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: The Best Hostels in Santa Cruz, California
- Overall Best Hostel in Santa Cruz – HI-Santa Cruz Hostel
- Best Hostel for Solo Travelers in Santa Cruz – Sharon’s BnB
- Best Cheap Hostel in Santa Cruz – Ed’s BnB
- Best Hostel for Couples in Santa Cruz – Donna’s BnB
- Best Hostel for Digital Nomads in Santa Cruz – Judy & Brian’s BnB
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!
Best Overall Hostel in Santa Cruz- HI-Santa Cruz Hostel
- Shared Kitchen
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!
Best Hostel for Solo Travelers in Santa Cruz – Sharon’s BnB
- Great Views
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!
Best Cheap Hostel in Santa Cruz – Ed’s BnB
- Located in Felton
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!
Best Hostel for Couples in Santa Cruz – Donna’s BnB
- Living Room
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!
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads in Santa Cruz – Judy & Brian’s BnB
- Living Room
- Private Entrance
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 explore 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!
Psst! Heading to a hostel? Don’t forget to pack a padlock! It’s well worth having one so you can secure your locker and protect your stuff!
More of the Best Hostels in Santa Cruz
- Swimming Pool
- Near Downtown Santa Cruz
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!
Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle.
The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.
Read our full review of the GRAYL GEOPRESS!
- Dining Room
- Central Location
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 California Hostel
Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from us, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straight forward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art we have perfected over many years.
Check out our definitive Hostel Packing list for our top 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!
FAQ about Hostels in Santa Cruz, California
Here are some questions backpackers ask about hostels in Santa Cruz, California.
Travel Safety Tips for Santa Cruz
And don’t forget Travel Insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
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!
Do you own or run a kick ass hostel? Want to be featured in this list? Get in touch at [email protected]
Find out how YOU can support the site.
We’re a big site with a big team and this job isn’t always easy. But we do it because we love it – we love providing epic and free content. We love the knowledge that our content keeps you adventuring. We don’t ask for money, but if you’d like to find out how you can help the site in more organic ways, click the button below.
Thank you for your support 🙂
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!