Joe Pagac loves sharing the desert with visitors.
So when he bought a house on Tucson's west side three years ago — which came with its own detached cabin brought down from Montana and reassembled by a previous owner — he knew he wanted to open its doors to other people.
"You can tell by my murals. I'm a huge fan of the Sonoran Desert, so it's really cool to let people stay in a space that's this close up," the famed local muralist says.
Pagac listed the cabin on Airbnb and now welcomes out-of-towners and Tucsonans to stay in the space. He's just one out of dozens of Tucsonans who have done the same with their unique places.
Here are 9 interesting local spots to consider for your next staycation.
All the cabin vibes
A normal cabin might open up to pine trees and weather cooler than Tucson's. But right outside of Pagac's cabin are saguaros and a pool perfect for the hot weather.
"I love traveling and when I can't travel, it's really cool to have people around the world drifting around the property," says Pagac, who co-hosts the cabin with Arielle Alelunas. "Or locals you get to meet. Or people seeing saguaros for the first time. It's a perfect spot to explore the desert from."
Inside the cabin is custom furniture, plus furniture that came from a former lumberjack in Wyoming.
"It has that smell of a 100-year-old cabin — in a good way," he says.
Pagac also put in a patio on the west side of the cabin, where he says many creatives will sit all day with their laptops or guitars, seemingly inspired by the desert views.
Stay in an Instagram-worthy space
Sometimes people book Chelsey Gaines' rental just to take photos. And browsing the listing, it's obvious why.
The home is charming, with its bright white walls, original wood touches and paintings of cacti on the walls inside and out. There's also an artsy wall of colorful doors in the backyard, perfect for Instagram selfies.
The home, which is west of downtown, also has a lot of history. It was built in the late 1920s, once serving as home to a silversmith. Gaines left a lot of the original wood and beams in the home as a nod to its history.
Gaines also features embroidery by local artist La Bandita Embroidery in the home. Guests staying at the house are able to buy the art right off the wall.
Bask in the history of the Ball-Paylore House
The home was built in the 1950s by local architect Arthur T. Brown for University of Arizona faculty members Phyllis Ball and Patricia Paylore.
Brown received praise for the home's unique design that includes a hexagonal floor plan, floor-to-ceiling windows and a back patio shaped as a semi-circle that features moveable shades. Brown also built the home with a passive solar design, keeping sustainability in mind.
Demion Clinco, executive director of the preservation foundation, called the home a "jewel box of a house."
Open the doors to cacti
Sara and Rich Combs started The Joshua Tree House, a lifestyle brand with vacation rentals, in Joshua Tree, California. The couple later brought the experience to Tucson.
The Tucson space includes five beautiful suites near Saguaro National Park, overlooking the cacti and palo verde trees.
The couple began their journey around 2013 when starting a freelance design career for themselves. When traveling around the country, they visited Joshua Tree Park and wanted to find a space of their own there.
"We had initially craved a creative retreat for ourselves, and found that others were craving the same once we listed it on Airbnb while we were out of town," the couple said in a statement. "Since then, The Joshua Tree House has grown as a brand that has the goal of offering the time and space for people to reflect, reset, and create."
Feel like you're miles and miles away
Nature preserve Sanctuary Cove on Tucson's northwest side not only offers walking trails and lots of space for meditation, you can also stay in its peacefulness overnight.
The Cottage at Sanctuary Cove was first listed on Airbnb three years ago, but the space was rentable prior to that mostly through word of mouth. It's mostly suited for a couple — not so much families. Managed by the organization All Creeds Brotherhood, The Cottage at Sanctuary Cove is one way the nonprofit is able to bring in an income (in addition to donations).
"The thing people mostly remark on when they stay here is how remote it feels even though we're really pretty close to everything," says one of Sanctuary Cove's current caretakers Alison Boelts. "The back patio faces Safford Peak and looks west from our property. You feel very isolated and out in nature.
"The property is on 80 acres, but of course, we're just a 3-minute drive from Safeway," she says.
Your own oasis
Named Casita Colibrí, meaning "little hummingbird house," this midtown guesthouse is surrounded by a yard of gardens, a waterfall and pool, a koi pond and an outdoor kitchen.
"It's always been my dream to have a bed and breakfast with an animal rescue," says host Christy Kowalewski, adding that she has a tortoise and chickens on property.
"The entire yard, I've been working on myself. I love sharing it with people and I love traveling myself and I thought it'd be so cool to have travelers here from all over the world," she says of her decision to fix up the guesthouse and put it on Airbnb.
She says she also keeps the guesthouse very stocked, with items such as every kitchen utensil you could ever need, to hair gel in the bathroom.
"I think (guests) love that there’s everything in the unit," she says.
Mountain views from this Oro Valley space
In 2003, Reed and Kathaleen Snell built a guest house that shared several uses from an office to a space for friends and family who came to visit to a home for Kathaleen's grandmother to stay.
Several years ago, though, a friend of the Snells stayed at an Airbnb in Michigan and suggested that Airbnb would be a good avenue for the guest house.
And so, they did it.
The home, which features adobe walls and golden tones throughout, is near lots of local restaurants, in addition to Tucson icons like Tohono Chul Park.
Reed Snell says many guests especially love the outdoorsy feel.
"We have some windows where a lot of birds and wildlife come and hang out," he says. "So (guests) can sit in the front and watch that, plus a great view of the mountain."
Immerse in a space with mid-century modern touches
This space has to the cutest retro kitchenette and little touches that guests rave about.
"We got this kind of vintage refrigerator that's round-looking and right out of 'Mad Men,'" says host Joseph West. "We designed the kitchen around that. The architecture of the house is mid-century."
The space is an attached guest house, which boasts a pool and hot tub and is centrally-located. But beyond those perks, West says most of the comments he hears from guests are about the little touches throughout the space, such as consistent decorations or additions of things like flowers.
Guests also like the sustainability of the home, as most of the energy comes from solar panels on the roof. West is also looking into water harvesting.
Stay right by Fourth Avenue
Zach Tyler offers a total of eight units on Airbnb — all walking distance from historic North Fourth Avenue and the UA. The locations make them an ideal spot if you're looking for a spot to stay after a Wildcats game or if you're planning a bar crawl and don't want to take an Uber miles and miles home.
Tyler hopped on Airbnb following a suggestion from a friend who had tried it a few years ago.
"We rolled the dice a bit and kinda went for it," Tyler says.
Among the feedback he receives on the units: Positive comments on the professional cleaning services and the locations being extremely convenient to Fourth Avenue, Congress Street and the UA.
"It's fun for all ages," Tyler says, adding the perks of nightlife plus the emergence of new local restaurants.