The Hotel Del Rey has been a controversial fixture in downtown San Jose since the 1990s. The pink four story hotel, casino and bar received international fame as a favorite watering hole for tourists and locals looking for the things other than Costa Rica’s beaches and rainforests.
In addition to the chance to gamble and have a few drinks, the hotel was well known for the large quantity of female escorts that would frequent the bar area, often outnumbering the male clients.
In those days many of its customers were also clients of “The Brothers”. “The Brothers” was an investment scheme that paid its investors 3% interest per month, in cash, in a bag, on their deposits. No questions were asked on where the money came from or how “The Brothers” were able to pay this return.
“The Brothers” began in the early 1980s by two Costa Rican brothers that allegedly had a helicopter charter business during the Nicaragua-Contras conflict. It was a very popular revenue source amongst Ex-Pats living in Costa Rica until it was shut down in 2001 by Costa Rica authorities.
Until then downtown San Jose at night was a wild west of people with bags of cash every month and looking for somewhere to spend it. The Hotel Del Rey was a popular choice.
Once “The Brothers” was no more and its clients out of their investments and interest payments the Hotel Del Rey attracted a different crowd. There were a couple of shootings, murders and as a result metal detectors were installed at the doors along with a large security presence. The free spending “devil may care” attitude and many of its clients was gone.
The hotel closed but was reopened last year as bar/hotel without the casino. It was limping along until Costa Rica tax authorities moved in and shut it down for lack of payment.
Many may cheer at its demise, and yet it may reopen again, but it will always be a part of Costa Rica lore.