May 14, 2021

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Save money on a California trip with Airbnb tiny homes

6 min read

Live large but think small. How? Rent a tiny home for your next vacation.

Whether you plan to go bouldering in the desert or hiking in the forest, your getaway will be less expensive if you downsize your accommodations.

Tiny houses, a popular architectural movement, are now booming as a vacation alternative.

To help you sample the trend, we’ve scouted eight tiny homes you can rent for $200 or less per night in Southern California. All are available from Airbnb.

Besides being budget-friendly, these rentals allow you to check in without human contact and avoid other guests.

Most tiny homes accommodate only two people. You may be able to bring Rover, but ask upfront.

The structures can be as small as 150 square feet, but we focused on ones 300 to 500 square feet. They’re still not spacious, but all offer outdoor seating and most have large patios or recreation areas.

You must pay a cleaning fee, and there may be other charges. It usually makes sense to spend a few nights or a week rather than a single night.

Idyllwild

La Cabañita
$181 a night

There’s something special about this tiny house. Take a seat inside for a few minutes; better yet, recline on the bed. In front of you, a soaring wall of windows frames a landscape of tall trees, rocky mountains and blue skies. “People come in here and never want to leave,” said owner Jennifer Matthews. The 500-square-foot studio, which has a small kitchen, features unfinished cedar planks on walls and ceiling — an attractive woodsy touch. As wonderful as it is inside, there’s much to draw guests outside: hiking trails, a fun village, legendary Tahquitz Rock and nearby Mt. San Jacinto State Park.

Tiny Charm Under The Pines in Idyllwild

(Jim Edwards)

Casita Lucila
$169 per night

Need some space? That’s a precious commodity in most tiny houses, including this 500-square-foot Pine Cove cabin near Idyllwild. But it offers plenty of space outside, with a deck, patio and large covered gazebo complete with firepit. Even the interior of this mini-home has surprising amenities, including a bedroom with a door that closes and a full kitchen. Another plus is the 5-foot fence that encloses the property. The cabin, built in 1927, was modernized by new owner Modesty Silva during the last year. Other amenities include a TV, wood-burning stove and board games. The home overlooks California 243, known as the Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Highway.

Crestline

A small two-story wood house surrounded by conifers

You need to climb a ladder to reach the bedroom in the Little Bear Cabin in Crestline.

(Jim Edwards)

Little Bear Cabin
$121 per night

Blue jays, chipmunks and towering pine trees welcome guests to this appealing cabin, set against the larger-than-life mountain landscape of the San Bernardino National Forest. Little Bear Cabin, at 500 square feet, offers a romantic getaway atmosphere for couples, said owner Desiree Abrantes, whose husband, Justin, recently added on the top floor and a new bathroom. “It has sort of a treehouse feel,” she said. You’ll need to climb a ladder to reach the bedroom, but it’s an actual room — not just a sleeping loft — with 10-foot ceilings so you can stand up. Amenities include a TV, internet and a fire pit. The rustic house was once a hunting cabin, built in 1937.

Ojai

A kitchen with flowers on a center table

Serena Handley’s tiny house in Ojai has a pleasant vibe.

(Rosemary McClure)

Bungalow 514
$150 per night

Check out Ojai’s relaxed vibe at Bungalow 514, a cozy tiny house just outside town. Haven’t been to Ojai? You’ll find a mix of art galleries, spas and hippie healers in this inland community about 15 miles from Ventura. Bungalow 514, like the community as a whole, is surrounded by citrus groves and oak trees. It has a private gated entrance, where guests enter through an attractive archway of green plants. The recently converted and remodeled garage has a fenced patio with “space to do yoga or relax,” said owner Serena Handley. The house itself, at 440 square feet, is cute and efficiently designed with new appliances and a super-clean appearance. Minimum stay is three weeks.

San Diego

A two-story tiny house with French doors leading to a small patio

A two-story tiny house can be found in the backyard of San Diego resident Daria Van Nice. It has two sleeping lofts.

(Rosemary McClure)

Traveler’s Tiny Home
$146 per night

The interior of a tiny house looking up at a sleeping loft

Daria Van Nice cheerful tiny house has two sleeping lofts.

(Rosemary McClure)

Hotel prices are sky-high in San Diego. That’s why Daria Van Nice rents out a tiny house in her backyard. At 300 square feet, it’s the smallest of our featured houses. You wouldn’t want to spend the day inside, but it’s great for sleeping, showering and cooking. There are two sleeping lofts in this two-story mini; you’ll need to climb a ladder to access them. The house has a great yard, with pepper trees and a hot tub, garden, fire pit and chicken coop. The ladies will be happy to provide you with eggs in the morning, Van Nice said. The tiny home, about a mile from downtown San Diego, has parking and a private walkway and is in an evolving neighborhood.

Joshua Tree

Geologic wonders and wild-armed Joshua trees wow sightseers who explore 800,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park. This desert destination was among the nation’s top 10 most-visited parks last year and is booming again this spring, with full campgrounds and a line to get through the gates on weekends. That’s why we’re including three nearby tiny houses in this roundup. All are in the city of Joshua Tree, near the park’s west entrance.

Tiny Rose
$186 per night

Swing in a hammock, take a walk in the hills or settle back in a lounge chair with a good book in the sunny courtyard of Tiny Rose, a converted garage with lots of flair. Rose Cefalu designed this 400-square-foot charmer, then gave it lots of privacy: Guests have a side driveway entrance and an enclosed patio with an eight-foot fence. Like our other Joshua Tree tiny houses, it’s about a 10-minute drive to the national park. You’ll find air conditioning, internet, a full kitchen, a large closet and easy parking. There’s a limit of two guests. Tip: You must climb a ladder to access the tiny sleeping loft.

Modern Casita
$182 per night

This slick 400-square-foot home wins our squeaky-clean award. You can almost see your face in its polished cement floors. It helps that it’s new, having been built in 2020, according to owners Jon and Joanne Li. The couple, avid hikers and climbers, love Joshua Tree, about five miles away. Like most of our tiny houses, Modern Casita is very efficient: There’s a full kitchen, a double bed, a flat-screen TV and a carport — an unusual amenity that is a big plus when summer temperatures exceed 100 degrees. “The home is truly special to us, and we are glad we can share it with other people through Airbnb,” Jon Li said.

Cozy Desert Escape
$147 per night

You’ll find a bottle of wine on the table when you rent this unpretentious backyard house on a quiet residential street about five miles from Joshua Tree. You’ll also find a business card for owner Nelson Day, who owns Climbing Life Guides, a service for pro and wannabe climbers. The structure was built in 1981; Day updated it after buying it in 2016. There’s a full kitchen, a double bed and lots of work space, which comes in handy for some visitors. Sara Greenbaum, visiting in early April from Boston, was enthusiastic: “I could get up at 4 a.m., do my work on my East Coast schedule, then walk in the park. It was perfect for my purposes.”

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