Seasoned Expats Welcome “Newbies” With Pizza in Atenas, Costa Rica

I live in the thriving expat community of Atenas, in Costa Rica’s Alajuela province. In 2015, a few friends and I began to meet at various Atenas restaurants to celebrate the end of the week in a casual happy hour.

Eventually it became necessary to pick one location for the thriving assembly. In 2016, Pizzeria La Finca began to reserve a table for happy hour every Friday afternoon at 5 p.m.

The Atenas Happy Hour seamlessly blends seasoned residents with expats investigating Atenas as a future place to live, as well as tourists. Attendance reflects migratory trends from Canada, Europe, and North America, exploding during the high season from December to April, and waning when the rains come.

For those who annually winter in Atenas, it is a place to reconnect with old friends. Anyone considering moving here can get answers on a myriad of questions about daily living in Atenas, like where to find a watch repairman, how to eradicate army ants, or how to get Costa Rican residency. Regulars who come year-round appreciate finding a variety of visitors from all over the world. Sometimes friendships follow visitors back to their homes, as happened recently when “snowbirds” Frank Stewart and Dennis and Lucille Romero, drove from Colorado to see Starley Talbott Thompson in Wyoming.

Jodie Cook, an Atenas resident for five years, says, “La Finca is the crossroads of Atenas. At happy hour I share a drink with people passing through, people returning to escape the cold, and people who live in my little hamlet, all on different paths uniting for one hour. I love that.”

Donna Cox and her husband, Larry, winter in Atenas. Donna says, “I find happy hour so enjoyable that I miss it when we return to Oregon for six months; so last year, I started a Friday evening happy hour with our neighbors and friends.”

Her husband, Larry, adds, “It is helpful to be able to practice my Spanish with the waiters and cooks. The pizzas are outstanding at La Finca.”

Sherri Brown, who divides her time between Ecuador and Costa Rica, describes happy hour as “a chance to share information, good food, and experiences with fellow gringos.”

Don Walzel, who recently moved from Texas to Costa Rica with his wife, Pat, describes the weekly gathering as “a great way to meet and greet new people. We love hearing the stories from all our new friends.”

“Going to La Finca for happy hour is like having a party with your friends and not having to lift a finger,” says 12-year resident, Harriet Sheppard. “There I meet old friends and new ones. It’s arranged that you can sit with whomever you want. If a new couple seems interesting, you can easily excuse yourself from the old gang and introduce yourself to the newbies.”

Starley Talbott Thompson and her husband, Buford, have been wintering in Atenas for seven years. Starley says, “We ‘oldsters’ need to remember to greet newcomers and be patient with their questions, as we were the ‘newbies’ at one time.”

Frank Stewart says, “Every Friday it’s always handshakes and hugs all around when we get together.”

The La Finca Pizzeria welcomes the Friday night group and even gets into the spirit for traditional “gringo” holidays like St. Patrick’s Day. During last year’s St. Patrick’s Day event, La Finca waiter Max Chavez hung green balloons all around the restaurant to make the party even more festive.

Cheers to William Shakespeare, who coined the term “happy hour.” In his play Henry V, the king said, “Therefore, my lords, omit no happy hour that may give furtherance to our expedition.” The bard could not have foreseen a time when his phrase would be bandied about each Friday in Atenas, Costa Rica.

The Atenas Friday night happy hour is held weekly from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in La Finca Pizzeria at Calle 2, in front of the Civil Registry in Atenas.

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