California

15 Unique California Airbnbs & Vacation Rentals

by Mac Misseldine

Ocean view treehouse vacation rental in California

Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway or family vacation, California features an eclectic collection of unique vacation rentals that’ll spice up any Golden State retreat.

There’s something magical about California vacations. It could have something to do with the Magical Kingdom itself (or the plethora of theme parks besides Disneyland that never fail to delight), but I believe it’s because Cali represents what most people picture when it comes to the notion of paradise.

From pristine beaches to scenic lakes, lush forests to magnificent mountains, and everything in between, this enchanting West Coast landscape has it all.

In short, whether you’re a peak-bagging backpacker, surf-shredding beach bum, or wine-loving foodie, California has a spot on your bucket list. 

Whatever adventure brings you to California, booking a vacation rental for your home base is the best way to upgrade any vacation from good to great. For an even more magical experience, consider taking a chance on a unique rental that’s off the beaten path and guaranteed to deliver a story that you’ll be telling your friends for years to come.

Unique Vacation Rentals In California

California is rife with unique vacation rentals, featuring everything from glamping tents and tipis to castles, houseboats, buses, barns, and treehouses. We’ve put together a short list of our favorites, with enticing options for every group size, budget, and appetite for adventure. 

Jade’s Tower

Jade's Tower vacation rental in California

Why you should stay here: Enjoy sweeping ocean views from a modern tower that’s a mere block away from Mendocino Headlands State Park. 

  • Sleeps: 4
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Pets allowed: No

I feel inclined to start this description with “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” — but Jade’s Tower isn’t just for families with little ones who who adore Disney’s Tangled.

This magical vacation rental is perfect for travelers who value the view more than the venue, as the tower affords panoramic views of the Mendocino Headlands and Pacific Ocean. It’s encompassed by a lovely garden and private pond, and you’ll find the nearby headlands filled with wildflowers in the spring if you venture out for a long walk.

Jade’s Tower can accommodate up to four guests with a queen bed upstairs and a sleeper sofa on the main floor. You can prepare your meals in the galley kitchen and enjoy al fresco dining in the garden, or walk over to the delectable restaurants in the village for upscale eateries.

Follow ’em: Instagram

Check Availability — VRBO

Albion Castle

Albion Castle vacation rental in California

Why you should stay here: Book an extended stay in a 19th century castle with subterranean tunnels and a secret spring-fed pond.

  • Sleeps: 6
  • Minimum stay: 30 nights
  • Pets allowed: Small dogs (with deposit)

It’s true — there’s actually a castle in San Francisco, and it’s available for events and extended vacation rentals.

Albion Castle was built in the 1870s by a pair of British brothers, and originally housed the Albion Ale and Porter Brewery. The castle was strategically placed atop a spring-fed pond, which the brothers harnessed to craft their beer.

Over the years the property changed hands several times and gradually fell into disrepair, until a new owner with a grand vision launched an ambitious renovation project in 2012.

The new owner preserved the castle’s iconic structure and historic accents while adding modern lighting, appliances, and furnishings, blending old-world style with modern comfort and decor. He even restored the “dungeon” beneath the castle, so guests can tour the maze of ancient stone passageways and visit the underground pond.

Follow ’em: Instagram

Check Availability — VRBO

SS City Of Seattle Ferry

SS City of Seattle Yellow Ferry vacation rental in California

Why you should stay here: Spend the weekend in a historic ferryboat on the San Francisco Bay.

  • Sleeps: 6
  • Minimum stay: 2-4 nights
  • Pets allowed: No

Originally built in 1888, the SS City of Seattle (aka “the Yellow Ferry“) is the oldest surviving ferryboat on the West Coast. The interior features over 8,000 square feet of space, hosting two 2,500 square foot living spaces — one for the owners and one for rent — along with the Kappas Yacht Harbor Shop.

The Yellow Ferry blends historic charm with the modern comforts and conveniences of a five-star hotel. It can accommodate up to six guests with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fully stocked kitchen with premium Wolf appliances, a 1,000 square foot great room, and a gorgeous solarium.

Thanks to large windows throughout the boat, you’ll enjoy excellent views of the water. Don’t be surprised when you see a curious harbor seal, egret, or mallard peeking into your window in the morning! 

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The Happiness Bus At The Malibu Retreat

The Happiness Bus at the Malibu Retreat vacation rental in California

Why you should stay here: Enjoy a luxury nature retreat in the Happiness Bus, an old school bus that $70k in renovations converted into a luxury camper.

  • Sleeps: 5
  • Minimum stay: 1-3 nights
  • Pets allowed: Yes

You’ll find the Happiness Bus at the Malibu Retreat, a tranquil three acre property nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains and surrounded by the picturesque Malibu Creek Park. In addition to the Insta-famous Happiness Bus, guests can access the property’s pool, jacuzzi, and hiking trails, as well as 50% off scheduled yoga classes and sound healing baths held on the property.

Wondering why someone would drop $270 a night to stay in a school bus? Turn on Netflix and watch the Expedition Happiness documentary about Felix Stark and Selima Taibi’s road trip from Alaska to the Mexican Border. If you don’t have enough time for the full documentary, join the 47+ million people who have viewed their popular Facebook videos detailing the bus’s luxury renovations and their exciting journey.

Needless to say, the Happiness Bus is a bit of a celebrity in its own right, and the fact that it’s now available as a vacation rental is making it even more popular.

Follow ’em: Instagram

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Love Stream Vintage Airstreams

Love Stream vintage Airstreams vacation rental in California

Why you should stay here: A vintage 60s Airstream Land Yacht set on an animal sanctuary and rescue ranch.

  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Pets allowed: No

The Love Stream vacation rental comes with not one, but two vintage Airstreams — a 1960 Land Yacht and a 1948 Wee Wind that serves as a gourmet food trailer. Both feature sensational interior remodels, so you’ll get to enjoy old school vibes on the outside with modern comfort and style on the inside.

When you’re not slumbering or cooking in one of these classic Airstreams, soak in the private jacuzzi near the seasonal creek. In true Cali fashion, you can also schedule a gourmet plant-based meal or workout with a certified chef and celebrity personal trainer.

The Love Stream resides on an animal sanctuary with a variety of rescued animals, including sheep, pigs, llamas, tortoises, and a friendly little Chihuahua. After you’ve made the rounds on the ranch, consider hiking to a nearby waterfall, borrowing their surfboards to hit the beach, or visit a local winery for an indulgent tasting. 

Follow ’em: Instagram

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The Castle House Estate

Castle House Estate vacation rental in California

Why you should stay here: A luxury glamping experience near Joshua Tree National Park featuring guard towers, yurts, campsites, and a classic Shasta trailer.    

  • Sleeps: 2-4
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Pets allowed: Yes

Whether you’re planning a glamping getaway or a special event, the Castle House Estate is sure to deliver a unique experience. The estate sits on eight private acres surrounded by undeveloped desert landscape, and it’s just a few minutes north of Joshua Tree National Park.

The Castle House Estate offers a variety of glamping accommodations for guests, including two guard towers, a container home, two yurts, and an original Shasta trailer that was featured in the EastSiders on Netflix. The property also rents out two established campsites for folks who prefer to bring their own camping gear.

Whichever accommodations you opt for, expect to be pampered with custom furniture and luxury linens. The tiny house rentals include a full bath and kitchenette, and all of the rentals include access to the shared bathroom and shower facility.

Follow ’em: Instagram

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Wine Country Barn

Barn vacation rental in San Luis Obispo Wine Country

Why you should stay here: A rustic barn perfectly situated in the heart of San Luis Obispo’s wine country.

  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Pets allowed: No

If you’re looking for a quiet getaway to California’s picturesque (and delectable) wine country, it’s tough to beat this rustic barn in San Luis Obispo. Conveniently situated minutes from the downtown district, guests will enjoy easy access to the area’s wineries, breweries, restaurants, shopping, hiking, and the beach. 

Unlike some barn rentals which feature an interior that rivals the Ritz Carlton, this barn preserves the rustic look and feel of an authentic country farm. The 2,500 square foot space is comfortable, well-furnished, heated, and comes with a full kitchen to prepare your meals. 

Check Availability — VRBO

The Mushroom Dome Cabin

Mushroom Dome Cabin vacation rental in California

Why you should stay here: A compact cabin with a geodesic dome perched amidst the trees.

  • Sleeps: 3
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Pets allowed: Yes

The Mushroom Dome Cabin is one of the most popular vacation rentals on Airbnb, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Superhost-managed property boasts more than 1,000 glowing reviews. It ain’t the Four Seasons, but the cozy cabin will provide more peaceful seclusion and reconnection with nature than any five-star resort.

The Mushroom Dome Cabin sits on 10 acres of forested land, providing ample space to hike around, gaze up at the stars, or head to the beach. There’s a queen-sized bed with a Casper mattress in the loft, and a sofa bed downstairs in the living area. 

Guests will have access to a private bathroom with a shower and composting toilet. There’s no kitchen, but you’ll have access to a BBQ grill, mini-fridge, blender, French coffee press, electric water kettle, and toaster oven. Fresh water is available via the property’s well, and the water is treated with an ozonator, UV light, and soft water filter.

Check Availability — Airbnb

The Ocean View Treehouse

Ocean view treehouse vacation rental in California

Why you should stay here: A chic escape high above the trees with a serene interior and stellar ocean views.

  • Sleeps: 6
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Pets allowed: No

Exalted by Sunset Magazine as a “chic escape,” this luxury treehouse in Aptos knocks the socks off of your childhood treehouse. It’s hard to say what steals the show here — the stunning interior, the fascinating architecture, or the jaw-dropping views.

The interior of this tranquil treehouse harnesses natural materials like wood and stone to set a calming, sanctuary-like tone that puts its guests at ease. The floor-to-ceiling windows provide ample natural light, and there’s plenty of deck space to soak in the ocean view from a cozy hammock or lounge chair.

The treehouse sits on 1.5 acres of private land, affording plenty of privacy and room to roam. There are three state beaches nearby — New Brighton, Seacliff, and Rio Del Mar — and the property is a short distance from The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.

Check Availability — Airbnb

The Bird’s Nest Bungalow

Birds Nest Bungalow in California

Why you should stay here: A Japanese bungalow with a simple yet serene interior and stunning ocean views.

  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Pets allowed: No

Stinson Beach is a serene seaside town known for its smooth sand, calm surf, and miles of mountain trails. The scenic paradise is completely encompassed by the ocean and Mount Tamalpais State Park, providing visitors with adventure and views in every direction. It’s just a short drive north of San Francisco, delivering the best of both worlds for urban explorers who prefer a quiet place to stay outside of the city.

You’ll find the charming Bird’s Nest Bungalow on a lush hillside facing Bolinas Bay. The Japanese-style bungalow features a simple yet well-appointed interior that’s warm, soothing, and inviting. Enjoy the treetop ocean views from the comfort of your queen bed, or soak in the sunset from the wooden deck. 

When you’re ready to hit the beach, it’s a short five minute walk to a pristine beach with three miles of sand. After a day of surfing and sandcastles, rinse off the sand in the outdoor shower and relax in the soaking tub on the deck.

Check Availability — Airbnb

Dome In The Desert In Joshua Tree

Dome in the Desert at Joshua Tree

Why you should stay here: A geodesic dome with a modern bohemian interior set in a secluded desert landscape.

  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Pets allowed: No

The Dome in the Desert is undeniably quirky on the outside, but it’s a designer dream home on the inside. The owner blends classic bohemian style with modern furnishings and a sprinkle of southwestern charm to create a truly unique living space that’s as vibrant as the adventurous souls who make this their base camp for exploring Joshua Tree National Park.

The Dome in the Desert can accommodate up to four guests with two bedrooms and two beds — perfect for small families and couples. When you’re not exploring the desert landscape at Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll find antique books and games throughout the house that’ll keep you entertained for hours.

Thanks to garnering praise from major publications like Esquire Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, and Goop this property books out fast during peak travel seasons, so be sure to reserve your stay well in advance.

Follow ’em: Instagram

Check Availability — Airbnb

The Alpine Castle

The Alpine Castle in California

Why you should stay here: Book the entire castle for group retreats and special occasions, or reserve a private room on Airbnb for a taste of medieval opulence.

  • Sleeps: 16
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Pets allowed: No

They say a man’s home is his castle. In this case, the owner of this extravagant estate took that aphorism quite literally.

The Alpine Castle is arguably the most unique vacation rental in San Diego, a veritable castle on the hill with sweeping views of the entire kingdom (so to speak). You’ll encounter exquisite stonework inside and out, complemented by rich wood floors, wall accents, and paneled ceilings.

The expansive vacation rental boasts a whopping 13,000 square feet of luxury living space with four private bedroom suites and two loft spaces. The property can sleep up to 16 guests, and has ample capacity to entertain even more.

If you don’t feel like splurging on the entire property, you can still get a taste of the Alpine Castle experience by renting a private room through Airbnb. Travelers may choose from the Rock Room Suite, Paris Room, Master Suite, and Green Room, all of which are a fraction of the price of renting the entire property.

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Vincino Al Mare

Vincino al Mare floating house vacation rental

Why you should stay here: A Mediterranean villa that’s literally on the water in the San Francisco Bay.

  • Sleeps: 4
  • Minimum stay: 35 nights
  • Pets allowed: No

For travelers who plan to spend much of their vacation boating around the San Francisco Bay, Vincino Al Mare delivers the convenience of staying on the water with the comfort and elegance of a luxury home. The floating house resides in Sausalito’s Kappas Marina, making it easy to dock your boat on the rear deck after a long day of exploring the bay.

The views of Mount Tamalpais and the Richardson Bay wildlife sanctuary are astounding, and the great room’s floor-to-ceiling windows ensure you’ll enjoy those scenic vistas from dawn to dusk. If you’re in the mood for some fresh air, hop in the jacuzzi on the rear deck or enjoy al fresco dining on the enclosed patio.

Check Availability — VRBO

Cabana Las Flores

Cabana Las Flores vacation rental in California

Why you should stay here: A tropical paradise nestled in the Montecito foothills between Los Padres National Forest and the Pacific Ocean.

  • Sleeps: 3
  • Minimum stay: 3 nights
  • Pets allowed: No

One of the best parts about booking a vacation rental is the privacy and seclusion that you just can’t find in a hotel, and Cabana Las Flores delivers both in aces. The 1.5 acre estate is filled to the brim with palms, exotic plants and vibrant flowers, surrounding the luxury home with a lush green landscape that’ll make you feel like you’re on a private island.

The guest house at Cabana Las Flores is well-decorated and comfortably furnished, perfectly complementing the island vibes that permeate the property. Step into the backyard and you’ll discover a soothing Jacuzzi that cascades into a natural pool.

Take a nature stroll through the garden, enjoy an afternoon nap in the hammock, or book a relaxing outdoor massage in the cabana from the on-site masseuse. 

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Wine Country Love Nest

Wine Country Love Nest vacation rental in California

Why you should stay here: Escape to a secluded log cabin with a rooftop pool that’s attracted celebrities and influencers from all over the world.

  • Sleeps: 4
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Pets allowed: Yes

The Wine Country Love Nest is a 65-year-old log cabin outside the quiet hamlet of Occidental in Sonoma County. It’s an ideal retreat for couples exploring Sonoma wine country, and there’s a bonus “tree house” loft with two twin beds that’s perfect for kids.

We love how the owners have preserved the rustic charm of the original log cabin, but it’s the rooftop pool area that wins the day here. The solar-heated pool is surrounded by a gorgeous redwood deck, and there’s a large covered rooftop hangout where you can sip your wine in the shade. For deeper relaxation, there’s also a hot tub and sauna.

Follow ’em: Instagram

Check Availability — VRBO Check Availability — Airbnb

More Unique Vacation Rentals

Ready to expand your search beyond California? Check out our articles on 14 of the Most Unique Airbnbs in Utah, 17 of the Most Unique Colorado Airbnbs, and 13 of the Most Unique Oregon Airbnbs & Vacation Rentals.

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