AlajuelaCentral Valley of Costa Rica.
Juan Santamaria International AirportAlajuela is cheaper and quicker to reach from the airport than San Jose. A cab ride into the center of town costs only around US$5, as opposed to US$25 to San Jose.
Alajuela Train StationA train aimed mostly at commuters goes three times in the morning and twice in the evening to/from San José (Costa Rica) with an intermediate stop in Heredia. The station was inaugurated in 2016 and there are plans to expand service if and when demand rises. Despite the fact that the rail line passes by the airport tantalizingly close, there is thus far no direct service to the airport, necessitating you to find some way to traverse those two kilometers of distance if you want to combine train and plane.
On footAlajuela is small enough to take in by foot. You can see the entire downtown in one afternoon.
By busThere are lots of public buses that criss-cross the city or travel to nearby towns. There are two main bus companies, TUASA and Station Wagon, that provide service between Alajuela and the capital, San Jose. The buses are cheap, less than US$1, and run every few minutes. There are also buses that depart to other nearby towns like Sarchi, San Ramon, Heredia, and Poas. Also, you can catch buses to farther destinations that regularly travel through Alajuela on the way to Pacific destinations.
By carTaxis are often the easiest and a cheap way to get around the town. Taxies are red and there are many taxi stands scattered around the city. While the orange airport taxies will accept US dollars, the red taxies will only accept colones. Tipping is not expected, but you can let a taxi driver keep the change.
The Central CathedralAlajuela's Central Cathedral is the very center of the town as is traditional in colonial Spanish urban planning. The church is pretty, but not a spectacular piece of architecture. In front of the cathedral is the central park which is a nice spot for people-watching and you may get a glimpse of wildlife such as parrots and a sloth that is an elusive resident.
Iglesia La AgoníaFive blocks east of the Central Cathedral, this landmark church has an ornate Baroque style, even though it was built in 1941.
Parque Juan SantamaríaAlajuela is the hometown to Juan Santamaría, the Costa Rican National Hero. Around the city you can see the location of his home, although now there is just a small plaque and garden as the house in long gone. A block south of the Central Park is the Juan Santamaría park with a statue of the hero and a small collection of 1860s-era cannons.
Museo Histórico Cultural Juan SantamaríaA block north of the Central Park is the Juan Santamaría Museum, which shows some era pieces explaining the legacy of Juan Santamaría and the 1856 campaign against the filibuster invaders led by U.S. Southerner William Walker, who finagled their way into the Nicaraguan presidency and wanted to take control of Central America.
Poás Volcano National ParkThe park is a popular destination for both foreign and Costa Rican tourists. Poás allows tourists to see into the crater of an active volcano. You can often smell sulfur from the crater while visiting the peak, and a couple of hiking trails to see Lake Botos, an acid water lake on a dormant crater. There are many guided tours offered to the volcano through private tour companies or you can catch a daily "tourist" bus provided by the TUASA bus company. The will take you to the top of the volcano and then return you to Alajuela after several hours—leaves at 9AM, return 12:30PM or 2:30PM (ask!), US$3 return. Make sure the volcano is not closed due to activity. Probably, it is best to buy the ticket during the bus ride to the volcano (if possible) or at most a day before. The bus driver will know whether it is closed or not. Getting a refund, if the volcano is closed, seems not properly working.
Braulio Carrillo National ParkPopular for the Holdridge's toad, the solitary eagle, the bare-necked umbrella bird, as well as several species of hummingbirds. It also has several different micro climates. There are several hiking trails in the park. The longest one from Puesto Barva to La Selva is a difficult and 4-day long trail. But there are other shorter trails include Los Botarramas and El Ciebo available.
FútbolAlajuela is home to Liga Deportiva Alajuelense ("La Liga") soccer club. It is a powerhouse in the Costa Rican soccer league and is regularly ends first or second in the Costa Rican First Division. The Morera Soto Stadium is very close to downtown and tickets are usually inexpensive. While the Alajuela crowd will be enthusiastic, Alajuela does not suffer from hooliganism, thus taking in a game is appropriate even for single women and families.
HairdresserCheap hairdressers all over the city, in case you want to get a cut before returning home.
Freddo Fresasphone: +506 2482-2800address: Route 146Traditional restaurant going to Poás Volcano, their strawberry dishes, made with the local berries, are the treat of the place.
phone: +506 2482-1212address: Route 146Restaurant and a lot of activities to do in this recreational park.
phone: +506 2482-2155Buffet restaurant and private cabins accommodation.
BudgetThere are small ho(s)tels catering to budget travellers. However, they tend to be somewhat overpriced due perhaps to the city's proximity to the international airport.
Habitationes con excelente ubicaionProper family run guesthouse. The area does not to seem to be the safest, but just be a little curious.
phone: +506 83435696, +506 70345238Excellently rated hostel with a friendly lady as owner. Spotless cheats and a decent kitchen. Close enough to the airport for walking. The area does not to seem to be the safest, but just be a little curious.
address: Calle 4 Avenida 4The only real downside to this place is that bizarrely the booking engine on its own website doesn't work and pre-booked rates are a lot cheaper than booking in the hostel itself. So you'd have to book through an aggregator. The rooms are cozy and clean, the view from the rooftop bar/restaurant is amazing even though the prices are on the high side and there's a free airport shuttle.
phone: +506 2433-73335 minutes west of the SJO San Jose Airport. This hotel offers free transportation to and from the airport 24 hours.
Hotel Los VolcanesRight downtown
Hotel Pura Vida1-2 km from downtown and offers a more relaxed atmosphere.
phone: +506 2433-274115 minutes west of the San Jose Airport, in the town of La Garita de Alajuela. This hotel offers sparking clean accommodation in twelve rooms and two family suites arranged in cabinas, located around a large beautifully maintained tropical garden and swimming pool. Breakfast at the restaurant is included.
phone: +506 2446-4272address: Atenas, Alajuela35 minutes from San José International Airport, the lush rolling countryside, with its bountiful fruit orchards and sweeping valley vistas, transforms as you ascend the winding mountain road that brings you to Vista Atenas B&B.
phone: +506 2445-2100address: Apartado 567-4250A B&B that focuses on sustainability, that encompasses how the house was designed and built, vegetarian meals, and day-to-day operations, which include recycling and composting. It supports Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica. Volunteer opportunities are available, just ask.
phone: +506 2431 0776, +1 786-8379198The Trapp Family Country Inn is 1.6 km from Juan Santamaría International Airport. Comfortable accommodations along with genuine family service in a peaceful atmosphere. This colonial style hotel is surrounded by beautiful gardens with centenary fig trees.
phone: +506 2430-7621Great entry/exit point for travellers, minutes away from main tourist pick up points and the airport. Provides comfortable rooms with memory foam mattresses, private bathrooms, restaurant and beautiful surroundings such as Doka coffee fields and Poas Volcano.
phone: +506 2431 4414, +506 2440 13205 minutes from Juan Santamaria International Airport in Costa Rica (SJO), breakfast and free shuttle to the airport. Rooms with A/C, cable TV, free Wi-Fi. outdoor swimming pool and safe parking.
phone: +506 2443-2020address: 1 Km Ne Del Salon El DiamanteThe elegant Xandari Resort and Spa sits in the central valley region of Costa Rica, 20 minutes from the international airport. The central valley is wrought with volcanoes, lush plantations, and hillsides, and blessed with outstanding weather. San José is a short drive away and offers an abundance of international cuisine, shops, open markets and entertainment.
phone: +506 2482-2222address: Route 120Chalet-style rooms and restaurant near Poás Volcano.
phone: +506 2430-4304Five-minute drive from the airport. Also has free Internet and free drop-off service to the airport (but not pick-up). A clean, homey hostel.
- Hampton Inn. US$105/night avg (from Travelocity) Right in front of the airport, adjacent to Fiesta Casino and a Dennys restaurant.