Costa Rica’s main international airport is San Jose International Airport or Juan Santamaria in Alajuela. It’s much bigger than its fellow international airport, Liberia International Airport in Guanacaste and many major airlines fly into San Jose Airport.
With new flights opening up to Costa Rica every year, it has become one of the top three busiest airports in Central America. If you’re flying into San Jose Airport, check our guide below to help you navigate through this airport.
San Jose Costa Rica airport map
San Jose International Airport is located in Alajuela, about 10 kilometers from downtown San Jose. Costa Rica.
About San Jose International Airport
The San Jose International Airport code is SJO (don’t get it confused with San Jose, California!). It was named after a drummer boy who died helping Costa Rica prevent getting taken over by the United States in 1856.
In 2016, over 4.5 million passengers passed through SJO Airport. This airport is not huge and is easy to get around.
Should You Fly Into Liberia or San Jose Airport?
One of the first things you need to figure out when planning a vacation to Costa Rica is which airport to fly into. There are pros and cons to both which you can read below.
- You should fly into San Jose Airport if you are going to the Central Valley (San Jose, Heredia, Alajuela, Cartago), Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Puerto Viejo, Tortuguero, Uvita, Dominical, San Isidro de Perez Zeledon, Turrialba or Sarapiqui. Those destinations are closest and easier to get to from San Jose than Liberia.
- If you are going to La Fortuna or Monteverde, both destinations are around 3 hours from Liberia and San Jose. However, due to the amount of traffic in San Jose, it could take up to 5 hours if it’s rush hour. So if you are able to, I would choose Liberia over San Jose if you’re going to La Fortuna/Monteverde right away.
- San Jose Airport has more flights than Liberia and is generally a bit cheaper. From Seattle, I found that flights into San Jose were about $100-200 cheaper than Liberia. Liberia is getting more flights though so definitely check both if you are flexible with your itinerary. Alaska Airlines has flights from Seattle to Liberia on Thursdays – Tuesdays now thankfully and are very reasonably priced.
Driving in San Jose can be a nightmare so if you’re renting a car, just know that it’s not an easy drive. During rush hour, getting out of the city has taken us over an hour even though it’s just a couple kilometers from the highway! In Liberia, the roads are wider and there are way less people so driving is much easier.
If you fly into San Jose Airport and need to get to Guanacaste, you will have to take a bus from San Jose to Liberia. It’s about 5 hours and costs about $9. You can also take shared or private shuttles and it’s a 4 hour drive.
San Jose Airport Arrivals and Departures
These are the airlines that current fly into SJO Airport.
- Air Canada
- Air Panama
- Air Transit
- Alaska Airlines
- Albatros Airlines
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Copa Airlines
- Delta Airlines
The local airlines, Sansa and Nature Air also service SJO Airport.
San Jose Airport Food and Shopping
There are a few places to eat and shop inside the airport. There is only one level in San Jose Airport so after you clear security, you’ll go up an escalator and then you’ll be at the level where all the gates, food and shops are. There is a Quiznos, Starbucks, a cafe and a small food court with Smashburger and other fast food.
For shopping, there are two Britt Cafe souvenir stores, a couple artisan souvenir stores and a technology store. There is also the duty free stores where you can buy watches, jewelry, perfume, alcohol, etc.
The San Jose Airport has a VIP and Star Alliance Lounge (Liberia does not but will in the new remodel) and a spa.
From San Jose Airport, you can go to any of the major bus terminals such as Pulmitam, 7-10, Terminal Atlantico Norte and Terminal del Caribe.
Bus: There is a bus stop down the ramp from arrivals that goes into downtown San Jose. It runs fairly frequently.
Shuttle: You can take a shared or private shuttle to do a transfer into San Jose downtown. We have a partnership with Interbus to give free tranfer ins (airport to downtown) and 10% off routes. Please contact us for more information.
Taxi/Uber: You will see lots of taxis when you exit the airport. Official taxis in Costa Rica are red and orange for airport taxis. We personally prefer taking Uber in Costa Rica and it only works in San Jose. Click the link to find out what you need to know about using Uber from the airport and get our $10 discount code.
San Jose Airport Car Rentals
If you’re renting a car in Costa Rica, you will see car rental stands in baggage claim. However, since the airport is not big enough to accommodate all the car rental companies’ offices, they will take you to their airport office nearby to pick up the car.
We have a partnership with Adobe Rent a Car to give up to 20% off car rentals and extra benefits (free cooler, free cell phone, etc.). You can click here “Costa Rica car rental discount” to find out more and make a reservation. Adobe will pick up passengers from the airport and take them to their close by airport office via complimentary shuttle. You can watch the process below.
San Jose Airport Hotels
There are many hotels around San Jose Airport with airport transfers included. You can read our post “Best hotels near SJO Airport” for recommendations. We really like Adventure Inn (we have a 10% discount in the link) but there are plenty of cheap hotels you can read in the post above.
Other Important Information
- The $29 exit tax is now included in most of the airline tickets. Some airlines do not though (some Canadian and budget airlines). You can check the billboard in the check in area to see if you need to pay it.
- There is a Kolbi stand in baggage claim. This is a telecommunications company and you can buy a Costa Rica sim card there.
- There is a money exchange in baggage claim as well.
- There is a free Wi-Fi.
If you like this article, follow us on Facebook for more Costa Rica travel tips and inspiration!
Read more Costa Rica travel tips below!