Yesterday, I (a person who lives in Los Angeles) was on the phone with my friend (a person who lives in New York), discussing our mutual ennui when it comes to perusing social media these days. "If I have to see one more photo of Dia:Beacon, I'm going to lose my mind," my friend said, referring to the oft-photographed museum in Upstate New York that unequivocally serves as the most cliché way to tastefully brag to your Instagram followers that you were able to borrow a friend's Subaru for an escape-from-New York day trip.
In Los Angeles, we have that, too: a designated destination for weekends of selfie-picking and wearing all your fringed, vibey clothes that would look pretty stupid in the aisles of the local Ralph's. For us, that place is "the desert"—a term we use interchangeably to refer to the Colorado Desert (and its iconic resort town, Palm Springs, plus a little music festival you may have heard of called Coachella) and the Mojave Desert (home to Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms, and other modern Wild West enclaves). They butt up against each other in a bone-dry, sandy French kiss, fusing into one vast landscape of dust, wind turbines, and those iconic Joshua trees that were immortalized in that (frankly really killer) U2 album. And while we know we're probably annoying all of our friends and followers outside of the Southern California area with our perennial (except 2020, the cursed year) posts from a mid-century bungalow in Palm Springs or a refurbished homestead cabin in Yucca Valley, we just can't help ourselves.
The Coachella flower-crown people are really dominating the energy of Palm Springs at the moment, but that leaves the Mojave for the rest of us—the real dingbats who need to stretch out and howl at the moon with one another. I'm firing the shots now, as a former New Yorker: The desert has way more to offer than some stuffy, highfalutin museum full of art that you barely understand anyway. We've got vistas, endless space to play made-up games, and psychedelic, star-drenched skyscapes—nature's very own art! You like giant rocks? Old-timey, honky-tonk barbecue institutions? (Pappy & Harriet's 4 eva.) Weird, really weird, reeeaaaalllllyyy weird rental homes? The Mojave Desert is your spot.
And should you take your vaxxed-up brethren for an arid jaunt out there, you're pretty much guaranteed to have a good time; according to Airbnb stats, of the more the 45,000 guests who have stayed in Joshua Tree on its watch, users rated their stay at an average of 4.9 out of 5 stars. An average! That's nuts—as perfect of a score as you're ever gonna get on anything, outside of easy mode on Guitar Hero. People in Joshua Tree and its surrounding area (Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms, etc.) take their rental homes seriously in that they love to hit the antique shops, ball out the rooms, and create a relaxing, mind-expanding mood. And that's what we all want, right? This is interior (and exterior) decorating at its most expressive, because when you're hours from any major cities, why not indulge your aesthetic fantasies?
Something to be aware of when deciding where to book: While considerably cooler than its Colorado Desert cousins like Palm Springs due to its higher elevation, it's still, like, very, very hot in June, July, and August, with average daily highs hovering around a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. However, because there's nada in terms of humidity, it cools down by about 30 degrees at night. So, if the forecast says it's gonna be 95 during the day, expect it to be roughly 65 by the midnight hour when you're moon-bathing. You can still have an amazing time even in mid-summer; just come armed with sunscreen, frosty bevs, and, of course, short shorts. Thighs out, boys.
Here are some of our top picks for the best, most unique rental properties in the greater Joshua Tree area, from the wonderfully strange to the super-luxe, the sick bargains to the shameless splurges. Also, prices vary according to date, so these are all prices for the first week of July to give you a consistent sense of the general cost per night. Enjoy :))))))) and 'gram when you get there, if you must.
For the Burning Man-curious
Look, there's almost nothing we love more than making fun of all the corny weekend warriors who take acid for the first time at age 41 at Burning Man, but for all of the roasting, we're just the tiiiiiniest bit curious about whether it was actually, secretly the funnest thing ever before it was totally taken over by tech CEOs and their personal assistants. Solution: Make your own uninhibited desert paradise in this mind-blowing, two-building, artist-designed compound called Spikehorn Ranch. It has two huge structures on 60 acres, packed with totally unique features (a quadruple-sized outdoor bed, an industrial-grade kitchen, tire swings, a bathroom door made out of… part of a rocket or something?) and colorful touches.
There's a found-object cactus garden and a large hot tub, which is a must for the cooler nights. All the reviews—which are exceptional—says the same thing: Photos don't do it justice. And if you poke around on the net, you'll believe it; this spot looks even more incredible on its website, and was in a Vogue wedding. Bring the whole squad.
60-Acre Desert Ranch, MT Views, $519/night at VRBO
For the highly extra among us
This discolicious home captured our attention when we did a deep dive on Plum Guide, the ~*~highly aesthetic~*~ new Airbnb competitor that rounds up all the most stunning rentals around with a super discerning eye. This three-bedroom casa de dreams can be your own personal Studio 54; you've gotta see all the photos, from the shell-pink-top-to-bottom bedroom to the purple-shag-galaxy-light hideaway. Oh yeah, and it has a pool and a hot tub. We're counting down the days until we can haul ass to this little slice of MDMA and get sweaty to Sylvester with our fave freaky friends who don't mind throwing down some dough for priceless memories. (Hopefully you'll remember at least part of your stay.)
Disco Daydream, $1,020/night at Plum Guide
For the relentless record hunter
This one-bedroom bungalow is for those you wanna drive out to stay in… and listen to records. Its thoughtfully laid out space is centered around a music lounge with a massive vinyl collection, a veritable record store right at your fingertips. Grab some joints (with or without THC, cuz this is California, baby!) and cozy up to some krautrock or sultry soul wax while you sip on a negroni concocted in the decked-out kitchen. You like a full set of knives, a loaded spice rack, and a bathroom that looks straight out of a boutique hotel? This spot has got you. And that's not to mention the fire pit and ten acres of wide open desert. Turn your brain off and turn up the speakers.
Hi-Fi Homestead-Mid Century Desert Oasis with Views & Vinyl, $248/night on Airbnb
If you're looking for 80s cocaine den energy… in the desert
Looking for that Less Than Zero ambiance? This two-bedroom bungalow is your new home, from its glimmering vertical blinds to its zebra-print carpet and straight-out-of-Miami Vice light fixtures. We ain't mad! The reviews are stellar: "Hard to put into words how out-of-this-world our stay was," writes one guest. "Such a rad, funky, super eclectic house in a great location with lots of character."
Joshua Tree Desert Glam Pad, $176/night at Airbnb
If you're looking to do 'Hey Dude' roleplay with bae
This little number is called the UFO, which is interesting because it's anything but sci-fi. Instead, its charms come from its "quirky, camp cowboy fun," manifested in a 1940s cabin that "TV-stylist and interior design guru Doug Wiand" decked out during the bowels of 2020. Ideal for kicking back in a hammock with a pull-tab beer, spitting into a bucket on the porch, or whispering "yeeeehaw" in your lover's ear by a crackling fire. But, you know, make it a little Restoration Hardware, too.
UFO, $423/night on Plum Guide
She gave me dome from the distance
We love everything about dome, and hey, even staying in a dome [sleazy wink]. Sorry about that, genuinely. Anyway, the alluring Abracadabra Dome is a two-bedroom geodesic wonder adorned with sheepskin rugs, books, records, and triangular windows that will make going full-time dome life a tempting thought, indeed. It's also got a breakfast-ready kitchen—plus a cowboy tub for lounging, horseshoes for friendly competition, and a grill for all the dogs you'll inevitably need hot.
Abracadabra Dome, $324/night on Airbnb
Where it's impossible to be in a bad mood
Still reeling with bad vibes from 2020? We get it. But we have a suggestion: Throw on some (literally) rose-colored shades, secure a giant bag of your favorite candy (mmm Charleston Chews… is Easter candy still on sale?), make a pit stop at In-N-Out for a Double-Double, load up on Dad Grass, and hightail it to the aggressively cheerful Moonlight Mesa Hacienda, where a cartoonishly smiley existence awaits. Can you really be in a busted mood when you're surrounded by butterfly wallpaper, a sick record collection, and black velvet paintings of Snoopy? There's even a combo pool-by-day, hot-tub-by-night, just like the ones at Marfa's famed psychedelic haven El Cosmico. Remember, folks: Hell is other people, and when you've got 10 acres of tranquility, it's hard to stay mad.
Moonlight Mesa Hacienda, $212/night at Airbnb
For a tasteful swingers party
With its plentiful outdoor space, groovy furniture, and U-shaped fireside conversation corner, the Mod West Ranch is the perfect place to get to know, well, anyone. In addition to being impeccably decorated, it's got an outdoor barbecue and pizza oven, fondue pots, three fireplaces, and a rock-side hot tub, plus board games and bar seating for letting out all the flirty banter that's been boiling up inside of you since you got your first dose of Pfizer.
There's also a goth ping-pong table and a work station… since you will probably want to stay a while.
Mod West Ranch, $688/night at Plum Guide
Big Playboy grotto energy
Your main focus is the pool. You want a pool. You need a pool. You will revel in a pool. Well, here is a pool, indeed; a rocky saltwater number that looks part-Hugh Hefner, part-Land of the Lost. The abode is a petite two-bedroom cottage with fanciful murals, which are interesting, too—but to reiterate, that poooooool tho.
Dream Catcher Ranch Cottage, $295/night at Airbnb
Time to get a credit card (or start a cult)!
Have you been waiting for a big McMansion in the sky to take over for yoga retreats and spiritual cleansing ceremonies? This Plum Guide beaut is just the ticket, with its massive arched windows, Mount Olympus-like outdoor dining area, and superb view. It sleeps up to 12, which might make you think it's a DIY meditation retreat—until you see the poker table ;].
Zenith Valley, $2,040 a night on Plum Guide
You're the guy in a psych rock band who microdoses every day
Right… "micro." Anyway, this spot is for you, you little psilocybin head. With its bright colors, industrial art, and homey touches, this spot is absolutely for space aliens. Ready to get beamed up? You can expect a hot tub, an array of goofy details (like a hollowed-out old car to chill in while you look at the stars), and even a drum kit.
"The space has everything you need plus more!" wrote one guest. "& if you ever wanted to rock out on some drums but are too embarrassed to do so in public... This space will fulfill your dream!" Space is the place!
La Bonetto Casita Alien Pool Vibes & Hot Tub Music, $275/night at Airbnb
If you're questioning your entire purpose, like Don Draper in the 'Mad Men' finale
It's hard to keep things in perspective sometimes. Why are we here? What are you doing? WHO ARE YOU??? That's where the Library at the Sea of Tranquility comes in. Self-dubbed as "the ultimate writer's & thinker's retreat," it's a six-acre desert compound surrounding a beautiful 80-foot pool, with the intent of "cultivat[ing] an atmosphere of freedom, relaxation, creative community, and communion with nature," a "very open, liberal environment" where you are "welcome to pee anywhere but the pool :)".
Guests note that it has "a very commune feel," and that you might meet new friends at the outdoor kitchen, and with this being the library, there are countless books to dive into.
The Library at the Sea of Tranquility, $251/night at Airbnb
The craziest rental home I've ever seen in my life?
Alright, folks. I've spent hundreds of cumulative hours staring at vacation rentals all over the world over the past decade-plus, and this crazy, mirrored mansion is the actual most bonkers listing I have ever seen. From the outside, it has an invisibility cloak, or, if you do get close enough, looks like a futuristic industrial pod; from the inside, its walls are entirely transparent, surrounding you in rocks upon rocks upon Joshua trees as you luxuriate in its 100-foot indoor pool (WTF??!) or three massive (super king!), vista-surrounded beds.
With its 5,600 square feet of jaw-dropping space, we've just never really seen anything like it.
The Mirrored House, $4,816/night at Plum Guide
If you want to play #vanlife influencer for a weekend
If you're looking to kick back in a village of souped up vintage trailers, @joshuatreeacres is your spot. It's got everything you need, and nothing you don't; glamp away on the porch, or meet your fellow vibe-seekers at the outdoor kitchen and shared hot tub. "Our 1975 vintage Airstream will transport you back to another era when computers were first being realized and Bruce Springsteen was Born to Run," reads the description. We hate computers and love outdoor showers!
Piece of the sky 1979 airstream, $202/night at Airbnb
Prepare to be fried to a crisp by terrifyingly bright colors
This one's a little too much for us, but we know that there's someone out there who's just been waiting to live in a Lisa Frank illustration. Your dream has finally come true, you weirdo.
Rancho De Colores - Desert Retreat, $179/night at Airbnb
Now text your friends, pack your pipe, and get out there, kids. The world is waiting.
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