If you’re starting to look into a vacation in Costa Rica, finding out which airport you should fly into is one of the first steps in planning your Costa Rica trip. In this guide, you will learn about the two main international airports in Costa Rica and which one you should fly into.
Costa Rica COVID Entry Requirements
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now entry requirements for every tourist who enter Costa Rica by land and air.
The requirements are as follows: every tourist must complete a health pass and purchase a travel insurance that covers a minimum of $50,000 USD for medical expenses and a minimum of $2,000 USD for extended lodging expenses.
Immigration officials will check for these requirements when you pass immigration upon arrival at the airport.
Now let’s talk about the airports.
How many airports are in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has 4 international airports but currently, only 2 are serving international flights. The main international airports in Costa Rica are Juan Santamaria International Airport (San Jose International Airport) and Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (Liberia International Airport).
The airport code for San Jose International Airport is SJO. The airport code for Liberia International Airport is LIR.
What is the best airport to fly into Costa Rica?
We get this question a lot. Which Costa Rica airport is best to fly into?
It will depend on your itinerary, budget and a couple of other factors. Here is our breakdown.
San Jose International Airport
The San Jose International Airport is the biggest airport in Costa Rica. It has the most international and domestic flights in and out.
Every year, more airlines announce non stop flights into San Jose Airport, especially from Europe.
In 2019, San Jose Airport revealed its brand new four level building expansion with four new boarding rooms, pet area, VIP access and more. It also has a domestic terminal.
You should fly into San Jose International Airport if you are going to the Caribbean, Central and South Pacific, Osa Peninsula, North Zone and South Zone.
These are places such as Puerto Viejo, Tortuguero, Sarapiqui, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Grecia, San Ramon, Cartago, Turrialba, Uvita, Dominical, San Vito, San Gerardo de Dota, Santa Teresa, Puntarenas, Tambor, Paquera, Montezuma, San Isidro de Perez Zeledon, Drake Bay and Osa Peninsula.
What to know about flying into San Jose Airport
- San Jose Airport is generally cheaper than Liberia Airport. Nowadays, prices can be comparable but make sure to check both airports when looking for flights to Costa Rica.
- The airport is in Alajuela and is about a 30 minute drive to downtown San Jose.
- You can take a taxi or UberUber right from the airport. For car rentals, you will take a shuttle to the car rental agency’s office to pick up the car. Private shuttle drivers will wait for you directly outside the airport. For shared shuttles, you will need to taxi to the Denny’s Restaurant or Rostipollos restaurant down the street for pick up. To catch the bus, walk down to the main street and you will see the bus stop.
- Due to all the mountains, flying into San Jose generally has intense turbulence!
- The traffic in San Jose is very bad and driving is not as easy as Liberia Airport. If you’re planning to rent a car, drive carefully and be prepared for traffic if landing at rush hour.
- San Jose has the most connections for domestic flights although most of the domestic airlines fly in and out of the Tobías Bolaños International Airport in (Pavas).
- SJO Airport gets affected from the volcanic eruptions. Turrialba Volcano has been erupting off and on the past couple years, sometimes spewing so much ash it has closed the airport for a couple of days.
- Immigration and customs in San Jose Airport takes much longer than Liberia since it has more flights that tend to all arrive at the same time.
- It is now recommended to arrive 3 hours early to San Jose Airport for departures.
- There is a new terminal for local flights and airlines.
Liberia International Airport
LIR Airport is not as big as San Jose but is growing substantially. It underwent an intense makeover back in 2010 and offers visitors a clean, spacious and simple experience for visitors flying in and out. It is about a 15 minute drive from Liberia.
The Liberia Airport is the hub for Guanacaste, Nicoya Peninsula and Northern Lowlands.
In 2019, the airport opened the new VIP lounge and more restaurants, catering to the more than 1 million visitors that it received last year.
You should fly into Liberia International Airport if you are going to Gulf of Papagayo, Conchal, Tamarindo, Langosta, Flamingo, Brasilito, Las Catalinas, Avellanas, Grande, Negra, Playas del Coco, Ocotal, Hermosa, Panama, La Cruz, Dreams Las Mareas, Bijagua, Liberia, Tilaran, Nuevo Arenal, Samara, Ostional, Junquillal, Punta Islita, Nicoya or Nosara.
You can also fly into Liberia Airport to go to La Fortuna and Monteverde.
What to know about flying into Liberia Airport
- Liberia has fewer flights so you may want to consider flying to San Jose. It is also usually more expensive into Liberia depending on where you’re flying from.
- This airport doesn’t have many food options and is very expensive. They are expanding to add more options.
- It is about a 10-15 minute drive to Liberia downtown.
- Driving from Liberia Airport is very easy.
- Liberia has a few domestic flights. Most common ones are San Jose and La Fortuna.
- For those renting a car at Liberia Airport, you will take the agency’s shuttle to their office to pick up the car. Private shuttles will wait right outside the airport, shared shuttles need to taxi to the Hilton Garden Inn Liberia Airport down the street. There is a bus stop right outside the airport or for routes that don’t stop at the airport, you will need to walk down to the main road (around 15 minutes).
- Check in and security is very easy at Liberia Airport since there aren’t many flights.
- Recommended to arrive 1.5 hours – 2 hours before departure.