Call it the end of an era, and perhaps the start of a new one. According to the Diario Extra, a San Jose newspaper, the Hotel has been sold and will be renovated in early November.
Why is this such noteworthy news for me to be writing about this?
Well, if you are an avid blog follower, you know that this hotel was once the center of the party scene in my old stomping grounds of San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s literally the epic-center of all deviancy that takes place in the country’s Capital city. Spending so much time laughing and people watching at the center of this shit-show, the Del Rey has provided me countless memories that I will never forget.
As an English speaking foreigner living in Costa Rica, it’s hard to keep your sanity when you don’t run into people who remind you of home. For this reason, the Del Rey became an escape for me and my crew of expat friends. We could come in and talk English with tourists, locals, and know that our favorite sporting events were usually available to watch. Over 17 years of going here, mostly when I was living in Escazu, I made many friends who were employed by the gigantic pink, smelly hotel. I became close with many of the bartenders, which was a very prestigious job (if you don’t mind 80 year old guys proposing to you on the daily, I assume) that provided wages women couldn’t get anywhere else in the country, unless they hopped on to the other side of the bar, I gathered. Many of these bartenders were the talk of Expat Facebook Groups and forums. It’s amazing how much some people just don’t get out of their house and lose their mind when they lay eyes on a younger Latina.
Be that as it may, if you have strong stomach for perfume, hygiene, broken English, and viagra-fueled men who like to rent instead of owning, the Del Rey Hotel provided a series of laughs every time you stepped foot into the joint.
What You Could Find at the Hotel Del Rey
It’s almost one of those things where “you had to be there.” If you have been there, you know exactly what I am talking about. The gambling, the 24-7 lobby that thrives with local and foreign prostitutes, the washed up Gringos who look for women of the night, sometimes up to 50-60 years younger. Tourist families not doing homework and unknowingly walking into the belly of the beast, exposing their young children to a sometimes raging bar scene with prostitutes grappling at them.
Overheard stories of debauchery. Hookers robbing passed out client. The on again, off again poker room. The sometimes there sportsbook. Drugs. Alcohol fueled fist fights. Immigration raids. “New” talent. Bad beats in a casino many have called corrupt. People tragically dying from overdoses, jumping from their rooms, and flat out old age. This place had it all. I have many fond (and conversely, ugly) memories of sharing laughs at this place with anyone who dared to make the trip to Costa Rica. It was pure entertainment gold, and it happened to be right in the main drag of San Jose.
What Does This Mean for San Jose’s Night Life?
I can only speculate, and I haven’t lived in Costa Rica since early 2010, but I have many friends who reside there and of course I get gossip and feedback from many sources I keep up with. The logic here suggests that all the fun will shift over to the neighboring Key Largo Bar, which has always been a late night spot with live music, dancing, and plenty of bars where you can get a cocktail, or ten.
Other hotels in the area who are “working girl friendly” will most likely benefit from this as well. There are many smaller hotels that will most likely thrive, such as the Sportsmens Lodge, in nearby Barrio Otoya.
Many sex tourists have already migrated to Jaco, where there is no shortage of establishments who cater to the party scene and a lot of lawlessness in general. This move all but solidifies the death of the San Jose night life scene as it pertains to sex tourism and firmly plants the flag of this “hobby” in Playa Jaco. Perhaps the use of hook up apps will finally catch on in Costa Rica?
Once upon a time, the Hotel Del Rey was a destination that many would agree was the highlight of any trip or bachelor party in Costa Rica. Over the years, the women got older, the prices got steeper, and the renovations were non-existent. Of course, it didn’t help that many administrations in CR were looking to clean up the reputation of San Jose, and it all started with the Del Rey. Couple that with rumors that “Big John” (the owner for many years) is having health issues and it’s probably the proper time to move on from the waning interest. Sure, they had, and have, a loyal following, but in my 17 years of knowing this place, it’s never been a weaker scene.
I’ll be looking forward to the future, and of course, as I gather them, will be posting my memories of the Del Rey here in this thread. If you have any memories to share, feel free to post them here.
On a funny note, when I shared this with a friend of mine who I used to hang with all the time in Costa Rica, he stated “you should start a category for ‘things men rent.'”