Posted: 6/11/2020 | June 11th, 2020
San Francisco is a beautiful, eclectic city. Balancing its hippie roots with its modern, techie scene, it’s a cool, lively, energetic place bursting with history and tons of amazing food. It’s home to hippies, students, artists, entrepreneurs, and sizable immigrant communities. All of that combines to create one of the best metropolises in the country.
However, it’s also one of the most expensive too!
I’ve been visiting San Francisco for a decade and have stayed in dozens of hostels, hotels, and Airbnbs. Since SF is so expensive, hostels are your best bet here. Fortunately, it has a growing hostel scene, so you can find affordable accommodation.
There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel. The top four in San Francisco are:
- Location – San Francisco is huge, and it can take some time to get around. Pick a place that is central to the sites and nightlife you want to experience. (All the hostels listed here are in central locations.)
- Price – In San Francisco, you really get what you pay for, so if you go with a really cheap place, you’re probably going to get a hostel that is small and cramped and doesn’t offer great service.
- Amenities – Every hostel in the city offers free Wi-Fi, and most have a free breakfast, but if you want more than that, be sure to do your research to find the one that best meets your needs!
- Staff – All the hostels listed here have amazing staff who are super friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you don’t end up staying at one of the places listed below, be sure to look up reviews to ensure that you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly, as they can make or break a hostel!
To help you plan your trip, here is my list of the hostels in San Francisco that I like the most. If you don’t want to read the longer list below, the following are the best in each category:
Best Hostel for Budget Travelers: Orange Village
Best Hostel for Families: Adelaide Hostel
Best Hostel for Solo Female Travelers: HI Fisherman’s Wharf
Best Hostel for Partying: Green Tortoise Hostel
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads: HI Downtown
Best Overall Hostel: Green Tortoise Hostel
Want the specifics of each hostel? Here’s my comprehensive list of the best hostels in San Francisco:
Price Legend (per night)
- $ = Under $40 USD
- $$ = $40-50 USD
- $$$ = Over $50 USD
1. HI San Francisco – Downtown
HI Downtown has some standard perks, like free breakfast and free towels, but it also organizes a lot of events, including pub crawls, trips to Muir Woods and Yosemite, and bike tours across the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a fun, social hostel with decent beds (but no privacy curtains) and lots of storage space so you can lock your stuff up and keep it safe. They also have a fully-equipped kitchen, lots of board games, and are wheelchair accessible too.
HI Downtown at a glance:
- Organizes lots of events?
- Free breakfast and free towels
- Lots of common areas
Beds from $54 USD a night, rooms from $159 USD.
2. Green Tortoise Hostel
This hostel is an institution in San Francisco, one of the oldest in town. It offers free breakfast, free dinners multiple times per week, and even a free sauna! It has a huge common room so it’s easy to meet people and has a very fun, social atmosphere. There’s a pool, tons of games (like giant jenga and foosball), and musical instruments in case you want to jam. The wooden bunks are basic (thick mattresses, no curtains) but are comfy. It’s my favorite hostel in SF (and one of my favorites in the entire country).
Green Tortoise at a glance:
- Lots of free perks (free breakfast, free dinners, free sauna)
- Lively party atmosphere
- Great for solo travelers
Beds from $47 USD a night.
3. HI San Francisco – Fisherman’s Wharf
This is another great HI hostel. It has lots of common areas (so it’s easy to relax and meet people), the staff organizes many events (like bike tours, museum tours, and pub crawls), and there’s even have a small theater for watching movies. The beds aren’t anything special (the mattresses are thin and there are no curtains) but there’s a café on-site (with reasonable prices), female-only dorms, and the hostel is kept clean and tidy.
HI Fisherman’s Wharf at a glance:
- Female-only dorms for extra security
- Organizes lots of events
- Huge kitchen
Beds from $41.50 USD a night.
4. Found San Francisco – Union Square
Located right near Union Square in the heart of the city, Found has spacious private rooms as well as smaller dorm rooms. It’s a good choice for anyone looking for a bit more privacy and some peace and quiet. The beds are super comfy, and the rooms are clean and a bit more stylish than most hostels. The kitchen isn’t huge, though.
Found Union Square at a glance:
- Convenient location
- Modern amenities
Beds from $40.50 USD a night, rooms from $269 USD.
5. HI San Francisco – City Center
This cozy hostel is located in a boutique hotel from the 1920s. It does an excellent job of balancing historic charm with a modern atmosphere. There are lots of beautiful paintings and murals, and they even have a speakeasy-style café. But it’s the atmosphere here that makes your stay worthwhile. There are lots of common areas to chill out and meet people in; there are also female-only dorms too. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the main shopping area, and there are lots of cheap restaurants nearby as well. The beds are comfy but not all of them have curtains. There’s a fully-equipped kitchen too!
HI City Center at a glance:
- Easy to meet people
- Free breakfast and free towels
- Comfy beds
Beds from $49 USD a night, rooms from $125 USD.
6. Adelaide Hostel
This is one of the quieter and more laid-back hostels in the city. The beds are comfy, and there are privacy curtains, so you can actually get a decent night’s sleep (something I really appreciate). It offers free breakfast, as well as free meals throughout the week, so it’s easy to connect with other travelers. The hostel on a side street just two blocks from downtown, so you get the convenience of being centrally located without all the noise. The staff here are awesome too and can help you make the most of your trip.
Adelaide Hostel at a glance:
- Comfy beds with privacy curtains
- Quiet atmosphere
- Helpful staff
Beds from $52 USD a night, rooms from $169 USD.
7. Orange Village Hostel
This is the cheapest hostel in the city. It includes free breakfast and organizes weekly pizza nights and movie nights. The dorms are basic (you get what you pay for), but there is lots of common space to relax in, and they have a big kitchen so you can cook your own meals (and save even more money). The bathrooms aren’t the most clean or modern, but again, for the price, it’s to be expected.
Orange Village at a glance:
- Super affordable
- Easy to meet people
- Free perks (breakfast, pizza nights)
Beds from $39.60 USD a night, rooms from $126 USD.
8. Pacific Tradewinds
This independent hostel offers lots of free perks for budget travelers (like ramen) and is community focused. The staff organizes events (like pub crawls and trivia nights) so it’s easy to meet people, and the hostel is near the subway so it’s easy to get around. The dorms are basic and the beds aren’t very comfy (and some of the top bunks don’t really have railings) but it makes up for that with its laid-back vibe. It’s a classic backpacker hostel and a great choice for solo travelers.
Pacific Tradewinds at a glance:
- Free sandwiches and ramen
- Easy to meet people
- Awesome staff
Beds from $42.50 USD per night.
By staying in one of the hostels above, you’ll not only save money but meet other travelers, get insider tips and advice, and have an amazing visit to one of the country’s best cities. Whether you’re a solo female traveler, a family, or someone backpacking on a tight budget, you’ll be able to find a hostel that suits your needs and travel style.
Book Your Trip to San Francisco: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Need a Guide?
San Francisco has some really great tours on offer. For an in-depth walking tour, check out Take Walks, which uses expert local guides and offers a super insightful (and fun) tour through Chinatown.
Want More Information on San Francisco?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on San Francisco for even more planning tips!
Photo credits: 2 – HI San Francisco – Downtown, 4 – HI San Francisco – Fisherman’s Wharf, 5 – Found San Francisco – Union Square, 6 – HI San Francisco – City Center
, 7 – Adelaide Hostel, 8 – Orange Village Hostel, 9 – Pacific Tradewinds