15 boutique hostels in the US for a stylish getaway
Forget dingy hallways, subpar food and sketchy characters. Instead, think handcrafted cocktails by the pool, yoga classes, concerts and plenty of hotel-like amenities – over the past few years, boutique hostels are really kicking communal lodging up a notch.
A new generation of hostels have been getting a makeover, shedding their patchouli-and-grit image for something plenty luxe. A new generation of budget-friendly bunk accommodations actually look a lot like – or are located within – boutique hotels, upping the amenities without losing their affordability, or the camaraderie that attracts many travelers to more communal lodging.
Despite the new look, however, the COVID-19 pandemic turned hostels upside down – much like every other corner of the travel industry. But things still look rather rosy for many hostels, despite the dent in bookings. Hostelworld, one of the biggest bookings platforms in the biz, launched Bed for Backpackers, a program "offering support to stranded travellers, by pairing them up with hostels" as countries closed their borders and new regulations sent everyone's travel plans sideways. Room capacities were reduced, cleaning protocols stepped up, and cancellation policies revised at properties around the world.
Some boutique hostel companies are even taking the current lull as a chance to build new properties or expand existing venues – like Generator, for example, which is currently working on a 6,977-square-foot addition to its original Miami Beach location. Others, like Hostelling International USA, are pivoting to offer private vacation accommodations for families or social bubbles, instead of groups of strangers. And while social distancing may be the norm today, months of isolation will likely leave travelers even hungrier for the human connection hostels have long provided – not to mention all those nice new perks like a proper rooftop bevy.
Whenever you're ready to return to the hostel life, the industry will be ready and waiting. And in case you're not sure where to begin, these are some of the freshest, most exciting boutique hostels in the United States where you can reacquainted with wanderlust.
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Native in Austin, Texas
Located in Austin’s artsy East Side and downtown entertainment district, this stylish hostel puts you in the center of all the action. The two-story, 19th-century limestone building has loads of character. Outside, it’s has a stone exterior with wood and wrought irons accents. Inside, there’s a bar, kitchen and coffee shop with cozy seating. With velvet and leather sofas, plenty of artwork, custom light fixtures and a copper-topped espresso bar, it’s easy to see the owners did not skimp on design one bit. Beyond the decor, Native really takes the social aspect of a hostel to the next level with its 3,400-square-foot communal space that hosts film screenings, music mixers and daytime retreats.
The Freehand in Los Angeles, California
The Freehand LA sure is something special. Not only because but it has a James Beard Award finalist rooftop bar with 360-degree views of L.A., but also because it has four dining options, interior design by Roman & Williams and room service. You’ll find it in the repurposed Commerical Exchange building, where it's easy to be social with loads of gathering spaces including a rooftop pool, fitness center and specialty coffee bar. You’ll even have amenities like a valet, a retail shop, daily housekeeping and a bellman that you might not expect at a hostel. It’s also conveniently close to the metro, LA’s fashion and financial district, LA Live, loads of nightlife, and the freshly-revived DTLA.
The Bivvi Hostel in Breckenridge, Colorado
Spend any amount of time in this famous ski town and you’ll likely agree, things just seem better in Breckenridge. Book yourself a shared room with four or six bunk beds or a private room with a king-sized bed, private bathroom and balcony. For a splurge: Choose the hot-tub suite, which has a fireplace and balcony with sweeping forest views. If you can’t snag that room, don’t worry, there’s a 10-person outdoor hot tub that overlooks the Ten Mile Mountain Range. After a fun day on the slopes, The Bivvi is a welcomed respite.
In the morning, breakfast is included. We’re talking fresh fruit, homemade granola, greek yogurt, orange juice, bagels and hot-breakfast options. Beyond the obvious skiing and snowboarding thrills, you’ll have quick access to all things outdoorsy. You name it, ice climbing, rock climbing, sailing, dog sledding, yoga, snowmobiling, rafting and golf. And for another bonus: You won’t need a car. The Bivvi is located on the Breckenridge Free Ride bus route, which makes it super easy to get around. And it’s about a 10 minute walk to get to Main Street.
The Crash Pad in Chattanooga, Tennessee
As the cheeky pun in the name might suggest, the Crash Pad blends the hip vibe of Chattanooga's Southside district with the Scenic City's reputation as one of the best outdoors towns in the southeast. Convenient to the great rock climbing on Lookout Mountain just ten minutes' drive away, as well as to some of the city's best bars and restaurants like The Flying Squirrel right next door, the Crash Pad is a pretty ideal home base whether you're looking forward to a day at the crag or a night on the town. It's also the world’s first LEED Platinum Hostel, and boasts nice extras like a fire pit, your choice of dorm-style or private rooms (or the new Hemingway Suite), complimentary breakfast, and gigabit speed Wi-Fi.
HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero, California
Just fifty miles from San Francisco, HI Pigeon Point offers somethings a little different from most hostels – namely, the chance to spend the night in the shadow of a 115-foot-tall, working lighthouse. With beach access, an outdoor fire pit, and a hot tub overlooking the sea, there's a lot of great boutique extras to be found here – all with the peace of mind that Hi Pigeon Point is a Certified Bay Area Green Business. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, HI Pigeon Point has taken advantage of its unique campus of three buildings, each with their own bathrooms and group-size kitchens, to convert to family-friendly vacation rentals well-suited to social-distancing.
Auberge in New Orleans, Louisiana
Voted Best Hostel In The USA By Hostel World Reviewers 2016 & 2018, the Auberge is just the right blend of style, location, vibe, and amenities like laundry services, free breakfast, city maps, and plenty of social events. Every night at eight there's another chance to mix and mingle, from a home style BBQ to a performance by the Rebirth Brass Band to group outings to must-see spots like Frenchman and Bourbon Streets with your Auberge krewe in tow. The rooms are bright and airy with big rugs and fireplace mantels, while the bathrooms have nice finishes like granite countertops that feel like a fancy hotel. Whether you're in NOLA for a weekend or a longer stay, this is the kind of hostel that helps you feel plugged in right away.
The Local in New York, New York
Chic, industrial and totally Insta-worthy, The Local is a boutique hostel that's very New York. Grab and espresso or local craft beer in the bar, get some work done on one of the available computers, or head out to roll your own New York itinerary – this Long Island City haven is convenient to both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Just be sure you're back in time for sunset to take in the views of the iconic Midtown skyline – just across Roosevelt Island – on the rooftop terrace.
The Freehand in Chicago, Illinois
Freehand's Chicago outpost offers their beloved blend of ultra-stylish design, historic ambiance, great location, and great food and drinks at the Broken Shaker cocktail lounge and Cafe Integral. They also offer services many hostels don't, like accepting your first package for free (it's $5 for each package after that) if you've forgotten something essential and ordered a replacement or are expecting a care package from home. And right in the smart River North district, you'll find plenty to do nearby, like picking up a Chicago River Architecture Tour at the pier, strolling the Riverwalk, or visiting the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.
Green Tortoise in Seattle, Washington
Directly across the street from Seattle's iconic Pike Place Market, it's hard to ask for a better location than the Green Tortoise boasts. But there's a lot more to recommend this boutique hostel than just the address. They offer touches you'd expect at a higher end hotel, including heated floors in the bathrooms and individual fans in shared bunks. The Green Tortoise team are also great hosts –there's no "Seattle freeze" here – leading guests on pub crawls, free walking tours, ice cream socials and more.
The Wayfarer in Los Angeles, California
In January 2020, the 156-room Wayfarer DTLA will open its doors. With a rooftop bar, communal kitchen, cafe and basement social club, it will wow you from the get-go. Located in downtown L.A.'s historic Broadway Corridor, it is a walk away from microbreweries, art walks and the historic downtown neighborhood. Some rooms will house bunk beds for four and an in-suite bathroom. Others are private rooms with king-sized beds. All have rainfall showers, stand-up workstations and free WiFi. And the hostel is pet-friendly to boot.
HI Hostel in Boston, Massachusetts
Close to Boston Common, Chinatown, and the subway, HI Boston is in an easy spot for seeing the sights and getting around. But HI also boasts a library with a big natural wood table if you need to pull out your laptop and get your to-dos checked off, as well as a computer room if you didn't plan on being a digital nomad. There's a game room with a pool table and plenty of common areas to mix and mingle, but don't worry – they have safety protocols in place, too, with the Let’s Stay Safe, Together program across all Hostelling International USA properties
Ember Hostel in Denver, Colorado
When the handsome gold rush mansion that houses Ember Hostel was first built, Denver's Cap Hill neighborhood was home to the likes of Titanic's Unsinkable Molly Brown. Now this boutique hostel is kitted out with cushy details like an outdoor hot tub (currently closed due to the pandemic) and fire pit, quiet co-working spaces for digital nomads, and plush decor that mixes historic details with a blown up photo of Laura Palmer from the cult classic TV show Twin Peaks. Just a short walk away are the shops and bars of the Santa Fe Arts District and Colfax Avenue – and with 24 hour check in when COVID restrictions aren't in place, it's easy to go with the flow. Don't worry about late arrivals if you're trying to get some R&R, though. The bunks are equipped with thick black out curtains, power outlets, and reading lights.
Generator in Miami, Florida
Set in the middle of the undeniably happening South Beach district, Generator makes it easy to plan exactly the kind of vacation you want with a mix of shared and private room styles (some with Smeg mini fridges) and two on-site dining experiences – Jim & Nessie and Driftaway. The casual common area has warm leather couches and low tables with pillows scattered on the floor for lounging and chatting about your latest adventures with new friends. Outside, you have your choice of the cute kidney bean shaped pool and the nearby beachfront for getting your vitamin D.
The Wayfarer in Santa Barbara, California
If you’re more in the mood for a swanky Santa Barbara escape, the Wayfarer has a hostel there, too. And it’s not just for celeb-style budgets. Located smack-dab in the artsy Funk Zone and Urban Wine Trail, home to more than 20 wine-tasting rooms, it features complimentary Sunday sunrise yoga lessons and sunset bike tours. Plus, you’ll have access to the community kitchen, library and pool. The hostel is within walking distance of shops and is also near the beach. Private rooms and shared rooms are available. All room types include a full en-suite bathroom, free Wi-Fi, 42" HDTV and individual lockers.
Dupont Circle Embassy Inn by FOUND in Washington D.C.
Once an Edwardian apartment building, now converted into a boutique hotel and hostel, FOUND's Washington D.C. property makes the most of the trendy Dupont Circle District. Close to bars, shops, restaurants, and Embassy Row, this cozy spot has both private rooms and four-person shared dorms with twin beds, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary toiletries. There's also a co-working space on site with coffee-shop style cafe tables and banquettes and bar-style seating.