California Redefines Hostels for the Urban Minimalist

Redefining the West Coast hostel in the age of the savvy travelette.

Artful lodgers have long sought after the ultra cool hostels of Berlin, Lisbon and Copenhagen, which clearly defy the dingy dorm image of sharing bath and bunk with questionable hobos. Travelettes, one of a number of websites now catering to the new hostel traveler, tells us the gap between these low budget accommodations and certain boutique hotels can be very slim, while “providing you with a high quality stay and a full wallet.”

The trend in locating those quality, $35- a -night pads and pods is spreading to the West Coast as backpackers in high heels and urban minimalists in Olukai flipflops take advantage of the sexy year-round rates as globetrotters grapple with the broken economy.

Here are a few favorites on the coast rounded up by thrifty city nomads on the go:

Stay on Main, Los Angeles, CA

Considered the hippest hostel in downtown L.A., the Stay on Main hostel is a hotel within The Cecil Hotel and renovated from a bare bones dorm to mod Scandinavian style in 2008 to attract a wide range of travelers. A short walk to the jewelry district and flower mart and a short bus ride to Hollywood, USC or Santa Monica beach, it boasts a menu of accommodations including: continental breakfast and complimentary wifi in public areas, flat screen TV’s in the rooms , a community kitchenette and rentable lockers.

(Runs $35 for dorm beds for backpackers to $65 for a twin or queen with shared facilities and $85 for a private queen or twin.)

“We offer the best value in the city,” offers sales manager Hosselyn Castro, who adds you can book months ahead or on 24-hours notice. How do you know you won’t have to bunk with eccentric strangerss? “We have our way of screening,” Castro assures.

636 South Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014: 213.213.7829

USA Hostels, San Francisco, CA

A recognized award winner in the world of hostel awards or Hoscars  (yes, this is a big deal in the industry), the USA Hostel in San Francisco is a happening hanging spot due to its groovy atmosphere, plush duvets, free popcorn for munching in its 50-seat theater and featured add-ons like wine and cheese, karaoke and quiz nights. Of course, the free all-you-can-flip pancakes and oatmeal and coffee keeps hungry travelers coming back for more.

(The 4-bed dorms go for $37.50 per night with shared baths. Located on Post Street with plenty of public transportation to get to Union Square and other destinations.)

711 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94109: 415.440.5600

The Pod Share, Hollywood, CA

Not to be a Hollywood hostel elitist, The Pod Share crowd insists they are not running a hostel but “a platform, an incubator, a globalization stimulation.” More apt, these nightly nooks are coined “Bento Boxes of goodness.” Safe, private and easy are the buzz words attracting guests to the property which holds ten at a given time. Situated at Hollywood and Vine, The pods feature three walls to wrap around your Tokyo-scale 90″ long x 50″ wide x 5 ft-high nest feathered with a foam mattress and pillows and chalk board moldings for marking your stay. Flat screens in the rooms, a slick, modern kitchen and wifi/computer access keeps it real, but guests must follow the four rules of pod politeness: no crumbly chips, awkward sex or outlawed smoke in your pod.

(At roughly $35 a night depending on which box you hole up in, it truly delivers as the pod for the mod squad.)

1617 Cosmo Street, Los Angeles, CA 90028.213.973.7741

USA Hostels, San Diego, CA

Bright doesn’t quite cover it when it comes to this USA Hostel San Diego, earning ratings in everything from character to security to sand and surf location and cleanliness. This plus the lure of the new privacy pods with reading lights and the hot surfer dudes congregating on leather settees in the distinctive South of the Border mezzanine. This is the Gaslamp district’s best kept secret for communal lodging plus Tuesday $2 Tacos and Margarita nights and Saturday Tijuana tours.

(A private bedroom with shared bath is only $40 per night on the weekend; If you can take a bit more chatter, a 6-bed female dorm is $32.)

726 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 1.800.438.8622; local 619.232-3100

Elements Hotel,  San Francisco, CA

Touted as gay friendly and emerging pretty flashy as hostels go, the renovated Elements is clean and modern, situated in the indie foodie Mission District of San Francisco, walking distance to ethnic eateries, shops and nightlife – and for venturing out, it is smack in the transit corridor between Bart and three major bus lines. A major attraction is the rooftop lounge with a 360 degree view of the city, along with the mezzanine lounge and balcony. Guests may partake in free movie nights and high speed internet.

(Functioning more like a reasonably priced boutique hotel than hostel, it offers private spaces, starting at around $75 per night.)

2515 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA; 415.647.4100

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero, CA

More earthy- crunchy than the new pack of haute hostels, at least this one is on the sustainable track and rated one of the hippest of the greenest  by Treehugger. Hey, at least they can get away promoting “the most spectacular hot tub on earth.” Scenic beyond the panoramic views of the Pacific from its perch on a cliff on the central coast (a mere 50 miles south of San Francisco), the shared or private rooms are found in the restored lighthouse keeper’s quarters. The green certified hostel offers the usual good stuff, from cozy indoor/outdoor lounges, fully equipped kitchens to satellite Internet, free WiFi and free parking.

(Rates start at $25 a night and when you aren’t gazing up at one of the tallest lighthouses around, you can whale watch in season or explore the Pescadero Marsh.)

210 Pigeon Point Road, Pescadero, CA 94060; 650.879.0633.

Main Image: StayonMain

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.