There have been rumor of a change of plans in the operations of San Jose, Costa Rica’s largest house of ill repute for many years. Legitimate sources tell me that this time around, and probably with a little assist to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rumors are in fact true. Their website is offline, and people are talking. So today, I give my homage to a place I’ve had many great times. The Hotel Del Rey will not re-open in the same format. For those of you who know about this place, here’s a trip down memory lane. If you don’t know of this gem, let me tell you a little story about perhaps the most iconic pink hotel in the entire world.
The History of the Del Rey Hotel in Costa Rica
You can’t miss this big pink hotel, one of the tallest buildings in San Jose (which isn’t saying much) and located at 1st Ave & 9th St, San Jose, nearby Avenida Central, a pedestrian walkway.
Search the web for Hotel Del Rey Costa Rica and you’ll run into many stories that range from unbelievably fun, to incredibly sad. Any time you mix sex, booze, drugs, gambling, and legal prostitution, and throw them under one roof where rooms are for rent, well, just imagine what can happen. Let’s go a step further with it, and add to the mix that dating back forty years or more, this place was the biggest example of life hacking for sexually active men who were looking for hot, horny, cheap women that were looking to make a quick buck. Long before the secret was out and Internet Forums and Costa Rica sex guides, blogs, and heck, even me, came along to share information with others, those who visited Costa Rica as a single male traveler knew just what the deal was. Cheap women, cheaper booze, and a place that was better than even Las Vegas itself. The best part was that for most people, especially those of us who are in South Florida, this little piece of heaven is much closer and affordable to travel to than Las Vegas for sex.
Many early goers would cite that the place was much more peaceful and easy going before the Internet came and started alerting everyone to the life hack that was Costa Rica hookers. They would agree that the prices were more fair, the women’s attitudes better, and the scene much more laid back. With sex tourism rising in popularity and and a booming economy in Costa Rica, this led to rising prices, and with a surge in demand, the leverage that was once to be had started vanishing every decade.
This guy used a hidden camera and got footage of the hotel and some of the women. (Not my footage.)
My first visit was 1999, and that puts me in the OG category of men who know about this spot. The men who go into the 1980’s are starting to pass away or lose their ability to travel to Costa Rica, and this was recently cited in a board discussion on the popular Costa Rica forum, CostaRicaTicas.com. At one time, this was among the most trafficked websites in Costa Rica, and now, it’s pace of loyal posters who flock to the site is at a snail’s pace. You can sign up and without paying you can read the general section and see some nice salutes from men who have honored guys who have passed away over the years. Legends such as the late great Don Gordo, all the way to polarizing figures like Cuba Dave Strecker, are all openly discussed, honored, and slanted on this site. It’s a mecca for information, and in past years, it was THE only place to find information on what was going on in the country for single men.
As the 2000’s came and the rise of the Hotel Del Rey became something out of a fairy tale, there were always rumors of it changing hands. $28 million, $30 million, even $50 million were openly thrown out there by regulars, bartenders, and local lawyers who always seemed to be in the know of what the situation of this booming hotel, sportsbook, poker room, casino, restaurant, and oh, let’s not forget, hooker friendly hang out was. The stories would circulate from the bar area to the message boards faster than you’d get your wallet snatched if you left it in plain site on a Friday night, but none of that happened. The hotel was always the place that “Big John” owned, a man who seemed to be respected by many and close with few. (Although every big shot tourist with a bar tab loved to brag about knowing everyone there, from the security, to the bartenders, to the owners, etc.)
However, by the time the economy started to fall in 2008, so did the quality of not only the customers that would come and frequent the Del Rey, but also the quality of women who would show up to work there and make an honest living in the legal area of prostitution. The working girls seemed to be aging fast, and new blood never came in to bring down the average age. Sure, there were still diamonds in the rough, but the country made it more difficult for foreign women to enter, meaning the Dominicans, Nicaraguans, Colombians, Venezuelans, and odd Europeans started dwindling in numbers. The once smoking hot bartenders stayed the same, or worse – aged, while the Key Largo Bar, directly across the street, started to slow down, and eventually, up until my last visit last year, was a ghost town.
Anyone who visited in the early 2000’s and enjoyed what the Blue Marlin Bar and Hotel Del Rey offered didn’t enjoy it in a way they once did, and simply visited it for nostalgia and friendships. Judging by what I read on message boards, I’ll certainly get some hate mail for that comment and feedback suggesting otherwise, but I think I can speak for the vast majority of people when I say the talent went downhill and every little loss that happened there added up over time. Even hot bartenders leaving would put a dent in business, with many of them becoming keen to the situation and looking for greener pastures, often taking their customers with ability to rack up big bar tabs with them. The crowd got a bit more local, and the women more sparse, but of course, like any adult playground that offered so much, there was always a party of some sort to be had at the Del Rey.
Hotel Del Rey Reviews
The best part about this place is that some people who didn’t know “how it worked” posted reviews on TripAdvisor. They are pure gold!
Blue Marlin Bar Memories Over The Years
I’ve seen a lot, and heard a lot. I have seen global celebrities at the Blue Marlin bar, the centerpiece of the Hotel Del Rey and home of the famous “gauntlet.” This is where in the earlier years the hotel was crowded with women and during busy nights, men making rounds through the gauntlet would get groped, solicited, and eye-fucked beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. I’m not one to dime out celebrities, so I won’t, but I’m not talking about C or even B-listers. Some serious people came through here and saw the shit show that was the best pick up bar in San Jose. Heck the best pick up bar the country has ever seen, and that’s not a diss on the Cocal Hotel in Jaco, which currently stands to continue to lead the country in sex tourism for the foreseeable future. The Del Rey, in it’s best days, were beyond describable. You never knew who you would run into, or what you would see, at the iconic Hotel Del Rey, and especially at the Blue Marlin Bar.
Everything from friendships made, to fights commenced, to prostitutes arguing over men so hard that it resulted in a Royal Rumble of sorts, this destination, located in the heart of the Gringo Gulch of Costa Rica, offered it all. In it’s best years, you could walk across the street to their sister bar and play music and pool at the Monkey Bar. After that, you could visit the New York Bar and listen to live music by the Gringo Stars. You could head next door to the Colonial Casino and gamble in a new environment that didn’t allow unaccompanied women in the casino area, or you could go to the always entertaining Horseshoe Casino, where they were never afraid to offer you up a good time.
And if you had the power to stay up late, the Key Largo had live music, dancing, and four bar areas that offered a great environment to catch a buzz.
Other things that happened around the Gringo Gulch back then was the abundance of offshore bookies frolicking around Costa Rica of all statuses, The “Brothers” ponzi scheme and other offshore frauds, and of course a huge real estate boom that was country-wide. Everyone wanted to get a piece of Costa Rica.
In 2020, the Colonial was still there. The Key Largo, on life support. The New York Bar and Horseshoe have been gone for many years, and the Monkey Bar is now a bakery of sorts. There is still a hard core crew supporting the American bar and hotel, the Sportsmen’s Lodge, a well run operation just down the street past Barrio Amon.
While you will still see plenty of crack cocaine, homelessness, and dodgy characters, this area of San Jose Centro is clearly changing. While the rumors are that the Hotel Del Rey closing has led to renovations and speculation that the environment will be without women, and will be something of a business hotel, I’m going on a limb and saying that nothing will ever have the success that the famous Del Rey Hotel had in that space.
From an aesthetics standpoint, the place is a pink, Vegas-esque rundown hotel that can only be used for something dodgy. Without the hotel there, certainly none of the other businesses in the area that cater to the tourist population will be able to survive. I hope I’m wrong, as they all have great operations, especially Chubb’s Bar. The one establishment that could really benefit from all of this is the Sportsmen’s Lodge, which could use some more space due to this, but let’s see how it all plays out.
Here’s to the memories at one of the greatest watering hole’s in Latin America. I’ll miss the Del Rey and all of it’s grit, grime, and sleaziness.
If you’ve been to the Del Rey and Blue Marlin, please share your memories by leaving a comment below!