So you’ve decided to visit San Francisco – ride a trolley, eat a giant burrito, see the Golden Gate Bridge – and you’re wondering what else you can do after ticking off those big bucket list items. The right answer is to go across the famous bridge and spend a night or two at HI Marin Headlands hostel, which sits pretty within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Though it’s not far from the City by the Bay, the headlands feels like a whole new world and offers a real slice of quintessential Northern California, plus you don’t even need a car to get there: you can take a scenic ferry across the bay to Sausalito, work those quads and bike across the bridge and up to the hostel, or take the 76X bus from downtown San Francisco on weekends.
There’s really no reason not to make it up to HI Marin Headlands, but just in case you need them, here are a few more.
You’ll get to experience the natural beauty of the Bay Area and take in unbelievable views
After you’ve seen the concrete jungle you can escape the city bustle for a little while just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll find rolling green hills, dramatic coastal bluffs and the Pacific Ocean stretching out for miles to the end of the world. Hike the trails of Mount Tamalpais in the summertime so you can feel like you’re on top of the world while overlooking the bay, or get your rainy weather gear out in the winter so you can go for a spectacular walk chasing the Cascade and Cataract Waterfalls.
This side is also where you’ll get those postcard-perfect shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and learn more about Point Bonita Lighthouse and the area’s extensive military history. Plus, the hostel is just a short trail away from Rodeo Beach, which is speckled with colorful little pebbles and perfect for people- and dog-watching. In short, you’ll forget that you’re just five miles from a big city because you’ll be submerged within serene and cleansing nature.
You’ll get to spend quality time in Sausalito
At first glance it might seem that there’s not that much to Sausalito except touristy haunts, but if you venture beyond the main stretch you’ll find that there’s quite a bit more. You do, of course, have to go walk amongst the adorable house boats that are a signature of these docks, but after that you can veer off the beaten path. HI Marin Headlands hostel General Manager Meghan recommends a couple of local cafés, like Driver’s Market and Taste of Rome, to cozy up in on winter days, and stopping by for happy hour at the Seafood Peddler where you can sit alongside locals at the bar getting good deals on drinks and bites. In the summertime, the flat lanes are perfect for exploring by bike and once again, you’ll be treated to Instagram-worthy views of San Francisco.
You’ll find a home away from home at HI Marin Headlands hostel
The most obvious and important reason to add a trip to the headlands to your San Francisco visit is so you can spend the night at the hostel and meet fellow adventurers. Whether you’re in a dorm or a private room in one of the two historic buildings, you’ll feel like you’re staying at an old friend’s house: there’s the cozy common room where spontaneous singalongs happen, where Christmas stockings hang next to a warming fire and where new friendships are formed; and the great field in back, which is perfect for a summertime picnics and lazy sunbathing. The hostel is the perfect base from which you can explore the many park trails or the streets of Sausalito, Tiburon and San Rafael, and either way, you’ll leave feeling refreshed and happy you made it across the bay.
HI USA tip: Here’s exactly how to spend two perfect days at the Marin Headlands and a guide to some excellent spots to add to your Northern California beach bucket list. Don’t forget to share your adventures with us on Facebook and tag us in those pretty Instagram posts!