By Rachelle Nielson
Enter, Samesun Hostel, our host with the most. To be honest, I had never stayed at a hostel before this trip. I found them a bit intimidating! But at $55 CAD a night, I was prepared to tuck away all my reservations and dive right into hostel culture. Am I sure glad that I did! This place surpassed all expectations in every department. Not only did we save on accommodation compared to the surrounding hotels and pricey airbnbs, our downtown location meant we saved a lot on transit too. We were a short jaunt from Gastown, Yaletown, The Village and Stanley Park. Not to mention all the best nightlife was on our doorstep. After our stay here, I’m positive I’ll be booking Samesun for different trips across Canada and the US.
My Tips for the best Samesun experience:
1. Don’t underestimate the power of the free breakfast! Now I’ll say I am about as far from being a morning person as possible. But I am so glad I got myself down there for breakfast. Not only did my free coffee come with oat milk, I also loved sharing a table with fellow travellers in the morning. The connections we got to make at breakfast changed our trip for the better. So don’t hit that snooze button! Well, not too many times at least.
2. Take advantage of The Beaver’s daily happy hour! Food can really drain a travel budget. The bar below the hostel really helped us keep our spending to a minimum. We took every chance to go during the bars happy hour for $5 deals on flatbreads, and deals on drinks, veggie burgers and even fish and chips!
3. Make use of the shared kitchen! We saved a lot on our food budget by being able to cook our own lunches and dinners. The kitchen is fully stocked with all you could ask for, including some free essentials like rice and peanut butter.
Things to do on a budget
Amble around Gastown
We spent a lazy afternoon walking along Gastown’s quaint cobblestone streets and taking in the sights. This small neighbourhood is made up of all red brick buildings that make you feel like you took a step back in time. Cafe’s and boutiques are dotted all around. Grab a coffee from the place that speaks to you most and just enjoy the ambiance as the streets light up with lanterns and the iconic steam clock whistles away.
Stroll to Sunset Beach
Oh there’s truly nothing like a west coast sunset. This beach was an unbelievably short walk from our hostel and we made the most of it. This is just one of the many beaches around Vancouver, but come sunset, you’ll be glad you chose this one. Claim one of the driftwood logs, and don’t forget your picnic.
If you happen to be here during the day, join in on some of the volleyball games that people play! Or live like the locals and jog or roller-skate on the beach path that stretches all the way around Stanley park. If you keep walking, you’ll come across the nearest beach, English Bay and find plenty of restaurants and bars.
Take the ferry to Granville Island
I like to call this place, Food Island. Okay, okay, there’s not JUST food here, but step into the public market of over 50 vendors and you certainly won’t be disappointed by the selection. We popped in here late afternoon to grab some more walking fuel. Think artisan cheeses, fresh seafood, gorgeous bakeries and even vegan options! Take a longer stroll around the island to see local artisan stores, breweries and live music. It’s truly a cultural hub you can’t miss. We had a memorable afternoon sitting with our treats and watching herons fish for their own dinner in false creek. If you’re lucky, you might see some seals. There have even been rare reports of orcas spotted swimming the waters here!
The easiest way to get here is by taking the ferry from Sunset Beach. At the south end of sunset beach, you’ll find the Vancouver Aquatic Centre. Wait by the docks here and a small boat will pick you up and deliver you to Granville Island or Kitsilano beach for a small $3 fee. Not to mention you get a nice view on the way there.
Get close to the clouds at Cleveland Dam
The public parks in Vancouver don’t mess around. We could have spent a whole day at this park in North Vancouver. We couldn’t get used to the clouds and how they all brushed over the tops of the trees. If you want to cloud watch, this is the place in my opinion. You can also see little gondolas heading up to grouse mountain that disappear into the cloud cover. We just checked out the dam and the reservoir, but there are plenty of walking trails around that offer spectacular views. This is also a popular filming location for many movies and tv shows! Take a look around and you may recognize scenes from your favourites.
Skip Capilano and head to Lynn Canyon
I get it, Capilano Suspension Bridge is stunning and on the list for most Vancouver visitors. But it’s also $54. Now, I’m not saying it’s not worth it, but we chose to save our pockets and head to the totally free and less busy alternative, Lynn Canyon. We absolutely loved this park! The suspension bridge had views of waterfalls. But what we ended up loving the most, was just how green everything was. In certain areas, every tree trunk, branch and rock was covered in a delicate green moss that claimed everything that dared come within two inches from the forest floor. Talk about Twilight aesthetic.
We also loved this park because it has places to swim! A short distance from the suspension bridge is the “30 foot pool” of crystal clear water fed by a waterfall hidden around a corner. Make sure you bring a picnic and plenty of water! If you keep hiking you’ll head into many kilometres of boardwalk trails and wooden steps.
Lonsdale Quay Market
While you’re in North Vancouver, stop in at Lonsdale Quay before heading back downtown. The outdoor space here is perfect on a sunny day and gives you views of the downtown skyline. On a rainy day, spend your time wandering the aisles of the food market. The food court indoors has large glass walls that allow you to look out over the harbour. Grab a quick meal-to-go or head to the traditional dining restaurants on the upper levels. The surrounding area of Lower Lonsdale has plenty of cafes to warm you up, or cool you down. That Vancouver weather is notoriously unpredictable.
Stanley Park Seawall
Last, but absolutely not least, you cannot miss the Seawall. This 9 km path will encircle the whole of Stanley park and offers some outstanding views. You’ll pass the Lions Gate Bridge as well as numerous lookout points. The path is excellent for wildlife watching! We got to see herons, purple starfish, crabs, and even a harbour seal passing through the waves. You can also see harbour planes taking off every half hour on trips to whistler.
This is certainly one free activity that cannot be missed. We even went back on an even rainier day because we loved it so much. Save a few hours for this walk if you want to stop and take photos. You can get around the whole thing in less than an hour on bike.
Some Final Tips
1. Get yourself a Compass Card for the local transit. We preferred to load a Day Pass each time we were headed out of the main downtown so that we didn’t have to worry about zones. This let us take the bus, skytrain and sea bus in one day without having to pay extra fares.
2. Rent a free umbrella from Umbra City in the Samesun Hostel Lobby. Vancouver can be as rainy as they say. Thankfully, our hostel had umbrellas you can rent for 24 hours in the lobby! We grabbed them on the way out and returned them when we were done for the day.
3. Do yourself a favour and make time for a meal at Danbo Ramen. You may need to line up for a seat at this authentic ramen restaurant, but it’s well worth the wait and budget friendly. My favourite part is that halfway through your bowl, you can order an extra serving of noodles for $1! Add that to your broth and you’ve got yourself a lunch for tomorrow.
4. The Vancouver Art Gallery offers entry “by donation” on Tuesdays between 5-8pm. You can choose to donate as much or as little as you like for some budget friendly culture.
Thanks for Reading!