The recent spate of media reports about deep pocket investor plans for ” high-end hostels ” in the largest U.S. cities is sparking a wider public interest in hostels there.   With each report, more and more Americans are familiar with the idea of quality urban hostels.   That’s a very good thing.  Extra large in size and vibe, HI USA knows first-hand how these hostels amp up tourism, transform neighborhoods, and energize traveler exchanges with community residents.

My complaint: media coverage shouldn’t stop with the largest hostels.

That’s because large urban hostels are just one part of a larger constellation operating across America.  Within the U.S., roughly three out of every four hostels are under 75 beds.   They are mainly off-the-beaten path and they offer enticing opportunities to travelers (but admittedly, not to investors).

Our smaller HI USA hostels are popular in their own right for the memories they create.   Conversations seem easier there, and food seems to taste better, too.  Seriously.

oak tree

Iconic Oak: Shawshank Redemption was filmed within hiking distance of #1 Malabar Farm Hostel (see cover photo)

Maybe it’s because of their location.  Our smaller hostels are typically found in less-crowded places, such as quiet neighborhoods and recreational areas.  Somehow it makes a difference when serenity is just outside the front door.

And then there’s the hostel staff.   I’ve talked with thousands of hostel managers over my career, and for the special ones, their commitment to hostels is as much a life choice as a career decision.   That’s inspiring, and their hostels reflect it.

Travelers appreciate what they discover with HI USA.   Here are our top-rated hostels in America for 2014, based on guest satisfaction:  #1 HI Malabar Farm; #2 HI Mississippi Headwaters; #3 HI Martha’s Vineyard; #4 HI Point Montara Lighthouse;  and #5 HI Tibbetts Point LighthouseAll of them are terrific, and all are under 75 beds.


#2 Mississippi Headwaters Hostel; “Ol’ Man River” starts its 2,300 mile path southward here.

So why don’t they receive more media attention?   Because they are smaller, they are hardly money makers.   Yet for HI USA as a nonprofit, they are important.  We invest in them because they give travelers a unique window into American life.  Our return is measured in experiences which foster intercultural understanding.

And we are not standing still.

This August, a terrific new hostel will open in Richmond, just in time for a major international cycling event being held there.  Located in renovated historic building in Richmond’s central district, the 58-bed hostel will offer all the amenities our travelers want: amazing community-created programs,  lots of common space, an expansive self-service kitchen, plenty of volunteer involvement, a friendly staff and a wide selection of sleeping rooms (from family rooms to 6-bedded dorms).    We are creating an experience that brings together the worldwide community of travelers with the residents of Richmond.

The hostel project has given me multiple excuses to visit Richmond over the past year, and each time I come away impressed with the city’s deep historic roots, vibrant community life, and amazing global aspirations.   Richmond city leaders have stepped forward to help bring a hostel to their city.  A community fundraising campaign is in place, and we are glad to be doing our part to make a Richmond hostel a reality.

Of course, we are proud of our entire collection of mid-sized and smaller hostels.   Begin your journey today by visiting   And give them a shout out to friends and family!