Escazú is a suburb of San José, Costa Rica; located 15 minutes to its southwest and about 25 minutes from the airport. Popular among foreigners and wealthy Costa Ricans, Escazú is home to a string of chic stores and restaurants, high-rise luxury condominiums and a boutique hotels.
Set against the Cerros de Escazú mountains, the bustling suburb boasts breathtaking views of the Central Valley below. Here, you’ll find Costa Rica’s only IMAX theatre, the internationally-renowned CIMA hospital, the upscale Multiplaza shopping mall and a wide-selection of fine-dining cuisine.
Escazú is bisected by the new Caldera Highway, which opened in 2010, and takes beach-goers to the coast in less than an hour.
History of Escazú
The name Escazú comes from the indigenous word “Izt-kat-zu”, which means “resting stone.” The area was the crossroads of several indigenous routes before it officially became a town in 1920. Legand has it that Escazú was also home to witches, giving the town the tagline “Ciudad de las Brujas” or City of the Witches.
Where to Eat in Escazú
Driving through Escazú, you can’t miss the fast food restaurants that have sprouted in nearly every corner in recent years. You’ll pass McDonalds, Burger King, Fridays, Tony Romas, Pops, Bagelmans, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
But in addition to the fast food restaurants, there are a number of upscale restaurants such as Le Monastere (Tel: 2228-8515), Saga Restaurant (Tel:2289-6615) in the development Avenida Escazú, Il Panino (2228-3126) in the commercial center Paco Plaza and a handful of restaurants in the Intercontinental Hotel.
On the northern side of the highway, Plaza Itskatzu is a good destination for an evening out. Here you’ll find Hooters (Tel: 2588-2340), Mexican food with Mas T’kila (Tel: 2228-1815), tapas at Las Tapas de Manuel (Tel: 2588-5700), Italian cuisine at Tutti Li (Tel: 2588-2405), sushi at Samurai (Tel: 2288-0202), Peruvian food at Chancay (2588-2327) and an Outback Steak House (Tel: 2288-0511).
For local food, you’ll want to try Mi Tablita Campesina (Tel: 2240-7839) in Escazú center or Tiquicia Restaurant (Tel: 2289-5839), which is located far up the mountains in the Escazú mountains.
Where to Stay in Escazú
Escazú is home to many high-end and mid-range hotels. However, there are limited options when it comes to budget hotels. The funky Hotel Pico Blanco (Tel: 2228-1908) is probably the cheapest option in Escazú, with rooms starting at $50.
For mid-range hotels, check out Out of Bounds (Tel: 2288-6762) on the old road to Santa Ana ($90-$125 a night), Residence Inn San José Escazú (Tel: 2588-4100) in the new Avenida Escazú plaza or Courtyard Marriott (Tel: 2208-3000) next to Plaza Itskatzu.
Hotel Intercontinental (Tel: 2208-2100) is the king of high-end accommodations in the San José area ($175-$250 a night). When big-names come to town (Hillary Clinton/the United States Soccer Team) they usually seek retreat here. Also, check out Hotel Beacon (Tel: 2228-3110) and the Alta Hotel (Tel: 2282-4160) for upscale lodgings ($120-$250).
What to Do in Escazú
Visit Saturday Farmers’ Market: Don’t miss the Saturday morning farmers’ market in the center of Escazú. The area comes alive with the sights and sounds of farmers’ selling their freshly-picked crops. Sort through unusual fruits such as the mamon chino or tamarindo or load up on yucca and orchids. The market begins at sunrise on Saturday and lasts through noontime.
Catch a Film VIP-Style: Avenida Escazú just opened a new IMAX theatre (the only one in Costa Rica). Catch a flick here or try out their new VIP theatre with fully-reclining leather seats and a separate waiting area.
Hike Pico Blanco: Walk through the breathtaking landscape above Escazú. If you are in top shape, you might try an ascent of Pico Blanco or hike to the cross on the lower peak. There are no trail signs, but trails leave from the end of the road at Barrio Corazon de Jesus and from San Antonio.
Listen to Live Music: The Jazz Café (Tel: 2288-4740) is a renowned venue to catch live music (not just jazz). Their original location is in San Pedro, but the one in Escazú is a little more spacious. To see who’s on stage, visit their Web site.
How to Get Around Escazú
Escazú has a very reliable and clean bus system. Most buses leave from San José (either the Coca-Cola or Iglesia Merced in front of the Health Ministry) and head to various neighborhoods in Escazú (San Antonio, Escazú Center, Barrio Corazon de Jesus, Vista de Oro, Guachipelin, etc.). There are only one or two buses that don’t go to San José and their entire route is within Escazú.~by Chrissie Long