Iâ€™ve stayed in a lot of hostels, but I think the HI Hostel experience might be my favourite so far. Probably because I can still feel like a backpacker in these accommodations without having to risk catching gonorrhoea from dirty mattresses.
I had the pleasure of staying in four different HI Hostels during my Cross-Canada trip (sometimes complimentary, sometimes not). Here are my expert findings…from someone who dragged a giant, stuffed suitcase, a duffle bag, an oversized purse and a backpack across 10 provinces. What can I say, Iâ€™m a pro?
Banff Alpine Centre
The Banff Alpine Centre doesnâ€™t even feel like a hostel, but more like a budget hotel. I was given the luxury of my own private room…an unbelievably, incredibly appreciated surprise after not having slept more than four hours per night during the previous week. I nearly cried. I might have cried.
I totally cried.
But itâ€™s not just the private room that made it feel different from other hostels: it was quiet. And I donâ€™t mean boring quiet, more like a weâ€™ll-usher-all-the-problem-kids-into-a-bar-in-the-basement quiet. There was also a separate building with more rooms, probably for the more mature crowd. Like myself. Stop laughing.
I missed out on trivia shenanigans, but the Storm Cellar Pub & Gamehouse was a chill place to hang out with my new Moose Network friends. Thereâ€™s also a freaking sweet ice wall outside the hostel, obviously not usable in the summer.
There are several other HI Hostels in the Banff area as well, many of them with â€œjob seekersâ€ packages to help those who want employment while visiting. Tell them Candice sent ya.
HI-Athabasca Falls, Jasper
Okay, HI-Athabasca might trump all. We pulled up at this “no running water” hostel in the middle of nowhere and met Michel, a French woodsman, and his adorable toddler son who tottered around camp with a smile plastered on his face. Michel showed Corbin and I our private honeymoon cabin (bow-chicka-wow!) while his son followed behind us, distracted by the forest, until Michel said, â€œtoo slow!â€ and scooped him up.
After all, he had just seen some black bears in the area.
Our night at HI-Athabasca Falls was probably one of the most memorable from the entire trip. We played Apples to Apples around a log table and laughed until we cried. Whether it was Chris the Swedeâ€™s interpretation of the Canadian loonie being a member of the Looney Toons or Lareinaâ€™s clever responses to every card, we suddenly all became BFFs that night. No beer required.
(Ironically, as I now spot the open cans of Kokanee.)
I also had the best sleep of my entire trip…although I admit using the outhouse with only my iPhone flashlight was a little scary.
Points of interest: Michel has been here for years, and has some great stories. Talk to him. Also, donâ€™t wear your shoes inside the main lodge because he will choke you out, seriously. Okay, not serious, but just donâ€™t do it.
Another welcome reprieve from my week-long trip through the Rockies, HI-Vancouver Downtown is also a place more suitable for those looking for peace and quiet and not a party atmosphere (BUT they do have pubcrawls). Its location on Granville Street is epic, the staff is overwhelmingly helpful (thanks for answering all my stupid questions about Tofino, guys!), and the beds = sleeptastic heaven.
And as Iâ€™m looking at the hostelâ€™s webpage, Iâ€™m JUST noticing they have a rooftop deck. Mother#@K#R.
I took my two nights at the HI-Vancouver Downtown to unwind, stretch my limbs, and sleep off a week of chaos and adventure. I cannot express to you my happiness about doing so. To just soak up a slow pace in a quiet hostel after a whirlwind trip was the kind of luxury not even a 5-star hotel could afford, and it really made my trip.
HI Hostel Thunder Bay, Ontario
Iâ€™ve already written about this hostel briefly, but as I now look for the website, it seems to not exist. It’s not even listed on the HI-Hostel site. I’m freaked out. Does it exist? Did it ever exist?! DID THIS EVEN HAPPEN?!!
Thanks, HI-Hostel! I will gladly grace you with my presence again in the future. If you’ll have me.