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The Best Hostels and Cheap Hotels in San Francisco

Updated: August 3, 2023
 By Britt

San Francisco can be an expensive city but your vacation doesn't have to be!

In this post, we list the best hostels and cheap hotel/hostel hybrids in San Francisco to help you save money.


Pros and Cons of Choosing a Hostel Over a Hotel

When deciding whether to stay in a hostel or a hotel, consider the main difference. While hotels have private rooms with bathrooms and more amenities, hostels have dormitory-style rooms with shared bathrooms and offer fewer services.


Is it really cheaper to stay in a hostel instead of a hotel?

Yes. Shared rooms and bathrooms keep the cost down, as do the limited amenities and services. You won’t get mini-toiletries or daily cleaning services. 

Almost all hostels have a communal kitchen so you will save money by preparing your own food rather than having to dine out.


What are the advantages of staying in a San Francisco Hostel?

Save money.

Ninety-nine percent of the time they are less expensive than hotels for the reasons explained above. Sometimes they are nicer than cheap hotels! 

Meet people.

Hostels by their nature are geared toward interaction among guests. Dorm rooms, communal areas and shared kitchens keep guests mingling. This can be especially desirable to solo travelers.

Helpful staff

Just like hotels, hostel staff are friendly and happy to help you plan aspects of your trip, like recommending places to eat, giving directions to an attraction, and more. 


What are the disadvantages of staying in a San Francisco hostel?

Having to share a bedroom and a bathroom with other people. Sometimes other travelers will have different habits than your own. Some are messy and others are tidy. You need to be flexible about your environment.

You can't expect total silence when you sleep. Good hostels make sure to create a culture of courtesy among guests. You may have to wait a short while to take a shower. Good hostels will have a very good ratio of guests to bathrooms so no one waits too long.


Are San Francisco hostel rooms mixed-gender?

This depends on what kinds of rooms are offered. Hostels generally have female-only or male-only dorms. Mixed dorms can be less expensive though. 

Be sure to look carefully at the configuration of rooms before booking a bed.


Do San Francisco hostels have an age limit?

Hostels generally do not accept guests under 18 unless accompanied by an adult guardian. There is no age cap, though some hostels attract younger people (30 and under).  

That said, you may have a guest older than 30 years old. You might even encounter families in hostels that have private rooms.


Considerations When Choosing a Hostel

When selecting a hostel there are some considerations to take into account:

Location: San Francisco is a very big city, so you should choose a hostel that is centrally located unless you don't mind traveling far to the main attractions.

Price: Of course price is a top consideration, but the less you spend, the less you get for your money. Cheaper hostels may be smaller and more cramped than others or lack amenities.

Staff: You want a hostel with friendly and helpful staff. They can recommend good restaurants and help you with directions to places you want to go.


Best Hostels in San Francisco

Click on the map for a larger version

HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel

HI Hostels are part of an international chain of hostels. They can be a bit pricier than other hostels but are usually very clean, offer good amenities, and organize outings for guests.

In addition to this hostel, there is also the HI San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Hostel, which we write about below.

HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel is rated by Trip Advisor as the #1 hostel out of 28 hostels.

It's in a convenient location near Chinatown, Museum Row, and Union Square.

It's a friendly hostel with several common spaces to socialize. They also organize pub crawls and other social activities such as bike tours across the Golden Gate Bridge and Muir Woods.

There are several room types, including some with en suite bathrooms. Dorms can sleep 4-6 people. Private rooms have one double bed or two twin beds. Family rooms have 6 twin beds.

Free breakfast is included in the price and the huge fully-equipped kitchen can save you money if you cook most of your meals at the hostel.

Other amenities include:

  • Fast free Wi-Fi
  • Free linen and towels
  • Group luggage storage space
  • Individual lockers in each dorm
  • Free hair dryers
  • Laundry facilities
  • Outings and organized tours offered

Reviews

Guests liked the convenience of the location despite being somewhat near the seedy Tenderloin district. They simply avoided going in that direction. (Read our post about Staying Safe in San Francisco).

Many reviewers complimented the front desk staff for being very friendly. Reviews frequently said that the rooms and bathrooms were clean. Reviewers also say the free breakfast was good. Solo travelers in particular liked this hostel.

Some negative reviews say that it is noisy outside the hostel, others say the beds weren't that comfortable, the carpets were old, and that there was neither heat nor air-conditioning making their stay unsatisfactory when it was cold or hot outside.

Prices (peak season)

  • Bed in a dorm with a hallway bathroom starts at $51
  • Private rooms for 2 people with a private bathroom start at $174
  • Private rooms with 6 beds start at $369

More information and to book.


HI San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Hostel

The HI San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf is rated by Trip Advisor as the #2 hostel out of 28 San Francisco hostels. It is located in Fort Mason National Park and is within walking distance of Fisherman’s WharfPier 39, and the Marina District.

It has the same amenities as the Downtown location we write about above, with the added bonus of an on-site cafe with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, as well as a movie room and a cozy lounge with a fireplace.

One downside is that there are no rooms with private bathrooms. Whether you stay in a dorm or a private room you will be sharing bathrooms in the hallway.

Reviews

As of 2023, this hostel is rated a 9 out of 10 by nearly 7,000 guests on Hostelworld.

Many reviewers praise the hostel for its ideal location and friendly staff, as well as the clean dorm rooms.

Complaints are minimal and usually address minor inconveniences that happen when staying in a hostel rather than a hotel, such as sleeping in a noisy dorm room.

Prices (peak season)

  • Bed in a dorm with shared bathroom between $41-$49
  • Private Room 3 twin beds with shared bathroom
  • Private Room Queen bed with shared bathroom $140

More information and to book.


Ith Pacific Tradewinds Hostel

In the Financial District district, the Pacific Tradewinds Hostel is located just a 12-minute walk to Union Square, and less than a mile from Coit Tower.

The hostel is on the smaller side but makes up for it by having a friendly environment without being a party hostel.

They host events and daily outings, so be sure to talk with the receptionist about what's happening while you're there.

There's a communal kitchen, free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ramen are available all day, as are tea and coffee. 

There's free Wi-Fi, but even better is that you can use one of the hostel's is that at the end of your stay, you can use the hostel's luggage storage for the entire day of check-out.

Amenities:

  • Guest Kitchen
  • Free towels
  • Under the bed lockers in each room
  • Free nightly sock wash
  • Laundry facilities
  • Free earplugs
  • Umbrellas free to borrow
  • Hair dryers and hair straighteners free to borrow

Reviews

Guests seem to love Pacific Tradewinds Hostel. They maintain an impressive 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor.

Reviews describe their experience as a "great stay with even greater people", and "incredibly welcoming." Another guest writes that they appreciated the hostel's queer-friendly atmosphere.

Some reviewers thought the small size of the hostel made it feel cramped, but most seem to think that this made it easier to meet other guests. 

Prices (peak season)

  • Bed in a dorm with shared bathroom between $51-$56
  • One Micro-Private Double with shared bathroom $109

More information and to book.


Green Tortoise Hostel

Located in North Beach, near downtown San Francisco, the Green Tortoise Hostel is one of the best youth hostels in San Francisco.

This hostel is run by the same people who run Green Tortoise Adventure Travel which leads treks through national parks in the western USA, Alaska and other destinations.

For those looking to make friends, like solo travelers, the Green Tortoise is perfect as it is extremely social, leaning towards a party atmosphere. It's

There’s a Game Room with a pool table, Ping-Pong, and board games, where guests hang out. The hostel organizes cheap social events including weekly dinners at inexpensive local restaurants. 

Free breakfast is included in your price and the communal kitchen is fully stocked and open 23 hours a day. There’s even a hot sauna to use for free!

The Green Tortoise can host up to 150 guests. There’s a mix of dorm rooms that sleep between 4-8 people and private rooms for 1, 2, or 3 guests.

No rooms have private bathrooms, though the private rooms have small sinks. Every bed has a reading lamp, outlet, and a secure under-bed locker.

Amenities: 

  • Free Linen
  • Free fast Wi-Fi 
  • Free breakfast
  • Free sauna
  • Free luggage storage on check-in/check-out day
  • Access to a fully stocked Kitchen.
  • Large Computer Lounge​

Reviews of Green Tortoise Hostel 

Many guests have described it as the best hostel they've ever stayed in, that it felt like they were with family, that other guests were diverse, and included many backpackers from around the world.

The hostel itself was clean, including shared bathrooms and there was rarely a waiting time for showers. Some guests were disappointed by the dated condition of the hostel but otherwise enjoyed their stay.

Another common negative is that rooms that face the street can be quite noisy (ask for a rear room to avoid this!)

Prices

  • Dorms with shared bathroom from $39-41
  • Triple Private $95
  • Standard Full Bed Private $105
  • Standard Queen Bed Private $110

More information and to book.


Adelaide Hostel

The Adelaide is a popular pick for those looking for an inexpensive, sociable hostel in a convenient location (it’s just a 5-minute walk from Union Square).

There are both dorm room switch shared bathrooms and private en suite rooms. 

With a large comfortable lounge area and a shared fully stocked kitchen, the hostel lends itself to socializing but not to a party vibe. Expect a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Enjoy the patio on nice days.

Amenities are plentiful including a good, free breakfast and helpful 24-hour front desk staff. Wi-Fi is free, laptops are available for guest use, and there are laundry facilities on site (detergent is free).

All dorm beds include a privacy curtain, power outlet, reading light, locker under the bed, and free bed linens.

Amenities: 

  • Free Linen
  • Free fast Wi-Fi 
  • Free breakfast
  • Access to a fully stocked kitchen
  • Safe deposit box at the front desk
  • Terrace
  • Library
  • Television in common areas
  • Communal living room
  • Free luggage storage upon checkout

Reviews

Guests like the friendly vibe and friendly front desk staff. The setup of the dorm beds, with privacy curtains, individual lamps and outlets are also appreciated.

Some people comment that the hostel could use some updating but that it was generally clean. 

Negative reviews in the spring of 2023 say that it appears the hostel may be housing individuals long-term (3 -12 months) which indicates that non-travelers are staying there.

Prices

  • Dorms with shared bathroom from $38 - $61
  • Private room with 1 Double Bed $114
  • Private room (1 Double Bed and 1 Single Bed) $125
  • Private room with 2 Double Beds $137

More information and to book.


Hostel/Hotel Hybrids

Hotel/hostel hybrids have private rooms with private bathrooms, private rooms with shared bathrooms, and in some cases dorm rooms. 

Some also have the features of a hostel, such as communal kitchens and public rooms for people to socialize.

Hybrids are inexpensively priced and offer the possibility of total privacy should you choose such a room.

They are suitable for backpackers, business travelers and even families who can opt for a private room.


Music City Hotel & Hostel

Music City Hotel & Hostel, in Nob Hill, offers capsule-style dorm rooms for maximum privacy and private hotel rooms with musical themes, like the Janis Joplin Room with a king bed and private bathroom.

Though there are common areas and places for guests to meet each other, the atmosphere is much more similar to a hotel than a hostel. 

Below the hotel are more than a dozen music studios, hence the name. Free wifi and linens are included. 

More information and to book.


Samesun San Francisco

Located near Pier 39 and a short walk to Fisherman’s Wharf, Samesun has perhaps the greatest amenity of all in San Francisco - free parking!  

While it is only 30 or so spots, parking, let alone free parking with a hostel, is hard to find.

Samesun is more like a hotel than a hostel. There’s no common area, though the lobby is welcoming and has a fireplace!

Choose from spacious dorm rooms and private rooms, both featuring ensuite bathrooms. Some rooms even have balconies.

Dorm beds start at $40, even in the peak summer season, and privates at $121, making the price exceptional for those who need parking. 

More information or to book.


Amsterdam Hostel San Francisco

For those on a very tight budget, the Amsterdam is a good choice. The location is convenient as it is next to Union Square, Chinatown, and the Theater District. 

The hostel has 32 rooms with beds in dorms with ensuite bathrooms as low as $36 in the peak summer season, making the Amsterdam popular with younger travelers.

There are also some private rooms with ensuite bathrooms costing $120+.

The hostel has a spacious terrace, a large common room, a communal kitchen, and an onsite internet cafe making this an excellent choice for digital nomads.

Other amenities include free WiFi, 24-hour coffee and tea, free linens and towels, and lockers in dorm rooms, though you need a lock. 

More information or to book.


Union Hotel 

Described as a "European-style property in the Mission District," Union Hotel is a great little place to stay in a fantastic location. 

Their 24-hour reception desk and free wifi make it very convenient for business travelers who need a quiet place to work, as well as backpackers who stumble back to the hotel after a late night out. 

There are private rooms for either one or two people, with shared bathrooms, and private rooms for up to four people with private bathrooms. 

More information and to book.


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About The Author

Britt

Britt is a San Francisco Bay Area native, and has spent 25 years in this magical city. He has traveled to over 30 countries, and has never found a place he loves as much as this one! If you come to San Francisco, you might join one of Britt's tours of the city. A graduate of the University of Maryland and University of Southern California, he has been leading tours for Free Tours by Foot since 2015.
Updated: August 3rd, 2023
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