International travel to Costa Rica has resumed! Find out more ➼

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

sjo airport

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!


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.


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!

Want the whole crazy story?

Follow Along

Get Your Copy of the FREE planning ebook

The Good Stuff


You Will Also Like....

9 Responses

  1. Hello,

    I have a flight from NYC to San Jose that arrives at 5:45AM
    I am taking a flight from San Jose to Limon that leaves at 6;35am
    There is only one other flight that takes off at 1:50 but I really dont want to wait that long in the air port.

    Do you think I can make the 6:35am flight to Limon?
    Is this enough time in between?

    1. Hi Leah, I wouldn’t risk it. It can take a while to get through customs and then the domestic flights are actually in another building so it would be cutting it super close. You possibly could make it, but really it depends on customs. I’ve arrived where it has taken me over an hour to get through customs and ive also had times where it is taken ten minutes.

  2. In the US I can take my contact lens solutions through security even though they are larger than 3 ounces. They must be in a separate ziplock bag and they are tested with some kind of litmus paper. Can I carry them the same way when I return to the US – in order to get through Costa Rican security or will they take them away?

    1. Hi Vivian! I actually am not sure. I have never seen them testing things like that at security here. I would try it (if the solutiion is not too too expensive).

  3. I’m flying into SJO from a regional airport to then fly out of the country. Is 1 hour and 25 minutes enough time to leave between landing at SJO on a Sansa flight and then taking off on a Delta flight?

    1. Hi Brian. You should be fine. I think Sansa now has their terminal in a building next to the main airport, but it’s about a 1 minute walk. Plus, you won’t have to go through customs when you land with Sansa, so you can just get your bags and head straight to the main airport to check in. Usually, the line to go through security moves really fast. Ive never stood there for more than 10 minutes.

      1. Just flew out of San Jose airport via WestJet, if you purchased your ticket prior to October on WestJet you need to pay the departure tax. They have a check list to see if you need to pay. It is an easy airport to maneuver through.

Leave a Reply to CD Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *