The Marin Headlands Hostel is part of the Hostel International network, and it is not too far from the Marin Headlands Visitor Center in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is part of the US National Parks System, and its prime location is adjacent to several other popular San Francisco National Parks, such as the Muir Woods National Monument and the Point Reyes National Seashore.
HI Marin Headlands hostel has a unique status, as it is the only HI Hostel within a National Park System property. It is one of the most popular San Francisco hostels. While technically it is across the San Francisco Bay, the Marin Headlands are within a short drive from downtown San Francisco.
Here’s our review of the Marin Headlands Hostel.
Marin Headlands Hostel History
The current Marin Headlands Hostel compound was built in 1907 as part of Fort Barry – a U.S. Army barracks. It was a small, self-sufficient community with residences, a bakery, stables, and warehouses.
The current hostel occupies the structure of what used to be the hospital to house unknown diseases at that time, including yellow fever.
But don’t worry – nothing is left behind and now it only serves as a cozy hostel with a beautiful setting.
You can read more about Fort Barry’s history at the NPS official page here.
Is Marin Headlands Hostel haunted?
As mentioned, the current hostel occupies a former hospital from the early 1900s.
There are rumors that there have been some ghosts sightings at Marin Headlands Hostel.
While this may be true for those who gave testimonials about it, I did not experience anything outside the ordinary while staying here.
But you can judge it for yourself!
Marin Headlands Hostel Location
While there are many options for San Francisco accommodations, I find the Marin Headlands Hostel stands out from the rest. It is the only San Francisco budget accommodation inside the US National Park System boundaries.
You can explore the Golden Gate National Recreation Area within the hostel’s backyard and beyond! The Golden Gate Bridge is about 4 miles from the Marin Headlands Hostel, and a leisure stroll through the beautiful open meadows or a bike ride along the coastal mountainside of the National Park is something that you won’t easily forget.
The popular Point Bonita lighthouse, a restored Nike missile site, along with a few military barracks and batteries from previous wars are a short distance away.
Mount Tamalpais State Park, as well as Muir Woods National Monument, are also not too far from Marin Headlands Hostel. These trails are integrated into the Marin Headlands hikes and trail system.
Booking and checking in
Booking your San Francisco Youth Hostel
The easiest way to book the Marin Headlands Hostel in San Francisco is through this booking.com link.
You can browse through the Hosteling International official page (slightly more expensive than booking.com), especially if you are a Hosteling International member.
Method of payment
Marin Headlands Hostel accepts cash, major credit cards, and travelers check. A valid credit card number is required to make an online reservation; however you can pay the full balance in either cash or travelers checks when checking in.
Check in hours are between 3:30 to 10:30 pm. You will need to provide a government issue photo ID and a valid reservation (highly recommended) when checking in.
Walk-ins are also available on a first come first served basis.
Be mindful that if they have a full house, as they do on many nights, you will be out of luck.
Definitely book your hostel in advance.
To get to the HI Marin Headlands Hostel
The easiest way to get here is by driving your own car, or as a part of your hiking or biking adventure.
Public transportation in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the entire North San Francisco National Parks area, can be a tricky matter.
Unfortunately, there is no easy or cheap way to get here from the San Francisco proper. Uber and other ride shares will cost around $25 from the city center.
Public transportation only offers limited weekend bus routes that stops a bit of a distance away.
An option that most backpackers use is to ride a ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito across the bay. From the Sausalito Ferry terminal, you arrange a ride share to get to the Marin Headlands Hostel.
From what I’ve been told, a taxi or ride share to the airport is even outrageous. You can expect to pay at least $50 to get to San Francisco International Airport from here.
Room and dorm bed rates
Marin Headlands Hostel offers several different types accommodation, including dormitory beds.
You can a room with either eight people in gender-specific rooms or 22 people in co-ed room settings. The rate ranges from $31 to $40 per night, per person.
Children under 12 traveling with their parents or legal guardian can receive a half off rate from regular pricing.
Most of the private rooms come in a one to three-person setting in a Houston bed. It is a double bed with a single bunk above.
These range from $105 to $150 per night, per room. Children under the age of 4 must stay in these private rooms.
There are limited rooms for up to five people. Contact the Marin Headlands Hostel for availability and rates.
Group of eight or more must contact the hostel directly at (415) 331-2777 to arrange a special room.
Amenities at the Marin Headlands Hostel
There are free parking facilities for guests cars in three different locations around the hostel. These parking lots will accommodate regular cars and trucks. RVs may be able to park here as well, but you will need to confirm it prior your arrival at the Marin Headlands Hostel.
Call (415) 331-2777 if you have questions.
There’s a recreation room in the basement of the hostel.
It doesn’t seem to be used to its fullest; however, there’s an option for guests to relax and play games.
While for many, the basement is dinky and dark, it provides an option to spread out around the hostel. You can choose to play foosball or ping-pong. Or, you can just lounge around on the several sofas there.
At the end of the basement, there’s a secluded room for yoga with a few big bean chairs.
At least that’s what being advertised by the hostel.
If you need to do laundry during your stay at the Marin Headlands Hostel, head to the basement. Marin Headlands Hostel provides two industrial size washers and dryers, which cost a small amount – 75¢ for the washing machine, and 25¢ (verify) for the dryer.
You will need to provide your own laundry detergent and dryer sheets. Ask the main desk for coins.
Although nothing fancy, you can use the hostel’s gym style metal lockers in the basement for your valuables. You can either use your own lock, or purchase one from the main desk for $4.
Picnic and BBQ
The Marin Headlands Hostel setting is gorgeous! The front porch consists of several picnic tables and a free-standing grill. It is free to use; however, you will need to provide your own coals, lighter fluid, and the items to barbecue.
It is a perfect place for enjoying dinner with a few new friends!
One of the biggest selling points of staying in many hostels is the free breakfast option. It applies to the HI Marin Headlands Hostel, which offers a free breakfast.
However, they don’t specify what kind of breakfast they have, and the “free breakfast” feels a bit weak. The hostel provides a do-it-yourself pancake mix, a jug of maple syrup, and some other condiments for breakfast.
While it is free to use for guests, I didn’t see anybody using it while staying here.
The free breakfast kit is available from 8am to 11am. Coffee and tea are also available by donation.
Living room: Piano and Fireplace
If you are a good piano player, you are more than welcome to use the piano in the common area where tons of other guests congregate! Here, you can also socialize with fellow guests, as well as read many of the available books, play board games, or work on your computer.
The Marin Headlands Hostel provides a modern fireplace to set the mood.
Wi-Fi and connection
Wi-Fi is available for guests to use. The main staff will provide you with the password upon checking in. Keep in mind that, while it is a reliable connection, it can get extremely slow due with lots of use. Imagine when all 82 guests staying in the hostel are using it at once.
Important to know that there is no cell phone connection in the area. This is fairly common in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, or North San Francisco National Parks area.
Arranged Hostel Programs
Night Hike at a US National Park
For $10, you can join the two-hour guided night hike led by a professional naturalist.
After the sunset experience from the Marin Headlands, the guide will take you through nature without flashlights to stimulate your senses of smell (eucalyptus vs sea salt air), sight (full moon and bio-luminescence), hearing (seals barking in the distance) and touch.
Reserve your spot in advance. They don’t offer this program daily.
Things to know
Marin Headlands Hostel curfew policy and hours
The reception desk opens from 7:30 am to 11:30 pm. There is no curfew in the hostel; however, you will need an access card to get in and out after official hours.
This card will let you into the hostel’s front door, as well your room. The card’s access will be reset at the time you check out.
Bed linens, pillow cases, and towels are available for your use during your stay.
Check-in is from 3:30 to 10:30 pm. Check-out is before 11 am.
Check out procedures
Outside the normal desk hours of 7:30 am to 11:30pm, there’s a check-out box where you can drop your access card.
The hostel expects you to strip your bedding from your mattress and pillow and drop them in the laundry hampers at the hallway.
San Francisco housing crisis
The Bay Area is notoriously bad for its expensive housing cost. To avoid any abuse in accommodation in San Francisco, many San Francisco hotels, including Marin Headlands Hostel, have a strict maximum stay at their properties.
At Marin Headlands Hostel, you may stay no longer than 14 nights in any calendar year.
If you arrive at the hostel without motorized transportation (i.e., you’re a hiker or cyclist), ask for the hiker/biker discount and get $2 off for your first night at the Marin Headlands Hostel.
No smoking policy
The Marin Headlands Hostel has a strict no smoking policy. If you need to light up, do it outside and away from any entrances.
Raccoons inside the National Parks and hostel
There’s a sign on every window inside the hostel to warn guests not to leave them open. And there’s a small raccoon drawing on these signs.
While raccoons are cute, they have been causing problems specifically around the HI Marin Headlands Hostel. Raccoons are generally harmless to humans. All they want is to hunt for food, and they are attracted to the smell our food in the property and in the kitchen.
Well, harmless except for rabies, possibly.
Do not feed the raccoons.
Pets vs service animal rule
Pets may not stay in the Marin Headlands Hostel, including inside parked vehicles. Service animals are allowed, obviously. Just inform the front desk when making the reservation.
More on places to stay in San Francisco
San Francisco hotels, hostels, and budget accommodations are plentiful. Browse through below for options and rates.
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At a Glance
HI Marin Headlands Hostel
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
941 Rosenstock Rd, Sausalito, CA 94965
Phone: (415) 331-2777
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