Country Guide » Destinations
Alajuela is Costa Rica’s second largest city and is situated about 12 miles outside of the capital San Jose, to the northwest. Its elevation, slightly lower than San Jose’s, gives it a slightly warmer climate than it’s neighbors, and the surrounding area is known as having one of the most agreeable climates in the world, with a how humidity and average temperature of 23-26 degrees.
Alajuela was founded in 1813 and is one of the four Central Valley cities (along with San Jose, Heredia and Cartago) that make up the loosely connected Grand Metropolitan Area of Costa Rica, where the vast majority of Costa Ricans live. It is the city where Costa Rica’s national hero, Juan Santamaria, who died at the battle of Rivas fighting the filibuster William Walker, was born in 1831. The international airport, a mile outside of downtown Alajuela, is named after him, and is the main entry point for tourists arriving into Costa Rica.
For those seeking an authentic Costa Rica experience but would rather skip the “hectic-ness” of San Jose, Alajuela offers a great compromise, and the central plaza in front of the cathedral is a wonderful place to sit back and people watch. The cathedral itself is beautiful, and the Juan Santamaria museum is definitely worth a visit. Outside of town, the Poas Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s most famous tourist attractions, as well as the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the artisan center of Sarchi, famous for its decorative oxcarts.
Alajuela serves as the capital of the Province of Alajuela.