Hotel Presidente

Hotel Presidente

A story worth telling


Our origins

In the late 1920s, seeking to escape the increasingly hostile climate in Europe towards those of Jewish origin, Chaim Zelig Gudes left behind his village of Maków, Poland, and his family. He was headed for the United States, but restrictions on Jewish immigrants eventually led him to Costa Rica. With no money and not speaking a word of Spanish, he worked for years ‘polaqueando’ (selling from door to door), until he could bring his wife and children to the country.



Samuel, the youngest of Chaim’s six children, was charismatic, charming and intelligent, qualities that helped him become an extraordinary salesman. Like his father, he was involved in textiles, but was also very interested in fashion. In his teenage years, he ran his own small buttons and zips shop, walking the streets and visiting customers from door to door.


Passion for art and fashion

Once they saved enough, Samuel and his partner Taño founded La Dama Elegante, which eventually became a reference for elegance and fashion in San José. At the end of each season they would travel in search of the latest international trends so as to introduce them to Costa Rica.

Extraordinarily meticulous, Taño supervised the boutique’s numbers; while Samuel greeted the clients and showed them the products chosen during their visits to Europe.


Our name

When Kennedy visited Costa Rica, Samuel and Taño went out to watch the parade, and heard passers-by commenting on their new construction, speculating it was a hotel built in honor to the President’s visit. Upon hearing “Look, the President, the President”, they both decided to change the building’s fate —and name. Thus, instead of the apartment building they had projected, Samuel Gudes and Taño Scriba started the Hotel Presidente.


Art and Hotel Presidente

The glamorous lifestyle, excellent personal relations and the great attention to detail made the hotel enjoy the same prestige as the boutiques. For example, Costa Rican artist Margarita Berthau honoured them with two beautiful murals, and sculptor Francisco Ulloa decorated Las Americas Hall with a beautiful bas-relief inspired by Costa Rican Art Museum’s Golden Hall. Berthau also gifted them with the work Geometric Mural, which is still on public display as a family heirloom and as a legacy of this great artist.


Famous friends and family time

Over the years, renowned personalities such as Armando Manzanero, Oscar D’Leon and La Sonora Santanera stayed at Hotel Presidente, and played on the grand piano of the old Viga Bar.

During the 1970’s, Las Americas Hall was the stage for several weddings, quinceañeras, graduations and receptions, hosting important political and social events.


One solemn chapter

In the late 1980s, plans were made to expand the hotel by adding a building with 63 new rooms. Sadly, Samuel’s sudden death in 1991 kept him from seeing the results of the project. It also left a huge void in the boutique business. In addition, the emergence of large shopping centres led to the closure of La Dama Elegante and El Caballero Elegante in 1997. Taño Scriba died that same year.


Exciting revitalization

In the late 1990s, San José Municipality launched a plan to transform the Central Avenue into a Pedestrian Boulevard. With the private business’ collaboration, including the Hotel Presidente, the Government provided the necessary impulse to commercial activity in central San José. Inspired by this revitalization, the hotel opened The News Café, an iconic restaurant that encouraged the arrival of other restaurants and cafes.


The New Century

The second decade of the new millennium has brought even more life to San José. Many young entrepreneurs, artists and professionals have focused their attention on the city centre. In an effort to be part of these exciting changes, the Hotel Presidente has made its own transformations, always conscious, however, of preserving the building’s character and spirit, and Uncle Samuel’s vision.