Because of its proximity to the international airport (5–10 minutes away), many travelers spend their first or last night in or near Alajuela (pronounced ah-lah-WHAY-lah), but the beauty of the surrounding countryside persuades some to stay longer. Alajuela is Costa Rica's second-most-populated city, and a mere 30-minute bus ride from the capital, but it has a decidedly provincial air compared with San José. Architecturally, it differs little from the bulk of Costa Rican towns: it's a grid of low-rise structures painted in dull pastel colors. A slightly lower elevation keeps Alajuela a couple of degrees warmer than the capital.
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