The Hotels of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

radit mahindro
17 min readDec 10, 2023

San Andreas is one of the country’s most diverse visitor destinations, known for its huge size and incredible variety. Although justly celebrated for its 3 wildly different main cities each with its own style and attractions to offer — Los Santos with its celebrities and sprawling ghettos, San Fierro with its eclectic artist community, and Las Venturas with the glitz and glamour of casinos — it has so much more beyond that; such as mountains, ghost towns, dense forests and hot, dry deserts. Take time to visit the whole state and support local businesses — GTA San Andreas Manual.

GTA San Andreas marks the first appearance of an entire state as the setting of a GTA game. The San Andreas state, which was modelled after the state of California, Nevada, and Arizona, consists of three main cities: Los Santos (based on the city of Los Angeles), San Fierro (based on San Francisco), and Las Venturas (based on Las Vegas), with several counties and small towns in between / around the cities.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas’ short film The Introduction

The game features references to many real-life landmarks with its plot heavily based on several real-life events in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, including the rivalry between street gangs, the crack epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s, the LAPD Rampart scandal, and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Some in-game hotels are accessible for the protagonist, Carl ‘CJ’ Johnson, to enter, with some of its rooms available to purchase and function as a safehouse. Some missions are taking place at the hotels across the three fictional cities.

Los Santos
Los Santos is truly one of the most audacious and must see cities of the world. The people are beautiful and their attitudes… well, that’s for you to discover. The city has everything… whether you’re jet-setting, roughing it or in between, it’s ALL here. Los Santos is an urban wonderland with its Babel towers, labyrinth of criss-crossing freeways, side streets, rundown residential districts and glamorous neighbourhoods. Los Santos is a place where you can see it all and have it all — GTA San Andreas manual.

Atrium
The Atrium is based on the real-life Westin Bonaventure Hotel, an iconic building in Los Angeles. The Atrium is notable as the location of the cinematic ‘Just Business’ mission in GTA San Andreas.

The fictional The Atrium (left) and the actual Westin Bonaventure Hotel (right)

Westin Bonaventure Hotel was designed by American neofuturistic architect John Calvin Portman Jr. whose extensive portfolio includes the brutalist icon Hyatt Regency San Francisco, modernist hotel with revolving restaurant Hyatt Regency Atlanta, the ‘pregnant building’ of Atlanta Marriott Marquis, and the fourth-tallest hotel in the western hemisphere the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. Portman’s portfolio have been featured in many films such as Interstellar, Strange Days, Mission: Impossible III, Hancock, and in TV series such as The-A-Team, Starsky & Hutch, and CSI.

Portman’s building plans typically deal with primitives in the forms of symmetrical squares and circles, with his signature multi-storied interior atrium service as his buildings’ centrepiece, which provides the inspiration behind The Atrium name. His signature work in China, the Shanghai Centre, was the first of many contemporary large-scale projects in China and elsewhere in Asia when it was completed in 1990. The 5-star hotel inside it, the Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai (formerly Portman Shangri-La Hotel), was named after him.

Atlanta Marriott Marquis (left), Hyatt Regency Atlanta (middle), Hyatt Regency San Francisco (right)

Rodeo Hotel
The original description of the fictional Rodeo Hotel on the old GTA San Andreas website was: “If you need a very expensive place from which to base your assault on the exclusive shops of Rodeo, then why not stay at the Rodeo Hotel? The hotel where the legends stay. Including the film stars, directors, models, and war criminals from Vinewood’s golden age”. Unlike the Atrium, the Rodeo Hotel is not accessible by players and is not part of any mission.

The fictional Rodeo Hotel (left) and the Century Plaza in 2008 (right)

The actual hotel that is now called Fairmont Century Plaza is considered a landmark hotel in Los Angeles and has a long remarkable history: In 1961, developer William Zeckendorf and Alcoa bought about 73 hectares from 20th Century Fox after the studio had suffered a string of big-budget film flops, culminating in the box-office disaster of Cleopatra. The studio’s Century City was originally envisioned “a city within a city” with the arc-shaped, 19-storey, 750-room Minoru Yamasaki-designed Century Plaza as the centrepiece. The Century Plaza was eventually opened in 1966 as the first hotel in the world to have colour TV in all of its room. It was under the management of Western International Hotels, which later changed its name to Westin Hotels in 1981, and before it was sold to Starwood in 1994.

The Fairmont Century Plaza has played host to high profile celebrities and politicians; Josip Broz Tito, Moshe Dayan, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Prince Philip, and David Ben-Gurion.

The Century Plaza hotel in its early days

The Bog Standard
The Bog Standard is based on the real-life The Standard Hollywood, which is the first hotel of The Standard Hotels, opened in 1998. The Bog Standard name is taken from a British slang term “bog-standard” which means “basic” and “ordinary”, meaning the hotel is not of high quality and is only just good enough to get customers.

The Standard Hollywood itself was originally opened in 1962 as the Thunderbird Motel. As years gone by, the motel was changing function and had become a retirement home before American hotelier Andre Balazs purchased and renovated it with A-list co-investors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, and the guitarist and bassist of the alternative-rock band The Smashing Pumpkins: James Iha and D’arcy Wretzky.

The fictional The Bog Standard (left) and the actual The Standard Hollywood (right)

Andre Balazs sold The Standard Hotels in 2013, and The Standard Hollywood was permanently closed in 2021 following commercial challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Another hotel owned by Andre Balazs, Chateau Marmont, is also featured in GTA San Andreas.

The Standard Hotels is currently owned by The Standard International, with 35% of its stake owned by Sansiri, a Bangkok-based real estate developer. In the past five years, The Standard Hotels has opened a series of new hotels in the Maldives, London, Bangkok, Hua Hin, and Melbourne.

Previous incarnations of The Standard Hollywood: Thunderbird Motel (left) and Hollywood Sunset Hotel (right)

Vinewood Tower
Vinewood tower is based on the real-life Sunset Tower Hotel. Designed in 1929 by architect Leland A. Bryant and opened in 1931, the Sunset Tower (as it was originally called) was a trendsetter from the moment it opened. Its dramatic setting on the Sunset Strip and distinct Art Deco styling, together with its proximity to famous restaurants and nightclubs of the 1930s and 1940s, contributed to its landmark status.

The Art Deco style of Sunset Tower is considered one of the finest examples of the Zig Zag Moderne form of Art Deco architecture in Los Angeles, and the Sunset Tower building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Sadly, not much is remembered about Leland A. Bryant himself as his career as an architect was ended by the Great Depression.

The Sunset Tower’s former residents include Howard Hughes, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Roger Moore, Zasu Pitts, Truman Capote, and even gangster Bugsy Siegel.

The fictional Vinewood Tower (left) and the actual Sunset Tower (right)

San Fierro
If you’re going to San Fierro be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. Gone are the heydays when San Fierro was Mecca to the counterculture of the 60s. Now San Fierro is a bustling metropolis with a laissezfaire atmosphere, a quality missing from its neighbors to the east. Where in Los Santos the trends are picked up and are used to death, San Fierro on the other hand is a trendsetter in everything alternative, from flower power to free love and gay rights; San Fierrians pride themselves on being individualist, down to earth and cultured — GTA San Andreas manual

In San Fierro, there are two hotels under the fictional Vank Hoff brand that are accessible by players during and outside missions. Physically, both are comparable to the Edwardian architecture style of Fairmont hotels in North America; however, the detailed design is not similar to any Fairmont hotels in real life.

Las Venturas
Conceived by a Los Santos mobster in the 40’s and immortalized in numerous Vinewood films, this famous San Andreas city is the world’s gambling oasis. Home to bright neon lights, busy casinos, enormous hotels, wedding chapels, sinful nightlife, Belvis impersonators and the famous Strip, Las Venturas is the largest adult playground in the world — GTA San Andreas manual

Caligula’s Palace
Caligula’s Palace is based on the real-life Caesars Palace, one of Las Vegas’ most iconic mega casino resorts. Caligula’s Palace was named after a famous Roman Emperor who is popularly known for his tyranny, extravagance, and sexual perversion later during his rule, reflecting the corrupt origins of the fictional casino. Having been assassinated, Caligula’s demise mirrors that of Julius Caesar, which the real-life Caesars Palace is named after.

Caligula’s Palace is owned by three fictional mafia families with connections to GTA III and GTA Vice City. It plays a central role during the protagonist’s storyline in Las Venturas, with its manager, waitress, and croupier all integrated within the game’s missions. Outside missions, the interior of Caligula’s Palace is accessible to players to play blackjack, roulette, video poker, and slot machines, while its basement parking area is open to store cars.

Caligula’s Palace is described in the game manual as the largest hotel in the world, though, in 1992, in the actual timeline of the game, the largest hotel by room count was the Excalibur Hotel and Casino (also featured in the game as Come-A-Lot). As of now, the actual Caesars Palace is ranked as the 15th largest hotel in the world, with 3,970 rooms.

The real-life Caesars Palace took four years to build. It was founded in 1966 by Jay Sarno and Stanley Mallin of Circus Circus Enterprises, who sought to create an opulent facility that gave guests a sense of life during the Roman Empire. It contains many statues, columns, and iconography typical of Hollywood Roman period productions, including a 6-metre statue of Augustus Caesar near the entrance.

The opening party cost USD 1 million and reportedly included the largest order of Ukrainian caviar ever placed by a private organisation, two tonnes of fillet mignon, 140 kg of Maryland crabmeat, and 50,000 glasses of champagne. Cocktail waitresses in Greco-Roman wigs would greet guests and say, “welcome to Caesars Palace, I am your slave”. According to author Ovid Demaris, Caesars Palace was “a mob-controlled casino from the day it opened its doors”. By the time it opened, the significant publicity of the new hotel had generated USD 42 million in advanced bookings. Caesars Palace is managed by Caesars Entertainment.

The fictional Caligula’s Palace (left) and the actual Caesars Palace (right)

The Caesars Palace complex includes the Augustus Tower, which was opened in 2005 with 949 rooms and cost USD 289 million, and the Colosseum, an entertainment center. Dubbed the Home of the Greatest Entertainers in the World, The Colosseum has hosted numerous concert residencies by Celine Dion, Madonna, Elton John, Usher, Rod Stewart, Cher, Shania Twain, Mariah Carey, and Adele. Celine Dion has had the longest residency, with 1,141 shows at the venue, grossing a total of USD 650 million since her arrival in 2003. She also performed her record-breaking 1,000th show at the venue on October 8, 2016.

The Colosseum cost USD 108 to build, becoming the most expensive entertainment venue in Las Vegas when it was opened in 2003. As of now, the most expensive entertainment venue in Las Vegas is the Sphere, which opened in 2023 and cost USD 2.3 billion to build.

La Conca
La Conca is based on the real-life La Concha Motel, designed by architect Paul Williams, who was one of the first prominent African American architects in the United States and was also the architect who designed the first LAX theme building. When it was opened in 1961, the actual La Concha Motel was one of the largest motels on the Las Vegas Strip, with 100 rooms.

The curvilinear La Concha Motel lobby is a striking example of 1950s Googie architecture, a style that later became widely known as part of the mid-century modern style, elements of which represent the populuxe aesthetic, as in Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal. The term Googie comes from the now-defunct Googies Coffee Shop in Hollywood, designed by John Lautner.

The fictional La Conca (left) and the actual La Concha Motel (right)

Cheap, modern, and flashy, where form does not follow function, Googie-inspired buildings were aesthetically unrestrained. Architectural historian Alan Hess described them as “cartoons in steel and glass, designed to catch attention at highway speeds.” While the style was dismissed by intellectuals of the 1950s and 1960s as a little too western and a little too American for serious consideration, it was immensely popular with the rest of the country.

According to local historian Dorothy Wright, La Concha Motel could only have been created for Las Vegas. Blending “high design and hands-on construction” the motel was built on a shoestring budget. While La Concha Motel did not have the amenities of the larger hotels, the drive-up motel Williams created was stylish, intimate, and memorable. Various public figures had stayed at the motel, including Ann-Margret, Muhammad Ali, Ronald Reagan, and The Carpenters. La Concha was featured in the 1995 film Casino.

In 2001, La Concha Motel had been maintaining a high occupancy rate despite lacking typical amenities such as a restaurant, casino, pool, and room service. Despite the motel’s success, the owner was planning to build a larger hotel with a casino. On December 11, 2003, the 100-room wing of the motel was demolished, but its lobby was saved from demolition in 2005 and moved in 2006 to its current location to serve as the Visitors’ Center of Las Vegas’ Neon Museum. References to many of the lobby’s original interior design elements have been included in the newly refurbished facility, with two of the motel’s original signs — the mosaic lobby sign and a section of the main roadside sign — restored and illuminated as part of the museum’s rehabilitation efforts.

La Concha Motel during the day and night

The Camel’s Toe
The Camel’s Toe is based on the Luxor Las Vegas. Though it is not possible for the protagonist to enter the casino itself, the player may choose to buy an available suite for USD 6,000, therefore allowing the player access to a safehouse.

The Luxor Las Vegas was developed by Circus Circus Enterprises, which also developed the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, at a cost of USD 375 million. Construction began on April 21, 1992, and the resort opened on October 15, 1993, with 2,526 rooms, all located within its pyramid structure. The Luxor features an ancient Egyptian theme complete with a Sphinx replica and a 30-storey pyramid that contains the world’s largest atrium by volume. The tip of the pyramid features a light beam, which shines into the night sky and is the most powerful man-made light in the world. Two additional hotel towers were added in 1996, so in total, they have 4,407 rooms as of now.

Circus Circus Enterprises was renamed the Mandalay Resort Group in 1999.

The fictional Camel’s Toe (left) and the actual Luxor Las Vegas (right)

The Four Dragons Casino
The Four Dragons Casino is based on the real-life The Linq. The Four Dragons Casino serves as San Fierro’s Triads’ hub of operations in Las Venturas and thus serves as a contact point for its leader Wu Zi Mu in the city, hence its frequent appearance in multiple in-game missions.

Being an accessible casino, The Four Dragon Casino offers players access to various playable gambling facilities. Its interior is furnished in oriental styling, including its accessible bar and restaurant. Further access to its interior can be accessed through the use of cheats, and a save point is available outside its entrance.

The Four Dragon Casino is most likely named after the combination of the Four Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan), who began their rise during the 1980s, and The Red Dragon Casino, a Chinese-themed casino (also set in Las Vegas) from the 2001 film Rush Hour 2.

The real-life The Linq began as the USD 2 million, 180-room Flamingo Capri motel, owned by George E. Goldberg and Bill Capri. The motel was built directly north of the Flamingo Las Vegas, where Capri was an employee. Douglas Honnold and John Rex, both of Beverly Hills, California, were the architects. Maurice N. Aroff of Beverly Hills was the general contractor. The Flamingo Capri started construction and opened in 1959. Flamingo Las Vegas agreed to provide hotel services to guests at the Flamingo Capri.

The name change to Imperial Palace took place in 1979 following the opening of the 19-storey Imperial Palace Tower two years earlier, increasing the number of rooms to 650. Changes of ownership fuel its drastic growth from a small motel to a multi-tower, 2,250-room casino hotel. Between 1979 and now, it has been in operation under various names, including the most recent one: The Linq (since 2014).

The Linq catered to a middle-class and value-conscious clientele throughout its history. It did little marketing but still achieved high occupancy rates due to its location on the Las Vegas Strip and its low room rates. The Linq is managed by Caesars Entertainment.

The fictional Four Dragons Casino (left) and the actual The Imperial Palace before changes of name (right)

The Pink Swan
The Pink Swan is based on the real-life Flamingo Las Vegas, which is one of the oldest casino hotels on the Las Vegas Strip and remains the oldest hotel on the strip in operation today. It is also the last remaining hotel casino on the strip that opened before 1950 and is still in operation.

Flamingo Las Vegas is notable for its use of the Streamline Moderne style of Miami instead of the heavily themed mega casino of Las Vegas. This is credited to Billy Wilkerson, then the owner of The Hollywood Reporter, who envisioned a hotel with luxurious rooms, a spa, a health club, a showroom, a nightclub, an upscale restaurant, and a casino. He then hired architect George Vernon Russell to design his dream hotel. Because of high wartime material costs, Billy Wilkerson ran into financial problems almost at once, finding himself USD 400,000 short and hunting for new financing.

The fictional Pink Swan (left) and the actual Flamingo Las Vegas (right)

In late 1945, mobster Bugsy Siegel and his partners came to Las Vegas. Las Vegas reportedly piqued him and his mob’s interest because of its legalised gambling and off-track betting. At the time, he held a large interest in Trans America Wire, a racing publication. Bugsy Siegel began in 1941 by purchasing, with partners, shares in the El Cortez on Fremont Street for USD 600,000. However, his expansion plans were hampered by unfriendly city officials aware of his criminal background, so he began looking for a site outside the city limits. Hearing that Billy Wilkerson was seeking extra funding, Bugsy Siegel and his partners posed as businessmen and directly bought a two-thirds stake in the Flamingo Las Vegas project.

Bugsy Siegel took over the final phases of construction and convinced more of his underworld associates, such as Meyer Lansky, to invest in the Flamingo Las Vegas project. Bugsy Siegel reportedly lost patience with the project’s rising costs, and he once mentioned to his builder, Del Webb, that he had personally killed 16 men. Reportedly, when Del Webb appeared scared upon hearing that, Bugsy Siegel reassured him, “Don’t worry — we only kill each other.” Bugsy Siegel had also built a secret ladder in the Presidential Suite to escape if necessary. The ladder led down to an underground garage, where a chauffeured limo was always waiting.

Bugsy Siegel finally opened the Flamingo Hotel & Casino, the first name of the Flamingo Las Vegas, on December 26, 1946, at a total cost of USD 6 million. Billed as “The West’s Greatest Resort Hotel”, the 105-room property was the first luxury hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

The original Flamingo Hotel & Casino with its Streamline Moderne architecture during the day and night

The management changed the hotel name to The Fabulous Flamingo in 1947, just three months after Bugsy Siegel was killed on June 20, 1947. Moe Sedway and Gus Greenbaum, magnates of the nearby El Cortez Hotel, took possession of The Fabulous Flamingo and made it even more successful. Under their partnership, The Fabulous Flamingo was made more affordable and less exclusive, with many of its facilities made available for anyone who entered it — it generated USD 4 million in net profit in the fiscal year of 1948 alone.

The Flamingo Las Vegas has undergone a number of ownership and building changes, making it a mega casino hotel with 3,460 rooms as we now know it. The Flamingo Las Vegas is now managed by Caesars Entertainment, which also manages Caesars Palace and The Linq.

The 1991 film Bugsy starring Warren Beatty depicted Bugsy Siegel’s involvement in the construction of the Flamingo, though many of the details were altered for dramatic effect. For instance, in the film, Bugsy Siegel originates the idea of the Flamingo Las Vegas instead of buying ownership from Billy Wilkerson and is killed after the first opening in 1946 rather than in 1947. Bugsy received ten nominations at the 64th Academy Awards (including for Best Picture and Best Director) and won two: Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. It won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture — Drama.

Bugsy trailer

V-Rock Hotel
The V-Rock Hotel is based on GTA Vice City’s rock radio station V-Rock, which itself is a parody of the real-life Hard Rock Hotel and Hard Rock Radio franchise. The V-Rock-Rock hotel features a giant Gibson Flying V in its entrance, also a reference taken from typical real-life Hard Rock establishments.

V-Rock Hotel took inspiration from the actual Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas that was opened in 1990 with a 15-metre-tall Gibson Les Paul guitar sign. The actual Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, however, only started construction in 1991 and was completed in 1995 (the Gibson Les Paul guitar sign was replaced by a giant Fender Stratocaster), and its design didn’t bear any resemblance to the fictional V-Rock Hotel. In March 2018, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas was purchased by Virgin Hotels in partnership with a group of investment firms. It was eventually closed for good in February 2020. The hotel was reopened as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas in March 2021 after several delays.

The fictional V-Rock Hotel (left) and the actual Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas before its closure (right)

There are more hotels in GTA San Andreas, especially in the over-the-top city of Las Venturas, that are based on real-life mega casino hotels. While you are wasting your time exploring the San Andreas state to check them out, enjoy the official playlist from the game’s New Jack Swing radio station, CSR-103.9:

--

--