You don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy all the beauty and relaxation of Santa Cruz. Seeing just one picture of the golden sand beaches and blue waters of the California paradise is more than enough to have you packing your bags and ready to hop on the next flight to the west coast!

With a unique culture found on its boardwalk, a history still preserved in its museums and amusement parks, and a beach which will have you never wanting to get up from under your parasail, this is one surf town which you could see yourself moving into for good!

The beaches alone will have you dreaming of laying out on the coast, but once you see what hostels are available in Santa Cruz, you may begin to get some second thoughts. With little to no hostels in the city and guesthouses costing an arm and a leg, is this tropical oasis not a backpacker-friendly destination?

Don’t strike Santa Cruz from your itinerary just yet. We put together this list of all the best hostels in Santa Cruz California so you can book with confidence that you will be staying in only the best of what this beach town has to offer!

Slip-on your flip-flops and get ready to hit the beach! You Santa Cruz adventure is just a few clicks away!

Quick Answer: Best Hostels in Santa Cruz

Best Hostels in Sta Cruz California

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The Best Hostels in Santa Cruz

Wax your surfboards and let’s take a dive into our list of all the top hostels in Santa Cruz! Each one of these stays is a little different from the last, so keep your eyes open for that one hostel or guesthouse that best fits how you like to travel!

Have Fun at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk

HI-Santa Cruz Hostel – Best Overall Hostel in Santa Cruz

HI-Santa Cruz Hostel best hostel in santa cruz
HI-Santa Cruz Hostel is our pick for best overall hostel in Santa Cruz

As one of the only backpacker’s hostels in Santa Cruz, HI Santa Cruz Hostel packs quite a punch for everything they offer! You will not be staying in a basic concrete building at this hostel, but rather in a renovated victorian style house! With its lush garden and bright lounges, you can not help but feel right at home at HI Santa Cruz! Backpacking through America is not cheap, but one of the best ways to save money is by cooking for yourself at the onsite kitchen! Putting you just a few steps away from the Beach Boardwalk, you could not ask for a better place to call home in Santa Cruz!

Sharon’s BnB – Best Hostel for Solo Travelers in Santa Cruz

Sharon's BnB best hostel in santa cruz
Sharon’s BnB is our pick for best hostel for solo travelers in Santa Cruz

Although you won’t exactly get a hostel’s level of social interaction at this Bed and Breakfast, all the guests staying at this luxury yet budget-friendly mountain home will find ample room to kick back and relax on the outdoor terrace and spacious living room! With views looking out over the Santa Cruz Mountains and the ocean in the distance, this BnB makes for the perfect stay for those wanting to live in peace and quiet and soak in all of the beauty of California! Complete with a kitchen, cozy rooms, and homey vibes, this is one BnB that you will never want to check out of!

Ed’s BnB – Best Cheap Hostel in Santa Cruz

Ed's BnB best hostel in santa cruz
Ed’s BnB is our pick for best cheap hostel in Santa Cruz

Finding the cheapest hostel in Santa Cruz is not easy, lucky for you Ed’s BnB will not only have you getting a budget private room for the same price as a dorm room, but you will also be staying in a home nestled right into the Santa Cruz Mountains! With redwood trees, great views of the city, and tons of hiking trails, you won’t have to wander too far to find adventure! If you are wanting to take a break from the mountains and hit up the beach, you will find that a bus stop is waiting just a few minutes away from your door and will take you from the gorgeous forests down to the golden sand beaches! For a price no other hostel or guesthouse can beat, this BnB will be your new home away from home!

Is This the Best Backpack EVER???
Aether Backpack

We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

Want more deetz on why these packs are so damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

View on Osprey View on REI

Donna’s BnB – Best Hostel for Couples in Santa Cruz

Donnas BnB best hostels in santa cruz california
Donna’s BnB is our pick for best hostel for couples in Santa Cruz

The wonderful thing about Santa Cruz is that you will always have your choice of hitting up the beach or escaping the crowds by heading up to the mountains. This BnB will have you staying right in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains right by the famous redwood trees! Putting you just a few minutes away from the Nisene Marks Park and Aptos Village, you could not ask for a better location! What will really make you fall in love with this BnB is the cozy room, spacious living room, garden, and a kitchen perfect for saving some money and cooking for yourself!

Judy & Brian’s BnB – Best Hostel for Digital Nomads in Santa Cruz

Judy and Brians BnB best hostels in santa cruz california
Judy & Brian’s BnB is our pick for best hostel for digital nomads in Santa Cruz

If you need a place to call home for a few days and get some peace and quiet to catch up on some writing and editing, this BnB will be your perfect base for both exploring all the sites of Santa Cruz and getting down to work! Putting you right next to the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park, you will find that there are tons of hikes and things to do in Santa Cruz waiting right outside your door! If you are a digital nomad and are looking to catch up on some much-needed work, you will find that besides your spacious room, you can also spread out on to the terrace and the living room!

Travel with peace of mind. Travel WITH a security belt.
Active Roots Security Belt

Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

It looks exactly like a normal belt except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)

Hide Yo’ Money!

More of the Best Hostels in Santa Cruz

The Islander Motel

Islander Motel best hostels in santa cruz california
Islander Motel

If you are looking to be close to all the action, The Islander Motel is that one stay close to downtown Santa Cruz! Not only will you be minutes away from all the best restaurants and bars in town, but you will also be right next to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk! This budget hotel will reel you in with the cheap rooms, but what will really have you sold on The Islander Motel is the onsite swimming pool and even breakfast served every morning to get the day started off right! For all you beach bums out there, The Islander Motel is one of the closest budget hotels in Santa Cruz you can find to taking a dip in the water every day!

Hitching Post Studios Inn

Hitching Post Studios Inn best hostels in santa cruz california
Hitching Post Studios Inn

As far as budget hotels go in Santa Cruz, the Hitching Post Studios Inn ditches all of the cliche motel art and puts you up in a boutique-style room for a fraction of the price of the other hotels in town! Not only will you be calling this stylish rooms home while in Santa Cruz, but you will also be staying right smack in the middle of the downtown, right by the Art History Museum and all the restaurants off of Pacific Avenue! Top it off with an onsite dining room and even a patio to hang out on, you can’t find a cheaper stay in Santa Cruz than the Hitching Post!

What to Pack for your Santa Cruz Hostel

Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from me, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straightforward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art I have perfected over many years.

Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
Keep your laundry organized and stink free

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Make Some New Buddies…
Make Some New Buddies…

Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

Check out my definitive Hostel Packing list for even more top hostel packing tips!

Why you should travel to Santa Cruz

From your classic backpacker’s hostels to homey BnBs, you have a variety of different stays to choose from when you come to Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, you will not have a long list of youth hostels in Santa Cruz, but that doesn’t mean budget travelers can’t also enjoy the beaches of this California dream!

If you are still a bit unsure about where to stay in Santa Cruz we totally understand. As a backpacker traveling on a shoestring, the best place for you would be HI-Santa Cruz Hostel, our pick for the best hostel in Santa Cruz!

HI-Santa Cruz Hostel best hostel in sta. cruz california

FAQ about Hostels in Santa Cruz, California

Here are some questions backpackers ask about hostels in Santa Cruz, California.

How much does a hostel cost in Santa Cruz?

While there aren’t much hostels in the area, an average dorm can cost $83 per night. Meanwhile a budget hotel can costs around $175 per stay.

What are the best hostels in Santa Cruz for couples?

My ideal hostel for couples is Hitching Post Studios Inn. It’s located right at the downtown where various cafes and parks are located. Definitely a great place to stroll around.

What are the best hostels in Santa Cruz near the airport?

The nearest airport to Santa Cruz, California is in San Jose which is an hour ride. I highly recommend Hi-Santa Cruz Hostel as the best place in the area.

Travel Safety Tips for Santa Cruz

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Over to you

Everything from the historic boardwalk to the sunny golden beaches will have you experiencing Santa Cruz to the fullest! With coastal hikes that will take you to some unique naturally formed bridges and watching the local surfers catch a wave, Santa Cruz is literally a paradise on earth where you will continually find no things to do and discover! So grab your towel and find a quiet place to lay out on the beach, relaxing is all part of the game in sunny Santa Cruz!

As many tourists as Santa Cruz brings in with its breathtaking beaches and tranquil waters, you would think that the city would have more backpackers hostels. But just because there are not many dorm rooms along the beach just means that you will have to pick one of the homey BnBs and guesthouses found in Santa Cruz!

Oh, if you are headed to Cali, the check out our California Airbnb post to check out some seriously impressive pads.

We would love to hear about your trip to Santa Cruz California! Are there any great backpackers hostels we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below!

Looking for more info on travelling to Santa Cruz and the USA?