Make your reservation at least five weeks in advance during high season to stay at this popular 260-bed hostel. It prides itself on its privacy and security, with guests accommodated in small single-sex rooms; some larger rooms also have their own bathroom. Beds for walk-ins are available on a first-come, first-served basis: bring ID or you'll be turned away. Free breakfast and wireless internet access.
Hostelling International also runs two other hostels in San Francisco. The 75-room HI-City Centre (685 Ellis Street, between Larkin & Hyde Streets, Tenderloin, 474 5721) was refurbished to a decent standard a few years ago, while HI-Fisherman's Wharf (Building 240, Fort Mason, at Bay & Franklin Streets, Marina, 771 7277) offers a wide variety of rooms (some private), free parking and astonishing views of the Bay. As with HI-Downtown, both provide free breakfast and Wi-Fi, and are bookable via 1-888 464 4872 or www.sfhostels.com.