San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Modern Luxury and Fine Dining in Old Escazú

The western San José suburb of Escazú can be a mind-boggling kaleidoscope depicting the dichotomy between nouveau-riche lifestyles and rustic charm. It derived its name from the indigenous word itzkatzu, meaning “resting stone.” Now, in the heart of old Escazú, known as Escazú Centro, there’s a new resting place: the Beacon Escazú, a luxury boutique hotel promising five-star services.

On a recent Tico Times visit, we were given a tour by the hotel’s charming general manager, Susana Guevara. For the past 18 years, her career in the hotel industry has taken her to Mexico, Spain and the Mediterranean’s Balearic Islands.

“I think I know the luxury hotel scene, guests’ likes and dislikes, and I’m very aware of cultural differences,” Guevara said with a whimsical smile. She added that the Beacon Escazú is part of Palmer Hospitality Group’s Beacon Collection, which also includes the Beacon Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida.

The Costa Rican hotel is built on the property of an old Escazú home. The folkloric witches of Escazú, for whom the area is famous, must have cast a loving spell on the beautiful, lush tropical garden with its century-old trees and natural stream. Since the hotel opened at the beginning of the year, newly planted trees and flowering shrubs, specially chosen to attract butterflies, have flourished in this peaceful, secret garden away from the hustle and bustle of town. The small pool and sundeck set among the verdant greenery offer a delightful place to relax, or you can also enjoy breakfast, a meal or a drink on the patio overlooking the garden.

Costa Rican architect Gustavo Blanco melded contemporary and old colonial styles to create a conglomeration of irregular shapes, curves, nooks, high ceilings, expansive windows and French doors that integrate the spacious, airy interior of the hotel with the exterior, which is enhanced by trickling fountains, cream-colored walls, black wrought-iron trim and a red tile roof.

Designed to complement the hotel’s unique architecture, the 27 guest rooms include three master suites with private Jacuzzis and balconies. These spacious rooms with king-size bed, living and dining area, two and a half bathrooms and a sleeping loft are an ideal choice for families. They can also be divided into two connecting rooms, allowing for total privacy. The 14 junior suites come with a king-size bed or two double beds and a sitting area, while the 10 smaller deluxe rooms have king-size beds.

All the rooms are elegantly decorated in cream, beige and white tones, and are furnished with dark mahogany-colored, custom- designed pieces. They offer the utmost in air-conditioned comfort with Serta mattresses, down comforters and white Mascioni linens on beds piled with fluffy pillows that couldn’t be more inviting. Other amenities include a 32-inch flat-screen TV, iPod docking station, multiline cordless phone, complimentary wireless Internet, data ports, work desk, safe, iron, minibar and coffeemaker.

In the large, tiled bathrooms are an array of bath products, a hair dryer, bathrobes and slippers. Room service is available, so guests can dine in their rooms or on the balcony.

An on-site exercise room features topnotch machines, while the Lather Spa offers a wide variety of massages, rejuvenating health treatments and a sauna. In the evenings, guests can sample a large selection of international wines and nibble on tapas in La Cava wine bar, or adjourn to the Cigar Bar after dinner in The Muse Restaurant.

The Rooftop Terrace, with its panoramic view of the Central Valley and Escazú mountains, has a meeting room, small movie theater and catering services provided by The Muse. It can also be used as an alternative to the ground-floor courtyard or restaurant for receptions and weddings.

A state-of-the-art business center and meeting facilities provide VIP service for businesspeople, while a concierge service can assist guests in arranging everything from car rental to suggesting and booking a variety of tours. Secure underground parking is available for guests and visitors, and the hotel is wheelchair-accessible and children-friendly.

Located 20 minutes from Juan Santamaría International Airport and 15 minutes from the center of San José, the hotel offers one- or two-night getaway packages for those who want to enjoy the spa, dinner and a quiet, romantic stay.

The Muse: Inspired Cuisine

The Muse Restaurant is a perfect setting for a romantic dinner, formal or informal lunch, or traditional English afternoon tea. Set against the backdrop of the lovely garden, its elegant simplicity is a charming change from the often pretentious surroundings that can accompany fine dining.

The decor combines creamy yellow and beige tones and comfortable, straight-back, padded chairs covered in a light sage-green fabric. Snowy white tablecloths, simple place settings and fresh orchid centerpieces add to the delightful ambience.

Executive chef Jean-Pierre Peiny can be observed in the glassed-in kitchen, concocting his gourmet masterpieces. The Frenchborn chef studied at the hotel school in Lyon, France, and boasts a career that spans the gastronomic world from France to the United States, where he worked in many acclaimed restaurants. Peiny also served as private chef for the prince of Saudi Arabia.

The Muse’s ideally sized menu offers a varied and tempting selection, including beef tenderloin with a black pepper sauce, grilled tuna and paella valenciana for two. Peiny appeared and offered to give us a mixed sampler of his culinary arts, but we decided to opt for the à la carte menu and were delighted we did.

For starters, I was torn between the scallops and wild mushrooms in puff pastry. I chose the scallops, which were superb, served in a light, honey truffle sauce. The salmon, lightly crusted with pistachios and served with leeks and a pinot noir sauce, was also delectable.

My companion ordered the arugula salad with beets, crispy wontons and creamy goat cheese, a colorful combination and a fusion of flavors that proved a delightful way to start a meal. Her main course, jumbo shrimp in a light curry sauce, was also excellent.

The presentation of the dishes is sparing but elegant, unlike the adornments one finds nowadays that make it hard to see the food for the decorative trim. The restaurant offers an excellent selection of wines, and the house wine, a reasonably priced Chilean Terra Andina carménère, was pleasantly palatable.

Our dessert choices, pear and almond tart and crème brûlée, were average, and I regretted not ordering the flourless chocolate roll, a house specialty. The coffee was tepid and tasted stewed; we should have sent it back.

The lunch menu offers an innovative selection of salads, red snapper ceviche, tuna tartare, chicken, fish, a couple of pasta dishes and the famous J.P. Burger, made with traditional beef, chicken or veggies and served with French fries.

The Muse Restaurant is not for the budget-minded, but you most certainly get what you pay for. Prices, which include taxes, range from ¢4,305 to ¢7,380 ($7.50 to $13) for appetizers, ¢10,000 to ¢15,000 ($17 to $26) for main courses and ¢4,000 to ¢5,000 ($7 to $9) for desserts. Lunch choices are about ¢5,000 to ¢8,000 ($9 to $14), except for the grilled corvina at ¢10,455 ($18) and marinated beef strips at ¢12,300 ($22).

The restaurant is open every day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Getting There, Rates, Info

The Beacon Escazú is 150 meters west of the church and park in Escazú Centro. Room rates are not currently published on the hotel’s Web site, but according to the reservations department they are $109 for a deluxe room, $119 for a junior suite and $209 for a master suite, including continental breakfast for two and telephone calls but not taxes.

For hotel or restaurant reservations, call 2228-3110, or visit for more information.



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