The Diverse and Historical Province of Alajuela

The city of Alajuela is also known as the “City of Mangos” due to the large number of mango trees found there. It is the capital of the second largest province in Costa Rica and located about 11 miles (17 km) northwest of  San Jose, along the General Cañas highway.

The province contains one of the most pristine mountain ranges, the Cordillera Central range, and volcanic national parks such as the well-known Arenal and Poas. The city itself is a laid-back metro area and serves as a base for many travellers in the area.

Volcano Poas

Alajuela Province contains the Volcano Poas.


With many lodging and dining options, the city is conveniently close to the province’s top attractions, featuring several group tours and cultural amenities. Alajuela City is home to one of the largest farmers’ markets, known as the Central Market (Mercado Central), in Costa Rica every Saturday. Locals and visitors can purchase fresh produce, handcrafted items and enjoy local music, making it an ideal way to experience the true Tico lifestyle. Perhaps most importantly, Alajuela is home to Juan Santamaria International Airport, which provides daily flights to many domestic and international destinations.


The Alajuela canton has a population of about 287,211 people and it’s diversity of production is considered the driving force behind the local and national economy. It has a slightly warmer climate than the nation’s capital city of San José and is a great cultural center with a multitude of nearby sights to explore. In addition to the Central Market, just west of Alajuela is the tiny suburb of La Garita where you can find over 100 species of birds. Zoo Avenue covers 142 acres and is home to the endangered quetzal, toucans, cranes, monkeys, crocodiles and much more. The park’s main mission is to breed animals that can be reintroduced into the wild! With an entrance fee of $21 USD, it’s good to know that the price of admission is going toward such a worthwhile cause.

The Juan Santamaria History Museum in Alajuela

Historical Museum

The Juan Santamaría History Museum (Museo Histórico Juan Santamaría) celebrates the life of the young soldier who gave his life for his country. Located in Alajuela Park, the hero of Costa Rica is the honorary namesake for this museum, which is a community development center offering educational opportunities, butterfly and orchid gardens. The exhibition halls contain artwork by Costa Rican citizens that showcase both young and established artists. There are two permanent exhibitions and one temporary gallery that changes throughout the year.


Within driving distance from Alajuela is the world-famous Arenal Volcano, Monteverde and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, an 87 mile (140km) drive away. All three represent the incredibly immense biodiversity and beauty of this unique area. Another option for wildlife viewing is Carara National Park, located along the highway headed toward Jacó and the Pacific coast.

town of Grecia, famous for the huge, all metal Catholic Church (Iglesia Católica).

For shorter drives and day trips, Volcano Poas is a popular destination, located within Volcano Poas National Park and situated 23 miles (37km) directly north of Alajuela. To the northwest is the clean and friendly town of Grecia, famous for the huge, all metal Catholic Church (Iglesia Católica). The church is a deep red contrasted with white trim, made completely of steel. The inside is equally hypnotizing. Only a few miles from Grecia, is the small pueblo of Sarchí, famous for Costa Rican artesanía.

Joaquín Chaverri Oxcart Factory, Sarchi, Costa Rica

Sarchi is where you will find thousands of handcrafted ox carts, including the world’s largest. In the 19th century, these oxcarts were one of the only forms of transportation, especially for farmers needing to deliver fresh coffee beans to markets around the country. The ox cart has been adopted as a national symbol in Costa Rica. Smaller, colorfully hand-painted ox carts can be found all over the country.