It’s no secret that Northern California is fantastic. It has an incredible coastline, redwood trees, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Spanning from Big Sur up north to Humboldt country, there’s so much for excited travelers to discover. Each county is different from the next, making it the ultimate place to travel. However, finding a cheap hostel to stay in can be quite a hassle. Unlike hotels, the number of quality hostels in Northern CA is pretty limited, and not every city in Northern California has hostels. But if you want to go there and keep your budget in check, we’re here to help! We’ve collected some of the top hostels that guarantee you a memorable trip without emptying your wallet, so why don’t you give our list a look?
Table of contents
- WHOLE Family – Rosemont
- Lincoln Victorian
- WHOLE Family – WholeVille
- Green Tortoise Hostel
- WHOLE Family – Wholestyl
- WHOLE Family – Wolfgram
- Amsterdam Hostel
- Adelaide Hostel
- HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel
- Samesun San Francisco
- HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel
- Where to Stay in Northern California
- Recommended Restaurants / Bars in Northern California
- Recommended Activities in Northern California
WHOLE Family – Rosemont
The first hostel on this list is the WHOLE Family – Rosemont. Unlike the best hotels with pools in Sacramento, this hostel has no fancy amenities. However, it provides clean, comfortable rooms with air conditioning and a shared bathroom at a low price. There are several rooms to choose from when it comes to room selections. If you want a guaranteed good night’s sleep without hearing any snoring, you can sleep in the Single Room. Some of them even come with an en suite bathroom. But if you want to save some money and are used to sleeping with others, you can sleep in the mixed dormitory rooms instead! Apart from that, we also love the shared kitchen. It’s big and has all the essential appliances you need.
While this simple and affordable hostel doesn’t boast any fancy amenities, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! Get inside your car and drive to some of the nearby attractions! They include California State Capitol and Museum, Sacramento Zoo, Crocker Art Museum, and many more. What’s more, you can park your car at the hostel for free! The only downside is that this hostel doesn’t offer any Wi-Fi, which can be a bummer for kids or social media addicts.
If you love lakes and museums, no other hostels in Northern CA can beat the Lincoln Victorian. Set in Oakland, this hostel allows you to be surrounded by everything you love. It’s only a short walk away from the Grand Lake Teather, Lake Merritt, Lakeside Park and Garden Center, Oakland Museum of California, Paramount Theater, and plenty more! Even the Oakland International Airport is only a five-minute drive away! Oh, have we told you that there are tons of local restaurants and bars near the hostel?
Besides the hostel’s location, we also love its amenities. Free Wi-Fi is available in each room, so you can update your socials anytime you want. Apart from that, there’s also a shared lounge, garden, terrace, and a shared kitchen, allowing you to easily make friends with fellow travelers. As with other hostels in Northern CA, this hostel has mixed dormitory rooms with comfy bunk beds. But if you’re traveling with your partner or significant other, you can get the Deluxe Room with a large double bed instead!
WHOLE Family – WholeVille
Here we have another WHOLE Family hostel. Introducing you to the WHOLE Family – WholeVille, one of the best hostels in Northern CA. If you decide to stay in the cozy Sacramento, you should consider spending the nights at this hostel. Featuring a bar, shared lounge, garden, and free Wi-Fi, this hostel will make sure you’ll never have a bad day during your stay. Every room is equipped with a patio, shared bathroom, hairdryer, and bed linen at this hostel. Apart from the mixed dormitory rooms, there are also single rooms and twin rooms that cost a tiny bit more.
As with most hostels in Northern CA, this one also features a shared kitchen. There, you can cook your delicious breakfast before starting the day. Here, you can park your vehicle for free. Apart from that, the staff is super friendly and helpful too! You can ask them if you need some help. There are also on-site activities that you can enjoy, such as live music and movie nights. If you want to explore the nearby attractions, we recommend visiting the Sacramento Zoo, Fox & Goose Public House, and Crocker Art Museum. All of them are only a few minutes’ drive away!
Green Tortoise Hostel
The Green Tortoise Hostel is a family-run hostel that holds free communal dinners three times each week, perfect for getting to know your fellow travelers over a good feed. Speaking of which, there’s also a shared kitchen where you can whip up your culinary masterpieces too! Breakfast is also included each morning to knock any hangovers into touch. Apart from free food, there’s also free Wi-Fi, free luggage storage, a free map, and, best of all, a free sauna! This San Francisco hostel sure knows how to pamper guests without breaking their wallets.
Set in the historic North Beach, this hostel is only a few steps to the city’s favorite attractions like Chinatown and Little Italy. It’s also just a quick walk away to Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. You can get comfortable in the funky dorm or cozy private room after participating in the hostel’s nightly activity, such as Pub Crawl or Beer Olympics. If you have the time, you can also check out the tours offered by the hostel at the front desk. They’re seriously worth joining!
WHOLE Family – Wholestyl
Indeed, the WHOLE Family – Wholestyl isn’t part of the most popular hostels in Northern CA, but there are many reasons why those who have stayed here have nothing but good things to say about it! First, many people love the laid-back feel at the hostel’s area. Set in Southeastern Sacramento, the area’s natural beauty can be seen at Cesar Chavez Park and Discovery Park, while Memorial Auditorium and California State Railroad Museum are cultural highlights. You’ll never be bored when you spend your nights at this hostel. Even better, free public parking is available and there’s no reservation needed!
Apart from the location, we also fancy this hostel’s garden! You can spend your morning there with your travel buddies while enjoying the breakfast that you make at the fully-equipped shared kitchen. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind sharing the room with another traveler, we highly recommend the mixed dormitory room! It boasts one bunk bed, which is comfy, and you’ll have plenty of space to put your stuff. Meanwhile, those who prefer some privacy can book the Standard Twin Room or Double Twin Room instead!
WHOLE Family – Wolfgram
Also situated in Sacramento, the WHOLE Family – Wolfgram is one of the most affordable hostels in Northern CA that won’t let you down. Nearby top attractions like the Sacramento Zoo, Fox & Goose Public House, as well as the California State Capitol and Museum are all under 8 miles away. If you travel by car, you can arrive at those destinations before you finish listening to your favorite album! Speaking of which, free public parking is also available on-site, which is a big plus. However, note that a reservation is needed.
This accommodation features a shared kitchen as well as a shared lounge for guests, which are the perfect places for you to make some new friends! Of course, free Wi-Fi is available too. There are several types for you to choose from when it comes to the guestrooms. There are mixed dormitory rooms with bunk beds to house up to four travelers. In case you’re wondering, there aren’t any gender-specific dorm rooms here. But if you want some space or privacy, we recommend booking the hostel’s single room instead! It comes in three options: Standard Single Room, Economy Single Room, and Large Single Room.
Countless travelers have stayed at the Amsterdam Hostel. So, what’s so great about it? This beautiful property features abundant common space great for meeting other travelers and group gatherings. One of our favorite amenities is the shared kitchen and dining area, where you can cook a delicious meal and share it with other fellow travelers. This hostel also boasts a spacious terrace, a mini cinema, and an on-site internet cafe to make sure you enjoy your stay. Aside from that, there are also heaps of handy freebies, including Wi-Fi, round-the-clock tea and coffee, as well as luggage storage.
With plenty of opportunities to work, rest and play, this is arguably among the best hostels in Northern CA for digital nomads. Once you’ve hit those deadlines, feel free to grab the free city map and hop on a rented bike to explore San Francisco! This hostel is only three blocks off Union Square, San Francisco’s central location and home to great shopping, famous restaurants and bars, and many of the city’s best sights. Also, don’t forget to come back on time to join the pub crawl!
The Adelaide Hostel is one of the quieter and more laid-back hostels in Northern CA. Set in San Francisco, this hostel is on a side street just two blocks from the city center. That way, you can get the convenience of being centrally located without all the noise. On top of that, the staff here are fantastic too, and they can help you make the most of your trip. You can ask them about tours, bike rentals, and basically whatever you want. Want to visit Union Square? Perfect! This hostel is only a five-minute walk from it! Other nearby attractions include Geary Theatre, San Francisco Playhouse, Oracle Park, Pier 39, Golden Gate Bridge, and more.
This hostel is a cozy haven for weary travelers that love freebies. By spending the nights here, you’ll have complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and free luggage storage. What a deal! There are also free meals throughout the week, so connecting with other travelers is easy. If you want to cook your favorite meal, you can do it in the fully-equipped kitchen. The bedroom is pretty spacious too, and the bed is surprisingly comfy. There are privacy curtains, so you can get a decent night’s sleep, something that we highly appreciate.
HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel
Deemed as one of the best hostels in Northern CA, this hostel is sure going to give you a memorable trip. The HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel is surrounded by National Park and San Francisco Bay on the other. Step outside of the hostel, and you’ll be able to take in breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is one of the top tourist attractions in the US. Then, you can take an easy stroll to nearby Pier 39 or the posh Marina district. To explore the rest of San Francisco, simply hop on a MUNI bus. Or, you can join in on free or cheap hostel activities like pub crawls, walking tours, and museum visits!
Too tired to leave the hotel? No problem! Here, you can relax on the sun deck, watch a movie in the theater-style cinema room, or curl up in front of the gas stove in its cozy communal lounge. Besides that, this hostel also offers complimentary continental breakfast, including organic fruit and fair-trade coffee at the on-site Cafe Franco. Later in the day, it serves homemade, organic lunch and dinner specials. If you prefer to cook your meals, a nearby supermarket makes it easy to take advantage of the hostel’s shared kitchen. Even better, the parking here is free!
Samesun San Francisco
You can’t talk about the best hostels in Northern CA without mentioning the vibrant Samesun San Francisco! This amazing hostel is only a short walk away from Fisherman’s Wharf. This means you can have fun sampling some world-famous sourdough bread and fresh seafood. Then, hop on a cable car to Union Square to find some souvenirs for your pals. After that, walk back through Chinatown, visiting the home of the fortune cookie and continuing into North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy, and the home of the Beat Generation. Staying at this two-star hostel means you’ll never run out of exciting things to do in San Francisco.
Back to the hostel, it boasts spacious dorm rooms as well as private rooms. They all feature large en suite bathrooms, and many of them offer balconies. There, you can start your morning enjoying the sun. Each room has an air conditioner for your comfort, and we love how plush the bed is. Of course, free Wi-Fi is available on-site so that you can stay in touch with your close friends. Want to make new friends? Grab some drinks from the vending machine and socialize at the shared lounge area! Other notable amenities include a 24-hour front desk and luggage storage.
HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel
Our number one pick is none other than the HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel! Perfect for solo travelers, this hostel offers both single-gender dorms and mixed rooms. It’s housed in a renovated 1900s hotel building and has retained much of the impressive grandeur. We love this accommodation compared to other hostels in Northern CA because it offers complimentary breakfast, which is superb for budget travelers! Apart from that, there are also discounted airport shuttles and discounted activities such as pub crawls and walking tours. That way, you can enjoy San Francisco without making yourself broke!
Furthermore, each spacious room in this San Francisco hostel has large windows and is decorated in cool tones and modern furnishings. The bed is surprisingly comfy, and there’s a lot of storage space so you can lock your stuff up and keep it safe at all times. Even better, the bunk beds don’t squeak! Some rooms even have an en suite bathroom! Love to cook? You’ll be thrilled to know that there’s a fully-equipped shared kitchen too! Of course, free Wi-Fi is available on-site, and laundrette is also present.
Where to Stay in Northern California
Northern California is full of gems. Apart from the best Northern California camping sites, there are also many cities that budget travelers like you might love. That said, you should consider staying in Sacramento. It holds great importance in California as the state’s capital, but it also holds some of the most amazing landscapes, historic sites, and even some quirky details not found anywhere else. If you love arts, beautiful sceneries, and food, spending your nights in Sacramento is a good call.
An hour and a half away from Sacramento is San Francisco. Famous for its Golden Gate Bridge, this stunning city is an energetic place bursting with history and tons of yummy food. Apart from that, it also has tons of breathtaking sceneries and architecture. While the food and hotels in San Francisco can be costly, there are also lots of affordable and high-quality hostels that you can find.
Lastly, you might want to stay in Oakland, the fifth-largest city by population in Northern California. Here, there are a few nice hostels that might suit you. Oakland isn’t only home to a magnificent lake, but also many public performances by the Oakland Symphony Orchestra and the Oakland Civic Ballet. Compared to San Francisco and Sacramento, Oakland is more diverse in food, live entertainment, subcultures, and even better, it’s more affordable.
Recommended Restaurants / Bars in Northern California
- Cafeteria 15L – Affordable, modernized American comfort food is the signature of this restaurant. This rustic chic eatery in Sacramento with two patios is open for lunch, dinner, and late-night dining, all showcasing home-style cooking that won’t break the bank. For smaller appetites, consider sharing small plates such as mac and cheese, buttermilk-fried chicken strips, and shrimp haystacks.
- The Kingfish Pub & Cafe – When in Oakland, you should stop by this place. Open everyday, you can save a lot of money here. The beer is good, and it’s cheap! Plus, you’ll get free popcorn, which is a nice bonus. Oh, there’s shuffleboard too! This is the best place for you and your friends to chillax in without spending a lot.
- Hot Sauce & Panko – This popular wing-slinger is a takeout and delivery-only restaurant, with a retail shop selling hot sauce for when you pick of your wings. These are some of the most flavorful wings in town, available in a range of internationally-inspired sweet, savory, and spicy varieties.
Recommended Activities in Northern California
- Sacramento Historic River Cruise – Spend your afternoon on this affordable, one-hour cruise! Learn about the legendary past of California’s capital city, from the first days of the Gold Rush to the booming metropolis that’s here today.
- San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise – Sail along San Francisco’s breathtaking waterfront, under the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, and around notorious Alcatraz Island. You’ll also have the chance to discover the city’s history via an award-winning audio commentary!
- Oakland Scavenger Hunt: Oakland Charms – Join this tour and you’ll have the chance to walk to all the best landmarks and hidden gems in Oakland. Work together with your team to answer trivia questions and solve challenges!