The Best Vacation Homes to Book for a Homestay in California

The Wheelhouse desert vacation rental could be right up your alley
The Wheelhouse desert vacation rental could be right up your alley | Courtesy of The Wheelhouse / Expedia
Photo of Anna Kaminski
Writer5 November 2021

California’s attractions are diverse. From the bright lights of Hollywood to the beaches and galleries of Los Angeles; the steep streets of San Francisco to surfing in San Diego; the still waters of Lake Tahoe to the silent forest of Redwood National Park. If you’re an independent traveler, they’re best enjoyed from the convenience of a vacation home. Here’s our selection of the very best – bookable with Culture Trip.

The Wheelhouse, for rustic peace

A night-time view across to the outdoor pool and mountains beyond, from an outdoor seating area at the Wheelhouse
Courtesy of The Wheelhouse / Expedia
This ranch-style High Desert retreat will be just the ticket, whether you’re a fresh air fiend looking to hike in nearby Joshua Tree National Park or are just after solitude and artistic inspiration. It’s a unique two-bedroom property, with a design aesthetic that you might term mid-century-meets-funky. Relax in a vintage swing beside the full-size backyard pool, de-stress in the outdoor spa, or watch the sparks from the fire pit in the evening.

Snowcreek Resort, for outward-bound fans

The outdoor pool area at Snowcreek Resort, with a mountain peering through the trees behind
Courtesy of Snowcreek Resort / Expedia
Are you a keen downhill skier, eager to tackle the snowy chutes, gullies and trails of nearby Mammoth Mountain ski resort? A mountain biker looking to do the same in the warmer months? You’ll be at home in this California vacation rental, where wood-shingled one- to three-bedroom cottages keep things cozy with fireplaces and plaid duvets. If the surrounding wilderness doesn’t offer enough of a sporting challenge, you and your kids can use the on-site indoor-outdoor pools, tennis courts and gym.

Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego Hotel Circle/SeaWorld Area, for calming decor

Four blue wooden loungers stand between tall palm trees ahead of the exterior of Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego Hotel Circle/SeaWorld Area
Courtesy of Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego Hotel Circle / Expedia
Just off the Mission Valley Freeway, this all-suite hotel is justifiably popular with vacationing families. The location is part of the draw: just a few minutes’ drive from SeaWorld, as well as the sprawling Splish Splash waterpark. Decorated in classic creams, greys and browns, the fully equipped suites have ample space for couples with kids, while on-site perks include a paddling pool, larger pool and a hot tub.

Quaint Studio at The Bungalows, for big-city exploration

A living area in Quaint Studio at The Bungalow, with a sofa standing behind items including two small wicker tables
Courtesy of Quaint Studio at The Bungalow /
This snug, quiet and fully equipped studio sits on the eastern fringes of San Diego’s buzzy Little Italy, and is particularly good value for solo travelers and couples on a city break, looking to explore deeper. The streets all around are speckled with cafes, restaurants and taco stands, and you’re within easy walking distance of both the Museum of Contemporary Art and the nearest San Diego Trolley stop, with the light rail connecting you to the Gaslamp Quarter downtown.

Washington Square Inn, for suave surrounds and wine

Two soft chairs sit opposite wine glasses on a tray by a window at Washington Square Inn
Courtesy of Washington Square Inn / Expedia
It’s less a California vacation home, more a home-from-home in the heart of North Beach, San Francisco’s Little Italy. This intimate guesthouse is a good place to meet fellow travelers over complimentary afternoon wine-and-cheese spreads. Polished wooden floors, splashes of colorful contemporary art and individually decorated, fan-cooled bedrooms with window seats and bay windows are just some of its attractive assets. The excellent European-style breakfast is fuel for exploring the neighborhood relics of the Beat Generation before hitting the retro bars.

Marquis Villas Resort by Diamond Resorts, for Palm Springs perfection

A view of the outdoor pool area at Marquis Villas Resort by Diamond Resorts, dominated by a mountain backdrop
Courtesy of Marquis Villas Resort by Diamond Resorts / Expedia
Ready for your Palm Springs vacation? This ocher-colored three-story resort is a brilliant option, immersed in palms with a view of the San Jacinto Mountains, and within walking distance of the town’s diverse dining scene. Spacious apartments are available in various configurations, with full or partial kitchens, and the resort also has a large pool and hot tub – ideal for unwinding after you’ve been golfing, digging the annual Coachella festival or hiking the challenging Cactus to Clouds trail nearby.

Skyline, Desert Hot Springs, for cozy, family-friendly comfort

The exterior of Skyline, Desert Hot Springs, as seen from across the steep, sloping road; mountains can be seen in the distance
Courtesy of Skyline Desert Hot Springs / Expedia
You’re right on the edge of Desert Hot Springs at this generously sized three-bedroom property – floor-to-ceiling windows frame views of the desert, the town below and the surrounding mountain ranges. Whether you’re traveling as a family or with friends, the remote location is your key to activity and relaxation: splash about in the town’s hot and cold springs, hike the trails of the nearby Joshua Tree National Park, and return home to relax in the pool, prior to firing up the barbecue and retiring to your individually styled bedroom.

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