If you are visiting several regions of the country, flying into San José, in the center of Costa Rica, is your best option. Flying into Liberia, in northwest Costa Rica, makes more sense if you are planning to spend your vacation entirely in the North Pacific. Fares are usually lower to San José than to Liberia. San José also has many more flights each day, making it easier if you miss a flight or have some other unexpected mishap.

Rarely does an international flight arrive in San José early enough to make a domestic connection, particularly in the rainy season, as the weather is typically difficult for flying small planes in the afternoon. You'll likely end up spending your first night in or near San José, leaving for your domestic destination the next morning.

It’s rare, but afternoon and evening storms during the May-to-November rainy season occasionally cause flights coming into San José to be rerouted to Panama City, where you may be forced to spend the night. October, with its frequent evening fog, tends to be the worst month for reroutes. In the rainy season, try to book a flight with the earliest arrival time available.

Once you're in Costa Rica, a few airlines recommend that you call them about three days before your return flight to reconfirm. Most explicitly say it's not necessary. It's always a good idea to check the day before you are scheduled to depart to make sure your flight time hasn't changed.


Costa Rica has two international airports. Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría (SJO) is the country's main airport, about 17 km (10 miles) northwest of downtown San José, just outside the city of Alajuela. The drive takes about 30 minutes. Domestic airline SANSA operates from here in its own terminal. The country's other international airport is Aeropuerto Internacional Daniel Oduber Quirós (LIR), a small airport near the city of Liberia in the North Pacific. It's about 13 km (8 miles) west of the city.

The small Aeropuerto Tobías Bolaños, in the Pavas district on San José's west side, serves a few local charter airlines.

Other places where planes land in Costa Rica aren't exactly airports. They're more like carports with landing strips, and airline representatives arrive a few minutes before a plane is due to land or take off. (A few of these actually do have a tiny terminal building.)

Most international flights arrive in the evening and depart early in the morning. Prepare yourself for long waits at immigration and customs. When you're departing the country, prepare for security checkpoints at both airports. Liquids and gels of more than 3 ounces are not permitted. Carry-on bags are sometimes searched again at the gates for flights to the United States. Get to the airport three hours before your flight.

Ground Transportation

At Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría, you exit the terminal into a fume-filled parking area flanked by hordes of taxis and tour vans. If you're with a tour, you need only look for a tour company representative with a sign that bears your name. If you need a taxi, a uniformed agent will escort you to one of the orange Taxi Aeropuerto cabs (no other taxis are allowed in the arrivals area). The metered fare to most areas of San José is $25 to $40.

Transportation at Aeropuerto Internacional Daniel Oduber Quirós is also a mix of taxis and tour vans. The big Pacific-coast resorts provide transportation, but always check with your lodging for recommendations on the best way to arrive.

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