6 Destinations to Visit for Budget Backpackers in California 

Ali Sullivan

6 Destinations to Visit for Budget Backpackers in California 

Uncover the Golden State’s vibrant culture and unforgettable experiences in these 6 cities without breaking the bank. Your California dream trip awaits with the best 6 destinations and hostel to visit this fall for budget backpackers in California!


Picture this: a crisp autumn breeze rustling through the palm trees, the sun casting a warm glow over golden landscapes, and the excitement of exploring Californian cities on a backpacker’s budget. This fall, we invite you to embark on an adventure like no other as we unveil the best budget-friendly destinations in the Golden State. From the vibrant streets of Los Angeles to the picturesque coastal beauty of San Francisco, California offers a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered.

To make your journey even more memorable, ITH Hostels has a location in every destination on this list where you can experience not just affordability but also a sense of community and connection. You’ll have the perfect home base to explore, socialize, and create unforgettable memories. 


Grab your backpack, pack your sense of adventure, and join us on a journey through California’s most captivating cities, all while staying comfortably within your budget.

San Francisco 

San Francisco stands out as one of the premier backpacker cities in California, offering a blend of culture, history, and beauty. The city offers a range of free or low-cost activities, such as exploring the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, strolling through vibrant neighborhoods like Chinatown and the Mission District, or relaxing in beautiful parks like Golden Gate Park. The extensive public transportation system, including cable cars, makes it easy to navigate the city without breaking the bank.


San Francisco, California

ITH Pacific Tradewinds Hostel in San Francisco 


Joshua Tree 

While technically not a city, Joshua Tree is a remarkable destination for budget backpackers. This unique desert wilderness offers affordable access to a stunning natural landscape with its iconic Joshua trees, rugged rock formations, and vast open spaces. The park’s entrance fees are relatively low, especially when compared to major urban destinations. Backpackers can explore its numerous hiking trails, go rock climbing, and stargaze in one of the best dark-sky areas in California without incurring extra expenses.

Joshua Tree, California

ITH Hostel Coyote Ranch in Joshua Tree


Los Angeles

Despite its reputation, Los Angeles can be an appealing destination for budget backpackers in California. The city offers a wide range of free or low-cost attractions, such as the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Griffith Observatory with its stunning city views, and the beautiful beaches along the coastline. Exploring neighborhoods like Venice Beach and Downtown Los Angeles provides unique cultural experiences without breaking the bank. LA’s extensive public transportation system, including buses and the Metro, makes it relatively affordable and convenient to get around. Moreover, the city’s diverse food scene offers a variety of inexpensive dining options, including food trucks and ethnic eateries.


Hermosa Beach, LA, California

ITH Hermosa Surf City Hostel in Los Angeles 


Big Bear 

Big Bear, a charming mountain town in Southern California, is an excellent choice for budget backpackers seeking an affordable adventure. The area is a year-round playground for outdoor enthusiasts, with budget-friendly activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and nature exploration. In the winter, the town offers affordable skiing and snowboarding options for those looking to hit the slopes. Big Bear Lake provides opportunities for water sports like kayaking and fishing. There are many free or low-cost trails and parks to explore, including the Pacific Crest Trail.


Big Bear, California

ITH Big Bear Mountain Adventure Hostel 


Santa Barbara 

Santa Barbara, while often associated with luxury and upscale living, can still be an attractive destination for budget backpackers in California. The city’s year-round pleasant climate and stunning natural beauty offer an abundance of free or low-cost outdoor activities. Travelers can explore the picturesque beaches, hike in the nearby Santa Ynez Mountains, or visit Lotusland, a beautiful garden often open for tours. Additionally, the city’s local farmers’ markets and affordable eateries provide opportunities for budget-friendly dining.


Santa Barbara, California

*NEW LOCATION*  ITH Beach Hostel in Santa Barbara 

San Diego 

San Diego is a top-notch destination for budget backpackers in California. The city boasts a wealth of free or low-cost attractions, starting with its beautiful beaches like La Jolla Cove and Pacific Beach. Balboa Park, home to numerous museums and gardens, offers free entry on select days, providing a dose of culture without the price tag. The Gaslamp Quarter and Little Italy neighborhoods offer a lively atmosphere and affordable dining options, including street food and budget-friendly restaurants. San Diego’s temperate climate makes outdoor activities, such as hiking and exploring its many parks, an appealing and cost-effective choice.


San Diego, California

ITH Downtown Adventure Hostel in San Diego 

ITH Mission Beach Backpacker Hostel in San Diego 

ITH Bech Bungalow Hostel in San Diego 


As your California backpacking journey comes to a close, we hope you’re brimming with excitement for the adventure that awaits. Exploring the Golden State on a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing quality experiences; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. From San Diego’s beaches to the charming streets of Santa Barbara, California offers a myriad of affordable adventures. 

Please let us know if you have any other destinations to recommend for the best backpacker cities to visit this fall in California

Cheers, safe travels!