Costa Rica’s second largest city in terms of size, Alajuela lies 20 km northwest of the capital San Jose in the beautiful Central Valley. This city has an important place in Costa Rica’s history, as it was an active supporter of independence from Spain. Known as Villahermosa and La Lajuela, Alajuela was even capital of Costa Rica for a brief period. However, this city’s biggest claim to fame is that it is the hometown of the country’s national hero Juan Santamaria, a drummer boy, who sacrificed his life to save his country during the battle of the Hacienda Santa Rosa, in 1856, against the forces of William Walker.
A laidback city with a friendly Tico population, Alajuela is definitely worth a visit. In the center of the city is a huge impressive red dome church that is a few minutes away from the Parque Central. This park is lush and green, and is the ideal place to hang out and mingle with the locals, who often come here in the afternoons. West of the park is Alajuela’s central market, which takes up an entire city block and is a great place to shop. Another tourist attraction in this city is the Juan Santamaria Cultural Historical Museum nearby Central Park. This museum houses many historical maps, artifacts and portraits from the battle of 1856.
Best Time to Visit
A goodtime to visit Alajuela is in April when the entire town celebrates Juan Santamaria Day with a huge parade and carnival in the city. Also, every year in July, there is a Mango Festival held with concerts, fairs, food stalls and parades. To sample authentic Costa Rican cuisine, visit the Mercado Municipal or any of the local restaurants in the city.
Additionally, do try and tour Zoo Ave, the Butterfly Farm, or Poas Volcano, which lie just outside of town. These places are ideal to visit for families with children, as there is plenty to see and do.