• Green Footprints: San Francisco

    While you’re traveling in San Francisco, it may seem like a daunting task to discover all the city’s amazing offerings and do so with the greenest footprints possible – but you’ve taken the right first step by choosing to stay at a HI USA hostel! Each of our San Francisco locations are accessible by bus, BART and bike whether you’re looking to cover the iconic sights or discover some local gems, and of course, it’s incredibly easy to get around on foot. Here’s how to take green footprints while experiencing the magic of San Francisco.

    History Buffs

    girl walking through alley with street art

    ‘Diverse’ is a word that comes to mind when thinking about San Francisco’s history, and you can learn all about it at the wealth of museums that are sprinkled all over the city. From HI SF Downtown hostel, take one of San Francisco’s most famed icons, the Powell-Hyde cable car, to the nerve center of the city trams – the Cable Car Museum. Here you’ll find exhibits and examples of old cars and see the massive winding wheels with the actual cables that pull the cars around today. From there, it’s a 5-minute walk to the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, which presents fascinating displays of the social, cultural and political contributions of Chinese people in America. If you’re staying at HI SF Fisherman’s Wharf, be sure to visit the free art and history museums in Fort Mason.

    Pro tip: Keep an ear out for free museum days across the city on select days (usually in the first week of the month).

    Green fact: San Francisco’s AT&T Park is the first major league ballpark in the country to receive LEED certification.


    3 plates of San Francisco food on table

    Hungry? You’re simply spoiled for choice when it comes to belly-filling options around the city, and since there’s a ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene packaging, you don’t have to worry about eating ethically. Off the Grid’s food trucks are a good way to sample some of San Francisco’s finest, whether it’s at the Friday night shindig in Fort Mason, or on Market Street at the Wednesday Heart of the City Farmer’s Market. The farmer operated affair is also a good place to pick up seasonal fruits and veggies to prepare back at the hostel. HI SF City Center hostel is in San Francisco’s Little Saigon, so you can fill up on affordable Vietnamese food from the local eateries, while it’s also pretty much mandatory to try a Mission burrito during your visit. You can find these at various taquerias in the colorful neighborhood, or try one during the hostels’ walking tour of the Mission.

    Pro tip: Vegan? You can still enjoy authentic Mexican fare at the Mission’s Gracias Madre restaurant.

    Green fact: Lamb, beef, pork and cheese generate the most greenhouse gases. Eating one pound of beef is like driving 142 miles in a car while one pound of lamb is 206 miles!

    The Great Outdoors

    travelers admiring San Francisco skyline

    If you’re looking to get in touch with nature you can do some hiking in the gorgeous Golden Gate Park. From HI SF Downtown, take the 5 MUNI bus, which stops on the eastern end of the park, and make your way along the trails. Key stops include the sculpture garden at the de Young museum; the California Academy of Science, which is one of the greenest museums in the world, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden with more than 8,000 different plants from around the globe. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, walk 5 minutes from HI SF Fisherman’s Wharf to Aquatic Park and go swimming with the locals.

    Pro tip: The water temperature in Aquatic Park ranges from the low to high 50s year round, so a wetsuit isn’t a bad idea!

    Green fact: San Francisco was the first city in the US to universally require separation of food waste and compostables. Everyday an average of 1.7 pounds of organic material per SF resident is collected and turned into Nature’s fertilizer, compost!

    A (sort of) San Francisco Experience

    view of Marin Headlands National Park

    The #76x Muni bus runs on weekends from downtown San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the Marin Headlands National Park, which many locals use as an easy weekend escape to beautiful scenery and great beaches. The bus makes stops at the scenic overlook where all those pretty postcard pictures of the famous bridge are taken, and loops to the idyllic Rodeo Beach. You can choose to do a day trip up to the headlands, or even better, spend the night at HI Marin Headlands hostel and make the most of it!

    Pro tip: While you’re in the headlands, be sure to check out the Marine Mammal Center, part museum, part hospital for seals and sea lions.

    Green fact: The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which the Marin Headlands is part of, contains more endangered species than any other national park in the continental U.S.

    Social Impactors

    Add some social good to your stay by getting involved with a volunteer project. HI SF City Center has a partnership with GLIDE, a local organization that serves free meals and provides various housing and medical services to San Francisco’s needy. Hostel guests can get involved by spending a few hours serving meals at GLIDE’s kitchen, or by simply joining in HI SF City Center’s community dinners where all donations go directly to the organization.

    Bonus Activities for HI San Francisco Hostels Guests

    Chinatown tour in San Francisco

    Staying at any of HI USA’s San Francisco hostels means that you get a culturally rich, eco-friendly and social visit. Join the many free activities and walking tours offered by hostel staff and volunteers, from Chinatown and San Francisco’s famous hills to community meals and bike tours, you have the chance to experience it all with other eager guests.

    Pro tip: Break the ice with fellow travelers by asking the two most asked questions at a hostel: “Where are you from?” and “where are you going next?”

    Book your stay at HI San Francisco hostels.

    This is part of the HI USA Green Footprints series, offering fun, unique ideas for sustainable travel. Click here for more Green Footprints destinations.