5. Most Relaxing Hostel: Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort, Midpines, California. Private cabins outside the main lodge.
The dorm beds may be basic at the Yosemite Bug, but while you're luxuriating the in the garden-deck hot tub overlooking Bear Creek Canyon (just $10 for all-day access), you'll feel like a million bucks. The spa also offers herbal baths and scrubs with locally made herbal formulas, massage, and yoga classes.
An organic garden, grown with compost from the lodge, provides food for the cafe, which specializes in local foods and vegetarian and vegan cuisine. A nearby swimming hole and walking trails provide convenient diversions, while more ambitious explorers can find a world of outdoor activities in California's famous Yosemite National Park, just 25 miles away.
6. Best Recycling Program: Hedonisia Hawaii, Big Island, Hawaii
© Hedonisia Hawaii. The hostel's recycling facility (left) and a private hut made in part out of found lumber and refurbished metal roofing.
At this Big Island getaway, even the location -- a former car junkyard -- is recycled. Hedonisia Hawaii is restoring the land by planting fruit trees and tropical plants and has an organic farm (fed with kitchen compost and mulch from the local landfill) where visitors can volunteer for cheaper room and board. Most facilities are built from scavenged, donated, and recycled materials, and the hotel staff are avid freecyclers who encourage guests to drink tap water.
Like other green hostels, this one rents bikes, and uses eco-friendly laundry soap... but how many lodgings have designated "P-Zones" where you can answer the call of nature in the great outdoors while sating thirsty tropical plants that appreciate a little, uh, natural watering?
7. Best Sightseeing Base: HI-Washington, Washington, D.C.
© HI-Washington, D.C.. Happy guests.
You can't get much closer to America's seat of power -- especially on a budget -- than Hostelling International's DC location, just eight blocks from the White House and all the famous monuments and museums on the National Mall. The world's first hostel to be Energy Star-certified, HI-DC uses (and recycles) compact fluorescent lights, is renovating all its guest rooms with low-VOC paint and carpet, recycles everything from batteries to cardboard to toner cartridges, has low-flow aerators on its faucets and showerheads, and has banished disposable plates and flatware from its kitchen and breakfast room.
Plus, they screen environmental documentaries at monthly movie nights. HostelWorld.com once called HI-DC a place to stay "if you feel the people at the White House aren't doing their bit to help the environment but you want to help when you are in town." Today's green-minded visitors are more likely to be trying to get a glimpse of the Obama family's vegetable garden.
8. Best Active Outdoor Vacation: Girdwood Alaska Backpackers, Girdwood, Alaska
© Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn. The new lodge.
Hiking, biking, kayaking, rafting, skiing, and fishing opportunities are just a stone's throw away from this hostel south of Anchorage -- not to mention the glaciers and wildlife. The owners of the Girdwood Backpackers Inn, which is having its grand opening this month, used recycled materials for the rooftop, had salvaged lumber handcrafted into new counter-tops, installed energy-efficient lighting, will offer fresh veggies from the farmers' market for sale, and plans to apply for LEED Gold certification.
Discover hip hostels in Mexico, Canada, Colorado, and West Virginia on page 3.