The Mushroom Dome
A Weekend in the World's #1 Airbnb Listing
Aptos is a small town about 2 hours south of San Francisco, right off of the famous Highway 1 past Santa Cruz beach. It only spans a few highway exits and this quiet coastal village is easily missed, but it just so happens to host the #1 Airbnb listing in the world. This not so secret escape is called the Mushroom Dome.
The Mushroom Dome is a geodesic dome in the hills of Aptos, nestled right next to a grove of redwood trees. I visited for a weekend in November to celebrate my anniversary with my boyfriend. In this post, I share my experience in the Mushroom Dome and some tips for how to spend time in the Aptos/Santa Cruz area.
Staying in the Mushroom Dome
We arrived at the Mushroom Dome at about 7PM on Friday night, after driving the ~2 hours from San Francisco. If you're traveling from out of town, I recommend flying into the San Jose Airport which is just about an hour away.
Our host, Kitty, greeted us and gave us a tour when we arrived. In the 50+ Airbnbs I've stayed in, she was one of the most welcoming hosts I've experienced, so it's no surprise she has a 5-star rating.
The Mushroom Dome has a loft bed and futon to fit 2-3 people. It has a kitchen, grill and small fridge so you can do your own cooking (we did!). Kitty provides some basic snacks such as oatmeal, coffee and popcorn. There are also some fun board games and about 80 DVDs to choose from. Since there is no cell service, it is the perfect place to escape for a relaxing unplugged weekend.
We spent a lot of time in the Mushroom Dome and enjoyed a morning cup of coffee while peering out at the redwoods. When we weren't in the dome, we ventured to nearby Santa Cruz and Capitola. In the next section, I share my favorite spots in the area.
What to do
On our first night in the Mushroom Dome, we grilled vegetables, made a fresh salad and sipped red wine. We went to bed early so we could explore the area on Saturday.
As I mentioned above, the Mushroom Dome is located close by to Santa Cruz and Capitola, two popular beach destinations in Northern California. Here are some of my top recommendations for how to spend your time.
+ Visit Natural Bridges State Beach, a state park on the beach with a huge natural rock formation that looks like...you guessed it...a bridge! It is also the location of monarch butterfly migrations and if you attend at the right time of year (end of October to mid-November), the trees are dripping with monarch butterflies. If you look at the picture below in the far right corner, there are sandstone rocks with incredible tide pools to explore. Parking at the park costs $10 for the day and I recommend spending a few hours here exploring all that it has to offer.
+ Take a trip to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk was founded in 1907 and is the oldest amusement park in the entire state of California. You'll truly feel like a kid again as you walk up and down the rainbow-bright colored carnival games and take a ride on the Giant Dipper rollercoaster. My favorite part of the boardwalk is the arcade, where you can spend hours playing games.
+ Eat at Gayle's. Gayle's is one of my favorite places to eat in the entire bay area, and that's a bold statement considering the delicious food in San Francisco. Gayle's is located a short drive away in Capitola. It started as a bakery in 1978 and has since expanded it's menu to breakfast, brunch and lunch. It's usually very crowded during the weekends, but the grab-and-go style ensures a minimal wait time before you order. My favorite picks at Gayle's are it's breakfast biscuit sandwiches and it's bear claw pastries.
+ Explore downtown Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz has an adorable downtown with cute cafes and great shopping. My favorite places to shop for women's clothing are Jade and Wallflower, which happen to be located right next to each other. I also recommend grabbing a coffee at Verve Coffee Roasters and a beer at Lúpulo. You could spend all day in this area but I recommend heading to Capitola for dinner.
+ Have dinner in Capitola. Capitola has a charm that is hard to describe. It's one of those places that makes you feel like royalty. There are a row of restaurants lining the sand and a few in the surrounding area. I recommend Zelda's, but you really can't go wrong. Order a cocktail and some fresh fish and enjoy the view of the ocean.
TBP Insider Tips
> The Mushroom Dome is usually booked up months in advance, so it's important to plan ahead. If you're unable to stay there, check out the other Airbnb listing on the same lot.
> You'll need a car to get around Aptos and the Santa Cruz area. I recommend renting one directly from the airport if you're flying from out of town.
> The Mushroom Dome is in the woods, so bring necessities such as allergy medication and bug spray.
> The Mushroom Dome has running water, but it does not have a flushable toilet. It's very functional and clean, but don't expect anything fancy.
> If you have more time, there are some other really great places to explore in the area. For example, Monterey Bay is only about an hour drive away.
> For more recommendations in the area, check out our California blog posts.