Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Graham Bishai.
USA Hostels San Diego ($)
726 Fifth Ave.; (619) 232-3100; www.usahostels.com/locations/san-diego/; reception open 24hr
Perched on a second floor landing above the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, USA Hostels San Diego is the perfect balance of fun and comfortable for any traveller trying to ball on a budget. Not to mention, it’s in an unbeatable location for exploring San Diego’s best nightlife and food. The space is colorfully decorated and welcomes lots of natural light, putting you in the mood to get out and explore, and provides a homey place to rejuvenate when you come back. Dance the night away literally downstairs on Fifth Avenue, tumble into bed, and then fuel up on their free breakfast the next morning. The facilities are clean and modern, and the staff are friendly and helpful. It won’t be too boring for you, adventurous swashbuckler, nor too bohemian for you, sensible traveler. Whoever you are, this place has got you covered: the hardest thing you’ll have to do is climb the stairs up from the street.
Bunks from $34, privates from $105; reservation recommended; max stay 14 days; BGLTQ+ friendly; Wi-Fi; linens and breakfast included; laundry facilities available
Ramada Gaslamp/Convention Center ($$)
6307, 830 Sixth Ave.; (619) 531-8877; https://www.stjameshotel.com/; reception open 24hr
With its decor and a central location, this hotel really pushes the envelope on what “budget traveling” looks like. It’s the closest thing you can get to a luxury hotel for a budget price. You’ll be greeted by an ornate chandelier and beautifully carpeted lobby. It’s the kind of place where you enter your room and flop onto the bed in glee with your arms up in the air. You’re right in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, so it’s just a short walk (or stumble) back home at the end of your night out. If you don’t want to leave your quarters, grab a drink at the rooftop bar or a bite at the 24-hour restaurant attached to the hotel. You’re also walking distance from the Embarcadero, the Midway Museum, and all the downtown attractions.
Rooms from $99; reservation recommended; max stay 28 days; BGLTQ+ friendly; wheelchair accessible; Wi-Fi; linens included
Graham left behind the stressed-out chaos of Cambridge for the laid back life on the West Coast. A refreshing change of pace, he assumed, until the line for coffee on his first morning took 2 mins longer than he’s used to, and the Northeast nasty jumped out. Starting in Vancouver, Graham meandered south, toning his calves being a pedestrian on San Francisco’s hills and by navigating the monstrosity that is Los Angeles using just his feet and public transit (only resorting to Uber twice!) Graham’s love for the West Coast life only increased as he sat by the Puget Sound in Seattle, sipped kombucha in the crunchy cafes of Portland, climbed into a waterfall in Yosemite and stayed in an abandoned opera house in Death Valley. By the time he hit upper 80s sun of San Diego, buff calves and sun tanned, the words “West Coast, Best Coast,” almost slipped out of his mouth. Identity crisis looming, he figured it was time to go home.