The Best Airbnbs to Escape to This Spring Near LA

From quick mountain getaways to calming seaside retreats.

Butterfly Farm airbnb
Butterfly Farm | Photo courtesy of Airbnb
Butterfly Farm | Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Surreal as it may seem, LA recently “celebrated” the one-year anniversary of its first pandemic-related shutdown. For most, it’s been a tough 12+ months—but there is light at the end of the tunnel, with more than 18 million vaccine doses administered thus far, and many restaurants reopened around the city. As we head into the spring, the time is ripe to explore all that gorgeous Southern California has to offer, provided you can do so curiously and safely. 

Let us again emphasize: safely. 2020 may be in the rearview, but that does not mean protecting others or yourself is any less important. Non-essential travel is still not recommended for those who have not yet been fully vaccinated against COVID. If you do choose to travel—whether it’s for business, family, or self-care—make sure that COVID testing, mask-wearing, social-distancing, and pre- and post-trip quarantining are built into your plans. With that in mind, here are some of the best Airbnbs just outside of LA worth visiting. Be smart, be well, and have fun.

Photo courtesy of airbnb

Joshua Tree, California
6 guests, $656 per night
Distance from LA: ~Two hours
Laden with desert-inspired art, wicker, and wood, this modern Joshua Tree spot is a no-brainer for a much-needed long weekend. With its wraparound porch, brand-new infrared sauna, hot tub, outdoor shower, firepit, and three large hammocks for your entire party to kick back and take in the starriest nights in Southern California, there’s little reason to hang inside the three-bedroom bungalow (though we won’t judge you for plunking down in their plush living room after a long hike).
Things to do nearby: This booking is right down the street from the main drag of downtown Joshua Tree, making it easy to stroll on over to the Joshua Tree Certified Farmers Market and pick up some local produce to throw on the outdoor grill. Not in the mood to cook? Order takeout from Sam’s Indian Food & Pizza, a local favorite that excels at both types of cuisine.

Carlsbad, California
13 guests, $550 per night
Distance from LA: ~85 minutes
Just 90 minutes south of Los Angeles, this sparkling Carlsbad complex becomes more of a steal the larger your party. That is by no means an endorsement of large group gatherings; unless every member is part of your pod, fully vaccinated, and taking all necessary precautions, they should not be invited. But when those chips do finally fall into place, this lagoon-adjacent getaway—with its massive indoor hot tub, patio fire pit, and seaside views as far as the eye can see—will still be beckoning.
Things to do nearby: This location is set on an iconic street in “Olde Carlsbad” with the Coastal Rail Trail less than three miles away. Grab a coffee on your way to renting some paddle boards or WaveRunners, or take the lagoon’s many wildlife-heavy trails on foot. Springtime in Carlsbad also means a chance to visit the colorful Flower Fields, a 50-acre sea of blooms that runs until mid-May. 

airbnb la
Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Palomar Mountain, California
10 guests, $999 per night
Distance from LA: ~Two hours and fifteen minutes
Welcome to the Palomar Luxstar, a premium mountaintop sanctuary with beauty to burn and the optimal blend of accessibility and isolation. At 5,800 feet above sea level, this elegant chalet looks like something out of a modern fantasy after the morning fog burns off. Private observatories for star-gazing dot the property, as does a 24/7 security system to ensure your stay remains uninterrupted and safe. It may not come cheap, but this is an impossible experience to forget. 
Things to do nearby: The world-famous Palomar Observatory, with its 200-inch Hale Telescope, is just a hop and a skip away across the Palomar Mountain Range. The area is flush with prime hiking spots, too, with relaxing lakeside campgrounds in the Palomar State Park for a day of easy moseying.

airbnb Butterfly Farm
Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Santa Ynez, California
8 guests, $2,000 per night
Distance from LA: ~Two-and-a-half hours
Experience the magnificence of the Santa Ynez Valley from this serene and expansive rental. Prancing horses and clucking chickens keep you company on this rolling country butterfly farm, so you won’t get lonely laying on a hammock or barbecuing near one of the three backyard fireplaces. At such a high price point, a stay here is a grand luxury well-suited to a particularly momentous occasion (think going-away-party or wedding event), but splurging on a much-needed long weekend away is just as legitimate. 
Things to do nearby: Santa Ynez is surrounded by charming towns, each with cultural identities of their own. Want to learn something new? Visit the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum to see one of the largest collections of vintage carriages in the U.S. Craving a nightcap? Head to the recently-renovated Nella in nearby Los Olivos for local wines and herbaceous cocktails. The towns of Buellton, Solvang, Ballard are all delightful, and only a few minutes’ drive away.

photo courtesy of airbnb

Paso Robles, California
Up to 10 guests, $542 per night
Distance from LA: ~Three hours
If you want to social distance with your crew in style, you can’t go wrong with this 30-acre ranch just ten minutes east of downtown Paso Robles. Take advantage of tennis courts, swimming pools, nearby hiking trails, plus a huge kitchen and formal dining area where you can recreate the wine tasting experience you deserve. Perch on one of the Adirondack chairs that overlooks the sloping hills of the nearby wine country and take in the comforting hues of a smogless sunset. 
Things to do nearby: When in Paso Robles, don’t waste the opportunity to visit some of its world-class wineries. Sculpterra Winery, with a sculpture garden that contrasts beautifully against the expansive and verdant hills, is closest to this booking—plus, they have a play area to drop off the kids. If you want to take your vacation full-luxe, head to River Oaks Hot Springs to soak in the healing thermal waters or book a spa treatment.

airbnb horse ranch la
Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Paso Robles, California
8 guests, $309 per night
Distance from LA: ~Three hours
If you follow your bliss, it might just lead you to the incomparably lovely Paso Robles Pastures. This staggeringly pretty wine country spot is like something out of a fairy tale, with more than two dozen horses trotting around and a friendly goat to keep you and your best pals company around the on-site oak grill. As if that’s not enough, the property owners offer one-on-one experiences with certified equine therapists and reiki massage healers in the area. What could be more spectacular?
Things to do nearby: Early birds with a taste for California history should swing by Mission San Miguel and walk the 200-year-old grounds before it gets too hot. Then take a break in one of downtown Paso’s 20-plus tasting rooms, where locals mingle with visitors into the evening. Finally, cap the night off at Bruce Munro’s mind-blowing Sensorio exhibit, where more than 17,000 wine bottles become a never-ending field of psychedelic lights. 

ranch house
Photo courtesy of airbnb

Yucca Valley, California
6 guests, $234 per night
Distance from LA: ~Two hours
You could spend the day in the sunny kitchen or on the comfortable, string-lit patio, but when it all comes down to it, the only thing you really need is that hammock and the view of Yucca Valley as the sun starts to fade. It’s worth waking up early to see the sun rise over the spiked Joshua Trees, with homemade banana bread and local coffee that comes complimentary with your booking.
Things to do nearby: Head down the road to Joshua Tree National Park and enjoy some wilderness. There are plenty of other things to do in the area, too, including restaurants like Crossroads Cafe and Natural Sisters Cafe for veg-friendly eats, vintage stores to stock your closet with, and the geometric dome Integratron for private sound bath bookings.

photo courtesy of airbnb

Idyllwild, California
6 guests, $507 per night
Distance from LA: ~Two hours
With the melting of the winter snow comes some of California’s most beautiful mountain views, and the perfect moment to spring for something a little chintzier than usual. While the ultra-modern kitchen and pretty fireplace keep the indoor experience cozy on chilly nights, you might not go inside at all between the barbecue grill, hot tub, fire pit, and beautiful wood paneling on the outer deck. The views are sure to be astonishing at any time of year.
Things to do nearby: Request a meeting with Idyllwild’s Golden Retriever mayor, Mayor Max, who loves to be pet when he’s not busy fulfilling his many other political obligations. Otherwise, the Idyllwild Nature Center has plenty of trails and wildlife to explore, and you can find gear for all your mountain needs at Wooley’s—also a great place for local souvenirs. Be sure to check out the unique Idyllwild Town Monument off North Circle Drive on your way out of town, too.

cottage overhead
photo courtesy of airbnb

Santa Paula, California
6 guests, $323 per night
Distance from LA: ~90 minutes 
Despite the fact that this beautiful cottage only has two bedrooms, it sits on an eight-acre ranch, which means you’ve got all the peace and isolation you could possibly ask for. And furthermore: how does a private tennis court sound?
Things to do nearby: To be honest, if you’ve booked this resplendent ranch, you’re probably looking forward to the type of seclusion you can’t find in LA. With a location just below the Topa Topa Mountains, there are plenty of hiking trails to wander, and less than a mile down the road is Summit Drive In, Upper Ojai's favorite hamburger stand and the Stagecoach Station, a general store that sells everything from groceries to firewood and hardware.

Julian, California
6 guests, $275 per night
Distance from LA: ~Two and a half hours
Nestled within the Cleveland National Forest and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, this calming, quiet rental is convenient to a bounty of lush hiking trails, including the renowned Pacific Crest Trail just a few miles away. Fishing and birding can also be enjoyed around Julian Lake, where deer can frequently be spotted grazing. Or post up on the wraparound deck for a day of self-care with seaside views. 
Things to do nearby: You can’t go to Julian—just eight miles from the rental—without trying their signature apple pies, and Mom’s Pie House is the place to do it. You can book a tour of Eagle and High Peak Mine to learn more about the area’s mining history, or schedule a visit at the nearby California Wolf Center to play with some rescued pups. Quaint antique stores in town offer hidden treasures at affordable prices and there’s plenty more to do in town should you decide to extend your stay.

Photo courtesy of airbnb

Palm Springs, California
6 guests, $374 per night
Distance from LA: ~Two hours
Get up close and personal with Palm Springs’ mid-century-modern trend at a quirky William Krisel-designed home that features the architect’s signature butterfly roof. This vibrantly decorated retreat features different color schemes in each room for a weekend of indoor photoshoots. When that gets boring, the backyard features a gorgeous backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains that you can enjoy from the hot tub, a hammock, or around the fire pit.
Things to do nearby: Palm Springs has activities for every type of traveler, ranging from vintage and antique shopping, a zoo and botanical garden for getting familiar with desert flora and fauna (perfect for the spring, as it’s far too hot to visit in the summer), and magical outdoor art exhibitions like Robolights, which is open year-round.

Big Bear, California
10 guests, $281 per night
Distance from LA: ~Two hours
Flush with greenery and soaking in mountain air, Big Bear is a haven for outdoorsy types in any season. That probably explains why Mary Astor, the beloved silent movie star, once owned this stacked yet secluded property in the Woodlands neighborhood. Rustic and soulful, the “Astor House” is a unique base for a large group, with panoramic views through the pines and a barbeque set-up outside, as well as a cozy stone fireplace and handsome Travertine floors inside.
Things to do nearby: Head to Gold Rush Mining Adventures for family-friendly gold-panning in the ghost town of Glitter Gulch. Grab a cocktail from one of the downtown bars and nosh on top notch Indian food at Himalayan Restaurant or Masala Craft before strolling through Big Bear City for fudge. Still looking for more things to do in the area? We’ve got you covered.

la airbnbs
Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Cayucos, California
12 guests, $460 per night
Distance from LA: ~Three-and-a-half hours
This massive five-bedroom house sits on a concealed, tree-lined hillside just two blocks from one of the best-preserved beach communities in the state. Its high ceilings and wood paneling mean an abundance of natural light and blissful quiet throughout the day. With a running creek nearby and the cavernous, electronics-heavy den, family game nights and barbecues amidst your ride-or-dies will be especially memorable. 
Things to do nearby: Cayucos calls itself the “Last of the California Beach Towns” for a reason: it’s heavenly for those entranced by the sea, with kayaking, surfing, deep-sea fishing, and a range of other water activities available every day. Hearst Castle, the lavish San Simeon estate and museum established by William Randolph Hearst, is also a short drive away, and well-deserving of a visit. 

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Wilder Shaw begs you to take proper safety precautions before going on a trip like this. Follow his isolated adventures on Instagram and Twitter.
Sean (L.) Malin’s writing on food, comedy, and cinema has appeared in the New York Times, Vulture, Eater, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Engage with him on Twitter, please: @cinemalins.