Escazú, San José

A Guide to Escazú, Costa Rica for Tourists

The suburb of Escazú Costa Rica has an upscale, trendy, urban feel. Yet the city still retains many authentic local touches reminiscent of the country’s more rural areas, giving it a unique Costa Rica charm.

It’s located inside the Metro area of San José, atop a hill in the Central Valley, about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from downtown San José. It’s a popular vacation destination for those seeking thrills in one of Costa Rica’s liveliest cities, and at just 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the San José International Airport (SJO), it’s easily accessible by car, shuttle or public transportation.

Much of Escazú harkens back to the past, with many buildings retaining architectural touches from colonial times. Still, there is a modern, fresh vibe throughout the city that fits in well with the rest of San José. As a result, Escazú is a favorite destination for American expatriates and travelers, and the home of the U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica.

Escazú also has a booming real estate market, with many vacation rentals and luxury homes for rent in the canton.

With plenty of local charm, this trendy neighborhood filled with opportunities for shopping is a great way to start any Costa Rica vacation. It’s an exceptionally safe area with numerous luxury high-end hotels to fit any budget, as well as Hospital CIMA, one of the best hospitals in the entire country!

Proximity to San José

As the capital city of Costa Rica, San José is a fantastic place to visit that’s full of events and attractions. It also serves as a great hub for exploring the surrounding area, including many natural wonders. However, while many enjoy exploring San José during the day, most tourists prefer to stay outside the Downtown area when they book their hotels.

Like any major city, Downtown can be busy, crowded, and noisy, with most hotel rooms being more scaled-back than what you’ll find at more remote locations. It isn’t always the most restful environment for weary travelers after a long day, so many people choose to stay close by in Escazú instead.

Escazú offers the best of both worlds, located close enough to the busiest areas of the city for convenience but far enough away to provide a peaceful haven in the evenings. The drive between the two locations is only about 15 to 20 minutes without traffic, and as an additional benefit, Escazú is as fun-filled as all the best areas Downtown.

Easy Access to Amenities and Entertainment

There’s very little you can’t do in Escazú. The town contains some of the best shopping and dining options in the area, as well as an upscale country club and an 18-hole golf course.

Stop at the farmer’s market or one of the town’s multiple grocery stores, which are perfect for grabbing a picnic lunch before you head out to explore the surrounding area. There are plenty of beautiful sights to be seen right outside the canton, so be sure to schedule adventure tours of Central Valley in between trips to the mall and local English movie theater.


Escazú is San José’s center for shopping, with dozens of local shops lining the streets. Here, you can purchase artisan crafts to take home as souvenirs, and you can also stock up on supplies for excursions into the jungles and beaches of Costa Rica.

There are two large malls in Escazú, these being the Multiplaza and Avenida Escazú. Multiplaza is widely regarded as the best mall in all of Costa Rica, boasting an impressive size and wide variety of stores, snack vendors, and more. Multiplaza Escazú also contains a dedicated food court, a movie theater, and multiple stores selling international brands.

Avenida Escazú offers a similarly high-quality shopping experience, complete with dozens of retail stores, fitness centers, a movie theater, and fine dining restaurants. Avenida Escazú is considered a mixed-use development, which means in addition to the mall, the property also has two hotels, the Residence Inn by Marriott San Jose Escazu and the AC Hotel by Marriott San Jose Escazu, residential buildings and office space.

Irazú Volcano, Cartago City & Orosi Valley Tour

You can see Costa Rica’s majestic natural beauty even while staying in the city. Explore San José’s surroundings on a tour of the Irazú Volcano, Cartago City & Orosi Valley, which will take you through three different landmarks, each offering a unique experience.

Start with a hike up Irazú Volcano, the tallest active volcano in the country, and enjoy the panoramic view of the nearby farmlands from the summit. Then take a trip to Cartago city, a cultural mecca and pilgrimage site with a basilica. Finally, take in the natural beauty of Orosi Valley, which has one of the region’s few remaining churches from the colonial era.

Sarapiqui Class 2&3 Rafting Adventure

Take white-water rafting to a whole new level on the Sarapiqui class 2&3 rafting adventure.

Not only will you have the chance to raft down an exciting rushing river, you’ll also get to do it while surrounded by the Costa Rican rainforest. At calmer parts of the river, look out for reptiles, monkeys, and tropical birds that nest in the trees overhead.

This adrenaline-filled rafting adventure also comes with candid photos, opportunities for swimming, a meal at a local restaurant, and a snack of tasty local fruit.

Poás Volcano, Coffee Plantation & La Paz Waterfall Gardens

If you’re looking to learn something new about the area you’re staying in, take a cultural tour of Poás Volcano, Coffee Plantation & La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

At the coffee plantation, you’ll learn about one of Costa Rica’s staple crops, and you’ll have the chance to sample authentic Costa Rican coffee too. On the tour, you’ll also get to take in the sweeping sights of the Poás Volcano and La Paz Waterfall, and go for a swim at the base of the waterfall pool.

Food and Culture Night Tour with Dinner

There are few better ways to immerse yourself in the culture of Latin America than through its food!

On a food and culture night tour, you’ll learn all about local history and culture and how it has developed over time as you explore the city by night. You’ll also get to enjoy some delicious, authentic Tico cooking at one of San José’s most beloved restaurants.

Where to Book Your Stay in Escazú

Enjoy a taste of luxury when you stay in any of Escazú’s neighborhoods, which are all very safe and tourist-friendly. Check out our picks for some of the best hotels in the area.

AC Hotel by Marriott San José Escazú

Stay right in the middle of the action at AC Hotel by Marriott San José Escazú, which is only a few minutes away from Downtown.

The hotel has two on-site restaurants serving up authentic Spanish cuisine alongside a fitness center, meeting space, and free coffee and tea. In their rooms, guests can enjoy WiFi, a work desk, a mini-fridge, and cable TV, making the AC Hotel a great pick for business travelers or vacationers.

The AC Hotel by Marriott is located in the posh mall of Avenida Escazú. This is one of our favorite hotels in Escazú!

Residence Inn by Marriott San José - Escazú

Enjoy class and comfort at the suites and spacious hotel rooms of Residence Inn by Marriott San José - Escazú.

In addition to its close proximity to shopping districts, guests are invited to take advantage of the hotel’s fully equipped kitchens, complimentary breakfast buffets, WiFi, outdoor pool, fitness center, restaurant, and bar.

This hotel is also located in Avenida Escazú Mall. This is a great hotel for families, and it happens to be pet-friendly too!

Sheraton San José Hotel

The minimalist stylings of Sheraton San José Hotel provide the perfect contrast to the busy city outside, offering plenty of rest and relaxation.

The hotel is just steps away from the commercial center of the Golden Mile, but there’s plenty of amenities and activities to hold your attention on the hotel grounds as well. These include cable TVs, iHome docking stations, high-speed WiFi, a fitness center, an outdoor pool, and a club lounge.

The Sheraton is also a top pick of ours in Escazú!

InterContinental Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall

Shopaholics will love staying right inside the Multiplaza at the InterContinental Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall, which boasts a lively yet very safe atmosphere, and plenty of fun attractions just steps away. Shop, dine, and relax in the heated pool, tropical gardens, and spa.

InterContinental also has its own convention center, with more than enough rooms for all attendees.

Holiday Inn San José - Escazú

Start each day of vacation off on the right foot at Holiday Inn San José - Escazú which provides guests with comfortable sleeping arrangements and a continental breakfast. Get some exercise at the swimming pool and fitness center, or make use of the hotel’s golf course and tennis court.

Other amenities include WiFi, a bus stop in walking distance, a business center, and an airport shuttle.

A Hub of History and Culture

The long-lasting effects of Escazú’s earliest roots as a small indigenous village can be seen throughout the city, especially in areas off the beaten path. For example, local artists frequently depict scenes from history, and there’s still a strong Spanish colonial influence on local architecture.

Additionally, the city’s municipal seal of a witch on a broomstick references the town’s nickname of La Ciudad de las Brujas, “The City of Witches.” This name can be traced back to the early 1600s, when many people traveled to Escazú seeking cures and other treatments from local women.

All in all, Escazú’s past isn’t nearly as far removed from the present as it seems at first glance.

From Humble Beginnings

Escazú has a unique and storied history, much of which can be traced back to Costa Rica’s indigenous tribes, for whom the area was an important rest stop between the larger villages of Aserri and Pacaca.

In fact, the name Escazú actually comes from the indigenous term "Izt-kat-zu," which translates to “resting stone.” For many years, the village was a far cry from the bustling metropolis it is today, though some members of the Huaca and Guetaras tribes called the area home.

The Spanish explorer Juan de Cavallón was the first European to discover the area in 1561. By the 1600s, the population was rising, with many residents now descending from Spanish colonists.

Starting in the early eighteenth century, groups of Spanish farmers and mule drivers moved into the area, displacing the indigenous population. As the colonial population of San José grew, there was also a growing need for homes nearby, and these homes formed the bones of what would later become modern-day Escazú. The construction of a church and chapel brought additional traffic to the town, along with the return of many residents that had previously been forcibly relocated to San José.

Luxury With Local Charm

Modern-day Escazú is a far cry from the simple village it once was, which is largely thanks to its location in San José and the presence of an international airport. At the same time, there are still many cultural relics that harken back to the town’s earlier days.

While Escazú has been somewhat Americanized thanks to years of tourism, this has only served to create a unique blend of modern, international influences and authentic Costa Rica culture. In fact, it’s very easy to explore past all the usual sights of a metropolis and uncover just what makes Costa Rica so unique.

San Rafael de Escazú is the busiest and most modern neighborhood of the suburb, and it’s where you’ll find most of the hotels. However, the other two neighborhoods, Escazú Centro and San Antonio de Escazú, are also well worth visiting. Escazú Centro in particular is full of beautiful churches and traditional adobe buildings that line narrow, twisting walkways, and both it and San Rafael have plenty of quaint, local charm.

Make Your Trip a Success With These Helpful Tips

Navigate Escazú with ease when you follow these top tips for vacationers and other travelers.

Plenty of English Speakers

If you don’t speak any Spanish, don’t worry; this isn’t a concern in Escazú, where a large portion of the population is fluent in English!

Many residents are expats, so you should have no trouble asking locals for help if you need directions, or if you’re just looking for recommendations with local insight.

Dine On Local Specialties

As a large city, there are restaurants serving food from all around the globe in Escazú. You may be tempted to stick to what you know, but if you want the true Tico experience, look for locally-owned businesses serving Costa Rican favorites. After all, there’s no better time to try something new than when you’re on vacation!

Guanacaste Escape Adventure Tour
7 Days / 6 Nights
Starting at $932 per person
Around Beautiful Costa Rica Tour
10 Days / 9 Nights
Starting at $1,071 per person