Hostels are not just for the young and footloose anymore. Many American hostels have private rooms and cabins for families and small groups. The advantages are cost (as low as $20 per person; a few dollars higher in big cities), location (nearby natural and cultural attractions that families want to see and explore), and the chance to meet travelers from all over the world.
While staying in hostels, you can cook your own meals in a fully equipped common kitchen and socialize with other hostellers in a common living room. Clean beds are provided (bring your own linens/sleeping bags), as are laundry facilities and common bathrooms with showers. Some hostels ask you to do brief chores.
On the coast of California are several hostels that are perfect for vacationing families. They are popular, so reserve well in advance.
• Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, 210 Pigeon Point Road at Highway 1, Pescadero; (650) 879–0633. Four family houses, each with a fully equipped kitchen, clustered around one of the tallest lighthouses in the United States. An incredible location on a dazzling stretch of coastline, near state parks, tidepools, beaches, redwood forests, and the famous Año Nuevo State Reserve, where hundreds of elephant seals are a sight to behold.
• Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel, 25 miles south of San Francisco on Highway 1 and 16th Street, Montara 94037; (650) 728–7177. The 1875 Point Montara Fog Signal and Light Station became a hostel in 1980. Family rooms; fireplace in the community room; great location near beaches, boat harbors, Half Moon Bay.
• Hidden Villa Ranch Hostel, 45 miles south of San Francisco and 15 miles north of San Jose, 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills; (650) 949-8650. On a 1,600-acre ranch in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the first hostel in California, established in 1937. Rustic, heated cabins, plus a fireplace and piano in the common room. This is a working farm with organic gardens. Nearby are hiking trails and parks. Check out the website for ideas on educational opportunities for your kids.
• Santa Cruz Hostel, 321 Main Street, Santa Cruz 95060; (831) 423–8304.
Newly renovated cottages close to downtown and the beach. Private cottages available for larger families with 2-3 rooms.
For more information, go online to the Golden Gate Council Hosteling International for information (www.norcalhostels.org) or (www.hi-santacruz.org). For a brochure describing all Northern California hostels, call (415) 863–1444 (fax: 415–863–3865).
Licensed from Fun with the Family – Northern California 2007 edition. Karen Misuraca
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