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3 women looking at the ocean at Point Montara Lighthouse

5 Coastal Hostels for Northern California Adventures

Know before you go: Want to visit the places recommended in this article? With local regulations changing frequently, it’s a good idea to check the web site of any attraction or business to make sure it’s open before you go. 

Northern California’s wind-swept coastline, gorgeous national parks, and inherent spirit of adventure make it a destination unlike any other. And whether you’re a visitor wanting to explore the area beyond San Francisco, or a local looking for an easy backyard escape, NorCal has some amazing options. Check out HI USA’s collection of hostels up and down the Northern California coast to make your next getaway easy, affordable, and unforgettable.

1. To unplug and unwind: HI Point Reyes hostel

Tule elk in Point Reyes

The only accommodation in the stunning Point Reyes National Seashore, HI Point Reyes hostel feels like a secret, secluded getaway. But sitting about 90 minutes north of San Francisco and just a quick drive from foodie favorite town Point Reyes Station, it’s hardly isolated. The park itself is packed with wildlife, including a tule elk population and some of the best bird-watching in the country, plus plentiful hiking and miles of cliff-backed beaches. The hostel is a Wi-Fi- and cell-signal-free zone, so whether you’re bunking up in a spacious dorm room or keeping it low-key in a private room, you’re sure to find some quiet and relaxation.

2. To escape the city: HI Marin Headlands hostel

view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands

Set in a national park just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, HI Marin Headlands hostel still feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a quick drive (or bus ride on summer weekends) across the bridge to the park, where you’ll find endless hiking trails, pristine beaches, and the kind of city skyline and bridge views that beg to be Instagrammed. Inside the park, the hostel offers guests a quiet retreat in historic buildings, with both dorm beds and private rooms for all types of travelers.

3 & 4. To sight-see from your room: HI Point Montara and HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse hostels

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

If you’ve ever wanted sleep in the shadow of a lighthouse or watch the ocean crashing from your bedroom window, HI Point Montara Lighthouse hostel and HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse hostel are must-visits. About 30 minutes and 60 minutes south of San Francisco, respectively, both hostels are located on the grounds of classic lighthouses, with easy beach access and endless photo ops. Near the adorable towns of Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, HI Point Montara offers a relaxing native plant garden and an on-site espresso bar. A bit further south, near Pescadero and Santa Cruz, HI Pigeon Point is famous for its on-site tide pools and cliff-side hot tub.

5. To stay in the city: HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf hostel

Fort Mason in San Francisco

If you’ve ever wanted to visit San Francisco, but could do without the traffic, tall buildings, and general hustle and bustle, HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf hostel is the perfect solution. Set in waterfront Fort Mason, a national park, this hostel gives you easy access to views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, and you’ll find walking and biking paths just outside the door for exploring the shores of the San Francisco Bay. At this just-off-the-beaten-path hostel, you’re more likely to hear a fog horn than a car horn, but you’ll still be within easy bus- or taxi-riding distance from all the city’s downtown attractions.