YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Youth Beat

Cape Cod Without Loads of Cash

April 01, 2001|LUCY IZON Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Internet http://www.izon .com.

Cape Cod, Mass., known for its upscale summer homes and resorts, can be enjoyed on a backpacker's budget. The catch is that you'll need reservations, even during the spring and fall shoulder seasons.

More than 3 million visitors go to Cape Cod and the neighboring islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket each year. Fortunately for budget travelers, four youth hostels offer beds for $14 and up per night in good locations for cycling and hiking.

There are trade-offs, though. In the peak summer season, you'll probably share the facilities with youth groups. The hostels are closed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and some have evening curfews. To avoid the groups, independent travelers should visit in spring or fall. The hostels still will be busy then, so make reservations.

The World Wildlife Fund named Massachusetts one of the top 10 whale-watching sites in the world. Many of the whale-watching boats leave from MacMillan Wharf in Provincetown, at the end of the 65-mile-long arm of Cape Cod, during the whales' migration season from April through October.

Ten miles from Provincetown, on a bluff with an ocean view, a former Coast Guard station has been turned into the 42-bed Hostelling International-Truro. Once or twice a week, staff members from the Dolphin Fleet whale-watching service in Provincetown visit the hostel and give a presentation (with video) on whale rescues. Hostel guests get a $3 discount on $19, three-to four-hour whale-watching excursions.

Truro Hostel is a five-minute walk from one of the beaches of the 30-mile-long Cape Cod National Seashore. The park's 27,000 acres include huge sand dunes, freshwater ponds, woodlands and marshes. This hostel is only eight miles from the National Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Truro Hostel is closed from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. and has a 10 p.m. curfew.

Reservations can be made by phone with a credit card. The hostel is on North Pamet Road, telephone (508) 349-3889, e-mail

Maps for all the hostels can be found at

Twenty miles from Truro, still bordering the national seashore, is the 50-bed Hostelling International-Eastham. Its cabins are surrounded by three acres of woods. The hostel connects with the 30-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail. The national seashore's Salt Pond Visitors Center is nearby.

This hostel closes for the season Sept. 11. Reservations are accepted by phone and mail. Contact HI-Eastham, 75 Goody Hallet Drive, Eastham, MA 02642; tel. (508) 255-2785, fax (508) 240-5598, e-mail

The 78-bed Martha's Vineyard hostel is on Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, seven miles from the Vineyard Haven ferry dock. Bicycles can be rented when you land. The traditional cedar-shake saltbox homestead was constructed in 1955. It's centrally located on the island, at the edge of the 5,000-acre Correllus State Forest.

This hostel is open until Nov. 6. For reservations: tel. (508) 693-2665, fax (508) 693-2699, e-mail

Just 30 miles off Cape Cod is Nantucket, with cobblestone streets and saltbox-style cottages. A bike trail will take you to HI-Nantucket, the Robert B. Johnson Memorial Hostel. The 1873 building, a former lifesaving station, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It will stay open until Oct. 16.

Guests can relax at Surfside Beach, explore the island on bikes , or head back to Nantucket village to visit the Whaling Museum. Originally a candle factory, the museum is home to exhibits such as relics from the Essex, the ship that inspired the story "Moby-Dick."

For more information, contact HI-Nantucket, tel. (508) 228-0433, fax (508) 228-5672, e-mail http://nan

Los Angeles Times Articles