Alajuela and around

Capital of the province of Alajuela, and just over 2 km from the international airport, this once-quiet market town (population 53,430) reflects the realities of modern living. Walking the streets, the atmosphere is one of latent energy, a feeling of nonchalance secure in the knowledge that if the townspeople tried, really tried, they could make a world of difference. After all, the town and indeed national hero Juan Santamaría was born here and he, only a lad at the time, single-handedly saved the country from foreign invasion in the battle of 1856.

The tempo picks up at weekends when farmers converge on the town from the surrounding hills selling fruit, vegetables, flowers and dairy goods. But even so, it is difficult to believe that this is Costa Rica's third largest city - you won't be rushed off your feet. For many Alajuela is an ideal base from where to catch an early-morning flight, to collapse after a late-night arrival or as a lower-key alternative to staying in San José (the busy capital is just 30 minutes away by frequent bus). It makes a good base for exploring the craft centre of Sarchí, heading out to the Butterfly Farm in La Gúacima, the Zoo Ave bird sanctuary or up to the spectacular crater of Volcán Poás.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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