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We Rented a Vacation House at Cultus Lake (3X) – Everything You Need to Know

We’ve rented three different houses at Cultus Lake over the last two years.  Specifically, we’ve rented houses in the Sunnyside neighborhood which is on the north side of the lake (closest to the park entrance).  I have not rented a house in the Lindell Beach area of the lake so I cannot comment on that experience.

Our reason for renting was for vacation. It’s always been 4 to 5 nights which is a good duration to stay at Cultus.

Cultus is a great option for us because it’s not quite two hours drive from our house.  It’s easy to get to and offers all that a sizeable lake has to offer.

Because we stay with another family, we opt for larger houses with 3+ bedrooms.  Fortunately, there are a good number to choose from.

Here’s everything I learned about renting a vacation home at Cultus Lake, BC.

I prefer booking with VRBO over Airbnb for one reason.  Most homeowners list their houses on both platforms in which case I opt for VRBO

The only reason I prefer VRBO is VRBO has a much better refund option. Most rentals offer a 100% cancellation up to 60 days in advance of the stay. Because we usually book many months in advance, this is good for us.  Airbnb, on the other hand, often requires a hefty financial commitment 48 hours after booking.

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I find it’s odd the cancellation policies are so different, but they are.

However, it’s no free lunch. To make up for the more generous cancellation policy, homes tend to cost a bit more on VRBO.  Yeah, I’m talking the same home for the same dates.

If you want the absolute cheapest, go with Airbnb. If you prefer a better cancellation policy, go with VRBO.

Not one house we rented was waterfront and that was okay

Cultus lake house we rented

This was the nost recent house we rented at Cultus Lake. It’s not on the water. Only a short walk to the lake.

Generally for vacation, it’s waterfront or bust.  However, it’s darn near impossible to secure a waterfront vacation rental at Cultus Lake. I’m on the waiting list for one.  And while it’s often a dealbreaker for me, it’s not at Cultus Lake.  The benefits of the place outweigh having to rent a house not on the water.

All the houses in the Sunnyside neighborhood are close to the beach.  The streets are a grid running north / south.  Every house we’ve rented is only a 5-minute or less walk to the water.

The houses are not cheap to rent

Rental houses in Cultus Lake

Because demand is high during July and August, owners can charge a ton of money per night. I’m talking $800+ CAD.  Some are well above $1,000 CAD per night.

We justify it because we only stay four or five nights and share it with another family.  Yes, it’s costly, but it really is a great vacation for us and the kids.

I’ve yet to rent a house that permits pets at Cultus

I’m not saying houses that permit pets doesn’t exist but the three we stayed at didn’t.  It’s hard to find vacation rentals that allow pets. Can’t say I blame them.  Because there isn’t all that much available at Cultus you might have to find other accommodations for your pet(s).

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The entire waterfront is open to the public

Lakefront at Cultus Lake

In other words, the waterfront houses do not own the land along the water.  Anyone can spend the day at the waterfront. If this weren’t the case, there would be no point in renting anything other than the waterfront.

Calling a beach is being too generous

The topography along the waterfront in this area is not really a beach.  It’s grass with a very short, rocky beach area.  If you want beach, Cultus isn’t for you.

What makes up for this are the many long public docks extending out into the water.  These are ideal for swimming from. Many folks set up on the docks. They’re large. There are many of them. It works great.

Be sure to look out for dedicated swimming areas

Swimming area Cultus Lake

There are a lot of boaters on Cultus Lake so you definitely want to set up in a spot with a dedicated swimming area. Not all portions of water between the docks are dedicated for swimming.  You’ll be able to tell by whether it’s roped off from dock to dock.

Water is reasonably warm but certainly not Caribbean-warm

If you go during a hot streak, the water can be reasonably warm. The later in the season you go, the warmer the water. I noticed the difference big time this year. We stayed four nights in early July then five nights in early August. The water was much warmer in August.

Regardless, it’s never been so cold during summer that we couldn’t swim in it.

Parking is not all that great if you’re staying with more than one family

Additional parking at Sunnyside neighborhood at Cultus Lake

Additional parking at Sunnyside neighborhood at Cultus Lake.

Most houses can squeeze two cars in front of the house. If you have three or more cars in your party, the additional cars must be registered with the Park (homeowners will do this for you) and parked just outside the neighborhood area.  Fortunately, there’s plenty of additional parking but do not forget to get your vehicle registered.

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Properties are not large

Most of the lots are small.  More and more owners are ripping down old, small cottages and building large houses that take up much of the property. What this means is that you are not likely to get much of a yard, if any.  The best you can hope for is a sizeable patio… which admittedly all three houses we stayed at offered.  

Book early because houses get booked out for July and August quickly

Being so close to Vancouver, the available houses for rent get rented early in the year.  The sooner you can book, the better. They go fast.

Not all houses have AC

Most houses in the Vancouver area don’t have AC.  It seldom gets cooking hot; that is until a couple of years ago. Summers have been hotter including at Cultus.  

If AC is important to you, be sure to read the house description carefully.  In fact, you should inquire to the homeowner.

We stayed at one house without AC. Two had it.  It’s much better to be at a house with AC when it’s hot.

Weather is hit and miss

This is an area fairly close to Vancouver so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to have rain during your entire stay. We’ve been incredibly lucky enjoying sunny weather during every stay at Cultus but we do get rainy days and even weeks in the Summer.

If it rains, there’s not much to do at Cultus.

It’s a great vacation place for young kids

The playground at Sunnyside Lakeside Beach park at Cultus Lake.

The playground at Sunnyside Lakeside Beach park at Cultus Lake.

Playground at Cultus Lake Elementary School.

Playground at Cultus Lake Elementary School.

During our first vacation at Cultus, our youngest was 5 years old.  He had a great time.  There are two playgrounds in the area and of course the lake to swim in.  Vehicles typically go slow on the streets which are flat so they are good for biking, scootering, etc.  

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Of course, the Cultus waterpark and Adventure Park is steps away as well. That’s two big days any kid will love.

There are not many good restaurants in the Cultus Lake area

There’s a Lakeside Beach Club restaurant with a variety of food, a pizza place (J Beethoven’s) and a couple of ice cream shops. That’s it.  

Chilliwack is 15 minutes away by car which offers many more restaurants. We tend to prefer to order in via Doordash.

If you have room, take your bike… a great little area for cycling

Don’t expect world-class cycling or mountain biking but the area is flat, there are some simple trails – all excellent for taking kids on bike rides. We usually take our bikes and do actually use them.

However, you can get around the entire neighborhood easily enough by walking.

The large public beach is part of the neighborhood

Public beach at Lakeside Beach at Cultus Lake

On the northernmost part of the park area is the Lakeside Beach which has sand, large grass area with trees, concession, bathrooms and kayak/SUP rentals.  Be warned it gets really busy on weekends.

We tend to prefer sticking closer to the house we’re at but usually stroll over to the park area at least once a day.  There’s a large playground there which our kids like.

There are a lot of motorboats on Cultus Lake

If you prefer quiet lakes that prohibit motor boats, Cultus is not for you.  It’s a water skiing lake.  You can tell by all the $100K+ water ski boats sitting out in the water.  

Yes, you can kayak and SUP reasonably safely but it is a busy lake with boats.

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I’ve had nothing but excellent experiences with all three houses and homeowners

While I think the whole review system on these vacation rental sites is draconian because of the horrendous impact one bad review can have, I must admit that it does encourage homeowners to be good to renters.  

I’ve found all homeowners to be polite, prompt and the houses to be in excellent condition… basically, the houses have all been as advertised.

Is it worth paying almost $1,000 per night at Cultus for a vacation?

IMO, it is for us just because it’s close to home.  Not having to drive so far is a huge bonus.  We mitigate the cost staying with another family.   If the weather is good, it’s a terrific place to vacation.

It’s not perfect, mind you. It actually lacks a lot of what other lakes offer such as decent restaurants, sandy beaches, quiet lake, waterfront house rental options, better parking, etc.  However, it’s hard to beat being at the lake house inside two hours.

If the distance is no issue for you, consider renting a waterfront house in the Shuswap, Penticton/Kelowna, Osoyoos or any of the many lakes up and around 100-Mile House (just to name alternatives).

Are there hotels or a resort to stay at in the Cultus Lake area?

No. Amazingly there are no hotels or a resort in the Cultus Lake area.  The closest hotel is outside the park area in Chilliwack.  It’s about a 15-minute drive.  

Your only options for accommodations at Cultus Lake are camping and a short-term vacation rental.