The famous Panamerican Highway leads from San Jose to Alajuela, the second largest city of Costa Rica. Alajuela is 20 kilometers northeast of the capital and three kilometers from its international airport. The city on the lower slopes of Volcan Poas is home to 50,000 people. Located at 950 meters above sea level, it has a warmer climate than the 200-meter higher capital of San Jose. Alajuela is quieter and has less traffic, noise and commotion than the hectic capital. For many residents, especially retired people, this is reason enough to leave San Jose for the nearby “suburb” of Alajuela.
The city was founded in 1782 at the insistence of the Catholic Church, which ordered missionaries to build a church to spare the widely scattered farmers the long trip to Heredia. Finding a name for the new settlement proved difficult. The inhabitants tried out several before settling on the city’s current name. Originally it was called La Lajuela. Later, for quite a few years, it had the name Villa Hermosa before being once again renamed San Juan de Nepomuceno. Only in 1825 did the city finally get its present name of Alajuela.