West Hollywood|
|🎒 For Backpackers in San Diego:||ITH CoLive Balboa Park|
Best Hostels in San Francisco
When it comes to hostels in Northern California, San Francisco is a great city and well worth visiting. The hostel world here is top notch.
San Francisco best hostels include an option to sleep right by the bay.
Don’t take out word for it, check out:
- Adelaide Hostel
- HI Sand Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel
- Pacific Tradewinds Hostel
- Green Tortoise Hostel
- HI San Francisco – Downtown
Read: A full guide to the best hostels in San Francisco + safety tips & best areas to stay.
1. Adelaide Hostel (San Francisco)
Tucked away at the end of an alley, just 2 blocks from bustling Union Square, is Adelaide Hostel. It’s best described as a cozy, colourful haven for weary world travellers.
This is easily the best hostel in San Francisco!
Suitable for groups (of upto 60), we also highly recommend this for solo female travellers. The female-only rooms rock!
Save money with a free breakfast & fully-equipped kitchen. Hideaway behind dorm privacy curtains, or relax in the big lounge area.
Psst: The lounge is where you’ll find a noticeboard highlighting all of the upcoming events.
2. HI San Francisco – Fisherman’s Wharf (San Francisco)
HI San Francisco – Fisherman’s Wharf is located right on the waterfront, can you get much better than that?!
Well, yes actually because it doesn’t stop there: On the other side of the property there’s a National Park! And! The Golden Gate Bridge & Alcatraz can be seen just outside the hostel.
It’s a social hostel offering lots of free activities, including:
- Walking tours
- Pub crawls
- Museum visits
Otherwise, hang out at the hostel and make the most of the onsite Cafe Franco, sundeck, kitchen and cinema room.
Breakfast is free, and then throughout the day there is home-made, organic food on offer, plus delicious coffee.
San Francisco downtown can easily be enjoyed when staying here.
3. Pacific Tradewinds Hostel (San Francisco)
For the budget conscious traveller we recommend Pacific Tradewinds Hostel. This is one of those noteworthy backpacker hostels in California.
It’s a small place, with an attitude that: “there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met!”
Free stuff awaits you! From free-flowing tea & coffee to movie nights and ramen noodles & peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Cute.
You’ll likely want to join in the taco Tuesdays and Motown Mondays for +21yrs.
Please be aware that there are only dorm rooms available here, all of which come with 8 beds.
This is the closest we could find to the cheapest hostel in California.
4. Green Tortoise Hostel (San Francisco)
Green Tortoise Hostel is a perfectly located cute little hostel to meet people and have fun and enjoy local areas in San Francisco. It is 20 minutes walk from the beach and located in the lively North Beach Little Italy district. This San Francisco hostel is just 3 minutes’ walk to the renowned City Lights Bookstore and the entertainment district and you can easily reach a lot of attractions. Free WiFi is provided. They have a 24 hour checkin in which is nice and gives you some flexibility.
Breakfast is simple but delicious. It offered guests bagels, yogurt, oats, and eggs, but also has a full kitchen for everyone to cook for themselves. The staff is really friendly, and the spaces are clean and comfortable.
The common area on the second floor is enormous and a great place to eat, work or invite friends over to hang out!
If you travel alone, this is a good place to stay and explore San Francisco.
5. HI San Francisco – Downtown (San Francisco)
HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel is centrally located in San Francisco just 5 minutes walk from shopping and dining in Union Square and it is very close to all sorts of public transit. The hostel is close to everything you need, transport, restaurants, pharmacy, supermarket and bars.
The hostel has very spacious rooms and nice common and hang-out areas, beautifully decorated. The kitchen is fully equipped and you have free coffee and water the whole day. The reception is available 24h and the access to the hostel is only made by a card which increases the security.
Rooms are big and spacious with comfortable beds and plenty of plugs which is helpful if you have a few electrical items that need to charge. We really liked the full length mirror and the overall aesthetic and friendly atmosphere of the hostel.
We would definitely stay here again because it is very good value for money.
Best Hostels in Los Angeles
Ok so lets swiftly move on to hostels in Southern California in the famous city of Los Angeles. We know you’re dying to get that all important Hollywood sign selfie and explore nearby Santa Monica!
This region of the state is home to Los Angeles hostels offering a rooftop swimming pool and awesome co-working spaces digital nomads thought only existed in their dreams.
It didn’t make sense to only include 3 hostels here, not when there are many good ones to choose from.
Come on then, let’s dive in:
- PodShare Venice
- Freehand Los Angeles
- The Steady Hostel
- Banana Bungalow Hollywood (party)
- Orange Drive Hostel
- Samesun Venice Beach Hostel
- Samesun Hollywood
- HI Los Angeles – Santa Monica
Read our detailed guide to the best hostels in LA with even more LA hostels you’ve to know!
Good to know: Unfortunately, USA Hostels Hollywood chain permanently closed its doors in 2019.
1. PodShare Venice (Venice Beach)
PodShare Venice offers a unique membership-based live/work community. Buy a pass for one PodShare location in the city, and get access to the other 4 during your stay. Super cool!
It offers a perfect blend of private pod space and social networking. Obviously perfect for a digital nomad!
Each custom built pod comes with a personal flat screen TV (Netflix included), reading light & under-bed storage.
Enjoy also a free continental breakfast, access to co-working tables, free Wifi and bicycles.
It also happens to be a short walk from Venice Beach. There’s a big, beautiful garden to hang out in, too.
2. Freehand Los Angeles (Downtown L.A)
Prepare to have your little socks blown off by the rooftop swimming pool at Freehand Los Angeles.
Whilst there are private rooms with a higher price tag available, we recommend staying in one of the flash shared dorms. They all come with an ensuite, towel and linen, after all!
From the rooftop you can enjoy 360-degree views of downtown L.A. There’s also a 24/7 fitness centre onsite.
Every week there are events being held for your entertainment. Think DJ sets and jazz nights. See you there.
3. The Steady Hostel (Hollywood)
What makes The Steady Hostel stand out? Easily the friendly and helpful staff.
It offers a simple design on a budget, without jeopardising those all important home-away-from-home comforts.
It’s a great choice for families on the move, with a deluxe family room sleeping 10 people. The private double is also spacious and bright.
For an extra charge you can join an arranged pub crawl and hiking trips in the area. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is just 5km away.
Note: The Steady closed for 2 weeks in November 2020 to carry out property renovations.
Compare prices and read reviews at: Booking.com
4. Party Hostel: Banana Bungalow Hollywood
You’ve just happened to stumble across the best party hostel in Los Angeles: Banana Bungalow West Hollywood.
Bouncy vibes, lovely staff and…
- Pub crawls
- Themed parties
- Party bus limo rides
- Hiking & beach tours
Await you lively, fun-seeking traveller!
Cure your hangover with a free breakfast, and prepare for the next night by relaxing in the Tiki garden under a palm tree.
Nearby Cahuenga Corridor hosts over 28 bars & nightclubs, so the party opportunities are endless if you stay here.
5. Orange Drive Hostel (Hollywood)
Orange Drive Hostel easily has the best location in Hollywood, just 4-minutes from the Hollywood Walk of Fame by foot!
Even though it’s just steps away from the Hollywood action, it’s still a relaxing atmosphere and perfect environment to rest.
Here are just a few of the inclusions:
- Free all-you-can-eat waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, coffee etc for breakfast
- Patio BBQ
- Common room w/HD flatscreen TV & movies
- Discounted pub crawl with LA Epic Club Crawl
- Dorms, private & group rooms
Cool: This building was once a boarding house for Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth.
6. Samesun Venice Beach Hostel (Hollywood)
The Samseun Venice Beach Hostel team couldn’t say it better:
“This is Venice Beach, guys! So you are going to need somewhere suitably eclectic and energetic to stay if you are going to experience it right. This is that place.”
There are 3 main reasons you should stay here…
- It’s located directly on the world famous Venice Beach Boardwalk
- They offer limo parties to Hollywood clubs
- Many of the rooms have partial/full ocean views
With weekly activities and a beautifully renovated lounge to hang out in, we’re not sure what else you need.
This hostel we even added to our list of “the best beach hostels in the world”.
7. Samesun Hollywood (previously Walk of Fame Hollywood Hostel)
If you want to be slap bang in the middle of Hollywood, with easy access to the Hollywood sign and nightly socials at an on-site bar, book your stay with Samesun Hollywood.
When you’re indoors, enjoy a game of pool or grab a snack from the vending machine. Otherwise, take advantage of the awesome location on Hollywood Boulevard.
Couples will really enjoy the private rooms. They come with a queen-sized bed, mini fridge and TV.
8. HI Los Angeles – Santa Monica
HI Los Angeles – Santa Monica Hostel is the best spot for an affordable stay close to California’s most famous beaches. It’s literally a five-minute walk to the Santa Monica Pier, offering plenty of things to do around the neighbourhood. Also, this hostel is central to all Los Angeles bus lines offering easy access to city tours, movie star’s homes, shopping, Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Universal Studios, Hollywood, Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm, and the world class Getty Center Museum and the Getty Villa Museum, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
Besides good location, nice courtyard and friendly staff, the mattresses in the dorms are really comfortable. The rooms are clean with big lockers. Definitely check out their outdoor sofa space in the evenings with good vibes!
Security system is very good as well and they have a place to keep luggage until a certain time when you check out.
Best Hostels in San Diego
You’re likely heading to San Diego to enjoy the warm climate, beaches and renowned San Diego Zoo. All you need now is an awesome hostel to top it off.
How about sleeping minutes from the beach?
Find all of the best hostels in San Diego here, including a fun party hostel.
1. California Dreams Hostel (San Diego)
California Dreams Hostel prides itself in helping to create a memorable stay for adventurous backpackers. Love surfing? Stay here!
The locals’ favourite surf spot is an easy 100 metre walk, and you can schedule surf lessons at reception.
For the outdoorsy amongst you, join in local market trips, bike tours and beach volleyball.
If you prefer to relax, make use of the board games and spacious common lounge. There are often movie nights, too!
Oh yeah, and dorm beds come with privacy curtains – something we know you value. And! Breakfast is free. Wonderful.
2. ITH CoLive Balboa Park (San Diego)
At ITH CoLive Balboa Park you’ll likely find mainly young professionals, backpackers and students enjoying this quiet, local and affordable hostel.
The highlight has to be nightly community gatherings to share food. Free weekly events also support getting to know new people easily.
Other perks include:
- Library w/private work stations
- Garden & outdoor patio
- Fully-equipped kitchen
- Free flowing tea & coffee
3. HI San Diego Downtown Hostel
Before you do anything, drop your bags and have a go on the reception swings at HI San Diego Downtown Hostel!
Alongside the games room, old-school arcade games and surrounding nightlife, this makes for a pretty cool and fun hostel.
Staff will spoil you with a free breakfast and great local tours and trips. How does a jam session in San Diego’s hip-hop community sound?
Room choices include both female and male-only dorm rooms. FYI, all rooms come with a private bathroom – winning!
4. Samesun Ocean Beach (San Diego)
Samesun Ocean Beach is located in San Diego, 300 m from Ocean Beach and provides air-conditioned rooms and a shared lounge. This place is a jewel to find in Ocean Beach.
The rooms are clean and comfortable and there is a light and USB port on every bed. Bathrooms are very clean and organized and they provide you a towel as well which is handy for the shower. They have some toiletry items available in the bathroom to use too if you don’t have any.
The public, shared kitchen is like being at home. Waffles, oatmeal and fresh fruit for breakfast. Coffee in the morning is great. We worked our 9-5 in the common area connected with their wi-fi. It is also very safe and quiet at night time.
Best Hostels in Sacramento: HI Sacramento Mansion Hostel
Sacramento is not only the capital of the U.S. state of California, but it has also been dubbed the most “hipster city”. Old Town Sacramento, located right by the river, is well worth a visit.
We only recommend staying at HI Sacramento Hostel.
It’s centrally located in a beautifully restored Victorian mansion and offers a LOT to keep you busy:
- Daily activities (pub crawl, afternoon tea, dinner nights etc)
- Outdoor patio
- Games rooms
- Hammocks on the front porch
- Bicycle rentals
There are gender specific and mixed dorms, as well as private options. We just love the Victorian fireplaces and mahogany-railed staircases in the upstairs rooms.
Best Hostels in South Lake Tahoe: Mellow Mountain Hostel
Most people head to South Lake Tahoe to experience the Sierra Nevada mountains. It offers a perfect mix of ski resorts and beaches, depending on what you fancy doing. There are also plenty of bars, restaurants and casinos to enjoy.
Whilst you’re in this resort city, consider staying at Mellow Mountain Hostel.
This 54 bed hostel is located in the middle of the city, offering two indoor communal areas and 2 outdoor recreation areas.
From here you will be…
- A 10 minute walk from Lake Tahoe’s best attractions
- 5 minute walk from Heavenly Gondola for skiing
- Short walk from the beach & water activities
The staff team here is super friendly and will make you feel at home in an instant. They are also at hand 24/7 and always excited to welcome new guests to their home.
Compare prices and read reviews at: Hostelworld
Best Hostels in Yosemite: Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort
Situated on a forested 5-acre hillside complex, Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort is 27 miles (around an hour drive) from Yosemite Valley.
This is great option if you’d like to be close to Yosemite, with all of the expected activities of staying in the mountains.
For example, you can still enjoy great swimming holes, whitewater rafting in the nearby Merced River Wild & Scenic area.
We’d recommend renting a car so that you can really make the most of the surrounding natural beauty.
- Onsite restaurant (from steaks to vegan options)
- Health spa (hot tub, hot rocks sauna, ymore ofoga studio)
- Massage Therapies
- Disabled rooms
Every type of room imaginable is available here. From family studios and deluxe bungalows, to affordable tent accommodation and shared dorms.
Best Hostels in Santa Barbara: The Waterman
The dramatic backdrop of Santa Ynez Mountains coupled with red-tile roofed buildings make Santa Barbara a beautiful destination. The city’s Spanish colonial heritage is pretty evident… make sure you visit an award winning winery!
Whilst technically a hotel, we couldn’t let The Waterman get past your radar.
FYI: This accommodation used to be called The Wayfarer.
Seriously, have a look at that outdoor heated swimming pool!
This place has all the amenities of a hostel, with more of a focus on modern & fancy private rooms. Having said that, the mixed dorms are impressive, too.
To bring people together there is a community games room, shared kitchen & dining area, and a colourful library.
Also: There is a unique event space for up to 100 guests.
This is certainly one of those USA hotels you do not want to miss.
Best Hostels in Santa Cruz: HI – Santa Cruz Hostel
Santa Cruz is home to some pretty cool vintage rides such as the 1911 Looff Carousel and Giant Dipper roller coaster. You can also wander around endless vintage clothing stores, galleries and shops. Don’t miss Natural Bridges State Beach!
Where to stay? That’s easy: HI – Santa Cruz Hostel.
It’s located on a street lined with Victorian houses and happens to be just steps away from the beach and boardwalk.
There’s a reason this hostel continuously receives high ratings.
It could be due to the awesome staff, great vibes, perfect location or weekly hostel activities. Or perhaps it’s the cheap parking and group outings.
Bonus: The dorm rooms come with 2 beds, keeping it intimate and peaceful.
Best Hostels in Point Reyes Station: HI Point Reyes
Tucked away in the Point Reyes National Seashore, HI Point Reyes is the only hostel within the park. It’s perfect if you want to escape civilisation!
Head here if you love to hike, immerse in nature and relax on the beach.
Digital detox: There is NO Wifi or cell phone service at this part of the park.
Instead, you can enjoy the company of others outside on the patio, in the comfy park-view lounges and from the comfort of your Tempur-Pedic mattress.
Honestly, with so much wildlife around – bobcats, fox, deer, elk, sea lions, grey whales – why would you even want to stick your face in front of a screen?!
The nearby town of Point Reyes Station is famous for culinary treats and locally owned shops.
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Our Favorite Hostels in California put on a map + sights
Below we have put ALL of the coolest hostels in California mentioned in this article on a map.
That’s because we want to make your planning as hassle free and straight forward as possible!
We’ve marked them as follows:
- Backpacker-Type Hostel: Orange
- Party Hostels: Pink
- Design Hostels: Blue
- Other recommendations: Purple
(View full sized map here)
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What about the cheapest hostels in California?
Of course, there are always cheap hostels. But how do you actually find them? When you are traveling on a shoe-string budget and you want to save every dollar, there are ways to find the cheapest places in California.
- Open Hostelz.com with a full list of all hostels in California
- add your dates
- Order the listings by price
Simple as that.
Hostelz.com is a price comparison site for hostels. They list every single one in the world and tells you exactly which website is cheaper to use.
Another smart Tip: Check what is actually included, and what is excluded. Take a closer look at the location, too. A further location might mean more costs in transport.
You can find all our hostel discounts worldwide here. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the freshest hostel discounts directly in your inbox. We even have special discount codes we only share in the newsletter.
It is completely free to join!
How to book?
The most popular booking platforms are Booking.com and Hostelworld.com. On both platforms, your credit card is 100% protected and the booking 100% confirmed.
We included some handy links to each of the recommended hostel. Just click on the hostel name. The link will lead you to check prices and availability.
Read: Step-by-Step guide on how to book with Hostelworld
We recommend booking your hostel as early as possible! All of California best hostels are popular; especially in high-season. To make sure you end up in those stylish and good hostels, secure your room/bed as soon as you have your travel dates fix.
The coolest Hostel App you need comes as well from Hostelworld. It gives you super cool features like you can contact your hostel mates beforehand, ask questions, and make plans together. Find more details in our review of the app.
Alright, you should have found your accommodation already. Below we list all the frequently asked questions. Have a look.
Is living in a hostel safe?
The best hostels work hard to make sure that their accommodation is safe for the guests because there is a lot of human interaction among strangers. If safety of belongings is an issue, most hostels offer lockers. If personal safety is worrisome, private rooms are usually available.
How do I choose a hostel?
Always make sure you read the reviews first. Filter by best and worst reviews, they are good indicator on what to expect and what not. Check as well the location rating. You can always check with Hostelgeeks.com if a hostel is safe.
Are Hostels in California safe?
Destination not Listed?
Besides the listed accommodation, we also put together the best hostels in the world; the 5 Star Hostels.
We stayed in a former winery in Santorini, in a former jail-now 5 Star Hostel and many more. And we share all of these unique budget accommodations with you.
Make sure you check out our guides “best hostels in“. Here we cover many more destinations.
More Guides to USA Hostels
Alongside the best hostels in California, we’ve been busy putting together epic guides for other major destinations in North America.
Here are all our US Hostel Guides:
- best hostels in the USA
- best hostels in New York City, Manhattan and Brooklyn
- best hostels in Washington DC
- best hostels in Hawaii, Maui, Kauai, Honolulu and Oahu
- best hostels in Los Angeles
- best hostels in San Diego
- best hostels in San Francisco
- best hostels in Hollywood
- best hostels in Key West
- best hostels in Seattle
- best hostels in Boston
- best hostels in Chicago
- best hostels in New Orleans
- best hostels in Portland
- best hostels in Denver
- best hostels in Houston
- best hostels in Dallas
- best hostels in Miami
- best hostels in Las Vegas
- best hostels in Boulder
- best hostels in Anchorage
Party hostels in the US:
- coolest party hostels in the US
- coolest party hostels in Miami
- coolest party hostels in San Francisco
If you are looking for some adventure, you can also check the best yoga retreats in California 🧘♀️.
By now you should have the answer to your question where to stay in California. Which of the best hostels in the
California have you fallen in love with? Let us know!
This guide is your shortcut to your hostel-picks, saving you lots of time in your accommodation research.
And for sure, it gives you the security of a top-hostel choice without any bad surprises.
Then please please leave a comment below. We would be thrilled to hear from you and to help a fellow backpacker.
Have fun & Safe travels!
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Booking Hostels and Discounts 👏👏👏
As a user of Hostelgeeks, you also have access to exclusive hostel discounts. For booking hostels, we use:
We recommend installing the Hostelworld App. It is very useful!
How to find cheaper Flights ✈️
The first websites we always check are Skyscanner and Google Flights.
Find our step-by-step process in our review about Skyscanner.
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