Soak Up Some Sun: Three Beach Homes for Your Wishlist
Get to know the stories and Airbnb Hosts behind some of the most beautifully appointed beach houses in the world.
Some days, there’s no better place to hunker down than a beach house — escaping to the edge of the earth, with crashing waves as your soundtrack and wading birds for neighbors.
Beachcomber dreams are dramatically elevated with these three homes on Airbnb. In Cape Town, South Africa, soak in nearly 365-degree views of Camps Bay Beach; survey the cliffs of Santorini, Greece, from a penthouse with surreal plunge pool views; or get away from it all at a solar-powered beach bungalow on a private island in South Carolina, USA.
In every setting, personalized service is guaranteed — from the former travel agent who runs the Greek isles hideout to the second-generation family who personally shuttle guests from their home on Hilton Head to the island across the way. Meet three beach homes on Airbnb that push the limits on coastal living.
The Greek Cave Beach House
Hosted by Giannis
Photography by Panos Barous
Carved into the cliffs of Santorini more than 250 years ago, and once used as wine cellars and storage for the captains and ship owners living in town, the whitewashed homes in the village of Oia are now synonymous with the Greek island. This stunning beach home is co-owned by Airbnb Superhost Giannis Zisimos, who sold his travel agency business in Athens and moved to Santorini to run the cave house complex that his family purchased more than 20 years ago.
The Story Behind the Home
After an earthquake in the 1950s destroyed most of the homes in the village, the Hector Cave House Airbnb was one of only 60 restored. Everything has remained structurally the same since, but Giannis spent eight years converting the 646-square-foot family home into a laidback luxury retreat with all the modern comforts, he says, adding that he enjoys weaving in elements of his former role as a travel advisor to help guests get the most out of their stay.
Through the renovation, Giannis was careful to preserve the historic charm of the place, including the dome-like ceiling in the living room — an architectural feature more commonly found in small Byzantine churches. The combination of four spherical triangles forms a cross in the middle. “This is rather rare in houses,” Giannis says. Outside, on the private terrace (with its plunge pool built into the cave walls and overlooking the Mediterranean and Thirassia Island), you can see the opening of the cistern that was used until the 1950s to collect rainwater.
Favorite Guest Memory
Chris and Tiffany, a couple in their fifties from Oregon, stayed the week of Greek Easter, when locals bake traditional tsoureki, an Easter brioche, and priests lead processions through the streets chanting psalms after Good Friday evening service. The guests joined Giannis at many of the Holy Week events, which culminated with a barbecue of skewered lamb on Easter Sunday morning at his friend’s home.
The South African Beach Penthouse
Hosted by Sue
Photography by Virtual Media
Superhost Susan Christy’s penthouse beach home stretches across the top two floors of a double-story villa and looks out on Camps Bay Beach (a mere five minutes away) and the Twelve Apostles mountain range, giving guests nearly 360-degree views of Cape Town’s natural beauty. “We fell in love with the penthouse’s huge, double-volume space and the incredible views it offers,” she says.
The Story Behind The Home
Susan; her husband, Calvin; and their two teenage children lived in Durban, South Africa, until about 15 years ago, when they decided to make their holiday spot of Cape Town a permanent home. They enlisted a Cape Town architecture firm to extensively renovate the 5,382-square-foot space with local and sustainable materials, and started hosting five years ago. “We have travelled to many places in the world and don’t think there is a more beautiful place to live,” Susan says, adding that the family stays in the penthouse mainly in the autumn and winter months, and spends time in the Franschhoek Wine Valley in the summer.
You can climb to the top of iconic South African landmark Table Mountain right from the property, “which is a real privilege,” Susan says. But you don’t have to leave the penthouse to soak up views of the great outdoors. The glass-encased raised pool on the patio looks out across the beach and Lion’s Head mountain, which Susan often hikes with her Jack Russell terrier when she’s in town. “The neighborhood is unspoiled and surrounded by nature,” she adds.
Favorite Guest Memory
When London guests Mike and Sally first stayed at Susan’s home in 2010, the couples became fast friends, connecting over their mutual love for outdoor adventure.
“My husband showed them the popular paths to the top of Table Mountain, and we ended up hiking with them on many occasions throughout their visit,” says Susan. The guests returned two years later to ride in the Cape Town Cycle Tour with Calvin.
Over the years, the couples continued visiting each other, trading off staying at Mike and Sally’s home in London and Susan’s Cape Town penthouse — until the longtime guests cemented their affection for Cape Town by buying a place there, too. “They love Cape Town and the experiences they’ve had so much that they bought a property around the corner from us six years ago,” Susan says.
The Private Island in South Carolina
HOSTED BY Sarah and Bill
Photography by Airbnb Superhosts Sarah and Bill Middleton
On top of being Superhosts, Sarah and Bill Middleton go above and beyond to personally boat guests from a private marina on Hilton Head Island to their island Airbnb on Old House Cay, five minutes away. The couple built a solar-powered beach bungalow on one of the three islands, which are all interconnected by docks.
The Story Behind The Home
From their home on Hilton Head Island, where Sarah grew up, the family initially used the undeveloped islands, which her family acquired in 1999, as a place to fish, kayak, and camp. When they decided to build an off-grid home in 2011, it “was sort of like attempting to colonize Mars,” Sarah says. “There were no contractors who were familiar with it, nor did anyone we spoke with want to attempt to tackle the logistics of building on an island. So we did it ourselves.
They worked with her father’s contracting company, being careful to minimize their impact on the surrounding natural environment. “Getting all the building materials there was quite the task, since we had to wait for the best tides (full moon high tide) in order to get a barge full of equipment and materials there,” she says. She adds that the house is elevated more than 10 feet off the ground on large pilings, so it can withstand tropical storms and hurricanes. The stylish three-bedroom home takes on Southern touches, with reclaimed wood built-ins, artisan-crafted iron stairways, and art sourced from local artists.
From the crow’s nest on the second floor of the house, you can get sweeping views above the treetops, but for clear shots across the Intracoastal Waterway, Hilton Head Island, Daufuskie Island, and the May River, it’s worth trekking over the dock to one of the three smaller islands and climbing the three-story observation tower.
Favorite Guest Memory
Old House Cay has prompted many marriage proposals, but one of the most recent was also the most memorable for Sarah. She helped a young man map out romantic places on the island and coordinated with a local excursions company to whisk him and his girlfriend away on a sunset cruise. “Check-in was the hardest part, because we had to pretend like we hadn’t been planning this for weeks and act completely natural,” Sarah says. “She said yes, so it was all worth it!”
Stephanie Granada is a Colombian-American freelance writer, who splits her time between Florida and Colorado. She's into books, her dog, all things ocean-related, and small towns. You can also find her work in Sunset, Woman's Day, National Geographic Traveler, Southern Living, and others.