If you’re looking for a fast and efficient way to travel around Costa Rica, flying is your best option especially for those short on time. Adventure never ends in Costa Rica and it’s definitely an adventure to take a local flight. If you’re considering flying, read our post about flying from San Jose to Tamarindo.
This post was updated May 2020.
We have flown from Tamarindo to San Jose roundtrip twice, a normal route we’ve driven many times before. Driving normally takes around 4 -5 hours but flying takes only 35 minutes. Talk about a huge time saver!
If you are flying out of San Jose to Tamarindo (or any local destination), you will not go to the SJO International Airport. San Jose now has its own very nice domestic terminal which is right next to the international terminal. The check in process is the same as international except on a much smaller scale.
The domestic airport has bathrooms, a small cafe and souvenir store and a waiting area. A couple of other local airlines depart from the domestic terminal and it’s fun to watch the little planes land and take off.
For our flight from San Jose to Tamarindo, we checked in 1 hour before our flight. The check in process is similar to international departures except they will weigh you and your carry on belongings together. After everything is good, you’ll go through security (metal detector). When your plane is ready to board, the attendant will call on the loudspeaker your airline and destinations. You’ll give your boarding card to the attendant, walk onto the runway and board the plane!
As we flew in March for this trip, the weather was great but a bit windy. However, we got some spectacular views and the wind was not so bad once we left San Jose.
These planes are not your typical plane. They’re MUCH smaller which is why flying in Costa Rica is such an adventure and unique experience. Depending on your flight, the plane holds up to only 19 passengers so it is VERY small. For my second flight from Tamarindo to San Jose, we had a tiny 10 passenger plane!
In the 19 seater plane, the seats were surprisingly very comfortable. The big windows allows passengers to get stunning views of Costa Rica from the air. These planes don’t fly higher than 10,000 feet (3000 meters) so you don’t feel like you’re taking a flight – it feels like you’re taking a scenic aerial tour!
Depending on your route, you may see volcanoes, beaches, mountains, islands and the coastline. From Tamarindo to San Jose, we flew down Guanacaste, across the Colorado and Nicoya Gulf, over Puntarenas and into San Jose. When Yeison flew to La Fortuna, he went right over Arenal Volcano and saw it from the top. You can’t get a view like that any other way!
These are pictures from our flight end of April.
For this flight, it started pouring down rain when we took off. But it cleared up as soon as we left San Jose and was a smooth flight from there.
Then for our flight in March as it was summer, the skies were clear and blue and we got fantastic views.
However, in March it is very windy and it was quite windy throughout the flight. It calmed down as we flew over Puntarenas the the Gulf of Nicoya.
Landing in Tamarindo Airport
Tamarindo airport is tiny, it’s pretty much just a strip inside a cow field. It’s only a 2 minute drive from the airport to downtown Tamarindo so it’s super convenient. You can pick up your rental car or grab one of the taxis (pirate) waiting at the airport. If you’re renting a car, the agencies can deliver the car right to the airport so you can get it when you land.
Both flights were a total of 40 minutes. It was hard for me to believe how quick we got back to Tamarindo, I’m so used to driving 4-5 hours everywhere! It was such a time saver and we avoided all the hassle of driving, dealing with traffic and all that. If budget isn’t a huge concern, definitely consider flying around Costa Rica.
Read our experience flying from San Jose to Quepos.