For a full-on local experience, these hostels offer personalized services and chances to mingle with other travelers in inspired settings.
If you think hostels mean roughing it in bare-bones dorms, think again. These budget lodgings are redefining the genre with sweet amenities and unbelievable locations from coast to coast. Many have private room options as well as the classic shared accommodation. Book a stay at one of these spots and you could spend a night in Nantucket's historic sea rescue station, or wake up for log-cabin yoga with views of the Rocky Mountains.
With eye-popping style and bold colors that evoke Miami of yore, this design-focused hostel is set in a renovated Art Deco building that’s just a block from the beach. Guests gather in the shade of tropical vines and palms for the daily happy hour with house cocktails (think fresh fruit juice, Caribbean rum, and plenty of tiny umbrellas). Everything from the artwork in the rooms to the Cuban-style cafe draws from Miami’s colorful heritage, while cheerful pastels brighten the airy common spaces. And while you should definitely put in some serious beach time—this is the land of deep tans and bikinis, after all—bear in mind that there’s plenty of room to lounge by the hostel’s dreamy pool.
HOSTEL FISH: Denver, Colorado
The bar at this adventure-minded hostel is worth the trip to Denver unto itself, not least because of the nightly crowd that’s perfect for meeting creative, outdoorsy travelers. Rooms range from private queens to ten-bed dorms and each is different from the rest, with hand-picked art covering every surface. That design-forward décor, however, doesn’t get in the way of comfort. The best part? You could show up in town without a single plan, since the hostel curates guided excursions, pub crawls, and activities—like group outings to Colorado Rockies games at the nearby Coors Field baseball stadium.
THE MORTY RICH: Houston, Texas
This is where Houston sprawl gives way to leafy boulevards and a colorful tumble of grand mansions, hulking industrial buildings, and hip restaurants. You’ll be sleeping in an elegant landmark that was once a mayor’s home, complete with a pool and hammocks for those long, sultry Houston afternoons. If you can pull yourself away from the shade, however, there are two world-class art destinations within walking distance—the Rothko Chapel, adorned with murals by the abstract expressionist icon, and The Menil Collection, an art museum that ranges from the Byzantine era to the Modernists.
MY HAWAII HOSTEL: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Sea breezes drift through this open-plan hostel, where indoor common spaces flow seamlessly into the tropical garden. Co-ed and female-only dorms have airy décor, and the stylish private rooms feature hand-painted headboards and sliding doors that lead to the outside. Renting a car is easily the best way to explore the Big Island, and there are two world-class beaches a 30-minute drive from the hostel—stake out a piece of sand at Two Steps and Kealakekua Bay, then watch for the dolphins that flock to the rugged coast.
THE BIVVI HOSTEL: Breckenridge, Colorado
Set high in the Rocky Mountains, this alpine-chic hostel is like a log cabin that’s been overhauled by an urban art school student, complete with antler chandeliers, Native American-inspired textiles, and roaring fireplaces inside and out. Dorm beds are charmingly rough-hewn, breakfast is complimentary and there’s always a ruddy-cheeked crowd of travelers lounging in the hot tub or the grand living room, where the hostel serves a hand-picked menu of local craft beers. But visiting the Rocky Mountains is all about getting outdoors, so the Bivvi helps match visitors with their adventure of choice, from dogsledding with Alaskan malamutes to sunrise yoga with sweeping views of the mountain scenery.
THE LOCAL NYC: Queens, New York
When Lonely Planet named Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs, 2015’s hottest destination, travelers from around the world started paying attention to the area’s amazing art, food, and beach access. This sleek, ultra hip hostel in the Long Island City neighborhood, just over the bridge from Manhattan, is a great homebase for anyone who wants to explore the local charm of a fast-developing neighborhood. There are cute bistros, breweries, flea markets, waterfront parks, and MoMA PS 1, one of the largest contemporary art museums in the U.S. Upscale bedding and modern design keep the dorms a cut above the average hostel, and the common areas are fabulous, with a co-working-inspired computer space, a vintage photo booth, and bright artwork adorning the walls. But with easy access to Manhattan as well as the rest of the vast borough, where you can find food from every country imaginable, you probably won’t be spending much time in your room.
HI RICHMOND: Richmond, Virginia
Wrapped around a bend in the James River, Richmond, Virginia overflows with history and art. The city’s industrial past is on display in this stylish hostel, built in the former Otis Elevator Building in the heart of downtown. Exposed brick walls give the hostel the feeling of an urban loft, complete with an open-air lounge lined with comfy sofas. Travelers can choose between six-bed dorms and adorable private rooms. Book an extra night to explore the city on a free, staff-led tour, browse the galleries at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, or flip through the vintage records at Steady Sounds.
STAR OF THE SEA HOSTEL: Nantucket, Massachusetts
You’ll have your own private path to the ocean from this island hostel, a former lifesaving station that dates back to 1874. The sunny dormitories are stocked with comfortable bunk beds, and perks include access to a fleet of boogie boards, a sand volleyball court, and a barbecue that’s ideal for grilling freshly-caught seafood. A prime location on Surfside Beach means this is a great destination for surfers, but once you slow down to the pace of local life, there’s endless things to do, from riding the network of off-road bike paths to “laning,” the old-fashioned islander word for walking Nantucket’s winding, sandy streets, overhung with five-petal roses.
HOLIDAY JONES: Chicago, Illinois
Boutiques, galleries, stylish cocktail bars, and live music venues dot the streets of Chicago’s Wicker Park, making it a fun neighborhood to stay in during a visit to Chicago. With Windy City attitude and charm blended in equal measure, Holiday Jones is all about celebrating the local. Sip Intelligentsia Coffee in the coffee bar or re-watching High Fidelity in the underground lounge. (This neighborhood was the location for the John Cusack throwback.) Rooms range from private digs with en-suite baths to dorms whose custom-beds are made up in a rainbow of plaids.
POINT REYES HOSTEL: Point Reyes Station, California
Spend the night at this spectacular location north of San Francisco, and you’ll share the spot with more tule elk than travelers, as the hostel has the only beds within the borders of Point Reyes National Seashore. A nearby trailhead leads through the forest to a beautiful sandy beach, and the hostel’s outdoor seating area is perfect for watching the stars appear above the coastal hills. The dorms and common areas are simple and old fashioned, but that’s just the appeal: this is the place to unwind, unplug, and recover from the modern world.
HI SANTA MONICA: Santa Monica, California
The epicenter of LA beach cool, Santa Monica is made for cruiser bikes, sunbathing, and California dreaming. This updated hostel, awash in vintage LA glamour, is a Frisbee-throw away from the beach. It features towering palm trees and day beds in an enclosed courtyard and a mix of private rooms and dorms, from six-bed standards to budget-friendly ten-person rooms. If you’re looking to meet other travelers, the hostel’s poker nights, salsa dances, and laid-back barbecues are the perfect way to connect. Don’t miss the nearby Santa Monica Pier, where there’s always a crowd of oddball buskers and super-tanned locals catching the breaking waves.