Costa Rica Airports – Which Should You Fly To?

about us

Hi! We’re Thomas (the German) and Sarah (the US-er).

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica.

Want the whole crazy story?

Did you know that there are two international Costa Rica airports? Most people tend to fly into the San Jose airport, but the Liberia airport in the northwest corner of the country could also be a great option for your Costa Rica travels.

The Costa Rica airports have their pros and cons so we decided to break down what you can expect at both the Liberia airport and Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose. That way you can decide which airport is best for your trip to Costa Rica!

Where Are the Costa Rica Airports Located?

We created a little Costa Rica airports map for you so you can see exactly where each Costa Rica international airport is located. As you can see, the Liberia airport is actually really close to the border of Nicaragua. The San Jose airport is very centrally located with easy access routes to both the Pacific and Caribbean coast.

San Jose Airport


The Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose is often considered the main airport in Costa Rica. It is the largest airport in Costa Rica and is located next to the capital city.

Airlines that fly into San Jose Costa Rica

Aeromexico, American Airlines, Air Canada, Air France, Air Panama, Air Transat, Alaska, Avianca, Aeromexico, British Airways, Condor, Copa Airlines, Cubana, Delta Airlines, Edelweiss, IBERIA, Interjet, LATAM, Lufthansa, KLM, Jet Blue, Southwest, Spirit Airlines, US Airways, United Airlines, Volaris, WestJet

Ground Transportation to and from San Jose Airport

There are a few different options for ground transportation from the San Jose airport.

If you are staying at a hotel nearby you should check if they offer a free shuttle service to and from the airport. Most places do.

If you rent a car, a representative from your rental car company will be waiting for you outside of the arrival area. They will take you by shuttle to their rental car office. It’s about a five-minute drive.

There are public buses that go from the airport to the city of San Jose. To get to the public bus stop you just need to walk out to the main road. You will see a bus stop.

Just ask before getting on a bus. The busses can be completely confusing here.

If you need a taxi, just make sure you take an official taxi. We have a complete guide to taxis and Uber to help you out.

Pros of the San Jose Airport

– San Jose is a great jumping off point for the entire country. The city is very centrally located in the Central Valley. You can drive to the Pacific coast within 1.5 hours or the Caribbean coast within two hours.

– This is the main international airport in the country and flights tend to be cheaper to the San Jose Airport.

Cons of the San Jose Airport

– The traffic around the airport can be a nightmare, especially during rush hour.

– If you plan to mostly visit the northwest part of the country the drive is a lot longer in comparison with Liberia Airport.

Things to Note About the San Jose Airport

– The airport is actually located closer to the city of Alajuela. When looking for great hotels near San Jose Airport in Costa Rica we strongly suggest staying in downtown Alajuela rather than San Jose.

This will make it much easier for you to avoid the traffic. This especially applies if you have an early morning flight. Rush hour is nuts!

To find the perfect place to stay check out our guide to our favorite nearby hotels for all budgets.

-If you are switching to any domestic flights from the San Jose airport you will need to go to the domestic terminal after going through Customs and getting your luggage. The domestic terminal is located to the left of the main terminal when you exit the airport. You will have to walk down the road for about 2 minutes, but there are sidewalks.

– When you look for a flight make sure you look at San Jose, Costa Rica. The Costa Rica airport code is SJO and the official name is Juan Santamaria International Airport. I’m not kidding but we have heard so many stories about people accidentally booking flights to San Jose California instead of Costa Rica haha!

– If you plan on renting a car we suggest renting with Adobe from the airport. We have a 10% discount with them plus some other great perks. You can grab your discount here. ↓


– For more tips on the San Jose airport please check out our complete guide to flying into SJO and our complete guide to flying out of SJO.

Liberia Airport

The Liberia Costa Rica airport is located in Guanacaste near the border of Nicaragua. This is a smaller airport than the San Jose airport, but many international flights arrive here every day.

Airlines that fly into Liberia Costa Rica

Air Canada, American Airlines, Copa Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Jetblue, KLM, Taca, United, US Airways, West Jet

Ground Transportation to and from Liberia International Airport

When you exit the airport you will see several taxi drivers waiting to take you to wherever you need to go.

If you opt to rent a car, your rental car shuttle will be waiting outside the airport to take you to their office. It is about a 5-minute drive.


Some hotels nearby will offer a free shuttle service. Check in with your hotel to see if they offer this service.

Pros of the Liberia Airport

– Liberia is a great jumping off point for exploring the Guanacaste beaches (Playas del Coco, Tamarindo, Nosara, Samara), La Fortuna, or Monteverde. It is also a great jumping off point if you would like to go up to Nicaragua. From the airport, it will take you a little over one hour to get to the border.

– The Liberia airport tends to be less crowded than the San Jose Airport. That means that typically you won’t have to wait long in the Customs line when entering the country.

Cons of the Liberia Airport

– If you would like to visit the Caribbean coast or the Southern Pacific part of the country (the Osa Peninsula) you are looking at a really long drive.

– If you are coming from Europe your options are very limited for flights to Liberia. Often you will have to fly over North America before flying here. We get it, flying over the US is a total pain if you have to get a Schengen visa just for connecting through the US.

Things to Note About the Liberia Airport

– The Liberia Airport code is LIR

– If you plan to spend your first or last night near the airport we suggest checking out places to stay in the nearby beach town of Playa Hermosa. This town is located about 20 minutes from the airport.

You can search for hotels below.

Our Experience at the Costa Rica Airports

sjo airport

We live in San Jose so it has never made sense for us to fly in or out of Liberia. I actually really like flying from San Jose (possibly because I am there at least once every few months).

It is small but it has everything you could need (including free coffee and chocolate samples at the big gift shop). The downfall is definitely the traffic in that area.

For someone who has actually experienced both airports, I turned to my mom. She has flown in and out of San Jose twice and in and out of Liberia once.

Her response was that she would choose Liberia over San Jose every time. She said the experience was much smoother and the lack of traffic nearby made it a completely different and actually pleasant experience.

Our Tips for Costa Rica Airports

– It is not a bad idea to think about flying into San Jose and out of Liberia or vice versa. You can then set your trip plan up accordingly so you won’t have to make a long drive back to the airport at the end of your trip.

For example, for a one week trip, you could fly into San Jose, visit La Fortuna, and then make your way over to the Playas del Coco area. You could then fly out of the Liberia airport.

We like to use Skyscanner for this. Just use the “Multi-City” search feature to fly in and out of two different airports.


– If you opt to fly in and out of two different airports you can always rent your car in one location and drop it off in another. Adobe has offices throughout the country to make this possible.


– If you would like to fly within the country there are now some great and affordable domestic airlines. Check out Skyway for some great deals.

– If you need some tips for booking affordable flights check out our complete guide to how we get the best deals while flying in and out of Costa Rica. Our favorite search engine is definitely Skyscanner.

If you need any other tips about flying in and out of Costa Rica just let us know in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out! Also, let us know what your experience was at either airport. We are interested in hearing how everything went for you.


Book Your Trip: Our Go-to Travel Companies

When you book through our trusted partners we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Win-win! 

Book a Flight

via Skyscanner