Last Updated: 5/11/23 | May 11th, 2023
Costa Rica was the very first place I ever visited, kick-starting a journey that would eventually take me around the world and launch my career as a travel writer. Since that first trip, I’ve returned a few times, lured in by the friendly people, cloud forests, wildlife, and excellent beaches.
San José is the starting point for most visitors in the country, owing to the fact that it’s the nation’s capital and a major international hub. Chances are you’ll be here for a few days as you get situated before heading off to hike, lounge on the beach, and enjoy the lush and scenic landscapes.
I’ve been staying in hostels for over a decade during my several return visits to Costa Rica. There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel in San José. The top four are:
- Location – While San José is technically walkable, it isn’t always the most pedestrian-friendly between neighborhoods. It’s also not the best idea to walk around alone after dark, so pick a place that is central to the sites and nightlife you want to see. All the hostels listed here are in good locations.
- Price – In San José, you really get what you pay for, so if you go with a really cheap one, 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 hostel that best meets your needs!
- Staff – All the hostels listed here have amazing staff! They are super friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you don’t stay at one of the places listed below, be sure to look up reviews to ensure you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly. They can make or break a hostel!
Here is my list of the hostels in San José that I like the most. If you don’t want to read the longer list below, the following hostels are the best in each category:
Best Hostel for Budget Travelers: Costa Rica Backpackers
Best Hostel for Families: In the Wind Hostel
Best Hostel for Solo Female Travelers: Selina San Jose
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads: Selina San Jose or Capital Hostel de Ciudad
Best Hostel for Partying: Costa Rica Backpackers
Best Overall Hostel: Capital Hostel de Ciudad
Want the specifics of each hostel? Here’s my comprehensive list of the best hostels in San José:
Price Legend (per night)
- $ = Under 7,000 CRC
- $$ = 7,000-11,000 CRC
- $$$ = Over 11,000 CRC
1. Selina San Jose
This vibrant and ultra cool hostel is one of the latest locations in the popular Selina hostel chain. Located in a historic Barrio Otoya, a quiet neighborhood adjacent to both downtown and hip Barrio Escalante, you won’t spend long getting around the city while staying here.
There’s plenty to keep you busy within the hostel too as Selina hostels are known for their social atmosphere. This location offers daily activities running the gamut from Latin dance classes and live DJs to bodyweight workout classes, yoga, and movie nights in their cozy cinema room. There are also many common areas, a fully equipped kitchen, lending library, and as with most Selina locations, a co-working space in case you need to be productive.
Selina knows what travelers need, so you’ll find all the modern amenities here. The bunks are comfy and have privacy curtains, reading lights, and individual plugs so you can keep your electronics charged. The shower pressure is great and there are a variety of private rooms too, from more affordable options with a shared bathroom all the way up to entire deluxe suites.
Selina San Jose at a glance:
- Social hostel with daily activities
- Lots of common areas including a kitchen, cinema room, and spacious bar/restaurant
- Co-working space
Beds from 11,000 CRC, private rooms from 35,000 CRC.
2. Capital Hostel de Ciudad
This hostel is another great option if you’re looking for something more upscale. A chill hostel with cozy beds and lots of common space, there’s a patio for BBQs and yoga, a game room with a pool table and projector for watching movies, and a fully equipped kitchen. It has a co-living space as well, making it a good choice for anyone working remotely.
The mattresses are pretty thick and the dorm beds have privacy curtains, multiple outlets, and even individual fans to keep you cool throughout the night. Overall, it offers a nice balance of being a relaxed but social hostel. It’s located near the large urban Sabana Park in a residential neighborhood that’s just a 15 minute taxi/Uber ride away from either downtown or the airport.
Capital Hostel de Ciudad at a glance:
- Relaxed atmosphere
- Game room & coworking space
- Outdoor patio for hanging out
Beds from 11,600 CRC, rooms from 30,000 CRC.
3. Costa Rica Backpackers
This was the first backpacker hostel to open in Costa Rica (it opened in 2001!). It’s a lively, social hostel that’s popular with the younger backpacker/party crowd. It has a pool and bar on-site, and there are organized tours and activities. Breakfast isn’t included, but there is free coffee all day. The beds aren’t the best (the mattresses are thin and the bunks squeak), but there are privacy curtains, individual lockers, USB ports, and reading lights.
While the bathrooms are small and could use an update, it’s the cheapest hostel in San Jose. If you’re on a tight budget and want to party, it’s the place to be!
Costa Rica Backpackers at a glance:
- Pool and bar
- Easy to meet other travelers
- Fun and social atmosphere
Beds from 7,000 CRC, rooms from 19,000 CRC.
4. Hostel del Paseo
More of a budget hotel, this hostel doesn’t have a great social vibe, but it’s quiet and clean and the staff are super helpful. There’s a huge common area with lots of games and movies, the free breakfast is pretty good, and the dorms are capped at eight beds, so you’re never crammed in with lots of other people. While the beds don’t have curtains, the mattresses are thick and comfy, so you’ll get a decent night’s sleep. There are also private rooms with AC available if you prefer more privacy and comfort.
It’s walking distance to downtown and there’s a bus station nearby with buses going directly to the airport if you’re headed onwards.
Hostel del Paseo at a glance:
- Quiet dorms make sleeping easy
- Lots of common rooms & games
- Free breakfast
Beds from 11,100 CRC, rooms from 30,000 CRC.
5. TripOn Open House
This funky, social hostel is located near hip Barrio Escalante with its tons of bars and restaurants. TripOn has a free breakfast every morning and organizes cheap shuttles to the airport too (which is just 30 minutes away). The beds are comfy, with curtains for privacy, and there are lots of common areas for hanging out and socializing.
There are also hammocks outside for relaxing, video games, and a fully-equipped kitchen if you feel like cooking your own food. While some spaces could use updating, it’s a really fun place that’s also one of the cheapest hostels in San Jose.
TripOn Open House at a glance:
- Social atmosphere makes it easy to meet people
- Free breakfast
- Good location
Beds from 6,600 CRC, rooms from 25,300.
6. In the Wind Hostel & Guesthouse
Another laid-back hostel, In the Wind has a cool outdoor area for hanging out and having BBQs, offers free breakfast (with pancakes), and has awesome staff. It’s also super clean, which is always a plus. There are both dorms and a wide variety of private rooms, including single private rooms for solo travelers (a rarity).
The beds aren’t amazing (there are no privacy curtains and the mattresses are thin), but the hostel is super affordable and the vibe here more than makes up for it. If you’re looking for that “classic” backpacker hostel experience, you’ll find it here. This hostel is a bit further out from the city, so it’s mainly used by travelers as a stopover for traveling onwards.
In the Wind Hostel & Guesthouse at a glance:
- Awesome staff
- Free breakfast
- Quiet and calm atmosphere
Beds from 7,500 CRC, rooms from 14,000 CRC.
7. Gaudy’s Hostel
This hostel is in a great location for both enjoying the city and traveling onwards, as all major bus stations are nearby. It’s more of a quiet hostel, so it’s a good place to stay if you want to get good sleep.
Gaudy’s has great free breakfast (including pancakes!), lots of common areas, and welcoming staff that will help arrange tours or shuttles (like to the airport) for you. Just be aware that like other of the cheaper hostels in San Jose, the water is hit or miss as to whether it’s warm or not.
Gaudy’s at a glance:
- Great free breakfast
- Lots of common areas including an outdoor garden
- Easy access to long distance transportation
Beds from 8,000 CRC, private rooms from 16,000 CRC.
8. Stray Cat Hostel
This colorful backpacker hostel is covered in art and murals. It has a cozy, homey vibe while still being well maintained and clean. The mattresses are a little thin (and the bunks don’t have curtains), but the hostel is quiet and laid back, so it’s easy to get a decent night’s sleep.
The area surrounding the hostel isn’t the best (don’t walk around at night – though that’s the case in many areas of the city), but it’s close to the bus station, making it a convenient location if you’re just passing through or heading to/from the airport.
Stray Cat Hostel at a glance:
- Multiple common areas
- Quiet atmosphere
- Free breakfast
Beds from 8,500 CRC, rooms from 23,000 CRC.
While it’s not the most exciting destination in Costa Rica, chances are you’ll be here for a few days before heading off to the country’s better-known sights. By staying at one of these awesome (and cheap) hostels, you’ll not only save money but you’ll get to meet other travelers, pick up insider tips and advice, and really make the most of your visit.
Book Your Trip to Costa Rica: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!
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.
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:
- Safety Wing (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.
Want More Information on Costa Rica?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Costa Rica for even more planning tips!