12 Unique Places to Stay in California for an Epic Escape

Posted by
Emily Pennington
February 15, 2023
Updated April 04, 2023

Photo: Airbnb

Whether you’re looking to pop the question somewhere magical, create an unforgettable family retreat, or simply want to be the envy of your friends on social media, California has no shortage of wild, wonderful, and downright weird places to stay on your next vacation.

The Golden State is known for its wide variety of different landscapes and ecosystems, from high deserts and snow-capped mountains to craggy coasts and even verdant wine regions, and we aimed to tag them all when we created this list of the most unique accommodations in California.

We’ve included a vintage train car, a hip horse-friendly ranch, and many architectural marvels that are ready and waiting for adventurous travelers to explore. Read on for twelve of our favorite unique places to stay in Cali.

Related read: 12 Unique Places to Stay in Northern California

1. Rancho Contento Luxe Desert Ranch

unique desert ranch
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Morongo Valley
  • Sleeps: 6-10
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $471/night

Tucked away on ten ultra-private acres between desert hot spots Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, Rancho Contento is that little slice of high desert heaven you’ve been searching for.

With listings for both six and ten guests, this five-bedroom hideout is perfect for family reunions, yoga retreats, and friend groups looking to visit the national park, Pappy and Harriet’s, and the food scene in Palm Springs, all in one trip.

The visionary behind this stunning hobby ranch-turned-luxury retreat had an eye for detail and design­. Every inch of the space is full of charming Wild West details like lassos, stetsons, and vintage cowboy art. Plus, the bedrooms are thoughtfully adorned with plush linens and Tuft & Needle mattresses.

Outside, the amenities are no less inspired, from a bubbling jacuzzi to an EV charger, a grill, and an al fresco dining nook. BYO-horse and don’t forget to enjoy free farm-fresh eggs from the neighboring chicken coop!

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Related read: 15 Best & Most Unique California Airbnb & Vacation Rentals

2. Dome Life

unique dome airbnb
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: La Mesa
  • Sleeps: 4
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $136/night

Staying in a quirky dome-turned-home doesn’t have to mean bedding down in an uncomfortable glamping tent. At Dome Life, a cozy one-bedroom retreat just outside of San Diego, contemporary design rules, and guests are treated to treetop views from the circular, open-plan living room and full kitchen.

Upstairs, an artful lofted bedroom perches above the common areas like a bird’s nest, while outside, guests have a designated parking spot as well as a private deck for sipping coffee in the sunshine.

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Related read: 19 Stunningly Secluded Cabin Rentals in California

3. A-Frame of Mind

unique a-frame california
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Lake Arrowhead
  • Sleeps: 10
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $280/night

Incredible floor-to-ceiling windows greet guests at this stunning architectural A-frame that’s full of natural light. That’s extra special at this rental, because of its phenomenal lake views and surrounding conifers that ensure nature is never far, even when you’re staying cozy inside.

Indoors, you’ll find a huge leather couch that fits the whole family, wrapped around a gas-powered fireplace. There’s also a bevy of boho-chic sleeping quarters full of fresh pops of color, plus an enviable soaking tub in the master bath.

Best of all? The house boasts a wrap-around deck with a grill, dining table, and sun loungers, all overlooking the shimmering azure water of the lake.

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Related read: 50 Gorgeous A-Frame Cabin Rentals Across the U.S.

4. Eagle’s Watch Malibu

Eagle’s Watch Malibu
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Malibu
  • Sleeps: 8
  • Minimum stay: 5 nights
  • Rates from: $1600/night

Okay, we had to include one splurge-worthy dream rental on our list to showcase the architectural icons that abound in funky California. This three-bedroom 3.5-bathroom ocean view marvel is nestled atop a sea cliff in the Malibu hills, with jaw-dropping views of aquamarine surf as far as the eye can see.

Inside, you’ll be treated to clean neutrals, sweeping roof beams, tasteful seating and dining areas, a chef’s kitchen, and elegant high-ceiling bedrooms. Soak in one of several custom, deep-set bathtubs, or watch the sunset over the Pacific from the outdoor jacuzzi, then dine under the stars and fix up a feast on the gas-powered grill.

Whatever you choose, you’re sure to have an epic stay.

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Related read: 11 Breezy Oceanfront Camping Spots in California

5. Redwood Caboose

Redwood Caboose
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Cupertino
  • Sleeps: 4
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $190/night

Part log cabin, part historic caboose, all lovingly transformed into a forested hideout. The Redwood Caboose proves that you can escape the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley…without actually leaving it.

A full kitchen with a mini fridge opens into a cozy, wood-paneled living area with a day bed that’s perfect for curling up with a good book (we’d suggest The Overstory or Finding the Mother Tree, given the surroundings).

But the real treat is a huge clawfoot tub for ultimate relaxation before heading upstairs to the lofted queen bed. Caboose visitors also have access to a small patio, charcoal grill, and communal fire pit.

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Related read: 9 Best Cabin Rentals Near Los Angeles for a Secluded Getaway

6. Dreamy Glass Cottage in the Forest

Dreamy Glass Cottage in the Forest
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Santa Barbara
  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $325/night

You don’t need to spend $3,500 a night to enjoy an enchanting, mirrored casita in California (sorry, Joshua Tree), and this adorable forest cottage is proof.

Simple yet comfortable, this stay sits somewhere between glamping and a tiny house rental, with a comfy queen bed perfect for sipping coffee and watching wildlife. The kitchen is outdoors and there’s a bathhouse just a short walk away, so this will be more on the camping side.

Still, with wonderful amenities (think shady hammocks, a hot tub, a communal pool, and farm fresh eggs) and easy access to some of the best hiking and beaches Santa Barbara has to offer, it’s a wonderfully unique and worthy stay.

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Related read: The 10 Best Camping Spots in Santa Barbara, California

7. Boulders Inside & Out

Boulders Inside & Out
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Yucca Valley
  • Sleeps: 12
  • Minimum stay: 1 night
  • Rates from: $750/night

When the mountains are calling and you must go, why not go all the way and bed down in a house that’s built into the rocks themselves? Expertly designed in a modern adobe style, this four-bedroom beige abode blends perfectly into the surrounding landscape of monzogranite boulders that make the Joshua Tree area so iconic.

Spend your day lounging poolside (or soaking in the hot tub) with a negroni in hand and enjoy a picnic-style lunch in one of the many outdoor dining nooks.

Then, when you’re ready to head indoors, you’ll be treated to eclectic bohemian décor, original art, and plentiful seating areas. Draw straws to see who gets to hit the hay in the fanciful bedroom that’s custom-built into the boulders.

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Related read: 11 Best Scenic Drives in Southern California

8. The Mushroom Dome Retreat

Mushroom Dome Retreat
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Aptos
  • Sleeps: 3
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $150/night

We’ve all wanted to play hobbit for a day and catch some Z’s in a mushroom-shaped house, right? At this adorable forest hut, guests can do just that, while remaining close to beachy hot spots like Santa Cruz and Monterey.

The décor here is more homey than edgy and contemporary, with custom-crafted skylights and Balinese paintings. Guests can fall asleep on a lofted queen bed or a sofa bed in the living room.

In the morning, make good use of the kitchenette, then venture onto the private patio to spot local songbirds while sipping a cup of tea and eating breakfast.

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Related read: 9 Amazing Glamping Spots Near Los Angeles, California

9. Idyllic Stump House

Idyllic Stump House
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Trinidad
  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $300/night

This magical treehouse in Northern California seamlessly blends modern amenities (like a kitchenette, running water, and electricity) with back-to-roots forest living.

Enter through the redwood forest into the covered outdoor seating area, complete with a private fire pit and lounge area, then watch your city cares melt away.

Inside, unique artwork, a lofted bed, skylights, and a comfy reading area combine to give the feeling of home, nestled deep in a redwood forest. This place is a must for anyone dreaming of living on Endor.

A wraparound deck with a porch swing and a photoshoot-worthy outdoor shower keep the tree vibes high, even in life’s most mundane moments. Top it all off with a visit to nearby Redwoods National Park.

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Related read: The 20 Best Places to Camp in Southern California

10. Luxury Treehouse with Sierra Views

Luxury Treehouse with Sierra Views
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Visalia
  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $268/night

It can be tricky to find one-of-a-kind, luxury accommodations when visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon (most nearby rentals are rustic cabin retreats), but this majestic modern treehouse blows its competition out of the water.

Set just 30 minutes from Sequoia’s main entrance, it’s the perfect, tree-lined getaway when forest bathing is at the top of your to-do list.

The interior is filled with elevated versions of your typical Airbnb fare –Casper mattress, spa-inspired bathroom, fireplace, and kitchenette – but outside is where this listing truly shines.

A wrap-around deck offers panoramic views of the High Sierra, and guests also have access to a shared pool, grill, and grassy backyard.

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Related read: 5 Best Backpacking Trips & Trails in Big Sur, California

11. Dome in the Desert

dome in the desert joshua tree airbnb
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Joshua Tree
  • Sleeps: 2
  • Minimum stay: 2 nights
  • Rates from: $159/night

It wouldn’t be a unique lodging list without a fabulous Joshua Tree dome house, and this two-bedroom, 1-bath home near the park’s west entrance is as iconic as it gets.

With one of the area’s namesake yucca trees greeting you at the front door and some of the darkest night skies in the country, it’s a high desert getaway that’s sure to shake off your city blues.

The interior is quirky and colorful, with hints of mid-century modern parading near southwestern textiles and geometric upholstery, but trust us, it works. Amenities here are plentiful – from a full kitchen to a wood-burning stove and free Wi-Fi, you’ll never be far from your favorite creature comforts.

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Related read: 6 Phenomenal Backpacking Trails in Joshua Tree National Park

12. Starlight Grove

Starlight Grove
Photo: Airbnb
  • Location: Healdsburg
  • Sleeps: 8
  • Minimum stay: 3 nights
  • Rates from: $750/night

This storybook-style series of cottages effortlessly blend the ancient energy of the forest with the contemporary conveniences of home. Overlooking the gently babbling Mill Creek and shaded by towering pines, this wine country stunner will make it hard to choose between indoor and outdoor living.

Outside, you’ll find a shaded hammock, bocce court, massive porch, Weber grill, sun loungers, wood-fired pizza oven, and, of course, a dine-in-the-sunshine outdoor table and chairs.

While inside, walk-in showers, stone fireplaces, plush beds, vintage artwork, chef’s kitchen, and huge flatscreen TV beckon travelers to relax in style. Don’t forget the onsite treehouse with lofted sleeping bunks – a huge hit with kids of all ages.

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Related read: 7 Adventurous Islands to Explore in California

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