A Stress Free Guide to Flying Out of San Jose Costa Rica

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sjo airport
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?

Anyone else get serious anxiety before flying? I always think I’m going to miss my flight or something. Despite that, I can assure you that flying out of San Jose Costa Rica is always a breeze (or at least it has been for us)!

Here is a complete guide to make sure it all runs smoothly for you….

Flying out of San Jose Costa Rica: Arriving at the airport


We suggest staying in the city of Alajuela the night before your flight. I know, I know, it’s called the San Jose Airport, but it is actually closer to Alajuela. We suggest staying in Alajuela because the hotels tend to be cheaper, most have free airport shuttles, and traffic around the airport can be a bit crazy. If you stay in San Jose it can be a bit nerve-wracking to drive to the airport and get stuck in the long lines of cars.

If you have to return your rental car, most rental car companies open in at 5am. They will then take you on their shuttle to the airport. If you rent with Adobe (our favorite car rental company) they will come pick your car up during office hours if your hotel is within 12 miles of their office.

If you have an early morning flight we suggest having them pick your car up the night before so you don’t have to think about returning it in the morning. Then take the shuttle provided by your hotel to the airport.

Hey! We partnered with Adobe Rent A Car and have a 10% to 20% discount for you! Find out more here!

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If your hotel does not have a free shuttle you should use Uber instead of taxis for a ride to the airport. Uber tends to be about half the price of taxis and is legal here in Costa Rica.

On the airport website they recommend that you arrive three hours in advance of your flight, but I think that is really excessive. Two hours will be plenty of time unless you know that you have an issue you need to sort out at the airport.

Flying out of San Jose Costa Rica: Checking in

flying out of San Jose Costa Rica - airport

San Jose airport is pretty small so you will have no trouble finding your airline to check-in and check your bags.

There is a $29 fee for leaving Costa Rica via the airport. Most airlines include this in their ticket price, but some of the budget airlines do not. When you enter the airport go to the right all the way to the end. There will be a counter there where you can pay this fee (if you need). There is a list of airlines which require you to pay this fee so you can see if you need to or not.

exit taxes San Jose Costa Rica

Here is a list of all the airlines which DO NOT require you to pay the exit tax. ↓

exit taxes San Jose Costa Rica

In the past, you had to fill out a little form with your name and passport info, but I was just at the airport last



week and I was told they got rid of that policy. Yeay! One less thing to do.

If you do not have bags to check you can go straight to the auto check-in stations (most likely to the left of the doors you came in). The computer at the auto check-in station will let you know if there is an issue with your check-in and will tell you to proceed to your airline’s counter.

Flying out of San Jose Costa Rica: Security

SJO check in

Security is usually a breeze. The line always looks long when I’m there but it moves quickly. Normal rules apply such as restrictions on liquids and gels, removing your laptop etc. There are plenty of people working at security and they are usually really nice and helpful if you have questions. Also, you usually do not have to take off your shoes. I always just ask before I take them off.

Flying out of San Jose Costa Rica: Terminal fun

food court San Jose Costa Rica airport

For such a small airport there are plenty of food options and some cute stores.

There is a food court in the airport (as you can see in the blurry pic above) with a few options. There is a Quiznos, Cinnabon (maybe not the best idea to eat that before a long flight 😉 ) Smashburger, and an Asian fusion place called Teriyaki.

There are also a few sit down restaurants throughout the terminal as well as plenty of places to grab a sandwich and some coffee.

I’m not usually someone who shops in airports, but the shops at the San Jose airport are my favorite! They have some really nice products from local companies which are great to bring back as souvenirs for your loved ones (or yourself).

Two of my favorites that you should check out in the airport are products from Holalola (cutest Costa Rica themed posters and prints that I’m obsessed with) and cueropapel&tijera (they make super pretty leather bags and I want them all).

The gate areas are big and there are plenty of seats for you to relax in. I like getting a spot near the full-length windows so I can watch all the action happening outside with the pretty mountain in the background.

Also, don’t worry, there is free wifi throughout the airport! I know where your priorities are. 🙂


If you have any questions or other things you think people should know about flying out of the San Jose airport leave them in the comment section below. We will get back to you ASAP.


You might also be interested in reading:

How to Find the Cheapest Flights to Costa Rica

How to Travel Costa Rica on a Budget


Flying out of San Jose Costa Rica is easy if you know what you're doing. This guide has info on arriving, checking-in, security, and terminal entertainment at the San Jose airport. Flying out of San Jose Costa Rica is easy if you know what you're doing. This guide has info on arriving, checking-in, security, and terminal entertainment at the San Jose airport.


Sarah McArthur

Sarah McArthur

Sarah McArthur is the co-founder and main writer of Costa Rica Vibes. She is originally from the United States. but has lived in sunny San Jose, Costa Rica since 2016. She has traveled all over the country as a Costa Rica travel expert and has helped thousand of people plan their perfect Costa Rica vacation.

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About Us

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

We met in Virginia, moved to Germany, and now live in sunny Costa Rica. It was a spontaneous decision to move here, but it was the best decision!

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