Where is Hotel California and is it even a real place

3 minute read

Hotel California. You know the song. You've sung it a few too many times after a few too many drinks. You have no idea what the lyrics are but who cares, you're close enough right? You've also probably wondered where on earth Hotel California is actually located. In California surely, but where? It's a question that has been asked time and time again since the song came out over four decades ago. Let's dive in and figure out this mystery once and for all.

Where is the Hotel California from The Eagles song located?

To answer this, we need to start with a few key lyrics and break it down from there.

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair

Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air

Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light

My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim

If you open Google Maps and search for "Hotel California", the closest result will likely be in Mexico in the city of Todos Santos. Todos Santos is in the Baja California (hint 1: California!) state just west of the Gulf of California. The hotel is located on highway 19 (hint 2: desert highway!). There are lights hanging (hint 2: Shimmering lights?) over the front doors. The hotel was founded in 1947 well before The Eagle's song. In the 60s and 70s, a lot of marijuana, or colitas as they're known in Mexican slang, was grown in the city. There have been reports of ghosts, a.k.a spirits, in the hotel.

Is Hotel California from The Eagles the one found in Todos Santos?

"Baja is flip flop funky… Todos Santos… lined with artisans shops, and it is here that you will find The Hotel California." - Vanity Fair

While all signs seem to point to this hotel being the one, the reality is a bit more complicated. The similarities are a mere coincidence. Think about it — If you rename any hotel in Mexico to "Hotel California" it will likely seem like the song is referencing that hotel. Desert highways, marijuana references, shimmering lights in the door, those are all common traits for hotels in Mexico during that period. The Todos Santos hotel is more compelling because it was built before the song.

Is Hotel California based on a real hotel then?

This is where things get tricky. The song's lyrics aren't as straightforward as they seem. Take this for passage for example:

So I called up the Captain

"Please bring me my wine"

He said, "we haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine"

Most people are fully aware that wines are not spirits, especially The Eagles' Don Henley:

Believe me, I've consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are made and what the proper nomenclature is. But that line in the song has little or nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. It's a sociopolitical statement.

In 2013, in the documentary History Of The Eagles, Don finally set the record straight:

The hotel itself could be taken as a metaphor not only for the myth-making of Southern California, but for the myth-making that is the American Dream, because it is a fine line between the American Dream, and the American nightmare.

There you have it, directly from the horse's mouth. Hotel California is not a real hotel.

Are there any other theories?

Tons. From it being a mental hospital, to a rehab center or to the more compelling theory that Hotel California is actually purgatory. There's a lot of evidence pointing to the former. These lyrics in particular:

"This could be heaven or this could be hell"

"We are all just prisoners here, of our own device"

"You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave"

If you've been paying attention though, the lyrics to Hotel California aren't as clear cut as they appear. It would very unlikely that the band would leave the answer out in the open like that.

So what is Hotel California? That's up to you to decide.

Get Hotel California on vinyl on Amazon.