Monday 23 May 2022

Two Very Different “Gringo Gulches” in Costa Rica

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A lot of the nightlife in San José, capital of Costa Rica, takes place in a section of town often called “Gringo Gulch.” It is the area a few blocks from the center of downtown San Jose and around Morazán Park, Barrio Amón and the infamous Hotel Del Rey.

The main attractions of the gulch area are the Hotel del Rey, the Key Largo Bar, Sportsmen’s Lodge, Papi’s Sports Bar, Chubs Bar and Joe B’s bar. These establishments are a magnet for an interesting cast of colorful expat characters from all walks of life. You’ll find a mix old timers, newcomers, gringo retirees, tourists and a few Costa Ricans who frequent these places. It is quite easy to strike up a conversation with a fellow expat even make new friends. I don’t recommend hanging out in these bars every day because of the risk of becoming an alcoholic or falling into clutches of some unsavory women of the night.

If this downtown area is the original “Gringo Gultch,” then Escazú is the new and distinctly different “Gringo Gulch.”

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Why? Escazú is sometimes referred to as the Beverly Hills of Costa Rica because of its upscale cosmopolitan atmosphere. Indeed Avenida Escazú does resemble a miniature Rodeo Drive with its high priced stores. Parts of Escazú resemble the U.S. so much that you may have to blink twice to make sure you are not back home.

Escazú has all the amenities of any North American suburb with U.S. style-living including some of the best shopping and dining in Costa Rica. It is filled with strip malls, high-rise condos, elite private schools, a country club, a branch of World Gym, U.S. chain restaurants (Outback Steak House, T.G.I.F Friday’s, Tony Roma’s and Starbucks to name a few), some of the country’s most expensive real estate and Multiplaza, a huge mega-mall that will rival any mall you have ever seen in the States. You will also find upper-crust North Americans, Ticos,Venezuelans and Colombians living there. The Guachipelín area of Escazú has a slew of condominium complexes that offer a good security, but a more boring lifestyle.

Avenida Escazú
Avenida Escazú

Personally I don’t care for the “new” Escazú that much. It is just too Americanized — a nice play to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. If wanted to live in a place like that I wouldn’t have ever left the States. I must admit that I occasionally go to Escazú to dine at couple of my favorite restaurants or to take in a movie at the Cinemark theater in Multiplaza. I like the stadium seating and butterd popcorn which you can’t get in all of movie theaters here.

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Christopher Howard
Christopher Howard has lived, worked and played in one of the most magical places on earth for more than 33 years. His love for Central America is so great that he became a citizen of Costa Rica. Howard is the author the perennial best-selling travel/retirement/overseas investment guide book (15 editions), The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica. He is the only author of any of the guidebooks about Costa Rica who actually lives there full-time. You can reach Howard at

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