The world’s most popular Airbnb listing isn’t easy to find.
From San Francisco, the journey begins with an hourlong drive down Interstate 280 and a windy traverse of “Killer 17” — one of the most accident-prone highways in California.
In the small coastal town of Aptos, you ascend into the Santa Cruz mountains, past centuries-old redwood groves and herds of deer. A few miles in, you lose cell service and have to rely on paper instructions printed out in advance.
When you spot the cluster of weathered mailboxes, you cut right and climb up a steep single-lane driveway until you reach an old, mint green shed.
You park and walk up the driveway, past black cats, clucking chickens, and dense thickets of foliage.
Here lies the world-famous Mushroom Dome.
Over the years, this 100-square-foot geodesic structure has hosted more than 5.8k Airbnb guests from all over the world.
People have traveled here from more than 40 countries — Djibouti, Mongolia, China, India, Australia, Peru — on 6 different continents. It’s been the subject of news articles, Instagram shoots, and video tributes.
The Mushroom Dome is the most booked and most wish-listed property on Airbnb’s platform, besting 5.6m other listings, including a house shaped like an elephant, a cave in France, and a 12th-century Scottish castle.
What makes it so popular? Why do people flock here? And how has this tiny cabin’s fame impacted the owner’s life?
On a recent afternoon in August, I went there to find out.