Posted: 7/27/20 | July 27th, 2020
Costa Rica was the very first place I ever visited, kick-staring a journey that would eventually take me around the world and launch my career as a travel writer. Since that first trip, I’ve returned a few times, lured in by the friendly people, cloud forests, wildlife, and excellent beaches.
San José is the starting point for most visitors in the country, owing to the fact that it’s the nation’s capital and a major international hub. Chances are you’ll be here for a few days as you get situated before heading off to hike, lounge on the beach, and enjoy the lush and scenic landscapes.
I’ve been staying in hostels for over a decade during my several return visits to Costa Rica. There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a hostel in San José. The top four are:
- Location – San José is huge, and it can take some time to get around. Pick a place that is central to the sites and nightlife you want to see. All the hostels listed here are in good locations.
- Price – In San José, you really get what you pay for, so if you go with a really cheap one, you’re probably going to get a hostel that is small and cramped and doesn’t offer great service.
- Amenities – Every hostel in the city offers free Wi-Fi, and most have a free breakfast, but if you want more than that, be sure to do your research to find the hostel that best meets your needs!
- Staff – All the hostels listed here have amazing staff! They are super friendly and knowledgeable. Even if you don’t stay at one of the places listed below, be sure to look up reviews to ensure you end up somewhere where the staff is helpful and friendly. They can make or break a hostel!
Here is my list of the hostels in San José that I like the most. If you don’t want to read the longer list below, the following hostels are the best in each category:
Best Hostel for Budget Travelers: Costa Rica Backpackers
Best Hostel for Families: In the Wind Hostel
Best Hostel for Solo Female Travelers: Stray Cat Hostel
Best Hostel for Digital Nomads: Capital Hostel de Ciudad
Best Hostel for Partying: Hostel Pangea or Costa Rica Backpackers
Best Overall Hostel: Capital Hostel de Ciudad
Want the specifics of each hostel? Here’s my comprehensive list of the best hostels in San José:
Price Legend (per night)
- $ = Under $10 USD
- $$ = $10-20 USD
- $$$ = Over $20 USD
1. Capital Hostel de Ciudad
This is a chill hostel with cozy beds and lots of common space. It has a co-living space as well, making it a good choice for anyone working remotely. There’s a patio for BBQs and yoga, a game room with a pool table and projector for watching movies, and a fully equipped kitchen. The mattresses are pretty thick and the beds have privacy curtains. Overall, it offers a nice balance of being a relaxed but social hostel.
Capital Hostel de Ciudad at a glance:
- Relaxed atmosphere
- Game room & coworking space
- Outdoor patio for hanging out
Beds from $15 USD a night, rooms from $42 USD.
2. Stray Cat Hostel
This colorful backpacker hostel is covered in art and murals. It has a cozy, homey vibe while still being well maintained and clean. The mattresses are a little thin (and the bunks don’t have curtains), but the hostel is quiet and laid back, so it’s easy to get a decent night’s sleep. There are female-only dorms too. It’s close to the bus station as well, making it a convenient location if you’re just passing through or heading to/from the airport. And, if you’re an artist, you can trade your skills for free accommodation.
Stray Cat Hostel at a glance:
- Female-only dorms available
- Quiet atmosphere
- Free breakfast
Beds from $12 USD a night, rooms from $40 USD.
3. Costa Rica Backpackers
This is a lively, social hostel popular with the younger backpacker/party crowd. It has a pool and bar on-site, and there are organized tours and activities. Breakfast isn’t included, but there is free coffee all day. The beds aren’t the best (the mattresses are thin and the bunks squeak) and the bathrooms are small and could use an update, but it’s the cheapest hostel in the city. If you’re on a tight budget and want to party, it’s the place to be!
Costa Rica Backpackers at a glance:
- Pool and bar
- Easy to meet other travelers
- Fun and social atmosphere
Beds from $7 USD a night, rooms from $25 USD.
4. Fauna Luxury Hostel
Fauna is a boutique hostel with really cool and cozy pod beds, tons of outdoor common space to lounge, a pool, and lots of really neat artwork in the rooms. The beds have thick mattresses and curtains (two things I really appreciate), breakfast is included, and there is air conditioning (a big plus in Costa Rica!). There are balconies you chill out on that overlook the pool, and the private rooms are super spacious and similar to hotel rooms. They also arrange cheap airport shuttles too. For $8 USD per night, you really get a lot of value here!
Fauna Luxury Hostel at a glance:
- Great beds
- Free breakfast
- Laid-back, relaxed vibe
Beds from $8 USD a night, rooms from $39 USD.
5. Hostel del Paseo
This hostel doesn’t have a great social vibe, but the dorms are quiet and clean. There is a huge common area with lots of games and movies, and there’s a bus station nearby. The staff are super helpful, the free breakfast is pretty good, and the dorms are capped at eight beds, so you’re never crammed in with lots of other people. The beds don’t have curtains, but the mattresses are thick and comfy, so you’ll get a decent night’s sleep.
Hostel del Paseo at a glance:
- Quiet dorms make sleeping easy
- Lots of common rooms & games
- Free breakfast
Beds from $12 USD a night, rooms from $44 USD.
6. TripOn Open House
This funky, social hostel is located near supermarkets and tons of restaurants. It has an awesome free breakfast every morning and organizes cheap shuttles to the airport too (which is just 30 minutes away). The beds are comfy and have curtains for privacy and there are lots of common areas for hanging out and socializing. It’s a really fun hostel, with lots of things to do. There are also hammocks outside for relaxing, video games, and a fully-equipped kitchen if you feel like cooking your own food.
TripOn Open House at a glance:
- Social atmosphere makes it easy to meet people
- Great free breakfast
- Good location
Beds from $10 USD a night, rooms from $43 USD.
7. In the Wind Hostel & Guesthouse
Another laid-back hostel, In the Wind has a cool outdoor area for hanging out and having BBQs, offers free breakfast (with pancakes), and has awesome staff. It’s also super clean, which is always a plus in any hostel. The beds aren’t amazing (there are no privacy curtains and the mattresses are thin), but the hostel is super affordable and the vibe here more than makes up for it. If you’re looking for that “classic” backpacker hostel experience, you’ll find it here.
In the Wind Hostel & Guesthouse at a glance:
- Awesome staff
- Free breakfast
- Quiet and calm atmosphere
Beds from $10 USD a night, rooms from $17 USD.
8. Hostel Pangea
This is a party hostel. It has an on-site bar with super cheap drinks plus a heated pool and a restaurant. There are also daily activities organized by the staff. The dorms are a little small, and the beds are basic metal bunks with no curtains but people come here for the pool and partying. You’ll find lots of common areas here too so there’s always a spot to chill out. In short, if you’re looking to meet lots of people and party, this is where you want to stay.
Hostel Pangea at a glance:
- Bar & pool on-site
- Lots of chill outdoor common areas
- Really cheap drinks
Beds from $10 USD a night, rooms from $30 USD.
With dorms under $10 USD per night and private rooms for under $20 USD, San José is a steal for budget travelers.
While it’s not the most exciting destination in Costa Rica, chances are you’ll be here for a few days before heading off to the country’s better-known sights. By staying at one of these awesome (and cheap) hostels, you’ll not only save money but you’ll get to meet other travelers, pick up insider tips and advice, and really make the most of your visit.
Book Your Trip to Costa Rica: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Costa Rica?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Costa Rica for even more planning tips!
Photo credits: 2 – Capital Hostel de Ciudad, 3 – Stray Cat Hostel, 4 – Costa Rica Backpackers, 5 – Fauna Luxury Hostel, 6 – Hostel del Paseo, 7 – TripOn Open House, 8 – In the Wind Hostel & Guesthouse, 9 – Hostel Pangea