Costa Rica’s second largest city in terms of size, Alajuela lies 20 km northwest of the capital San Jose in the beautiful Central Valley. This city has an important place in Costa Rica’s history, as it was an active supporter of independence from Spain. Known as Villahermosa and La Lajuela, Alajuela was even capital of Costa Rica for a brief period. However, this city’s biggest claim to fame is that it is the hometown of the country’s national hero Juan Santamaria, a drummer boy, who sacrificed his life to save his country during the battle of the Hacienda Santa Rosa, in 1856, against the forces of William Walker.
A thriving urban center, Heredia is also the capital of the province of the same name and home to the National University and OVSICORI, the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica. The city has a beautiful shady central park where residents enjoy sunny summer afternoons on the weekends in front of a majestic church built in the 1790’s. The city has grown rapidly in the last two decades and commuting traffic is heavy. Retaining many older buildings around its central park, nearby Barva de Heredia is a picturesque community and the hills above Barva are dominated by dairy pastures, coffee fields and forests around the peak of Barva Volcano in Braulio Carrillo National Park.