Costa Rica’s second city is also home to one of the country’s most famous figures: Juan Santamaría, the humble drummer boy who died putting an end to William Walker’s campaign to turn Central America into slaving territory in the Battle of Rivas in 1856. A busy agricultural hub, it is here that farmers bring their products to market.
Alajuela is by no means a tourist ‘destination.’ Much of the architecture is unremarkable, the streets are often jammed and there isn't a lot to see here. But it’s an inherently Costa Rican city, and, in its more relaxed moments, it reveals itself as such, where families have leisurely Sunday lunches and teenagers steal kisses in the park. It’s also a good base for exploring the countryside to the north.