Vagabond Life: Hotel Pepper Tree

They know us by name at the Hotel Pepper Tree. They even know our favorite room. Fellow traveler Misty at the front desk shares an interest in unique lodging, and always kindly asks about the places we’ve stayed, making us feel welcome. The flow of tourists through the hotel have an International flair, European, Asian, and of course, Australians… you’ll understand why in a minute.

I tell ya, this place feels more like home than any place we stay, and it’s a hotel.

Finding the Hotel Pepper Tree

From the beginning, Brian and I naturally fell into a vagabond scheduling routine: I handle the Airbnbs, he handles the hotels. When there aren’t any available Airbnbs, we turn to places like The Indigo in Anaheim, the Meridian in Orange, Holiday Inn in Placentia, a neon-emblazoned motel in Orange that at first was great but then went sour… just to name a few.

But then Brian found the Hotel Pepper Tree in Anaheim. The boutique hotel looked intriguing online–plus, the rooms had kitchenettes. The location–Brookhurst and Lincoln in Anaheim–gave us pause, though. How nice would it really be? Still, we thought we’d give it a try.

And guess what? The place is awesome and has become our go-to hotel between Airbnbs.

Why this Place is Cool

Inspired by the apartment-style lodging that dominates Australia’s eastern seaboard, Hotel Pepper Tree gives guests more home comforts while traveling.

In 2005, two Australian business partners bought the hotel and did a full remodel with Mexican pottery and furniture, gorgeous tile work, and creative fountains all around the property.

The theme is executed in every detail. Even the elevator is dark wood and rustic.

Because I wanted to know more, I dove into the newspaper archives in search of the hotel’s history. I found two articles, one about a reinvention of the hotel, and another which was pretty bad. Awful, really. Which made me appreciate what the current owners have done even more. More on that in a sec.

The Granada Inn

We had guessed the hotel was 60s era, and assumed the Aussie’s had taken a mid-century style hotel and turned it into the Spanish style it is today–but we were wrong. The current owners actually resurrected the Inn from a pit of despair and dated remodels, and returned it to its roots.

The Spanish-influenced Granada Inn opened in 1968, but by 1984–with many newer hotels now open closer to Disneyland–the Granada wasn’t doing great. The investor group that owned the hotel analyzed the viability of repositioning and remodeling the 17 year-old-hotel, thinking the small suites with kitchens would be ideally suited for aerospace workers in the area, ones coming to Anaheim working for companies like Hughes, Boeing, and General Automation.

They did a major remodel, going with a Euro-Mediterranean theme, and replacing the “existing and outdated rather heavy Spanish mode” with a palette of berry and peach, accented with blue highlights and polished brass to create “an atmosphere of European casual elegance.” The article says something about being “subtle but not trendy”… which made me laugh. The brass. The color palette. Oh how 80s…

But the remodel worked even better than expected. Occupancy went up along with gross income.

A decade later, though…

A Dark Turn

The ’90s weren’t good for the hotel. I found a May 1994 article about a prostitution ring run out of the hotel, young women recruited from Mexico and placed in first floor rooms, outfitted with a case of condoms. The Madam–an eighteen-year-old girl–got probation, claiming she was not the ringleader. The photo below will link to the article.

Of course the management company at the time denied any knowledge of prostitution activity, even though other long-term residents commented on the steady stream of men entering the hotel.

Uh huh. Sure the hotel management didn’t know.


Thank goodness John and Mark saw the beauty in this property and rescued it. There are so few hotels like this, and they did a beautiful job bringing it back to its original Spanish-styled glory.

Here’s the deal…

The Hotel Pepper Tree isn’t perfect. If you read the Yelp reviews, you’ll find a mix, some raving, some bad. It’s about what appeals to you. If you like homogenized luxury, the Hot Pep might not be the place for you. It’s not a Hampton Inn. But if you like character, you’ll like the Hot Pep.

Keep in mind, though, the building is fifty-years old and the area can be a bit loud. It’s not a tourist district–it’s a working neighborhood, which is part of the charm. Some touch-points in the room aren’t ideal. The kitchen counters and tubs are painted to make them fresh. The appliances are older, the pot handles are loose (one of Brian’s pet-peeves), but the rooms have tons of charm, with the hand-painted kitchen walls and heavy Mexican furniture. They are also spotlessly clean, super comfortable, and the staff is terrific.

We love having a kitchen, especially with the Vallarta Super Market across the street. The Vallarta is like a Mexican-themed Disneyland of markets, with murals and dioramas. They have fresh as well as prepared foods, and a massive meat counter. I should have taken pictures inside. It really is the coolest. Instead, I snagged a couple of Internet pictures from JAG Architecture, because seriously. You need to see this.

Cool, right?? Brian for some reason always buys a pineapple there.

Fourth of July, we swam in the pool, ate some food from Vallarta, and sat on our balcony watching the neighborhood around us go off. It was a blast.

Give the Hot Pep a Try

If you like interesting hotels in neighborhoods with character, book a room at the Hotel Pepper Tree, grab some carnitas from the Vallarta market, and relax in your kitchenette suite. I hope you like it as much as we do.

Many thanks to John and Mark and the entire staff at the Hot Pep, for saving this fantastic little piece of Anaheim history. See you again soon! And hey! If anyone on staff has anything else to add about the process of bringing the Hot Pep to life, drop me a line in the comments below!

Next Week

We’ll be returning to Park Santiago, and since I’ve already written about this regular Airbnb stop, perhaps I’ll write instead about our week at the Motor Palace.

Until then…

Later gators!

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