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!
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!
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. Check out our full review here for more convincing.
– 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… Here are some other items you might not have thought to pack.
1. TRTL Travel Pillow: Long flights and bus rides are quite uncomfortable (most obvious statement of the day). Most travel pillows… Well, you know how they are. TRTL travel pillow is different. I mean, look at it! It’ll cuddle you to sleep every ride and it does a pretty damn good job of supporting your neck so you don’t get that stiffness or legendary popping when you stir.
2. Noise-Cancelling Earbuds:Noise in hostels… is a thing. Your bunkmate coming in late, motorbike traffic just below your window, construction on the property or the round-the-clock rooster that seems to follow you to every f*cking hostel. Having a way to escape the noise while you sleep makes for a well-rested morning. Noise canceling ear-buds are a great solution, just put on your favorite artist or load a quick Netflix episode to fall asleep too.
3. Active Roots Microfiber Towel:Having your own towel is a must when traveling since most hostels don’t provide them. Plus as a backpacker, use of a towel will extend further than just showers, it’s a minimalist yoga towel and a great beach blanket/towel combo! The Active Roots Microfiber Towel is really the best solution for backpacking.
4. Active Roots Toiletry Bag:Keep your bath-and-beauty items organized and in the right place with this water-resistant bag. With large compartments, mesh and enclosed clear sections, you can fit everything you might need inside. Hang it up or let it stand on its own – this bag is a must-have for dorm-lifers.
5. Playing Cards:Name your ideal night: I’m for a few cheap beers and some card games. Oh, and you don’t even have to be drinking to enjoy a game – having cards with you traveling definitely helps out on those long airplane or beach days! Make sure to snag a waterproof deck to protect from the pool, ocean or Chang.
6. Universal Travel Adapter:Not every country has the same electrical plug style, so carry along a universal travel adapter. You’ll want one that covers varying voltage levels, has protection from power surges, a fried laptop is not fun, and enough ports so you don’t have to spend all day individually charging your devices.
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!
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!
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!
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
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