There is not very much to see in the city itself, but Alajuela is an excellent spot for beginning and ending a trip in part due to "San José" Airport being in fact located here.
- 1 Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO IATA) (only 2-3 km from the center, walkable). Alajuela 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.
- 2 Alajuela Train Station. A 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. San José Alajuela Tickets are CRC 1005.
Alajuela is small enough to take in by foot. You can see the entire downtown in one afternoon.
There 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.
Taxis 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.
- 1 The Central Cathedral. Alajuela'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.
- 2 Iglesia La Agonía. Five blocks east of the Central Cathedral, this landmark church has an ornate Baroque style, even though it was built in 1941.
- 3 Parque Juan Santamaría. Alajuela 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.
- 4 Museo Histórico Cultural Juan Santamaría. A 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.
- 1 Poás Volcano National Park. 08:00-15:30, 365 days. The 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 3 TUASA bus to Poás 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. US$15 (online ticket exclusively).
- 2 Braulio Carrillo National Park. Popular 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.
- Fútbol. Alajuela 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.
- Hairdresser. Cheap hairdressers all over the city, in case you want to get a cut before returning home. From ₡2,500.
- 1 Freddo Fresas, Route 146, ☏ . Traditional restaurant going to Poás Volcano, their strawberry dishes, made with the local berries, are the treat of the place.
- 2 Colinas del Poás, Route 146, ☏ . 08:00-16:00. Restaurant and a lot of activities to do in this recreational park.
- 3 Jaulares, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Buffet restaurant and private cabins accommodation.
There 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.
- 1 Habitationes con excelente ubicaion. Proper family run guesthouse. The area does not to seem to be the safest, but just be a little curious. Double ~US$25.
- 2 Mitamon B&B Casa Aeropuerto, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Excellently 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. US$12-15 for a dorm bed.
- 3 Alajuela Backpackers Hostel, Calle 4 Avenida 4. The 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. From 10 USD for a dorm if pre-booked online.
- Hotel Aeropuerto (Airport Hotel Costa Rica), ☏ . 5 minutes west of the SJO San Jose Airport. This hotel offers free transportation to and from the airport 24 hours.
- Hotel Los Volcanes. Right downtown US$50.
- Hotel Pura Vida. 1-2 km from downtown and offers a more relaxed atmosphere. US$80.
- Hotel La Rosa de America, ☏ . 15 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.
- Vista Atenas Bed & Breakfast, Atenas, Alajuela (Sabana Larga Atenas), ☏ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. 35 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. 70.
- Christopher Panzer, Apartado 567-4250 (San Ramon), ☏ . A 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. US$55.
- Trapp Family Country Inn, ☏ , . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. The 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. US$80.
- Vina Romantica Bed and Breakfast, ☏ . Great 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.
- Airport Hotel Berlor, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 5 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.
- Xandari Resort and Spa, 1 Km Ne Del Salon El Diamante (Alajuela), ☏ . The 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. US$195.
- 4 Villa Calas, Route 120 (Between Poasito and Vara Blanca), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Chalet-style rooms and restaurant near Poás Volcano.
- Maleku Hostel (50 m west of Hospital Nuevo Alajuela), ☏ . Five-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. dorm room US$15, single $25, double $38, triple $48, quad $64; taxes are inclued.
- Hampton Inn. US$105/night avg (from Travelocity) Right in front of the airport, adjacent to Fiesta Casino and a Dennys restaurant.