San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Escazú B-and-B Offers Country Feel in the City

THE facade of Casa de las Tías, a beautiful, yellow-and-green farmhouse in the western San José suburb of Escazú, almost resembles something out of 1920s New England. With its immaculate cleanliness, warm and welcoming ambience and beautiful wooden construction, the charming, family-owned bed-and-breakfast offers travelers an escape from the congestion and commotion of San José – without leaving the city.The house is nestled at the end of a small, dead-end road, instantly transporting travelers from the reality of urban living to the soothing solitude and comfort of the country.Xavier Vela and Pilar Saavedra, the husband-and-wife team that owns and manages Casa de las Tías, opened their business in 1993, after purchasing and converting the farmhouse – once a private home – into a hotel.The building still has that private-home feeling. Early-evening wine, late breakfasts and intimate conversation can be enjoyed on the front and back patios.VELA, a former U.S. State Department employee from New Mexico, first came to Latin America while working as a housing advisor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Over a glass of wine on the front patio, which was thankfully mosquito free, Vela told me how he became enchanted by Costa Rica, where he met his wife Saavedra, a Colombian.What impressed me most about Vela was the personal way in which he attends to his guests. While each room comes complete with a Tico Times “Exploring Costa Rica” guidebook, Vela takes it a step further with his personal knowledge of the quality, price and location of just about every restaurant in San José and Escazú. A walking source of visitor information, Vela can present his guests with a list of diverse, intelligent options for things to do on a weekend or short stay in the city.Just as immaculate as the outside of the building, each room has a different feel, layout and decor. Paintings and other cultural relics collected from at least half a dozen Latin American countries visited by Vela and Saavedra adorn the walls of every room. Other distinctive items (some bordering on bizarre, such as an oddly placed marionette puppet on an end table) decorate the tables, shelves and walls of the house.The B-and-B offers six comfortable rooms, including a junior suite. However, my choice would be the regular room with the large, comfortable and romantic balcony overlooking the flawless front garden.And though the distant noise of traffic emanating from nearby reality still seems to make it to the ears of some visitors, Casa de las Tías has got to be on the list of most quiet places to sleep in the San José area. In the morning, Vela does the cooking himself, offering coffee, real British tea, eggs made to order and a fresh platter of home-grown tropical fruits for his visitors to enjoy while sitting in the sunny backyard, watching butterflies flit around the wildflowers planted in front of a manmade stream flowing alongside the patio.CASA de las Tías is an excellent option for visiting couples who want to spend a romantic night outside of the urban grip, while still being close to the action. For those who live in San José, the bed-and breakfast is a great weekend retreat that will make you feel miles away from home.Nightly rates for single rooms are $59, doubles are $69 and the junior suite is $79. Prices include breakfast, but not tax. Vela recommends making reservations about a month in advance during the busy season, November to May.Location: From El Cruce in San Rafael de Escazú, 100 meters south and 150 meters east. Information or reservations: Call 289-5517 or visit

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