It's the vacation moment you've been waiting for: a cocktail in your hand and sunshine warming your face as you lounge by the pool. But this isn't any old resort. You're staying in a private beach home that happens to be shaped like a gargantuan seashell.
This fantastical vacation property on Mexico's Isla Mujeres is an example of the one-of-a-kind rentals now available to travelers through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. According to HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples, booking an unusual vacation rental "gives [travelers] bragging rights when they get home. It ups the fun factor in a big way."
Some, like the Seashell House and the Mirrored House outside Pittsburgh, are quirky in a beautiful, high-design way. In Brooklyn, one couple turned a sunny, 1,500-square-foot Williamsburg loft into a cabinet of curiosities, covering the walls with items recovered from old farms, salvage yards, and abandoned factories, while also cultivating about 70 plants.
Other strange vacation rentals embrace pop culture and kitsch. Imagine, for example, reserving a life-size replica of J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit House in the foothills of Montana, or returning to your wine-barrel accommodations after a day out in the vineyards of Walla Walla, Washington.
These photo ops are just about guaranteed to earn you likes and comments on social media--which Jia En Teo, co-founder and COO of Roomorama, believes is part of the appeal. "Travelers are looking for one-of-a-kind stays to add to their Facebook and Instagram portfolio," she says. "While staying in a beautiful property is great, edgy and quirky places step up the game to a whole new level."
Whichever of these 15 quirky properties captures your imagination, you can be sure a stay will reboot your reality.
See More of the Strangest Vacation RentalsAn artsy local couple dreamt up this house within the upscale suburb of Fox Chapel. They covered the exterior with reflective surfaces, while the inside of the house features original artwork and, yes, more mirrors. It’s a fitting base for travelers in town to visit the Andy Warhol Museum or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater masterpiece (90 minutes by car). One reviewer says: “Staying with Martin was a lesson in living. Every detail of his home communicates a passion for art and design, and my short stay was a chance to realign my own aspirations for home life.” How many vacation rentals can be so transformative? $165 per night with a two-night minimum; airbnb.com Photo: Airbnb
See More of the Strangest Vacation RentalsAbout 4.5 miles from the tiny Spanish town of Belinchón (population 376), this cavernous retreat is for travelers who truly aspire to get away from it all—including electricity and running water. To their credit, Airbnb hosts Lucía and Paloma are pretty direct about the rental’s lack of amenities. The property description reads: “Enjoy a simple holiday! … If you succeed, you will be a real survivor.” Looks like no one’s taken them up on the challenge yet…or at least endured to tell the tale. The Survival Cave has zero reviews. $49 per night with a two-night minimum; airbnb.com Photo: Airbnb
See More of the Strangest Vacation RentalsNear the Chinese metropolis of Kunming, known as the City of Eternal Spring for its idyllic climate and gorgeous flowers, awaits one cute—and cultish—vacation rental. Fans of the Hello Kitty brand have a reputation for being hard-core enthusiasts, inspiring branded items ranging from slow cookers and electric guitars to EVA Air’s Hello Kitty jet. Invented by the Japanese company Sanrio in 1974, Hello Kitty now rakes in $5 billion a year. So it’s no surprise, really, that someone would deck out an entire apartment with the pink pop icon. $28 per night; roomorama.com Photo: Roomorama
See More of the Strangest Vacation RentalsHawaii’s Kehena Beach is known for its black sand, lava, frequent dolphin-sightings, and an unofficial “clothing optional” policy. But that’s not where the exotic attractions end. The beach is also the site of one of the most unusual vacation rentals around: a two-bedroom concrete home shaped like, well, a 1990s-era boom box. Featuring panoramic windows so that guests can enjoy the gasp-inducing views from everywhere in the house, it’s the ultimate beach getaway. $175 per night with a three-night minimum; homeaway.com Photo: HomeAway.com
See More of the Strangest Vacation RentalsEngineered to look like a Hobbit Hole from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, this spectacularly weird retreat caters to nature nerds. Guests can hike, climb, and fish to their hearts’ content in the foothills of Montana’s Cabinet Mountains. Just be forewarned that hunting, while popular in the area, is forbidden within the Shire. (The website states: “If the Trolls see you with a rifle or even smell gunpowder on you, you will be fair game.”) And lest you decide to pack up the family for a whimsical adventure, take heed that the Shire is “a place where adults can get away and let their ‘Inner Child’ emerge. No worries, no hassles, no cell phone and no children.” $295 per night; airbnb.com Photo: Steve Michaels
See More of the Strangest Vacation RentalsThailand’s Khao Yai National Park is revered for exotic wildlife and geological wonders like the 75-million-year-old Shell Cemetery. Visitors typically stay in tents on designated campsites, but they can also choose to rent one of the area’s private “living domes.” (Seen from above, the quirky community of green circular structures looks almost like an alien settlement.) After a day out exploring, dome dwellers can relax in the swimming pool or savor a meal together in the shared dining area. $61 per night; airbnb.com Photo: Airbnb
See More of the Strangest Vacation RentalsThe ultimate party house, this 10-bedroom candy-themed compound offers every form of entertainment that travelers—and their 20 closest friends—can dream up, including mini-golf, laser tag, and even a 1,200-square-foot “discotheque.” But the rental’s impressive string of amenities pales in comparison to its main attraction: the world’s only ice-cream-cone-shaped swimming pool. (The hot tub is the “cherry on top.”) Three words: Treat.Yo.Self. $1,295 per night with a three-night minimum; flipkey.com Photo: FlipKey
--By Jessica Adamiak
See All of the Strangest Vacation Rentals
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