Big news! Alaska Airlines has now opened up new routes to Costa Rica from Seattle (layover in LAX). Fly starting $249 one way from Seattle/LAX to Liberia or San Jose, Costa Rica.
I grew up in Washington state so when I began visiting Costa Rica, SeaTac was the airport I flew out of. SeaTac is a big airport but unfortunately not a hub to Central America. It’s a great option to Asia or Hawaii but flying to C. America is not so straightforward because there is no direct flights.
The one good thing is that there are many different ways to fly from Seattle to Costa Rica but it does take a lot of research to find a good flight. If you’re lucky and are consistently checking, you can snag one for a good price with a fair layover.
*All prices are in USD*.
LIR or SJO airport?
Costa Rica has 2 international airports: San Jose International Airport (SJO airport code) and Liberia International Airport (LIR airport code). SJO is a little outside San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. LIR is in Liberia, the capital city of the Guanacaste province. To find out which airport you should fly into, check our Costa Rica airports guide.
The first time I flew by from Seattle to Costa Rica was in December 2010 and it was one of the worst itineraries in terms of price and times I’ve ever booked. I was new to traveling on my own and back then, there weren’t very many good options.
When it comes to prices, flying from Seattle to Costa Rica used to be a lot more expensive. Back in 2012 when I first moved to Costa Rica, tickets from Seattle to Liberia International Airport were about $200-300 more expensive than flying into San Jose International Airport because there weren’t as many flights.
Now in 2020, prices are about the same for both airports since there are more flights to Liberia Airport. Sometimes SJO Airport is still cheaper but definitely check both airports to compare prices.
The key is the time of year you fly. Many dates are way more expensive than others so if you can, be flexible. Usually the most expensive dates are Christmas, New Years, February, March, April and July.
Flying from Seattle to Costa Rica requires one layover since there are no direct flights. I’ve had layovers all throughout the country and here are the best itineraries I’ve been on.
Seattle –> Houston –> Liberia Airport
I unfortunately have to fly with United Airlines for this itinerary since their hub is in Houston and they have multiple flights from Houston to LIR (vice versa) every day. This is the quickest, most pain free itinerary (and usually the cheapest).
Seattle to Houston is about a 3.5 hour flight and Houston to Liberia is about 3.5 hours as well so flight times are not too bad at all. If you get an itinerary with a 1-2 hour layover, you’re looking at a 9 hour travel day which is excellent.
I personally don’t like United very much but before 2018, they were the best option for timing and prices. Even though flying to Houston is the most painless itinerary at only 3.5 hours each way, I’ll give my dollars to another airline, Alaska Airlines as much as I can, especially since my homebase in the United States is in Washington state close to Seattle.
Seattle –> LAX –> Liberia or San Jose
They recently opened up many new routes from LAX to Costa Rica so Washingtonians can now use our Alaska Airlines miles to book cheap flights to Costa Rica.
Seattle to Los Angeles is around 3 hours and LAX to Costa Rica is about 5 so it is a tad longer than flying into Houston. However, I love Alaska Airlines! Although they don’t have as many flights as United and are sometimes more expensive, they have great service and itineraries. I really like the one leaving from SeaTac at 8 AM and landing in Liberia Airport around 7 PM.
Seattle –> Dallas –> San Jose
American Airlines has a lot of flights from Dallas to SJO and I used to fly this exact itinerary quite often back in 2010-2012. Seattle to Dallas is around 4 hours and Dallas to Costa Rica is around 4 hours so it’s very similar to flying into Houston. But since we live in Guanacaste now instead of San Jose, I fly with United to Houston a lot more than into Dallas.
Some Other Itineraries
I have also flown from Seattle to Miami, Miami to Costa Rica. This isn’t my preferred itinerary at all. Seattle to Miami is about 6 hours, Miami to Costa Rica is 3. I’d much rather fly 3.5 hours to Houston!
I’ve also flown Seattle to Atlanta, Atlanta to Costa Rica. This is a no-go for me too as I don’t like Delta and this was also very long. (5.5 hours first leg, 3.5 hours second leg).
Back in 2010, I paid almost $1000 for a ticket over the Christmas holiday flying into San Jose with American Airlines. In 2016, I paid a little over $400 flying from LIR airport with Delta in the beginning of December. So you can see it really does depend on when you fly!
The time of year like I mentioned earlier is key to finding cheap airline tickets. The beginning of December was relatively cheap but travel past the 21st, it jumped up to $700. Beginning of January after the New Year was also about the same price at $400. Summer months are more expensive and I would say the rough average of airline tickets flying from Seattle to Costa Rica is $500-600 now.
It also helps that airlines now have basic economy so if you pack light, you can save even more money on flights.
Do Your Research
Thanks to new flights opening up, flying from Seattle to Costa Rica is not too bad. Maybe one day in the future they’ll have direct flights but having one layover is not horrible.
I always use Google Flights as they have a calendar where you can see the prices and I sign up to their alerts. Also check how much it’d be to buy separate 1 way tickets instead of round trip, ours were cheaper buying separate in December.
And sign up for cheap flight websites like Scott’s Cheap Flights. They find error fares, cheap flights and extra promos which is really awesome if you have your eye on one destination or if you’re flexible in dates.