Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica and looking to find the best flight deals? You’ve come to the right place! Nobody wants to spend more on their flight to Costa Rica than they have to.
We created this guide to tell you about all the airlines which fly here, our favorite flight search engines, how we find great deals, and what to keep in mind when booking.
Let’s get to it!
The Two International Airports in Costa Rica
There are two international airports in Costa Rica. These are…
Juan Santamaria International Airport
This is the main international airport and is located on the outskirts of the capital city of San Jose in the Central Valley. The airport is actually technically located in the neighboring city of Alajuela.
The airport code is SJO (for when you look up flights). Just keep an eye on this when you book your flight because there is also a San Jose, California which has an airport. We have heard of people accidentally booking their flight to the wrong place.
There is also a domestic airport terminal here for flights around the country.
El Chante Vegano – This place doesn’t look like much from the outside, but get ready for super tasty vegan food. This is the perfect lunch spot.
Pesqueira da Limonta – Totally unexpected amazingness. If you like seafood or fish, this is your spot. We suggest going here for dinner.
Denny’s – Typically I wouldn’t suggest Denny’s as a great restaurant option. However, if you have an early morning flight or land late at night and need some food, this is the place to go. They are open every day from 6:00am until midnight.
Liberia International Airport
The Liberia International Airport is known as Daniel Oduber International Airport. It is located just outside the city of Liberia in the northern part of the Guanacaste region.
We suggest flying into here if you plan to visit the Northern Mountains, Guanacaste, or Nicoya.
We suggest staying in the nearby beach town of Playa Hermosa. A few of our favorite places there are:
If you get in late in the evening or have an early morning flight we suggest staying at the Hilton Garden Inn across the street from the airport.
For more info on choosing the best Costa Rica international airport for you, check out our complete guide to Costa Rica airports.
Our Favorite Flight Booking Sites
We tend to mostly use Skyscanner for booking our flights, but sometimes we also compare with Skiplagged.
Skyscanner is our usual go-to booking option. We like that their search features make it easy see the most affordable days to fly with their calendar feature.
Another fun feature is that in the right corner there is an option to change your country or language. Try playing around with changing the country.
This will show you the flight deals only available on booking sites from other countries and sometimes you can get much better deals this way.
And one more great option is that Skyscanner will sometimes suggest you take two one way flights if it is cheaper than a roundtrip flight. I love that they do this because not all search engines have that feature.
I suggest using Skiplagged on your laptop instead of your phone to easily access all of their features.
My favorite thing about Skiplagged is the price chart on the right-hand side when you search for a flight. This makes it very easy to find the absolute cheapest time to fly.
With Skyscanner, it was easier for me to adjust and opt for a more expensive flight that has a shorter stopover (I don’t really want to travel for 36 hours).
With Skiplagged it was easier to adjust the cheapest day with their graph feature.
So, I suggest trying out both sites and see which seems to work the best for you.
Also, both sites give you the option of signing up for price alerts if you would like to be notified when the rates go down.
Tips for Finding Cheap Flights to Costa Rica
Book Your Flight on a Tuesday or Wednesday
This is not always true, but generally, it is cheapest to book your flights on a Tuesday or Wednesday. This is because airlines roll out their new flight prices at the beginning of the week.
Visit Costa Rica at Off-Peak Times
If you plan on visiting Costa Rica during school vacation time in your own country, chances are flight prices will be a lot higher.
We find the cheapest time to fly to Costa Rica tends to be from September until early December because this is the rainy season in Costa Rica. The number of people traveling here during that time of year goes way down.
Note: We have a breakdown of what it is like to visit Costa Rica during different seasons.
Sign Up for Price Notifications
A lot of flight booking websites have the option of signing up for price notifications. This means that you will get an email when flight prices to Costa Rica lower. Woot!
Look at Flights to San Jose and Liberia
In the past, it was always cheaper to fly in and out of the San Jose airport, but that has definitely changed in recent years. Now, you can sometimes find great flight deals to Liberia Costa Rica airport.
A lot of people think that flying into San Jose is a lot more convenient, but that is not always true.
Yes, San Jose is centrally located and is better if you are planning to visit the Caribbean Coast or the lower Pacific, but Liberia is a great option if you plan to visit La Fortuna, Monteverde, and all of the northern Pacific beaches.
Sign Up for Rewards Programs
If you are a frequent flyer it can definitely be worth it to sign up for an airline’s reward program to save money on future flights.
Many credit cards also offer points that can be used for travel. Check with your credit card company to see if anything like this is offered with your card.
We have also heard really good things about the Chase Saphire Reserve credit card if you are a frequent traveler.
Airline that Fly to Costa Rica
I’ve realized that we have pretty much flown every airline to and from Costa Rica. Here are my personal experiences and thoughts on the airlines.
From the United States
Spirit – Spirit is a discount airline and they are typically not the most comfortable. Also, Spirit charges you extra for everything. As in, if you don’t print your boarding pass ahead of time you will have to pay extra to get it at the airport.
However, the flights are so cheap that I find it is usually worth it, but definitely read their policies before you book anything so you won’t be surprised.
They also charge extra for bags, so keep that in mind when comparing prices.
Delta – I like Delta because on flights to and from Costa Rica they have TV’s at every seat and a decent entertainment system. They usually don’t give out much food, but just bring your own snacks and you’ll be good to go!
JetBlue – You can’t go wrong with JetBlue. I feel like I always have a decent experience with them.
Southwest – Southwest is usually affordable and reliable. We love that you can change your flight at the last minute for no charge and that you get two checked bags for free.
United – I fly United when I don’t have another option. I have nothing bad to say about them, but I’m also not impressed. They are fine, but don’t expect an entertainment system at your seat.
I have actually been frustrated by United recently because they now have a feature called Basic Economy. I didnt realize when I recently booked a flight to the US, but with Basic Economy, you are only allowed a carry on backpack that will fit under the seat in front of you. There wasn’t even an option of paying extra for a carry-on bag.
Instead, if I had wanted to take an extra bag I would have had to pay $60 to check in a bag. Definitely watch out for this when booking your airline ticket with United.
American Airlines – Their flights to and from Costa Rica usually do not include seatback entertainment, but you can always download the AA app to watch movies.
For Basic Economy they allow one small carry-on for under your seat and one carry-on for the overhead compartment.
Thing to Keep in Mind
– When flying back home from Costa Rica you need to go through Customs. If you have a connecting flight you will need to pick up your checked luggage, drop it off again, and then go through security again.
Keep this in mind when looking at how much time you have as a stopover. If you will need to do this I suggest giving yourself 1.5 hours for your stopover.
Let’s go through each airline.
British Airways – If you are flying from the UK, British Airways is your best direct option.
Iberia – We loved Iberia. Their hub is in Madrid, so all flights will have a stopover there before the long flight to Costa Rica.
Iberia has a great entertainment system, good luggage allowance (they let Thomas bring his guitar as a carry-on for no extra charge even though it was technically oversized), wonderful food (I swear they walk around with fresh buns about every two hours), and just an all-around good feeling.
They are a more budget-friendly airline so I was a bit skeptical about them, but overall I highly recommend them.
Swiss Air – I have nothing bad to say about Swiss/ Edelweiss. Their entertainment system is good, the food was OK, all was fine.
KLM – KLM is always my preferred option when going to or from Costa Rica. Every time we have flown the plane has been brand new, comfortable, had a great entertainment system, and decent food.
KLM also flies to Liberia Airport if you are interested in going there instead of San Jose.
AirFrance – I don’t know if we just have horrible luck, but we recently flew on AirFrance from Paris to San Jose and it was the worst flight from Europe I have ever experienced.
The entertainment system was from 2002 and the plane seemed to not have been remodeled since the mid 90’s. The entertainment system shut down every two hours and they would have to restart it.
United Airlines – The final way we have flown to Europe was from San Jose up to Newark then over to Heathrow and down to Hamburg. We did this flight with United. I’m not a huge fan of United, but this was OK. I can’t remember anything bad but I also can’t remember being blown away by it.
Things to Keep in Mind
– If you are an EU citizen and book a flight with a stopover in the US you will need a ESTA for entry.
– Also, if you book through the US make sure you allow yourself a ton of time between flights. Going through Customs in the US as a foreigner can take foreverrrrr. Last time, I, as a US citizen, got through in 20 minutes. It took Thomas (a German citizen) over an hour.
Things to Consider
Pay attention when you book your flight to what the luggage allowance is for that particular airline.
We usually try to only pack a carry-on when traveling because we have dealt with lost luggage before.
It is always difficult to organize where to have your luggage delivered especially if you will be traveling to multiple places in the country.
If you do opt to check a bag, definitely bring a few sets of clothes and toiletries in your carry-on. Just pay attention to the max allowance for liquids in your carry on. Everything needs to be in one clear quart-sized zip lock bag. Every liquid or gel needs to be under 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters).
Our luggage got lost once going to San Jose and at the baggage claim at the airport they gave us a little bag of stuff that was supposed to last us until our luggage got delivered. It was an XXL white tshirt and XXL see-through white shorts and a few small toiletries. Not exactly what you want to wear on your vacation, but I guess it was nice that they gave out something.
When you land in Costa Rica after your international flight you will need to go through the Costa Rican border control. If multiple planes arrive at the same time this line can get very backed up. We have waited over an hour before.
The border control agent will ask you for:
– your proof of onward travel (in other words you just need to show your roundtrip flight ticket)
– your passport so they can stamp it
– your job (they just need to put it in their system)
– where you are staying (just give them the name of your first hotel)
For more info on border control, check out our guide to landing at the San Jose Airport.
The main entry requirement for Costa Rica is that you need to have proof that you will be leaving the country within 90 days. If you have booked a roundtrip flight you can show your flight back home as your proof.
For more info check out our guide to Costa Rica entry requirements.
We always suggest renting a car for your Costa Rica travels. Our favorite rental car company, Adobe, has an office located about five minutes away from both Liberia and San Jose International Airport.
When you exit the airport an Adobe representative will be waiting for you with a sign to take you to the Adobe office.
If you need a taxi, there will be plenty of taxi drivers waiting as you exit the airport.
From Liberia, we suggest our favorite official taxi driver family. They are so nice and will be happy to help you out. You can contact them here.
You can read more about taxis in our guide to Costa Rica taxis.
Connecting to Domestic Flights
If you need to connect to a domestic flight in San Jose just note that the domestic terminal is in a separate building from the main terminal.
You will need to go through border control, get your luggage, exit the main airport and walk about five minutes to the domestic terminal.
We suggest giving yourself at least two hours of time.
You can find out more in our guide to domestic flights in Costa Rica.
And that is all! If you have any questions about getting the Costa Rica airfare booking, just leave them in the comment section below. We are happy to help you out! Also, let us know if you have any other awesome tips for scoring the cheapest flights to Costa Rica. We’d love to hear your ideas!