Staying at a hostel in Santa Cruz  just feels right. And the Santa Cruz Youth Hostel Carmelita Cottages (321 Main St., 831/423-8304, www.hi-santacruz.org , $25 dorm, $55 private room, $150 cottage) offers a great local atmosphere. Like most historic Santa Cruz edifices, it doesn’t look like much from the outside. And certainly the interior doesn’t have the newest furniture and paint. But it’s clean, cheap, friendly, and close to the beach.
You’ll find a spot to store your surfboard or bike for free, and car parking is $1 per day. The big homelike kitchen is open for guest use, and might even be hiding some extra free food in its cupboards.
Expect all the usual hostel-style amenities, a nice garden out back, free linens, laundry facilities, and a free Internet kiosk.