The 12 Most Beautiful Hostels to Book in the United States
Hostels can have a reputation for being something akin to a college dorm, but these hostels are even giving nice hotels a run for their money.
Hostels, you either love them or loathe them. Many think of them as the preferred accommodation for drunken gap year students or unkempt vagabonds. A hostel is not typically where travelers seeking impeccable design, luxury amenities, and a comfortable night of sleep gravitate. But the world of hostels is rapidly changing. Shake off your preconceived notions of rickety metal bunks, dilapidated facilities, and disheveled common areas reminiscent of college dorm rooms, and feast your eyes upon the future of hostels. This collection of properties around the United States has directed their attention to aesthetics. Rivaling top hotels with their comfort and design, they also help create an elevated experience in your destination. With accommodations offering scenic rooftop pools, James Beard Finalist on-site restaurants, and free tours to help you get to know the city from a local perspective, you might never stay in cheap chain hotels again.
Freehand Los Angeles
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
On a scorching hot L.A. summer day, you can dip into a refreshing rooftop pool while overlooking the cotton-candy sunset illuminating the skyscrapers of Downtown Los Angeles. Then perhaps, grab a bite to eat at The Broken Shaker, a critically acclaimed James Beard Award Finalist restaurant—all without leaving your hostel.
Freehand L.A. is exactly the swanky trend-setting accommodation you would expect to find in the home of Hollywood. The detail-oriented design just sings high-end hotel with elegant wood fixtures and bright pops of color. If you aren’t feeling like socializing in their dorm-style rooms, you can stay in their private suites complete with rain showers and surround sound Bluetooth speakers.
HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel
WHERE: San Francisco, California
Sandwiched somewhere between a cozy co-working cafe and a utilitarian hostel, this well-kept property has loads to offer guests. For starters, it’s practically next door to the Fisherman’s Wharf and Marina District—San Fran’s most popular area. It also offers spectacular views of the two most popular tourist attractions, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. On blustery rain-drenched days, you can curl up by their old-school fireplace or enjoy a movie in their communal theater. It also wouldn’t be a true San Francisco experience without bike tours and artfully crafted coffee with environmentally-friendly beans. Fortunately, Hostelling International SF Fisherman’s Wharf offers both.
WHERE: Denver, Colorado
This opulent vintage 4,000-square-foot mansion is draped in red velvet, rich brown leather, and dark wood. While the decor inside is decidedly retro, outside, the hostel transforms into traditional woodsy Colorado. Guests can gather around a fire pit to roast s’mores in the crisp evening air or soak in the hot tub after a long day of exploring Denver’s iconic music and arts district.
WHERE: Austin, Texas
Built back in 1885, this building is indeed the oldest standing firehouse in Austin. Being situated just steps from iconic 6th Street, also known as the pinnacle of Austin’s nightlife scene, this is a modern space with just a dollop of traditional cowboy Texas decor. But it’s really the prohibition-style speakeasy cocktail lounge that sets the Firehouse Hostel apart from the rest. Enjoy its eclectic musical offerings and local brews before retiring to your comfortable dorm or hitting the town. For the morning after, indulge in the free breakfast to cure your Texas-sized hangover.
The Crash Pad: An Uncommon Hostel
WHERE: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Whether you’re bunked up in their modern utilitarian dorms or living large in the immaculate Hemingway Suite—The Crash Pad is all about adventure. The owners want you out there seizing every moment of your vacation hiking, climbing, and biking in the Chattanooga wilderness and then recuperating at their eco-friendly home away from home. The uniquely designed building is made almost entirely from reclaimed wood more than 100 years old. It’s also designed with the environment in mind, equipped with solar power, low-flow showers, and tons of outdoor green space, just in case you don’t want to wander that far from “home.”
Chicago Getaway Hostel
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
Chicago Getaway has marketed itself as a hostel “for the modern wanderluster.” That means eco-friendly, immersed in a local neighborhood, and well-caffeinated thanks to their free coffee bar. And while they prioritize affordability, they didn’t scrimp on the decadent design. The classically old-school Chicago red-brick building holds a smartly decorated community room with cozy leather couches and wooden tables bathed in lots of natural light. Venture out into Lincoln Park, an iconic Chicago neighborhood, or simply sip coffee out back in the small garden patio.
WHERE: Denver, Colorado
Hostel Fish is a brothel-turned-hostel in the heart of Denver and delivers everything a weary traveler could want—from squeaky clean rooms, a speakeasy-style bar (with a free drink for guests), and a communal atmosphere. Although the dorm crowd here still skews young and backpacker-ish, the private rooms are quiet and sophisticated enough for any kind of traveler. The hostel also offers daily free events like informative city walking tours, yoga, comedy, movies, and Motown nights.
Ryan Dearth at Dearth Photography
WHERE: Miami, Florida
Another stay, another award-winning restaurant and bar. Savor the sunshine from the cool waters of the Generator Hostel’s back-patio pool or avoid the heat in their lovely natural sunroom. Navy and terracotta accents complement the green foliage creating a retro American glamour design with a pinch of Cuban flair. The on-site Tiki Bar will keep you plenty occupied, but for those that do want to eventually venture outdoors, free bike rentals and beach towels are available for use and the beach itself is only a short walk away.
WHERE: Santa Barbara, California
Formerly The Wayfarer, The Waterman was purchased and rebranded in recent years. Because The Waterman sits on Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail in the newly-trendy Funk Zone neighborhood, it allows guests easy access to local wine cellars, premiere art galleries, and the best local eats—all just a quick jaunt from the beach. But perhaps the best part is, you’ll be able to sleep easy in comfy and clean rooms, enjoy communal dinners, and take the free bikes for a spin around town.
Photo courtesy of The Waterman/Visit Santa Barbara
WHERE: Charleston, South Carolina
Step inside this Southern mansion and enjoy some of that famed hospitality. From the rocking chairs on the front porch to the warm-wooded kitchen, this hostel’s small personal touches make you feel right at home. Positioned right in the historic district of old Charleston, the NotSo Hostel is surrounded by brick buildings, residential streets, and artisan shops selling quality goods, rather than the tourist trap markets of Main Street. You can even rent a bicycle and explore the Cannonborough/Elliotborough like a local.
WHERE: Portland, Oregon
KEX Portland is a Nordic chain hotel/hostel that has successfully captured the very essence of Portland with its craft beer, leafy plants, and leathery libraries, while still maintaining the simple elegance of Icelandic utilitarian design. Channel your inner Oregon hipster in this polished property, complete with a brick-covered outdoor patio and rooftop bar, before walking yourself around the corner to the Saturday Farmer’s Market for a locally-sourced cup of joe. Choose between spacious 4-bed dorms, social 16-bed rooms, or luxurious privates.
WHERE: Breckenridge, Colorado
If you’ve ever found yourself singing along to John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High , The Bivvi might be the hostel for you. Travelers poised for outdoor adventure will find this quaint mountain cabin outfitted to their liking. The list of activities offered here is far too long to list, with everything from skiing and snowboarding to kayaking, rock-climbing, and sailing on the roster. Wake up early for a complimentary pancake breakfast or linger around the antler-embellished lodge for $2 beers at Happy Hour. Not only will you have a cozy cabin stay, but you’ll likely meet some fellow outdoor enthusiasts along the way.