Think of Joshua Tree as the scrappy little brother of Palm Springs. This desert community marches to the beat of its own mystical drum circle, trading in midcentury-modern glitz for a funky homesteader feel: You’re just as likely to strike up a conversation about aliens or the healing properties of sound baths here as you are to trade tips on the best hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park. At 1,235 square miles, the park is slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island, encompassing the nexus of the Mojave and the Colorado Desert ecosystems, with its colorfully named rock formations, petroglyphs, and forests of spindly Joshua trees.
During a visit, you can reserve a National Park Service campsite or choose from among one of the area’s many lodging options, including a new Airstream glamping site. But to truly capture the spirit of the place, live like a temporary local in a Joshua Tree Airbnb, where you’ll often find eclectic desert-inspired decor, “cowboy pools” (aka galvanized steel livestock troughs) for cooling off, and firepits for late-night conversations under the stars.
Best neighborhoods near Joshua Tree to stay in
Joshua Tree features a walkable business district centered around California State Route 62, with an assortment of weekender-friendly spots such as a coffee shop, a brewery, a weekly farmers’ market, and art galleries, including the decidedly quirky World Famous Crochet Museum. Yucca Valley sits west of Joshua Tree along Highway 62 and is home to attractions like the Hi-Desert Nature Museum, plus conveniences including grocery and sporting goods stores if you need to stock up before hiking, camping, or cooking at your Airbnb. Other nearby communities include Twentynine Palms, which sits near the national park’s North Entrance Station and offers nearly two dozen restaurants, and Pioneertown, a kitschy Old West community built in the 1940s, where dozens of westerns were filmed and which is still home to Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, a landmark honky-tonk and barbecue restaurant.
Airstream with Outdoor Movies
Sleeps: 2 Highlights: Charcoal-heated soaking tub, outdoor movie screen Book now: From $227 per night, airbnb.com
Get cozy in this 2016 Flying Cloud Airstream trailer, which sits on five acres dotted with whimsical amenities like giant Jenga, a hammock surrounded by potted cacti, a stock tank pool, and an available outdoor movie screen where you can project your favorite films. (May we suggest one filmed nearby, like Seven Psychopaths or Ingrid Goes West?) Inside, you’ll find a mini-library stocked with books sourced from nearby Opal Atlas and Secret Canyon Books in Joshua Tree, though one of the real highlights of the property is the outdoor wooden soaking tub. Note that it takes a little time to get going, because it’s heated by charcoal, but there’s a bonus feature: It includes a built-in cooktop, so you can use the charcoal to grill your dinner on the tub as you wait. And we can’t help but be a bit charmed by the outhouse—lest you forget that you’re very much in the Wild Wild West.
Dome in the Desert
Sleeps: 4 Highlights: Fireplace, full kitchen, telescope Book now: From $247 per night, airbnb.com
There may be no better place to get on the singular wavelengths of Joshua Tree than at this two-bedroom geodesic dome, which is tucked in the shadow of one of the area’s namesake plants. Be warned: You’ll be tempted to stay rooted in front of this Airbnb Plus all day, photographing the dome-tree duo as the sunlight and shadows shift from dawn to high noon to dusk. Pops of color abound throughout, from the cushions and rugs in the meditation loft to the crafty rope swing chair to the geodes and yarn-wrapped antlers decorating the white walls. What else would you expect from the creative duo behind the project, Kathrin and Brian Smirke, who are a stained-glass artist and a musician, respectively? There’s a guitar and a typewriter onsite if you’re feeling inspired—and a telescope if your interests skew more cosmic.
The Sunset House
Sleeps: 4 Highlights: Outdoor dining table, firepit, acoustic guitar Book now: From $336 per night, airbnb.com
There’s a subtly boho-rocker vibe at this two-bedroom ranch-style home that’s a four-minute drive from downtown Joshua Tree; with its turntable, record collection, concert posters, and house acoustic guitar, it’s the kind of place where you can almost imagine Joni Mitchell or Gram Parsons holing up to write their next album beside the wood-burning stove. Bobcats and coyotes roam the grounds, but the interiors of this Airbnb Plus are a civilized space filled with creature comforts both practical (washer, dryer, Bluetooth speaker, Nespresso machine) and special, including whole roasted beans from Joshua Tree Coffee Co. and New Mexico–made Los Poblanos toiletries.
Sleeps: 6 Highlights: Piano, hot tub, antique collection Book now: From $339 per night, airbnb.com
In renovating this 1963 three-bedroom house, three miles from the national park gate, L.A. interior designer Julia Chasman dispensed with high-desert clichés in favor of an eclectic and lived-in atmosphere, filled with mismatched design finds sourced from around the globe: a vintage clawfoot tub and O’Keefe & Merritt stove, an orange Malm fireplace, antique painted tiles from Spain and Morocco, a Hamilton upright piano, and assorted maps and oversized biology diagrams. Set off by a corrugated metal fence, the back patio of this Airbnb Plus is a peaceful hideaway with a hot tub, a firepit, cushioned loungers, and towering saguaros—no, they’re not native to these parts, but they still make for a great Instagram backdrop!
Desert Isolation Mid-Century Home
Sleeps: 6 Highlights: Outdoor shower, sleek design, firepit Book now: From $440 per night, airbnb.com
Done up in a crisp palette of whites, grays, and blonde wood, this two-bedroom Airbnb Plus exudes a zenlike (or Apple Store–like) calm that belies its location: within strolling distance from the Joshua Tree Saloon and the rest of buzzing downtown. Clutter is minimal, with clean midcentury lines and abundant natural light, and every design detail earns its place, from vintage maps and statement lamps to rawhide rugs. There’s an almost brutalist simplicity to the gravel backyard, which features a gurgling fountain, a cushion-lined firepit, and a gas grill, all hemmed in by privacy-guaranteeing metal walls that will entice you into giving the exposed outdoor shower a spin.
Sleeps: 2 Highlights: Patio views, well-stocked kitchenette, great price Book now: From $181 per night, airbnb.com
Cowboy meets Coachella in this tiny, brick-red cabin, which had no electricity or running water until very recently but now feels more like a smartly designed studio apartment. The kitchenette half of the space features rustic wood cabinetry and a compact dining area, while the bedroom includes cute touches like a moon-phase art piece strung over the bed and paintings of jackrabbits by artist Karine M. Swenson. On the porch of this Airbnb Plus, you’ll find a triangle so you can make like a homesteader and holler for your friend or S.O. to head in for supper. From here, on the south side of town, you’re not far from the Desert View Conservation Area, considered one of the area’s best habitats for desert tortoises.
Sleeps: 4 Highlights: Record collection, board games, charcoal grill Book now: From $200 per night, airbnb.com
Host Hannah Lott-Schwartz should know a thing or two about interesting stays: She’s a travel journalist, and you can find some of her writing on sustainability in the guidebooks she’s stocked for guests. This two-bedroom, dog-friendly home welcomes visitors with its cheerful turquoise door and cactus garden, and it sits within a 15-minute walk of Joshua Tree’s bustling main strip. The move: Pick up ingredients at the farmers’ market so you can whip something up in the dreamy kitchen or on the charcoal grill out back. The space is equipped with plenty of board games and an ace record collection that includes some Mexican folkloric gems; previous guests have been known to leave behind vinyl they found at the swap meet, if you’re feeling inspired to help shape the vibe of your fellow future travelers.
The Magic Hour Home
Sleeps: 12 Highlights: Hot tub, bunk bed, game room Book now: From $869 per night, airbnb.com
Designed with families in mind, this five-bedroom house includes a kid-friendly bunk room and a game garage, equipped with a pool and ping-pong tables. The decor skews toward sherbet tones, botanical prints, and abstract wall hangings, while the backyard calls to mind a dude ranch, thanks to its plentiful amenities: a hot tub, a firepit ringed by rough-hewn logs on which to sit, a grill, a patio table under strings of lights, a seasonal cowboy pool, and a quartet of hammocks, so you never have to fight with your siblings over the best seat for stargazing. If you want to fully embrace the area’s unabashed weirdness, the house is a five-minute stroll from the Krblin Jihn Kabin, a cabin installed by artist Eames Demetrios (the grandson of Ray and Charles Eames) as part of a continents-spanning installation that imagines a parallel universe called Kcymaerxthaere.
The Rum Runner
Sleeps: 4 Highlights: Hot tub, Tesla charging station, firepits Book now: From $515 per night, airbnb.com
Clad in barn wood and artfully rusted metal, this one-bedroom retreat opened last year in Yucca Valley, and the experience here is all about the stunning views: Inside, local artist Ana Digiallonardo has rendered those vistas into a minimalist mural that will have you running for her website to buy a print, while a retractable glass wall in the sunroom frames the surrounding high desert like an 8-by-20-foot landscape photo. The designers have paired a luxurious Tuft and Needle bed, topped with Parachute linens, with industrial-edged fixtures and a vintage chesterfield couch that you’ll melt into after a long day out on the trails. From the six-person hot tub or the stargazing bed, you can take advantage of the nonexistent light pollution to view the vast swath of the Milky Way, and side-by-side “cowboy tubs” are the perfect place to watch the sunset or spot coyotes and jackrabbits.
Cloud Canyon Ranch
Sleeps: 16 Highlights: Pool, nearby hiking trails, kid-friendly amenities Book now: From $928 per night, airbnb.com
Perfect for family reunions or friend-group getaways, this sun-drenched villa is filled with cozy nooks that double as sleeping quarters: In addition to four bedrooms, there’s a living room with four fold-out cushions that make for an ideal slumber-party setting for younger guests, or simply a place to laze about with a fleece throw and a bottle of wine. Parents will appreciate the well-stocked amenities, including a crib, a pack ‘n’ play, a high chair, and even baby dishware, books, and toys, while those looking for a more resort-like experience can request a private chef, massages, sound baths, and even horseback rides—an excellent way to explore the adjacent Joshua tree forests and hiking trails.
Nicholas DeRenzo Nicholas DeRenzo is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Brooklyn. A graduate of NYU’s Cultural Reporting and Criticism program, he worked as an editor at Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel and, most recently, as executive editor at Hemispheres, the in-flight magazine of United Airlines. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Sunset, Wine Enthusiast, and more.