At 3 p.m. on an ordinary Friday afternoon, the weekend is already in full swing at Native, Austin’s newest boutique hostel. Within the original rough-hewn limestone walls of a former 1890s railroader hotel, travelers and locals alike are putting their laptops away and starting to make plans for the evening. Coffee drinks from Native’s café and bakery are being traded for cocktails from the full-service bar and kitchen, and in the lobby, a bachelorette party is carrying glittery photo props upstairs to the hostel’s twelve-person Romper Room. It’s impossible to provide everything a visitor hopes to find in the city under a single roof, but Native makes an impressive attempt, offering a 3,500-square-foot rustic event space, café, restaurant, bar, and upscale dorms and lofts, where 65 custom-built beds hide behind crimson red velvet curtains.
Like many of the hostels that have opened up in Texas, Native is focused on creating the unique social experience that draws young, solo travelers to hostels in the first place. Staying in a hotel or renting a house by yourself can be lonely. At hostels, you can pay a fraction of the price for a bunk and a group of friends to explore a new place with—or at the very least, for a reminder that you aren’t entirely alone on your adventure when you come home after dark.
If you didn’t realize hostels even exist in Texas, you’re not the only one. The nearly 100-year-old German traveling tradition has taken a while to catch on in the state, and across the U.S. Currently there are fifteen hostels in Texas, most of which opened their doors to travelers within the last six years. Despite the slow growth, Paul Halpenny, the director of group supply at Hostelworld, an international hostel booking company that does booking for more than half of those in Texas, said bookings have increased over the last two years in the state. As more hostels open, Halpenny said to expect more backpackers.
It should come as no surprise that Austin has one of the hottest emerging hostel markets in the U.S. The free-spirited and laid-back pockets of the once-small city, coupled with widespread public transportation and regularly held music, tech and art events, attract domestic and international travelers year-round. Nearly half of the state’s hostels are in Austin, but hostels have sprung up in other towns too, including a few near some of Texas’s biggest attractions. La Loma del Chivo Hostel, for instance, is a magical little collection of cottages built out of recycled materials by artists in Marathon, Texas, a tiny town just 45 minutes from Big Bend National Park. For the past twelve years, owner and world traveler Guil Jones says he has been inviting guests “with even half a hippie bone left in their body to share travel stories and relax under the Milky Way.”
Drifter Jack’s Hostel//Painted in vibrant murals by 25 local artists, Drifter Jack’s is hard to miss on Guadalupe Street, near the University of Texas at Austin. The hostel regularly holds activities for guests, such as drinking games, tubing trips, movie nights, and more. Nightly rates start at $31.
Firehouse Hostel//Tucked above a hidden bar in the oldest standing firehouse in Austin (built circa 1885), Firehouse Hostel’s rustic dorm and private room options are just a staircase above the city’s infamous Sixth Street. Nightly rates start at $75.
HI Austin//The Austin location of the U.S.-based HI chain sits on the shores of Lady Bird Lake, just a short drive from Zilker Park and the Red River shopping district. Guests can rent one of the hostel’s bikes to get around town and take advantage of Sun Salutation yoga, held every morning on the deck. Nightly rates start at $25.
HK Austin//Run out of a historic Victorian mansion in East Austin, HK Austin is the product of owners Brent Underwood and Matthew Kepnes’ experiences in hundreds of hostels. Underwood previously ran a small backpackers’ hostel in New York City and Kepnes wrote New York Times bestseller How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. The duo knows their stuff, to say the least. Nightly rates start at $34.
Hostel 512//Located in central East Austin, Hostel 512 is a great spot for travelers looking to have an open and communal experience. The two-story property features co-ed dorms and a sprawling outdoor recreational area, packed with picnic tables and swinging chairs. Nightly rates start at $37.
Native Hostel//If you’ve come to Austin for a lively time, Native Hostel is a good place to start. The East Austin hostel has a sleek full-service restaurant and bar, café and working space, as well as regular DJs, organized bar crawls, movie nights, and more. Nightly rates start at $49.
The Wild, Wild West Dallas Irving Backpackers’ B&B//Situated between Dallas and Fort Worth, The Wild, Wild West hostel is ideal for travelers looking to experience the good ol’ cowboy spirit of North Texas in a ranch-style home. Nightly rates start at $35.
Love Field Guest House//For a more B&B-style experience, the Love Field Guest House in northwest Dallas offers private studio and loft options in a small and peaceful environment. Nightly rates start at $85 for one or two guests, so you might as well bring a friend.
Gardner Hotel and Hostel//Travelers can stay at the historic Gardner Hotel for a fraction of the standard price by opting for a bunk in the renovated hostel dorms. Opened in 1922, the Gardner Hotel and Hostel still bears its 1920s charm. Nightly rates start at $26.
The Hueco Hacienda//A mile from Hueco Tanks State Park, The Hueco Hacienda offers private and dorm room options in a pueblo-style structure during its high season, from November to April. Cozy fireplaces, Mexican tile floors, and wood-beam ceilings exude Old West and Native American influences. Nightly rates start at $30.
HI Houston at The Morty Rich//Once owned by former Houston Mayor and Federal Court Judge Joseph C. Hutcheson, The Morty Rich is a historic mansion on a beautiful tree-lined street in the forever funky Montrose neighborhood. The mansion has pristinely kept grounds and a lovely pool to combat the Houston heat. Nightly rates start at $26.
Houston International Hostel//Filled with Native American and African art collections, Houston International fits right in the Houston Museum District, where it has housed guests for more than three decades. Nightly rates start at $17.
La Loma del Chivo Hostel//Originally built by artists out of papercrete and recycled materials, La Loma del Chivo Hostel is a dreamy spot for the artistic and free-spirited, or anyone just looking to get away from civilization. Nightly rates start at $50.
San Antonio International Hostel at Bullis House Inn//Out back of Bullis House Inn, a Texas State Historic Landmark in the Government Hill Historic District, lies a ranch-style building with all the hostel essentials. Travelers can stay in the dorm rooms or book a private room within the historic mansion, which operates as a B&B. Nightly rates start at $75.
Woodward Lumber//Just north of historic Fredericksburg Road, woodworker Max Woodward owns and operates a hip hostel on the second story of his wood-shop. Go for the beds, but stay for live music and the laid-back hangouts that regularly take place downstairs in the gallery and wood shop. Nightly rates start at $29.