Alajuela is part of the Central Valley and along with the capitals of the provinces of San Jose, Heredia and Cartago, they form the Great Metropolitan Area. It is a strategic point for tourist arrivals because the Juan Santamaria International Airport is located in this city.
This is a connection center for national and international airlines, and it also has a hangar for the experimental airplane of the NASA that performs Costa Rica’s mapping. This airport undergoes constant improvements and expansions with VIP rooms, among other amenities.
Alajuela was home to Juan Santamaria, who is considered national hero after burning Guerra’s Porterhouse, place used as hiding shelter by the American Army when they were trying to conquer the national territory.
The name of El Coco International Airport was changed to Juan Santamaria International Airport on his behalf, and a Historical Museum was built in his honor. In the park Juan Santamaria, there is a bronze statue of him and a set of plates with the names of the soldiers that perished in battle. It was placed there in 1891, and there’s another statue in the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica.
In the center of the city (downtown), there are beautiful buildings of historical importance, like the Former Jail and the Old Arms Quarter, which are nowadays both part of the Juan Santamaria Historical Museum. It displays historical features related to the Central American war held against the freebooter William Walker (1856-1857), such as oil paintings, portraits, documents and weapons, among others.
This city is commonly known as “The Mango City” because there are plenty of leafy and large mango trees in the Central Park. Its shape reflects the influence of the Renaissance period, where the center of the park serves as starting point for the rest of the tracks. This relaxation site is very important for history of the country.
Here you can also find the Ascension Esquivel Ibarra School, built in 1936, which has a great architectural importance and is part of Alajuela’s history.
Alajuela was established at the base of the Poas Volcano, a cone-shaped volcano that is 2.708 meters high. The main crater is 1.320 m wide and 320 m deep, and is one of the largest volcanoes in the world. In its bottom you can see a hot lagoon that constantly changes its color and has a diameter of 350 meters.
The permanent gas and vapor emissions cause acid rainfall, which affects the vegetation and the surrounding properties. You can drive all the way up to the active crater, where you will see the parking signs.
If the weather allows it and there are no clouds blocking the view, you can see the Pacific and Atlantic oceans from its highest point.
Another interesting site is the Botos Lagoon, which has a trail that goes directly to it. This cold-water lagoon used to be an active crater and has an amazing, charming beauty.
The Poas is part of the Poas Volcano National Park, which has an extension of 6.506 hectares and is covered by a dense, humid forest, with a very rich biodiversity. This sanctuary protects more than 70 species of birds, 20-m tall trees and small mammals like felids and rodents, coyotes and different types of bats.
The National Technical University is located in Alajuela and you can also find other public and private universities in this city. It has trade zones, the San Rafael of Alajuela Hospital and shopping malls.
Accommodations and gastronomy
There’s a great variety of restaurants in Alajuela that offer typical Costa Rican food, usually close to sites of interest for tourists. Tortillas with sausages (“gallos”), corncobs (“elotes”) and rice with chicken are always part of the menu.
There are also fast food and fancy restaurants, offering a wide variety of options for every need and budget.
Close to the airport there are several apartment complexes and small hotels that are special for tourists. There are also international hotel chains with services that go beyond the basic requirements, with their own swimming pools, spa centers and restaurants.