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Santa Ana & Escazu

Old and new, Tico and foreign, extravagant and humble converge in this hilly community just west of San Jose. San Rafael is a kaleidoscope of neon lights, where night people feast and play. The old town, with its legends of witchcraft, adobe houses and contemporary dwellings, sprawls up the mountainside to San Antonio, where oxen still plod the steep rutted roads and traditions are preserved. Santa Ana, the country cousin, nestles in the valley west of Escazu, and still has a laid-back village atmosphere. 

Zoom west on the highway from La Sabana Park, take Escazu turn-off and grind to a halt at San Rafael de Escazu intersection. For Santa Ana, continue on the highway 6 km more, or take the scenic route along the "old road" from San Rafael.

Visit Biesanz Woodworks. Jewelry boxes, humidors, stunning collection of quality hardwood gifts. In Plaza Colonial: Tierrafue is a treasure trove of ceramics, classes for adults, children and pottery painting parties. Deli Mundo  deli treats, bagels and breads.  NaturalMente health food, alternative medicines. One block west, El Sabot Tico. Costa Rican arts, crafts. Multiplaza Mall: Libreria Internacional , outstanding selection of books in English, Spanish and German. Libreria Motivos, good for rainforest posters. Cafe Real  famous for tortes and pastries.

Multicentro Paco:Rincon Educativo, overflows with children's games, books, educational supplies in English and Spanish.  Watch potters work at Ceramica Las Palomas, on the old road to Santa Ana, browse their unique collection. Santa Ana's La Caraiia Riding Academy specializes in English equestrian for visitors or residents. Centro Equestre Valle Yos-Yo. Riding, no membership required. In nearby Santa Ana, roadside stores sell colorful local pottery, onions and honey.

San Rafael: In Centro Comercial Trejos Montealegre, Orale, trendy restaurant, two bars. Fandango swings on weekends, live music, dancing till early hours. Next door. Taos , packed with yuppie set dining, imbibing. Cafe Havana, coffee, pastries, good selection of Cuban cigars.

Near McDonald's, Quiubo and Q'Tal specialize in Costa Rican dishes, Requete features live music. Rincon del Pirata, popular bar, light fare, great ice cream day or night. Sale a Pepe, excellent pizza, pasta. Il Capriccio Italiano, authentic Italian, large wine selection. La Rambla overflows onto the balcony with bar flies.

In El Cruce: Cocol's Bistro, open 7 a.m.-7 p.m.,  great coffee, croissants. Cafe Urbano and Art Bar are popular hangouts. Perro Loco - Hot Dogs del Mundo, large, yummy internationally dressed "doggies" until after the bars close. Exotic flavors of Thailand and Indonesia are found at El Exotico Oriente, opposite Mas x Menos. One km west, Chinese cravings are satisfied at Restaurante Villa Rey. Pizzeria Il Pomodoro  eclectic menu, Italian specialities, pleasant ambience, for express delivery call 283-1010.

In Multi-Centro Paco: young crowd hangout, dance till 2.30 a.m. at  Club La Estrategia del Caracol. El Encuentro Salad & Juice Bar, healthy eating, meeting place, homegrown, organic menu, holistic health information, Friday night alcohol-free drinks, live instrumentals.

Heading towards central Escazu: "El Chi"  owned by "Brits," Argentine BBQ, pub atmosphere, attracts ex-pats, locals. Across the street, Hostaria Cerutti classy- Italian. Manitos Taco & Grill, Mexican fare, pretty patio. Pizzeria Sabor a Lena  balcony/bar, 60 different pizzas! Delivery available. La Leyenda  Mexican fare, romantic setting, mariachis on weekends. Chango's Bar And Grill  giant TV screen, steak, ribs, fresh fish. Euro Cafe  local Mediterranean, European pastries, modern decor.

Diagonal from Saretto's supermarket: Steaks sizzle at popular La Cascada, while next door, BBQ LosAnonos  serves mean surf n turf. At nearby plaza, Big Dogs sports bar has play by play.

In Bello Horizonte: Perched on a mountain ridge between Escazu and Santa Ana, Marisqueria Marlin  highly recommended by seafood freaks, L'Monastere, converted mon. The Monastery, elegant romantic dining, "monk" waiters, spectacular views of sparkling valley lights. El Boyero  in San Antonio, Costa Rican menu, lovely scenery, garden, live music Fri.-Sat.

In Santa Ana: Join the locals at El Estribo, rancho-style eatery, grilled tipico dishes, or at Nacho's Mexican-style family restaurant.  Don Cipriano dishes out delicious Mexican specialties in his old adobe house. Historic Casa Quitirrisi, Costa Rican fare accompanied by live music Saturday night. El Tejado de Tono Restaurant & Museum serves great bocas snacks, history. Richard and "Dr, Bob" at  Tex Mex, northeast of the church, earns rave reviews for their tangy southwest specialties.  From the Red Cross west follow signs to Rancho de Macho, order mixed plate of meats grilled over coffee wood and local luscious fried onions.

In Rio Oro, Restaurante La Patagonia grills Argentine grub, Thurs-Sat.; becomes a trendy disco, Fri.-Sat. 9 p.m - 2 a.m. North from the Red Cross, follow signs to the funky, Biker's Bar mingle with Harley mania, shoot pool, lift weights, listen to `70s hits. San Jose's famous El Nuevo Vane del Sol dance with the locals. Call first, they're often closed. In Piedades, Restaurante Canal Grande consistently tasty international, classy ambience. 

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