Flying High: Costa Rica’s Airports and the Thrills They Offer

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    Welcome to the ultimate guide for hassle-free travel planning in Costa Rica! In this blog, we delve into the complexities of choosing the right airport for your adventure—from navigating international options to choosing the right airport from the intricate network of domestic flights. With over a decade of expertise in Costa Rican travel and tourism, Andrea brings invaluable insights, having helped countless travelers overcome the challenge of airport choices and transportation. Our recommendations are based on Andrea’s firsthand experiences and meticulous testing, ensuring you have a seamless journey from arrival to exploring the captivating beauty of this Central American gem.

    Costa Rica, a tropical paradise in Central America, is a popular destination for travelers seeking adventure, natural beauty, and relaxation. When planning a trip to this stunning country, it is essential to understand the major airports and airway options available.

    Learn About the Major Airports in Costa Rica – Cost Effective Airport and Airway Travel Guide


    International Airports in Costa Rica

    Operating AirlinesJuan Santamaria  (SJO)Daniel Oduber Quirós  (LIR)Tobías Bolaños (SYQ)Limón (LIO)
    Air CanadaYesYesYes 
    Air FranceYes   
    American AirlinesYesYes  
    AVIANCAYes Yes 
    British AirwaysYes   
    Frontier YesYes  
    IberiaYes Yes 
    United AirlinesYesYes  
    Wingo Yes   
    Air Transat Yes  
    Jetlines Yes  
    Miami International Yes  
    Skyway Yes  
    Suncountry Airlines Yes  
    Sunwing Yes  
    Thomsan Yes  
    Westjet Yes  
    Air Panama  YesYes
    La Costeña   Yes
    Skygreece Airlines  Yes 
    Volaris Costa Rica   Yes

    Domestic Airports in Costa Rica

    Operating AirlinesJuan Santamaria  (SJO)Daniel Oduber Quirós  (LIR)Tobías Bolaños (SYQ)Limón (LIO)
    Green AirwaysYes   
    Skyway YesYes 
    Aerobell YesYes 
    Air Caribe YesYes 
    Nature Air   Yes
    Volaris Costa Rica   Yes

    Costa Rica boasts of several airports that serve as gateways to this enchanting country. These airports offer convenient access to different regions, allowing travelers to choose the most suitable arrival and departure points for their itineraries. The two international airports that serve the maximum number of travelers in Costa Rica are Juan Santamaría International and Daniel Oduber International.

    The Juan Santamaría Airport is one of the two international airports in Costa Rica and is one of the best airports to fly into from worldwide airports, as it provides domestic airways to other Costa Rica vacation destinations. It also provides easy access to San José, a major center for Silicon Valley tech companies. Choosing which airport to fly into will depend how you wish to explore Costa Rica. Most people choose San Jose or fly into Liberia, the two major international airports in Costa Rica. 

    Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO)

    Juan Santamaría International Airport SJO

    “Flying into the airport in San José was a breeze. The immigration and customs process was fast and efficient, and the staff was friendly and helpful. I was impressed by the modern facilities and the variety of shops and restaurants.”

    This Juan Santamaría International Airport is located in San José, Central Valley, and this airport is the largest and busiest airport in Costa Rica. Its airport code is SJO. With its modern infrastructure and extensive flight connections, SJO airport is a preferred choice for many travelers planning a trip to Costa Rica. Passengers that fly into San Jose are offered a wide range of services and amenities, including duty-free shopping, restaurants, car rental facilities, and currency exchange. Additionally, SJO has implemented stringent sanitary measures and safety protocols, ensuring the well-being of passengers. Places of interest nearby include Finca Rosa Blanca, a coffee plantation to take a coffee tour and learn about the history, culture, and ecology of Costa Rican coffee.

    Tobías Bolaños International Airport (SYQ)

    This international airport is smaller. It is located in the city of San José and generally serves domestic and chartered flights. It is likewise used by personal jets and helicopters. International tourists typically do not fly into this airport, unless they have to drive to downtown San Jose.

    Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR)

    Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR)

    “The view while landing in LIR was stunning, with the green hills and the blue ocean. It was small but clean and well-organized. It was very convenient to get to my hotel in Guanacaste from there.”

    Situated in Liberia, Guanacaste, Daniel Oduber International Airport known as Liberia International Airport is another international Costa Rica gateway. It serves as the primary airport for travelers visiting the popular Guanacaste region, known for its pristine beaches and luxurious Costa Rica resorts. LIR is an international airport with free airport shuttles and offers a range of amenities, including car rental services, restaurants, and duty-free shopping for flights in Costa Rica. As with other airports in the country, passengers that fly into Liberia International Airport can experience robust sanitary measures that ensure passenger safety.

    Limón International Airport (LIO)

    This airport is in the province of Limón on the Caribbean coast. It is the newest and smallest international airport and has a few flights every week from Panama and Nicaragua. It is mainly used by tourists who want to visit the Caribbean side of the country, especially the Tortuguero National Park.

    Costa Rica’s Domestic Airlines

    Several airlines in Costa Rica provide convenient and efficient domestic air travel options. Carmonair, Sansa, Skyway, Aerobell, Air Caribe, Nature Air, and Volaris Costa Rica offer frequent flights to Costa Rica destinations, allowing travelers who fly into Juan Santamaría Airport and Guanacaste Airport to navigate the different parts of Costa Rica quickly and comfortably.

    Domestic Flight Options

    All the international airports offer domestic flights to different regions within the country. Costa Rica has two main airports for domestic Costa Rica travel. One of Costa Rica’s airports is Juan Santamaría International Airport located in San José. Visitors to the tech zone arrive at this airport and opt for the free airport shuttle service or drive to San José.

    Some of the main domestic airports include:

    • Barra del Colorado Airport (BCL) – Limón
    • Carrillo Airport (PLD) – Guanacaste
    • Coto 47 Airport (OTR) – Puntarenas
    • Drake Bay Airport (DRK) – Puntarenas
    • Golfito Airport (GLF) – Puntarenas
    • Guápiles Airport (GPL) – Limón
    • La Fortuna Airport (FON) – Alajuela
    • Los Chiles Airport (LSL) – Alajuela
    • Nosara Airport (NOB) – Guanacaste
    • Palmar Sur Airport (PMZ) – Puntarenas
    • Puerto Jiménez Airport (PJM) – Puntarenas province
    • Punta Islita Airport (PBP) – Guanacaste
    • Quepos Airport (XQP) – Puntarenas
    • Tambor Airport (TMU) – Puntarenas
    • Tortuguero Airport (TTQ) – Limón

    From Juan Santamaria International Airport, travelers are connected to other airports and places like:

    • Puerto Jimenez on Osa Peninsula with the Corcovado National Park, the Golfo Dulce, and the Matapalo Beach.
    • Tambor, a beach town on the Nicoya Peninsula for visits to Montezuma Waterfalls, Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve, and Curu Wildlife Refuge.
    • Quepos, known for its sport fishing, surfing, nightlife, and the nearby Manuel Antonio National Park.
    • Liberia, the capital of the Guanacaste province, from where you can visit the nearby Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, and Papagayo Gulf.
    • Tamarindo, a beach town on the Pacific coast close to the Las Baulas National Marine Park from where you can see leatherback turtles nesting from October to March.
    • Nosara, a Pacific coast beach town known for its yoga, wellness, and surfing. You can also visit the nearby Ostional Wildlife Refuge, where you can see olive ridley turtles nesting from July to December.
    • Drake Bay, a remote Osa Peninsula town with wildlife, nature, and adventure activities. You can visit the Corcovado National Park, the Cano Island Biological Reserve, and the Sierpe Mangroves.
    • Golfito, a port town on the Golfo Dulce with exciting duty-free shopping, fishing, and boating. You can also visit the nearby Piedras Blancas National Park, Golfito Wildlife Refuge, and Zancudo Beach.
    • Tortuguero, a village on the Caribbean coast, popular for its canals, wetlands, and wildlife. Spot green turtles in the Tortuguero National Park nesting from July to October.

    From Liberia International Airport: 

    This airport is a convenient domestic hub, providing connections to popular destinations within Costa Rica. It offers domestic flights to Costa Rican locations such as San José, Quepos, Tamarindo, and La Fortuna, allowing travelers to explore the country with ease.

    Costa Rica airport

    “Close to the city center of San José, SYQ is well organized with taxis and buses to get around. It was cozy and quiet, and the staff were courteous and professional.”

    Comparing Airports in Costa Rica to Other Airports in the Region

    SJO airport is the second busiest airport in Central America after Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama. In 2022, SJO served 5 million international and domestic passengers compared to the 9 million passengers passing through PTY. Though it handles less passengers than PTY, SJO serves 24 airlines. Visitors fly into Costa Rica using major carriers from North America, Europe, and South America. SJO offers direct flights to more than 40 destinations, including cities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. SJO also serves cities in South America and the Caribbean, which PTY does not, such as Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, Quito, Guayaquil, Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Cartagena, San Andrés, Havana, and Santo Domingo.

    LIR is the ninth busiest airport in the country and the fastest growing airport in the region. The Guanacaste airport provides excellent connections to popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica, such as Tamarindo and La Fortuna. SYQ is a much smaller airport as compared to other airports in Costa Rica and other airports in the region. It can only handle airplanes up to ATR 72, which would be mostly chartered and private planes. 

    Ground Transportation from the Airports

    Taxi cabs are readily offered outside both the two important airports in Costa Rica. Fares are regulated by the federal government, ensuring openness and fair pricing. Cabs are a convenient and quick method to get to your destination, especially if you are traveling alone or with a small group from San Jose airport. However, taxis outside the airport might not be the best choice if you have a lot of travel luggage or if you are taking a trip to a remote area. 

    Shuttle buses are another choice for airport transport. They can be reserved online. Those at the airport may reserve seats at counters set up at the airports. Shuttle buses are a shared service that connect the airports with various locations within Costa Rica, such as San Jose, Arenal, Monteverde, and Guanacaste. Shuttle transport is a comfy and inexpensive way for groups to take a trip. Shuttle buses have fixed schedules, so they may take longer than taxis or car rentals to reach their destinations. Look for various offers on the airport’s website. For example, Liberia Airport offers a 10% discount on ground transportation for passengers arriving at the airport in an Alaska Airlines flight from Nov. 1st to Nov. 30th, 2023. 

    FAQs about Costa Rica Airports

    Is it preferable to fly into Liberia Airport or San José?

    These are two important airports in the country, so the choice of airport depends on where you want to spend your vacation. If you’re in for Costa Rica tourism in the northwestern part, then Liberia Airport is a convenient option to explore the national parks and beaches in the region including Playa Hermosa, Playa del Coco, Playa Conchal, and Playa Flamingo. SJO is in the central region, so it would be a better choice to plan a visit to the capital city of San Jose and popular tourist attractions like the Arenal Volcano and Monteverde Cloud Forest. Also, if you’re staying in Hilton Liberia Airport Garden Inn, you fly into Jose International Airport with free shuttle service to and from the hotel. 

    Which is the national airline of Costa Rica?

    Avianca Costa Rica, based at Juan Santamaria Airport, is the national carrier of Costa Rica.  Even though the airport is smaller in SYQ, Avianca has the aircraft to operate from here.

    Limón International Airport LIO

    “I enjoyed flying into LIO surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and colorful flowers. It was simple but functional, and the check-in process was hassle-free.”

    Is traveling to Costa Rica very costly?

    Compared to other countries in the region like Nicaragua and El Salvador, traveling to the two major airports here may be a bit costlier. The choice of which airport to fly into depends on the tourist destination you choose. For example, one of the main international airports in Costa Rica is in San José. This San Jose International Airport is the biggest among all Costa Rica international airports. It is quite well-developed and has better infrastructure for tourism. In general, airlines in the two most important airports in Costa Rica include major carriers that offer direct flights to Costa Rica from countries across the world.



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