Posted: 6/11/2020 | June 11th, 2020
San Diego is an underrated destination. While visitors flock to San Francisco and Los Angeles, more often than not San Diego gets skipped over.
With incredible weather, awesome beaches, and tons of things to see and do (both in town and nearby), San Diego is a destination that shouldn’t be overlooked.
I’ve been visiting the city for years and have stayed in many of its hostels. There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel. The top four in San Diego are:
- Location – San Diego is huge, and it can take some time to get around. Pick a place that is central to the sites and nightlife you want to experience. (All the hostels listed here are in central locations.)
- Price – In San Diego, you really get what you pay for, so if you go with a really cheap one, you’re probably going to get a hostel that is small and cramped and doesn’t offer great service.
- Amenities – Every hostel in town offers free Wi-Fi, and many have a free breakfast, but if you want more than that, be sure to do your research to find the hostel that best meets your needs!
- Staff – All the hostels listed here have amazing staff who are super friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you don’t end up staying at one of the places listed below, be sure to look up reviews to ensure that you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly, as they can make or break a hostel!
To help you plan your trip, here is my list of the hostels in San Diego that I like the most. If you don’t want to read the longer list below, the following are the best in each category:
Best Hostel for Budget Travelers: HI San Diego – Downtown
Best Hostel for Families: HI San Diego – Downtown
Best Hostel for Solo Female Travelers: ITH Adventure Hostel
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads: ITH Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel
Best Hostel for Partying: Lucky D’s
Best Overall Hostel: ITH Adventure Hostel
Want the specifics of each hostel? Here’s my comprehensive list of the best ones in San Diego:
Price Legend (per night)
- $ = Under $30 USD
- $$ = $30–40 USD
- $$$ = Over $40 USD
1. HI San Diego – Downtown
I’m a big fan of HI hostels. They’ve helped bring hosteling into the mainstream, and their facilities are always top-notch. HI San Diego Downtown is no different. Not only is it one of the most affordable places to stay in town but it’s consistently ranked as the best hostel too. It offers free breakfast, organizes tons of events and tours, and has a big kitchen so you can cook your own food. The bunks are basic but comfy (though they lack privacy curtains) and there are video games and a pool table in the common room as well.
HI San Diego – Downtown at a glance:
- Social atmosphere
- Organizes lots of events
- Free breakfast
Beds from $25 USD a night, rooms from $59 USD.
—> Book your stay at HI San Diego – Downtown!
2. ITH Adventure Hostel San Diego
What I really like about this hostel is its focus on sustainable travel. It has a vegetable garden (and gives free veggies to guests), a recycling and composting program, and even backyard chickens. There is lots of outdoor common space to relax in, and it’s very friendly and social too. It’s clean, and the water pressure in the showers is pretty good. The beds are pretty comfy too. It’s my favorite hostel in San Diego.
ITH Adventure Hostel San Diego at a glance:
- Female-only rooms
- Social atmosphere so it’s easy to meet people
Beds from $38 USD a night, rooms from $100 USD.
—> Book your stay at ITH Adventure Hostel San Diego!
3. ITH Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel
Located right on the beach, this place has a huge outdoor patio and surfboards and wetsuits for rent, plus there are lots of bars and restaurants nearby. They offer a tasty free breakfast too (including pancakes). The staff are incredibly helpful and really make your stay memorable. The bathrooms are a little dated but are always kept clean and the bunks are basic (no curtains) but are comfy enough. They also grow organic vegetables (which guests can eat), have recycling and composting programs, and upcycle furniture into art.
ITH Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel at a glance:
- Amazing location
- Free breakfast
- Laid-back atmosphere
Beds from $55 USD a night, rooms from $179 USD.
—> Book your stay at ITH Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel!
4. Lucky D’s
Lucky D’s hosts nightly events and pub crawls, so if you’re looking to stay out late and have fun, this is the place. Located in the central, convenient Gaslamp district, it’s one of the cheapest hostels in the city, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby as well. There are lockers in every room, so you can keep your stuff secure. The mattresses are comfy, though the bunks themselves kind of suck (there are no curtains and the bunks squeak). But the common areas are spacious and colorful, so there is plenty of room to relax, lounge, and connect with other travelers. There are also laundry facilities, as well as bikes for rent.
Lucky D’s at a glance:
- Weekly events and activities
- Affordable dorms
- Good location
Beds from $28 USD a night, rooms from $86 USD.
—> Book your stay at Lucky D’s!
5. California Dreams Hostel
This is your classic backpacker hostel. The beds aren’t very comfy but there are curtains so you have some privacy. Breakfast is included, and the hostel is just a minute from the beach. There are movie nights, free yoga mats, and even surf lessons (you can rent wetsuits and surfboards as well). The staff also organize lots of tours. Overall, it’s a solid budget hostel in a great location with lots of free perks.
California Dreams Hostel at a glance:
- Free perks (breakfast, yoga mats, frisbees/volleyballs)
- Social atmosphere makes it easy to meet people
- Organizes lots of events
Beds from $40 USD a night, rooms from $120 USD.
—> Book your stay at California Dreams Hostel!
San Diego is a fun, relaxing city with amazing food and even more amazing beaches. It’s like a smaller, better version of Los Angeles. Best of all, it’s also more affordable than both LA and San Francisco, which makes it a prime choice for road-trippers and budget travelers looking to have some fun in the sun.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on the United States?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on the United States for even more planning tips!
Photo credits: 2 – HI San Diego – Downtown, 3 – ITH Adventure Hostel San Diego, 4 – ITH Beach Bungalow Surf Hostel, 5 – Lucky D’s, 7 – California Dreams Hostel