Alajuela is the capital of the province with the same name and the second largest town in Costa Rica. It is called "town of the mangos", because of the mango trees that shade the central park. In honor of the national hero, Juan Santamaria, a statue was erected in the Juan Sanatamaria Park. In 1856 William Walker, born in Nashville Tennessee, invaded Costa Rica with an army from Nicaragua. The then Costa Rican president, Juan Rafael Mora Porras, repelled the invaders with a 9,000 man army.
The army from Costa Rica surrounded William Walker and his men at a fort in Rivas, Nicaragua. The drummer boy Juan Santamaria, who was born in Alajuela, set the fort on fire but was killed during this brave action. With his self-sacrificing act he helped banish William Walker's army forever. Since then April 11 is the Dia de Juan Santamaria and is celebrated in Alajuela with parades, music and dancing.
The beautiful central park is located in the heart of Alajuela, palms and mango trees give it a tropical ambience. This is a popular spot amongst old and young, where they come to eat an ice cream or to just watch people.
The Museum of Culture and History in Juan Santamaria is located at one corner of the park, in the former city prison. Former president Tomas Guardia and Leon Cortes Castro are buried in the cathedral on the east side of the park.
Locals with red and black stripped shirts are part of the townscape of Alajuela. Those are the colors of the local soccer team, La Liga Alajuelense.
Those who are looking for a hotel near the Juan Santamaria Airport should consider staying in Alajuela.
There are no hotels in the airport itself but Alajuela is only 3 kilometers away, connected via a freeway. There are numerous hotels and bed & breakfasts in Alajuela and one can immediately enjoy the lifestyle of a true Costa Rican town.