Travel

The Coolest, Wackiest Places to Stay in Joshua Tree

Stay in a spaceship, a desert igloo, or an oasis with a hot tub. Why not.

dome in the desert airbnb in joshua tree
In Joshua Tree, checking into an otherworldly Airbnb is half the fun. | Photo courtesy of We Are In Our Element
In Joshua Tree, checking into an otherworldly Airbnb is half the fun. | Photo courtesy of We Are In Our Element

There’s just something about the desert that attracts people who want to live on the fringe, whether for a long weekend or forever. In the wild, wide open communities surrounding Joshua Tree National Park, creatives of all stripes are drawn to the clear skies and sage-scented air, sharing their backyards with wandering coyotes and the occasional desert tortoise. 

"Joshua Tree is so close to LA; it's only a two-hour drive which makes it really attractive to people," says Kathrin Smirke, who runs the Dome in the Desert Airbnb pictured above, alongside her husband, Brian. "A lot of artists who couldn't afford LA anymore moved to Joshua Tree full time, and that led to a really creative arts community."

And as you can imagine, an unconventional desert lifestyle requires unconventional accommodations. Hammocks, fire pits, and cowboy tubs abound in Joshua Tree's high-design Airbnbs, many of which are truly one-of-a-kind. Whether you’re in the desert to seek inspiration or possibly have a run-in with aliens, there’s an Airbnb for everybody—so long as you’re willing to keep it weird.

The Joshua Tree House

Up to 6 guests, $345/night 
Distance from Joshua Tree National Park: 10 minutes by car
When we imagine our dream house, it looks a hell of a lot like this 1949 hacienda: excellent interior decor, wide open spaces, a hammock room, a fireplace, killer sunset views, space for our closest friends, and—most importantly—a big ol’ hot tub! There are over 100 Joshua trees on the property—some of which, according to the owner, are nearly 250 years old. Take one step out the front door, and you’ll feel one with the desert.

COVID-19 Update: The Joshua Tree House has implemented Airbnb’s 5-step enhanced cleaning process as well as self check-in/check-out to ensure a higher level of safety during the pandemic. Read more here.

Area 55 Futuro House

2 guests, $211/night 
Distance from Joshua Tree National Park: 30 minutes by car
If you haven’t heard, Joshua Tree is chock full of weird and wonderful things. This is one of them: a 13-foot tall UFO-shaped abode, one of just 65 known Futuro houses worldwide and the only one you can rent in the U.S. Once beloved by Hugh Hefner (yes, really), the spaceship comes equipped with outdoor showers, restrooms, and a kitchen for cooking under the stars. But perhaps the best thing about this is the reasonable $211/night price tag. Who says you need Elon Musk-level money to go to space?

COVID-19 Update: Area 55 has implemented Airbnb’s 5-step enhanced cleaning process to ensure a higher standard of safety during the pandemic. Learn more here.

1950 Spartan at Camp TemenĹŤs

Up to 3 guests, $95/night 
Distance from Joshua Tree National Park: 30 minutes by car
When people talk about van life, this is what they’re dreaming of: a spacious, refurbished trailer complete with a kitchen, a full bathroom and shower, a cozy bedroom, and 1.5 acres of land to freely roam. The 1950 Spartan was once owned by a family who used it to traverse the highways of America back in the 1950s, On the Road-style. You will feel damn cool staying in it, and we imagine Jack Kerouac would approve. Close to the park, you’re also less than 20 minutes away from J-Tree must-sees like the Integratron and Giant Rock. It’s available to rent through Hipcamp, which is kind of like Airbnb’s cousin who likes to camp.

COVID-19 Update: Camp Temenōs is implementing Hipcamp’s COVID-19 safety guidelines on their property. Read more here.

Casa Joshua Tree

5 guests, $195/night 
Distance from Joshua Tree National Park: 10 minutes by car
We’re obsessed with the giant, rustic porch swing that Casa Joshua Tree has on deck. Sunsets in the desert are notoriously beautiful, so it’s easy to picture ourselves here, cold drink in hand, soaking in the last golden rays of light as clusters of stars gradually take over the sky. Nice. Also in store: bright, airy rooms full of plants and a cozy fireplace. If you consider yourself a true patron of the arts, this is a great place to support: This little Airbnb is run by an artist, painter Lindsay Hollinger, and offers an artist residency program.

COVID-19 Update: Casa Joshua Tree is currently closed due to the pandemic. Check Airbnb for updates on reopening.

Dome in the Desert

4 guests, $188/night 
Distance from Joshua Tree National Park: 10 minutes by car
This giant igloo took a wrong turn and ended up in California (although the tundra is a type of desert, to be fair). The interior brings the sun, sky, and wide open spaces inside, with bright yellow and blue accents and plenty of room throughout. Guests can also expect to find handcrafted decor, antique books and games, an indoor fireplace, and—hallelujah!—A/C and Wi-Fi. And if the Dome isn’t available (don’t be surprised; Joshua Tree rentals go quick!), the owners also run two other impeccably-designed Airbnbs in the area, Cabin Cabin Cabin and The Shack Attack

COVID-19 Update: The Dome in the Desert has implemented Airbnb’s 5-step enhanced cleaning process to ensure a higher standard of safety during the pandemic. Learn more here.

Porte-Cochere in Joshua Tree

2-6 guests, $74/night
Distance from Joshua Tree National Park: 10 minutes by car
For an option that gets you very outside, the “rustic bohemian” private cabin at Porte-Cochere is your spot. Most of the property is open-air, so you’ll spend the bulk of your time out in nature. But along with a clean bathroom and running water, your bed is tucked into a little cabin with a huge window, so you can sleep beneath the cosmos but without any unwelcome desert critters. It’s available to rent through Hipcamp, and apparently, the cell phone reception here is *chef’s kiss.* 

COVID-19 Update: Porte-Cochere is adhering to Hipcamp’s COVID-19 safety guidelines. Read all about what’s being done here.

Moon Camp

Up to 6 guests, $430/night
Distance from Joshua Tree National Park: 12 minutes by car
If you’re after a space-adjacent experience but Area 55 is already booked, don’t worry, there are other ways to shoot for the stars. May we present Moon Camp, a solar-powered, off-the-grid retreat. The base comprises three different structures: the main dome house, as well as a guest house and lounge house both built from renovated shipping containers—all yours for the taking. The property comes equipped with a telescope, lounge chairs, hammocks, and a fire pit. And the pièce de rĂ©sistance: the starry cosmos that light up the sky above the campsite each night will truly make you believe that you’re living on a lunar base. Plus, if the Moon Camp is ALSO booked, the same owners also run the Little Dipper, a tiny home parked just outside Joshua Tree National Park.  

COVID-19 Update: Due to COVID-190, Moon Camp requires that all guests on site come from the same household. They’ve also implemented self check-in, as well as Airbnb’s enhanced 5-step cleaning method. For full details, check here.

The Tiny Desert Rose

2 guests, $188/night 
Distance from Joshua Tree National Park: 10 minutes by car
If you really want to immerse yourself in J-Tree’s creative community, stay in a house that doubles as an art gallery. Rose Cefalu’s Tiny Desert Rose Airbnb—a garage conversion attached to a main house—is filled with her own "alternative process photography" (gum prints and cyanotypes that are also for sale). The design aesthetic is something she calls  “MoBoWoo” (modern bohemian wood). Make yourself at home in the loft bed and settle into the desert life. The photographer also offers cyanotype classes to guests interested in trying their hand at sun printing. 

COVID-19 Update: Due to the pandemic, The Tiny Desert Rose has implemented Airbnb’s 5-step enhanced cleaning process. Guests are also welcome to check in with the host to learn more about trail and restaurant openings nearby. Read more here.

airstream trailer at joshua tree acres
The Piece of the Sky 1975 Airstream | Photo courtesy of Joshua Tree Acres

Joshua Tree Acres

2-10 guests, $182/night
Distance from Joshua Tree National Park: 10 minutes by car
Run by three friends, Joshua Tree Acres is a secluded 10-acre property home to five beautifully renovated Airstream trailers and, as the name implies, surrounded by scores of Joshua trees. You’ll have access to the shared communal clubhouse, full-size outdoor kitchen, and one of THE most iconic desert pools we’ve ever seen. Rent just one trailer—say, the Piece of the Sky 1975 Airstream, complete with porch swings and vintage decor—or gather all your friends and reserve the whole pack. In the Mojave, the more, the merrier.

COVID-19 Update: Joshua Tree Acres has implemented self-check in, as well as Airbnb’s enhanced 5-step cleaning method. Read more about their precautions here.

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Nicole Rupersburg contributed to reporting for this story.
Could you add in Tiana Attride is Thrillist’s Associate Travel Editor. She would really love to be in a hot tub in the desert right now.
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