Finding an inexpensive place to stay in a big city can be difficult, Los Angeles in particular. There’s nothing like taking everything in over the course of a two-week vacation, but booking a hotel for that length of time can 1). be almost impossible during peak tourist season and 2). completely deplete your sightseeing fund. Despite what Eli Roth and Yelp reviews of some of the shadier options might tell you, staying at a youth hostel can be the perfect alternative—particularly the one on the Santa Monica beach.
The people at Hostelling International have been doing what they’re doing since 1932, and they do it right. The mission statement of the U.S. branch is “to help all, especially the young, gain a greater understanding the world and its people through hostelling,” and visitors’ understanding of Santa Monica is undoubtedly as the best you can get for $56 a night. It’s so popular, in fact, that there’s a couple unusual rules enforced—residents of Los Angeles county aren’t allowed, and nobody can stay for more than 14 days out of every 365.
What keeps the cost down, as with every hostel, is the shared rooms, and this isn’t nearly as irksome a situation as you might think—though of course with between six and twelve people per room there’s always the chance that you’ll find yourself in the immediate vicinity of an egregious snorer. The bunk-beds are comfortable, and each bunk comes with a locker for your possessions and a towel for your body. A hostel’s about community, not privacy, and the room isn’t really where you’ll hang out during your stay anyway.
Instead, you’ll probably find yourself in the courtyard. With a fountain, palms, and various furniture to sit or lie upon, it’s a peaceful place to meet new friends or take a mid-morning nap. There’s also a couple of 24-hour lounges and a TV room, as well as the cafeteria and fully-equipped public kitchen. Besides the complimentary breakfast each morning (unvaryingly of cornflakes, bread, yogurt and peaches) there are inexpensive burger and pasta nights, and communal refrigerators for your own food.
But the real point of a hostel is the opportunities it creates. Not only are you almost certain to meet young tourists from all over the world during your stay, but even if you haven’t made other plans ahead of time you’ll encounter Los Angeles in a big way. The hostel is just two blocks from the beach, a short walk to the Santa Monica pier, and close to some of the best shopping, eating and drinking you can find in the city. And then there’s the hostel’s own events—every week there’s stand-up comedy, burlesque, sightseeing bus tours, limousine-powered club crawls, and hikes in the L.A. hills.
The hostel can be found at 1436 Second Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401.