Last Updated: 12/18/20 | December 18th, 2020
Traveling around New Zealand, you’ll find a wide range of hostels in this small country: decrepit, run-down chains; modern conglomerates; quirky, little family-owned places; hip, modern flashpacker hostels, and everything in between. And, during my time there, I tried to stay at as many as I could, often changing hostels every night to accomplish this goal.
The hostel scene in the country has vastly improved since I was there in 2010, and there are much more variety and quality now. It’s a much better time to be traveler there and many of the hostels have stepped up their game in this competitive environment.
Having been visiting New Zealand for a decade, I’ve stayed in dozens upon dozens of places. There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel. The top four when picking the best hostel in New Zealand are:
- Location – Cities here may not be huge but it can still take some time to get around. Pick a place that is central to the sites and nightlife you want to see. All the hostels listed here are in central locations.
- Price – In New Zealand, 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, cramped, and doesn’t offer great service.
- Amenities – Every hostel in the country offers free Wi-Fi, and most 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! They 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 you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly! They can make or break a hostel!
To help you plan your trip, here is my list of the hostels in New Zealand that I like the most. If you don’t want to read the longer list below, the following hostels are the best in each category:
Best Hostels in New Zealand
Best Hostel for Budget Travelers: Urbanz or Rainbow Lodge
Best Hostel for Solo Female Travelers: Nomads
Best Hostel for Families: Rainbow Lodge
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads: Urbanz
Best Hostel for Partying: Urbanz
Best Overall Hostel: Nomads
Want the specifics of each hostel? Here’s my comprehensive list of the best hostels in New Zealand:
Price Legend (per night)
- $ = Under $20 USD
- $$ = $20-30 USD
- $$$ = Over $30 USD
1. Nomads, Queenstown
This is one of the most amazing hostels I’ve stayed at — ever! (And I’ve stayed at a lot!) Nomads was one of the best when it opened in 2010 — and it’s still one of the best today. Most rooms have balconies, the showers have prodigious water pressure, and the pillows are thick (the manager told me they change them every few months to keep them fluffy — how’s that for service?).
But what really sets this establishment apart is the HUGE kitchen and common area. There are activities every night (including a cheap pub crawl) and a free dinner and quiz night on Sunday. Not one traveler I spoke to wanted to leave.
Nomads at a glance:
- Organizes tons of activities
- Easy to meet other travelers
- Huge kitchen and common area
Beds from 31 NZD ($22 USD), privates from 99 NZD ($70 USD).
—> Book your stay at Nomads!
2. Rainbow Lodge, Taupo
This is my second-favorite hostel in New Zealand. It’s a quirky independent hostel with a huge kitchen, big common room, pool table, outdoor grill and patio, friendly staff, bike rentals, and a free sauna. In short, everything a backpacker or budget traveler would want from a hostel. I had a stupendous time there and met a lot of solo travelers who weren’t on one of the big bus tours. You got more of the “independent” traveler here than the other hostels in town.
Rainbow Lodge at a glance:
- Great place to meet solo travelers
- Lots of free perks (free bikes, free sauna)
- Organizes lots of activities
Beds from 25 NZD ($18 USD), privates from 79 NZD ($56 USD).
—> Book your stay at Rainbow Lodge!
3. Kiwi Paka, Waitomo
This is a clean and well-kept hostel where you can get a good night’s sleep. It has a huge outdoor porch overlooking the area, is quiet, and the restaurant cooks up tasty and affordable fare. But, what I really loved, was the water pressure in the showers (I think it took a few layers of skin off!) and the fact that the dorms have single beds — no bunk beds here! And the beds themselves are pretty comfortable.
Kiwi Paka at a glance:
- Quiet atmosphere so you can get a decent sleep
- Restaurant on-site with cheap food
- Huge outdoor porch makes it easy to meet other travelers
Beds from 35 NZD ($25 USD), privates from 90 NZD ($64 USD).
—> Book your stay at Kiwi Paka!
4. River Valley Lodge, River Valley
More like a lodge than a hostel, this is a stop on the Kiwi Experience tour (you probably wouldn’t stay here otherwise, unless you were on a romantic getaway or had money to burn). What makes River Valley awesome is its location: sitting outside on the patio, listening to the river rush past as you gaze out at the surrounding valley. Since there’s no light pollution here, looking up at the stars twinkling in the night is breathtaking.
Moreover, there’s a sauna and hot tub where you can kick back and relax. There are also some really scenic hikes in the area. This is where you stay if you’re not on a budget, but, if you’re on a budget there are dorm rooms and camping available, too!
River Valley Lodge at a glance:
- Stunning natural surroundings
- Free sauna and hot tub
- Camping available for budget travelers
Rooms from 180 NZD ($125 USD).
—> Book your stay at River Valley Lodge!
5. Urbanz, Christchurch
This is an awesome modern hostel located right in downtown Christchurch. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the kitchen is huge (and well cleaned), and there’s a pool table, fast Wi-Fi, laundry, a parking lot, a community bulletin board, movies, and comfy couches. The bedrooms are cleaned daily, and the beds, while not the best, are good enough for a night’s sleep. My only complaint was that there weren’t a lot of showers on the floor I was on, and the unisex nature of them was little shocking when I walked in only wearing boxers — but whatever, it’s a hostel!
Urbanz at a glance:
- Organizes lots of activities
- Great place to meet people
- Awesome staff goes above and beyond
Beds from 26 NZD ($18 USD), privates from 60 NZD ($42 USD).
—> Book your stay at Urbanz!
6. Haka Lodge, Queenstown
The staff here is super nice and helpful, the kitchen is huge and clean, there’s lots of outdoor space to hang out on a warm night, the beds are super comfy (I slept like a baby), and you get a lot of personal space. I appreciated the lockers too, which is still a surprising rarity in this country. The dorms are kind of small, so expect cramped quarters, and you have to cross the lobby to get to the showers, but beyond that, I’d stay there again in a heartbeat. Book in advance, though, as Haka Lodge is REALLY popular and fills up weeks in advance, especially during high season. (An outgrowth of a Haka Tours, this is one location out of many. I only stayed at this one, but, from what I heard from everyone around, the others are just as high-quality.)
Haka Lodge at a glance:
- Great place to meet people
- Lots of outdoor space for relaxing and hanging out
- Knowledgeable staff can help you plan your trip
Beds from 28 NZD ($20 USD), private rooms from 79 NZD ($56 USD).
—> Book your stay at Haka Lodge!
Montrose, Franz Josef
The tiny town of Franz Josef sees enough visitors to have three hostels next to each other that are all permanently full. Out of the three, I found Montrose the most appealing. hey had high water pressure in the showers, clean bathrooms, thick walls (so you didn’t hear people at night), and two kitchens and a large common room, making it easy to cook and meet people. It felt a lot homier than the other two hostels in town.
Montrose at a glance:
- Homey, laid-back vibe
- Great place to meet people
Beds from 39 NZD ($28 USD), privates from 120 NZD ($85 USD).
—> Book your stay at Montrose!
7. Mountain View Backpackers, Wanaka
This place made the list for three reasons: the guests, the staff, and the backyard. The staff is really friendly and try hard to get people to socialize and interact with each other. The hostel (a house, really) has a huge outdoor space with a grill, space to lie in the sun, and a big table to congregate around (there were many enjoyable nights drinking wine outdoors).
And, since it’s one of the few hostels in town not connected to the big bus tours, you meet a lot of independent, solo travelers. The facilities, however, are just OK. The kitchen was the best stocked of any I came across in the country, but it was small and gets really busy and cramped at mealtimes. The beds were OK too, but the metal frames creaked a lot. Plus, there are no lockers and the bathrooms need a complete redo (they were really gross). Still, I’d stay here again because it’s the type of place that fosters community, which, in a country where hostels seem to have a very passive approach to guest relations, I found very nice.
Mountain View Backpackers at a glance:
- Social atmosphere makes it easy to meet people
- Organizes lots of activities
- Great place for solo travelers
Beds from 33 NZD ($22 USD), privates from 80 NZD ($50 USD).
—> Book your stay at Mountain View Backpackers!
8. Bunkers Backpackers, Stewart Island
If you make your way to Stewart Island (and you should), find this converted house. The owners take wonderful care of the place. You’ll find comfy beds, clean bathrooms, lots of kitchen space, a nice patio, and fast Wi-Fi. Stewart Island sees a lot of hikers, so people are either tired from their multiday hike or resting up for it, so this hostel is pretty quiet — you’ll get a fantastic sleep! (Note: Bunkers is closed for the season due to COVID-19. They will re-open in 2021)
Bunkers Backpackers at a glance:
- Lots of natural beauty nearby
- Friendly, laid-back atmosphere
- Great place to connect with independent travelers
Beds from 35 NZD ($23 USD), privates from 85 NZD ($55 USD).
—> Book your stay at Bunkers Backpackers!
New Zealand has some incredible hostels to stay in, but to me, these are the best the country has to offer. If you have others to add, leave them in the comments. If you’ve stayed in any of these, let me know what you think too!
A note on the chains: YHA is all over the country. They have really nice hostels, but you can tell it’s a chain. They are big, corporate establishments that lack soul, places people pass through rather than stay to meet other travelers. I would stay with them again, but I never got a community vibe.
Base, a chain I loved back in 2010, has gone down hill. Its Auckland location was worse than a roadside motel and a shell of its former self. I didn’t stay in any other Base hostels along the way, but there was not one traveler I met that didn’t try to leave Base after their first night.
Nomads, which is owned by the same company, also has a large presence, but besides its Queenstown hostel, I didn’t go to any other locations.
Book Your Trip to New Zealand: 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 New Zealand?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on New Zealand for even more planning tips!
Photo credit: 1 & 4 – Base Backpackers, 2 – Nomads, 3 – Rainbow Lodge, 5 – River Valley Lodge