Green Tortoise Hostel




The Review

A lively hostel, with a grand, beautifully decaying dining hall that used to be a fancy Italian restaurant, Green Tortoise Hostel is a top choice for your budget stay in San Francisco. Everything you could possibly want in a hostel is here at your disposal. Sure, it's not as modern and clean as some newer hostels, but Green Tortoise more than makes up for that with a personality all its own that you'll find incredibly endearing.

The Location

You'll be right amongst it all in this North Beach location -- famous as the hangout for the Beat Generation counter-culture literary movement of the sixties, and also the many strip clubs and busy bars. It can get very noisy at night, especially on the weekends. Don't forget your earplugs! There is a bit of a dodgy feel -- this is the Red Light District after all, but it seems fairly safe to walk around at night as long as you don't loiter. It's a fifteen-minute walk from the BART train station, but best to get a taxi rather than wrestle with your suitcase and those San Francisco hills (just avoid peak hours, as the traffic downtown gets insane). You can hire bikes from the hostel. It takes twenty minutes to walk to Fisherman's Wharf (featuring the cruise boat to Alcatraz and a million other touristy things). You can also get discounts on some excellent historical walking tours dedicated to different districts.

Rooms and Bathrooms

Rooms are very basic, but fine. You'll get two keys -- one each for your room and your locker. It can be a challenge to find and unused bathrooms in the morning, so make sure you factor some extra time into your morning routine if you have an early tour booking. Bathrooms are old and get cleaned twice daily; sometimes they can be a bit dirty but they're nothing terribly gross. If you have a booking for a five-bed dorm, and are assigned the bed built into a bay window overlooking Broadway Street, you'll have an interesting experience -- there are no barriers on the windows, so you could roll out of bed onto the sidewalk! Don't forget to shut the windows before bedtime!

Common Spaces

The dining hall is a huge space, great for socialising or using your laptop. Breakfast is free -- there's even eggs supplied if you want to cook some. Dinner is also free three nights a week. And it's actually pretty good. If you help cook, you get a free beer and can jump to the front of the queue to get dinner first. There's another smaller lounge area with computers (usage is free). Green Tortoise organises a lot of pub crawls and cheap local dinners, plus they also run their own tour company, which offers lots of great deals for travels to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Las Vegas in a unique sleeper bus.


Green Tortoise Hostel consistently gets the thumbs up, and for good reason. Although not as swanky as some hostels (and the occasional odd smell can permeate), it has an excellent overall vibe, making for a memorable stay. The sister Green Tortoise hostel in Seattle also has the same energy. If you're looking for a bit more interaction than the standard hostel, and some community spirit, this is the best hostel, especially for solo travelers.
by Kristy Sullivan Staff Reviewer
Photos taken by the reviewer — Genuine photos you can trust.


(Location is approximate. You may need to pan/move to find "Green Tortoise Hostel" at 494 Broadway.)


494 Broadway, Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, California, USA
37.798208, -122.405209 (accuracy not guaranteed)
+1 (415) 834-1000
+1 (415) 956-4900
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How is Green Tortoise Hostel rated on other websites?

  Cleanliness Location Atmosphere Overall
(1272 ratings)
(172 ratings)
(23 ratings)
(4 ratings)
88% Guest Reviews

Super clean, Super fun roomies, Great free food.
It was a pleasant experience staying here, bed was very comfortable, bathrooms clean, good free food, cool roomies from different countries, what more would anyone expect?
Age 25, India
Great location, party hostel? Not sure if that applies anymore.
This is a giant hostel, previously a restaurant, hotel, and for a time a brothel. Abandoned for many years, in the 70s cleaned up and turned into a hostel. Still needs some restoring in the ballroom but overall in good condition. Fairly clean although small bathrooms (be careful of leaving window open, people can see in from hallway) this is no longer the sex party place, they have cleaned that up. It is a respectable and safe hostel now.
Age 45, USA
Fab accommodation, atmosphere and service!!!
Couldn't be better: clean, good value and friendly. Breakfast included eggs, bagels, porridge, fresh fruit and more. Reception books the Airporter Shuttle for you, organise tours. About 1/5 of the price of the hotel I stayed at on the first night in San Fran (no breakfast included). This is such a bargain, am coming back, or going to one of their other branches. Stay here!
Age 33, UK
Convenient location next to China town; unique indoor design
I was traveling with my friends for a road trip and we basically only wanted a clean and comfortable place to stay (at a fair price, of course). Green tortoise felt into our hostel list when we did our hostel haunt. I am glad we chosen here because overall it provides discounted parking, free wifi, free breakfast, and the most important is the location. We didn't realize how insanely expensive the parking is in SF until we parked. Here, it offers the visitors with the overnight parking fare at $20-30. If you stay longer, you can bargain for a better price. First problem, checked! Public transportation such cable car is within walking distance about 10 minutes. Don't want to walk? Don't worry. They also provide you with bicycles. Like most hostel you share bathroom with other travelers. The only difference is with limited space it only allows one person using bathroom at a time. It's almost like you have your own bathroom and don't have to worry about running into a naked person. It's so important for people who need privacy during showering. I know, I know, you have been waiting for the catch. The only reason I took one star from five is the space. We got a pretty compact room for three people, which reminds me of the hotel I stayed in HongKong. It's not a big problem, but I did wish I had had a bigger room. Overall, I recommend staying in green tortoise.
Awesome hostel
Haven't been to any other hostel in SF but this I'm sure is the best. Sauna, huge lounge with free amazing buffet (including eggs and bagels) all the tea/coffee you want all day, great people and super friendly staff, very clean overall too! Stay here, you'll love it!
Age 27, Mexico
What a fantastic hostel in the heart of San Francisco! The minute we arrived we were 'welcomed home' by one of the staff and given a tour by another staff member which gave us an insight into the friendly, fun, chilled out vibe of the hostel from the moment we stepped in the door. The free food was unreal and the ballroom was a great venue for making new friends and hanging out. We loved this hostel so much we extended our stay. DONT STAY ANYWHERE ELSE IN SAN FRAN!! Green Tortoise is THE place to be!
The Green Tortoise is definitely a hostel that has been created with travelers in mind! The great facilities, free breakfast and internet, and the occasional free dinner ensure that it is a great deal. Organised activities, very helpful staff, the large communal area, and the location right in the middle of a bustling area of San Francisco will make your stay tons of fun. The Location At first glance the hostel´s location may seem a little suspect to say the least. The hostel's located amid the flashy lights of the nude dancing scene -- don´t be shocked if it seems a bit sleazy. However, it's right near the busy restaurants, bars, and nightlife of Chinatown and Little Italy -- the area is bustling, safe, and fun. There are plenty of side streets to explore, full of interesting shops and places to eat and drink. It´s about a twenty-minute walk to Fishermans Wharf and the Financial District (but the hills here aren't famous for nothing, so be warned). Alternatively Columbus Avenue is a fairly busy bus route, which is always nice for the way back. The bus is probably the best and cheapest way to get here when you arrive and they have a pretty thorough directions section on their website. Rooms and Bathrooms From our experience the rooms were a lot quieter and larger than expected. However, we can see how some of them could potentially be a bit louder and more cramped. That being said they were some of the best thought out rooms that we have stayed in. Solid wooden bunks ensure no wobbling or squeaking when others move around at night. There are separate reading lights, plenty of hooks, large lockable storage under the beds, and a basin in the room -- all that you really need. The very clean bathrooms, which seem to have been redone recently, are plentiful on all the floors but are often all full at the busy times of the day -- so you may want to plan your shower times accordingly. Despite this, the wait is never too long. Common Spaces The socializing centres around either the computer area or the large ballroom. Free and fast internet is available on a large number of computers -- some with Skype -- so even at really busy times there is only a short wait. Wi-Fi is also available throughout the hostel. The ballroom is where breakfast and the occasional suppers are served, bands play some evenings, and the movie and game nights are held. There is also a pool table, vending machines, and plenty of tables and chairs around the room. The environmentally conscious kitchen is clean and well equipped with everything that you'll most likely need. Breakfast is sufficient -- bagels, toppings, fruit, and juice and coffee are available to start the day. The free dinners that are three nights a week are a bonus and the food is plentiful and delicious (you can help cook if you want). The staff are friendly and helpful and seem to be in touch with what travelers need (and need to know). They organise activities in the hostel for guests as well as a pub crawl for cheap drinks in spots around the area. They also ask everyone that comes in to show their key. The lockers in the rooms and in the ballroom mean your stuff should be safe. Summary Overall it´s a great hostel with a good atmosphere to meet other travelers and we would definitely recommend it.
Mark Hosking
(South Africa)
Very noisy but clean and central.
I had mixed impressions from this hostel. The staff were a bit weird, and the big breakfast hall tends to be immensely noisy. They sometimes have parties and music in the big hall, which is really incredibly loud. My room was a five bed dorm, not very big but you were able to move in there with five people. It had a sink which was full of stuff, and I didn't really know whether that stuff belonged to the other people in the room, or whether nobody took care of throwing it out. There were only common bathrooms on the hall, but at least they were real bathrooms and not co-ed. Most of them were showing signs of long periods of use. Breakfast is free and plenty! The kitchen provides bagels, spreads, cereals and several kinds of drinks. Very sufficient.The Wi-Fi worked fine, but only in the common rooms. Reception in my room was very bad and I kept getting thrown out, so sitting down in the common rooms is really the only thing you can do if you want internet. There are also computer there which you can use to surf for free. The location is perfect, the hostel is right between Chinatown and San Francisco's Italian neighborhood. You can walk down the hill to the financial district in about twenty minutes, or walk up to the Bay and the Pier in half an hour (depends on how good you're at climbing hills). I walked from the hostel via the Exploratium to the Golden Gate Bridge, took half a day or a bit more maybe. Very noisy, even twice as noisy on the weekend. The breakfast is good, the facilities are clean enough to not complain, and it's definitely the cheapest accommodation you can get in the middle of San Francisco.

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