Costa Rica Airports Explained in Plain Detail

Costa Rica Airports

There are two main airports in Costa Rica to fly into or out of. First there is the San Jose Airport called Juan Santamaria that is actually located about 20 minutes away in a town called Alajuela. Second is Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia. Both Costa Rica airports are open everyday and are international destinations; however the Juan Santamaria airport is much larger and handles thousands of more tourists each year than the Daniel Oduber airport does. Either Costa Rica airport can be booked for arrivals or departures but the customer should really understand why they are booking their airport of choice because they are four and a half hours apart by driving. Traveler’s are required to be at either airport in Costa Rica a minimum of two hours prior to departure and three hours are highly recommended due to under staffing and heavy lines. A departure tax of twenty six dollars (USD) must be paid at either airport and you need to pay it before getting in line for your boarding pass. Airport security will search all carry on items and food or bottled water purchased in the airport waiting areas is not allowed on the planes. If you are arriving at either Costa Rica airport you can expect the same procedure. First you must get in line to clear customs. Have your passport and customs declaration that they will give you on the plane out and ready. Next you will pass through to the airport baggage claim where will pick up your luggage and then you will get in the scanner line to have it scanned by airport security before finally departing either Costa Rica airport.

Which Airport in Costa Rica Should I Fly Into

This is an area where you really need to pay attention because the airport in Costa Rica that you need to fly into will completely depend on your where your going. I do sometimes recommend that tourist arrive at the San Jose airport and depart from the Liberia airport or visa versa if their schedule requires it. All major airlines will allow a booking of this nature. Here is an example of a common problem when people fly into the wrong airport in Costa Rica. Lets say that your final destination is Jaco and you have flown into the San Jose airport. Your driving time will be two hours and fifteen minutes to get there but, if you fly into the Liberia airport then your driving time will be three and forty five minutes. On a round trip, this means that you will waste three extra hours of relaxing time, driving to and from the Liberia airport.

Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose Costa Rica

The Juan Santamaria airport is always referred to as the airport in San Jose Costa Rica, but in reality the airport is located just outside in Alajuela. The airport code of SJO should be used for booking inquiries. Arriving tourist will find a large crowd of people just outside of the San Jose airport exit doors screaming for incoming travelers. Most of these people are actually waiting for passengers that are coming off of the plane however about ten percent of them are airport hustlers looking to make a dollar. These individuals work the San Jose airport daily and offer airport taxi service to just about anywhere you want to go. They do not carry insurance and constantly think up new ways of extra charges. People walk right by the official airport taxi stand and then hear cheaper prices being screamed that end up costing more than a real airport taxi cost. This biggest thing that one might say about the San Jose airport is that although it is nicer, it is also the airport in Costa Rica with the most flights, tourist arrivals and waiting lines. On the other hand you should make a note that because the San Jose airport is much larger; it also offers more food choices and has several shops to browse, while the Liberia airport is not as nearly as accommodating.

Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia Costa Rica

The Daniel Oduber or Liberia airport is actually located about fifteen minutes south of Liberia and just before the small town of Guardia. The Liberia airport code is LIR and should be used for all booking inquiries. The airport in Liberia Costa Rica was built primarily to give tourists who were staying along the northern pacific coast a more convenient airport for them to fly into. The Liberia airport is about 25% the size of San Jose Airport and it does not boast near the services. Another consideration when tourists think about which airport to fly into would be the climate of Guanacaste. For example; if your final destination is centrally located between Costa Rica airports and you’re going to drive then the scenery is more beautiful coming from the San Jose airport. You will also find that getting to the Liberia airport by direct flight can also be a challenge because all major airline carriers fly into the San Jose airport daily but many of them do not fly direct into the Liberia airport unless you’re willing to take connecting routes.

Domestic Flight Airports in Costa Rica

There are only two commercial “In Country” airlines in Costa Rica. Some people call these puddle jumpers because they are smaller planes. Sansa airlines are based at the San Jose airport and all of the Sansa flights must originate from the San Jose airport and return to it. Sansa Air is actually a division of Taca airlines and they offer many different flights within the country. If you’re arriving to the San Jose airport and have a flight with Sansa airlines then you do not have to take a airport taxi but you must understand that you will need to walk about 2 minutes with your luggage to the Sansa airport terminal. In other words Sansa is not located in the San Jose airport terminal. Now, if you do not want to fly Sansa airlines then you can try Nature air. They are located in the Tobias airport which is in Pavas. What does that mean? Alright, Nature air cannot fly in or out of the San Jose airport so they are located in a smaller “In Country” airport for domestic flights and private charters. Nature air offers daily flights to all parts of the country and the Pavas airport is 25 minutes from the San Jose airport and about 15 minutes from downtown.

Costa Rica Private Charter Airlines

Most of the private charters in Costa Rica fly out of either the Tobias airport or the San Jose airport. One of the air taxi companies that I always recommend is Paradise Air. They not only offer daily private charter flights but new aircraft and impeccable service. Then there is Aerobell air Charter Company that also has a lot of experience and offers private charter flights to any airport in Costa Rica. Companies like these fly private groups and individuals everyday and the reason that tourist use them is very simple; you set the departure time. These guys are on your schedule and will drop you off or pick you up when you want. Private charter flights are they way to go when you want to go.