Ever passed by a hostel and wondered what staying there would be like?

I have, many a time.

But most of my travels are with family, and we tend to opt for the standard hotel room option.

This trip though, I was traveling by myself. The hotel rooms in the area (San Francisco) were expensive. Even the hostel was expensive by hostel standards – $50/night.

I was up for an adventure, so I booked a bed at the HI Fisherman’s Wharf Historic Hostel on San Francisco Bay.

It was a beautiful day in San Francisco when I arrived.

The staff of the hostel were very friendly. They efficiently checked me in, showed me where I could park my rental car, gave me fresh sheets I could put on the bed, a fresh towel, and showed me to my bed.

The bed was the lower half of a bunk bed in a room with three other bunk beds. The room slept 8 total, and several of the bunk beds had items on both the top and bottom. I was lucky enough not to have a top bunk mate during my two night stay.

After stowing my stuff in a lockable bin under the bed, I strolled around the interesting building.

It was originally constructed in 1863 as a barracks for Civil War soldiers. There’s a very large kitchen that can be used by guests, a nice living room type area with a fireplace, numerous hallways leading to different bedrooms, coin-operated clothes washers and dryers, and a small cafe with sandwiches, salads, drinks, and a small courtyard.

The hostel is located on the grounds of a national park, Fort Mason. Walking around the back side leads to a wide, paved, path with stunning views of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and San Francisco.

The path goes from Fort Mason, along the bay, and into the Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39 area. An evening walk to Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, and through Ghirardelli Square for an ice cream treat, is highly recommended. Just be aware that the path back to the hostel has a pretty steep hill and is very dark on the way back. Bringing a flashlight would be a good idea.

After returning from a long walk, I hung out in the living room for a while. Someone was playing a guitar. Though mostly quiet, there were some interesting conversations taking place. Seemed people were there from all over the world and quite a few were very accomplished travelers.

I had expected most guests to be hippie types in their early 20s, but there was a surprisingly wide range of ages there, from people that looked like they could be grandparents to some teens with parents.

Getting ready for bed, I found the bathrooms were clean. The showers were divided by curtains and functional, though of course lacking in complete privacy. That I expected.

I also expected snoring, and as I entered my bedroom, there was plenty of that.

The light to the room was off, and there were no personal bed lights, so I used my cell phone to provide a little bit of illumination to get into bed and tried to tune out the snoring.

I was pretty successful at that. The open window next to my bed allowed for a wonderfully fresh breeze. All was well…. until about 2 AM.

Fumbling at the door, heavy clopping footsteps (drunk, I sensed, right away), cussing, lights on, lights off, someone climbing into a top bunk. Then quiet again… until about 3 AM.

Huge CRASH! BANG! Cussing. Door opened and closed with a bang.

Shortly afterward, lights back on, hostel staff in the room, taking in a foreign language with drunk guy, leading him in and back out. Lights out. Lights back on. More staff.

Apparently, drunk guy kicked or in some other way broke the sidewall of his top bunk, then fell/crashed out of bed. Hit the floor, but apparently not hurt? Staff in and out of room, whispering loudly (like everyone wasn’t already awake). Then very loudly stripping tape off a roll and taping the sidewall back into place. Not sure what happened to drunk guy, but was told that a manager had taken him somewhere else for the rest of the night.

Luckily I was able to sleep in that next morning. The guys in the other bunks had gotten up quietly and were gone when I got up.

After a long day of exploring San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond, I returned to the hostel and went to bed again bed amongst much snoring (I’m sure I added to the chorus at some point).

My second night there was uneventful.

Got up in the morning and checked out after another walk along the San Francisco bay.

So what’s it like staying at a hostel the first time?

For me, it was a mixed experience, and an interesting adventure.

I saved some money and got to stay at a really neat place.

But people are people. Staying at a hostel is a shared experience… and shared with people you don’t know. I never felt unsafe, but it’s hard to predict what that experience will be like ahead of time.

Would I do it again?

Not regularly, but I could see doing it again.

Would I take family?

Only if a private family room was available (and they do have private rooms at the San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel). I think it would be a great experience for my teen. It would give her a new perspective.

I’ll include some pictures below.

Have you stayed at a hostel?

What was your experience like?

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