Coolest Hostels In The United States For Your Next Road Trip

Not too long ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a hostel in the United States, but the popular European business model is on the rise in America. While Europe has some of the coolest hostels in the world, these days, the United States is not without its own stylish room-share accommodations.

Mainly found in the major cities and scattered throughout California, hostels in the United States offer a more social setting for travelers. Unfortunately, prices for the shared accommodations are quite a bit higher than their foreign equivalents. In other countries, it's normal to rent a bed in a hostel for the price of a full lunch, whereas, in America, travelers will need to budget at least three or four times that each night. Still, hostels in the States remain more affordable than other short-term arrangements and can greatly lower your travel expenses.

In addition to the cost benefits of booking a shared room, hostels come with some pretty awesome experiences. From rooms that look out on some of the most iconic spots in America to homestead accommodations with gorgeous nature views, here are some of the coolest hostels to work into your next cross-country road trip.

The Hostel California in San Diego, California

California has long been a Mecca for 4/20-related activities, and some of the most iconic references in stoner culture are set in the Golden State. If you're heading out to Cali hoping to experience some wild "Bill and Ted" adjacent adventures, The Hostel California makes for a great base. There's a reason it's abbreviated THC — this hostel is completely 420-friendly, and a lot of the people who stay here are fully on board with weed-led shenanigans.

Before booking at The Hostel California, you should evaluate your comfort level with said activities. Hostel etiquette is also crucial when you're a guest in someone's actual home, which THC essentially is. The hostel is a residential home with bunk beds, shared common areas, and even some couches available for surfing. The community between travelers is strong here, so the close quarters only add to the drifters' experience.

Wanderstay in Houston, Texas

As the first Black-owned hostel in America, Wanderstay is all about breaking barriers and providing a safe space for travelers. The thriving hostel has a dedication to making traveling the world accessible, and in addition to being an affordable accommodation option, they put their money where their mouth is. By staying here, you help fund the hostel's scholarship program that provides vital travel resources to students who otherwise may not be able to afford passports, plane tickets, or accommodations in a foreign country.

If contributing to a good cause isn't reason enough to spend your Houston stay at Wanderstay, consider the community created around the hostel. You will feel like you are a part of something when you're here, from adding to the handwritten notes on their chalkboard wall to the homey common areas. It doesn't just feel like an accommodation here, rather than a home you share with other travelers.

Wanderstay's location isn't too shabby either, within walking distance to Midtown and plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops. You get a feel for Houston here without being in the middle of the hectic Downtown area — it's a win-win.

The Local in Queens, New York

New York City is infamous for pricey hotel rooms and accommodations, making it one of the most expensive cities. If you are looking for a more affordable way to visit NYC while experiencing one of the city's vital cultural neighborhoods, look no further than The Local. The converted warehouse offers a creative and surprisingly vibrant atmosphere, and the surrounding area is full of life with plenty to do. One of the biggest perks of staying here is the rooftop, a great hangout spot with a gorgeous view of the city.

While the location of the hostel is certainly something to admire, the environment within The Local shouldn't be discounted. In fact, the common areas here are designed to bring guests together and forge connections. The co-working space is one huge table with plenty of outlets for all your digital nomad needs, plus a wide selection of reading material if you or your travel buddies have time to burn.

With a name like The Local, you just know there has to be a bar. The hostel's on-site bar offers local brews and stays open from morning to night. If you wake up and need a pick-me-up of the caffeine variety, the bar doubles as a café during the day. You'll feel like a real New Yorker sipping on your drink of choice here, minus the high cost of living.

U Street Capsule Hostel in Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C.'s U Street Capsule Hostel will give you science fiction vibes as you aren't given a room but a sleeping pod in a room of stacked pairs. Is it the future? Probably not, but it's a great way to stay if all you're looking for is a place to lay your head on a budget, and it certainly gives you an experience to write home about.

The capsules are large enough to comfortably lay in and have enough room to roll over and even sit up. Though you only book a bed space, communal bathrooms with showers are available for all your personal needs. The affiliated, nearby coffee house is great for a traveler's morning pick-me-up before heading out to the busy streets of D.C.

This hostel is ideal for anyone sleeping in a space-like capsule on their travel bucket list or any visitors looking to spend minimal time in a rental and more time on the town. U Street's location near bars and clubs makes it ideal for a late-night refuge after partying around town. Just be sure to remain respectful of other guests — just because you can't see them in their pods doesn't mean they are not there!

Green Tortoise Hostel in Seattle, Washington

You'd be hard-pressed to find a room in a better location while visiting Seattle than the Green Tortoise Hostel. With Pike Place Market literally on their doorstep, you'll be right in the thick of the city's best attraction. With a fresh flower market, various cafés and from-scratch food vendors, and countless local vendors just a stone's throw from your bed, it'll be tempting to spend your whole visit admiring the area.

While its unbeatable location is the coolest thing about the Green Tortoise Hostel, the hostel has other things going for it. It started as a tour bus company, helping travelers get to know the city — on a walking tour, they will point you to some of the best experiences and attractions in Seattle. If you end up falling in love with the city, the hostel offers a trade of part-time work for up to three months with free room and board. If you're planning a quick trip to the city, staying at the Green Tortoise Hostel just may result in a lengthy stint in the Emerald City.

Samesun Hostel in San Diego, California

Samesun Hostel in San Diego is a beachgoer and free spirit's dream. Its coolness is evident from just one look at its vibrant and eye-catching exterior. A pink picket fence and a colorful façade reflect the type of people who choose to stay here, making for a fun and — as the large peace sign atop the building would suggest — peaceful stay.

San Diego is packed with beaches, and Ocean Beach is a great neighborhood with a funky, hippie vibe. Of course, this makes the coastal town a perfect permanent home for Samesun Hostel and a temporary one for travelers who want to enjoy some fun in the sun surrounded by like-minded people.

As a social hostel, those who stay here are encouraged to join in on weekly activities or just hang out on the fully muraled porch with other guests. Travelers may find comfort that no locals are allowed to book at Samesun, so all guests are in the same boat with being in a new place. Use this to your advantage when planning to see the city during your road trip — the beach is more fun with friends!

The Bivvi Hostel in Breckenridge, Colorado

The great thing about traveling in the United States is that your adventures could know no bounds. While many of the hostels mentioned on this list are located near gorgeous beaches or in exciting cities, the Bivvi Hostel offers refuge to a completely different type of explorer. Situated at the base of a mountain, the Bivvi provides shelter for extreme adventurers.

Skiing is a popular pastime in Breckenridge, and plenty of guests who stay at the Bivvi Hostel are hitting the slopes while not taking advantage of the many comforts the hostel provides. This hostel looks similar to a ski lodge, built from logs and featuring large windows, giving common areas expansive mountain and wildlife views. There are several room options here, some more luxurious than most hostels. One room has a private indoor hot tub, and another features a stone fireplace to cozy your night up. Shared rooms are pretty solid, with sturdy beds and a hot breakfast to start your morning.

While the city hostels are typically seen as more social, the Bivvi's remoteness actually works to its advantage in this department. With a lack of nightlife around the lodge, guests flock to the common areas to connect with other travelers. It's easy to find a hiking party when you join a group around the fireplace, fire pit, or in the outdoor hot tub.

Hostel Fish in Denver, Colorado

Hostel Fish is a thrifter and drifter's dream. Located in a historic building, the hostel has accentuated original aspects of the structure, like exposed brick and peeling plaster with vintage suitcases and globes. Other interesting art installations within the building include a wall of cassette tapes, a map mural, and the shimmering scale wall at reception resembling fish scales. All the creative works found throughout the hostel are complemented by the thrifted furniture in the common areas, creating a laid-back and open atmosphere.

Staying at Hostel Fish will help you get to know Denver quickly, as it is located near some of the most popular areas of the city, like Five Points and the Downtown area. Another perk of the hostel is how easy it is to socialize with other guests. Every day of the week, there are organized social outings, including Friday Goth Nights at the Milk Bar. While guests can book a private room, opting for one of the themed bunk rooms and using the on-site bar can lead to longtime connections or at least allow you to explore the city alongside a fellow traveler.

Freehand in Chicago, Illinois

One of the nicest hostels you'll likely ever stay in, Freehand embraces classic styles without feeling old. Though it is a popular hostel brand in major cities of the United States, the high-end hostel finds a comfortable and fitting home in Chicago. Old school Chi-town and Freehand, both ooze class, and if jazz club met southwest ranch style, the resulting baby would conceivably be Freehand.

Freehand's location is staggering and undoubtedly one of the coolest things about the otherwise very cool hostel. Just a few blocks from the Magnificent Mile, the hostel is on the western side of River North, one of Chicago's most popular areas. You can easily access any destination beyond walking distance with the city's exceptional public transit system, which ranks among the world's best. Multiple stops are located just a two-minute walk from the hostel.

In addition to being a stylish budget accommodation option for travelers, Freehand offers some great food and beverage options. Broken Shaker Bar is known throughout the world for their cocktails and is only found in Freehand and her sister hostel brand, Generator. Locals and guests frequent the cafe and bar hybrid; it is a great place to connect with the people of Chicago. You know it's good when the locals come because the Windy City does not have a lack of A+ bars and eateries.

Hungry Hippie Hostel in Grand Marais, Minnesota

Located in a converted barn on a homestead, Hungry Hippie Hostel is kind of like a destination in and of itself. Guests can learn a little about homesteading and life on a farm while surrounded by the stunning nature next to Minnesota's Lake Superior and Boreal Forest. With the owners living in their homes on the property, there is plenty of opportunity for guests to get the low down on local events and attractions. Staying on the farm, though, also makes for a fulfilling getaway.

If staying in the converted barn doesn't appeal to you, Hungry Hippie Hostel has other options that will bring you closer to the surrounding nature. Camping grounds can be found on the property for beginner and experienced outdoorspeople. Those with their own gear can pitch a tent, or travelers can book one of the hostel's glamping tents for an elevated camping experience.

Speaking of elevated, the view from the camping grounds is what travel is all about — bearing witness to the best a new destination has to offer. The view of the surrounding woods and distant water makes waking up something you won't want to do anywhere else.

Black Elephant Hostel in Portland, Maine

Black Elephant Hostel proudly claims to be Maine's very first hostel, and it is a fantastic first step forward in the hostel industry for the state. Not only is the hostel located in a beautiful building with murals coating the main floor, but funky décor and designs play a big role in welcoming guests to the common areas. One of the best parts of Black Elephant is its location, near the heart of Portland and within walking distance to Downtown and Old Port. Having a stylish and comfortable place to stay so close to the hottest spots in the city is certain.

The quirky décor doesn't stop at the common areas. Where many hostels have pretty basic rooms, Black Elephant spruces their otherwise standard rooms with wallpaper on the ceiling. Each floor has a different wild pattern adorning the ceiling, giving you something more interesting than sheep to count as you fall asleep.

If you're headed to Portland, staying at Black Elephant seems like a no-brainer. This is especially true if you are traveling with other adults. Large parties are welcomed here, and groups wanting an entire venue for their event or a place to stay together can even rent the entire hostel out for privacy. If you are traveling alone, though, the promise of connecting with fellow travelers is still very much present here.