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Which Costa Rica Airport Is The Best To Fly To? Comparing The San Jose (SJO) And Liberia (LIR) Airports

Which Costa Rica Airport Is The Best To Fly To? Comparing The San Jose (SJO) And Liberia (LIR) Airports

NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on October 19th, 2017.

WHICH COSTA RICA AIRPORT IS THE BEST TO FLY TO?

Depending on where you will be travelling to Costa Rica from you may prefer to fly into and out of the San Jose airport (i.e., the Juan Santamaria International Airport, or the “SJO” airport for short), into and out of the Liberia airport (i.e., the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, or the “LIR” airport for short), or coordinate a combination of the two (i.e., fly into the SJO airport and out of the LIR airport, or vice versa). While your Costa Rica trip itinerary, ticket prices, and flight schedules will likely make the decision for you as to which Costa Rica airport would be the best to choose, if there is little advantage to choosing one airport over the other according to the aforementioned three factors, the following information may tip the scales for you in one airport’s direction.

COSTA RICA AIRPORT SIZE

  • The SJO airport is the largest international Costa Rica airport servicing a high number of travellers
  • The LIR airport is the smallest international Costa Rica airport servicing significantly less travellers than the SJO airport

COSTA RICA AIRPORT DESIGN

  • The SJO airport is a two-storey airport; departures are handled on the second floor and arrivals are met on the first floor
  • The LIR airport is a one-storey airport; departures are handled on the right-hand side of the first floor and arrivals are met on the left-hand side of the first floor

COSTA RICA AIRPORT LOCATION

  • The SJO airport is an approximate twenty/twenty-five-minute drive from downtown San Jose (more, during peak traffic periods) in Costa Rica’s central valley
  • The LIR airport is an approximate five/ten-minute drive from downtown Liberia in Costa Rica’s Northern Pacific zone

Tip:

  • Geographically speaking, the SJO airport is typically best to fly into and out of if you plan to visit the Caribbean coast (e.g., Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Tortuguero), the Central Pacific coast (e.g., Puntarenas, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, Dominical), or the Osa Peninsula (e.g., Punta Uvita, Drake Bay, Matapalo, Puerto Jimenez, Golfito). In contrast, the LIR airport is typically best to fly into and out of if you plan to visit the Northern Pacific coast (e.g., Papagayo, Coco, Hermosa, Ocotal, Panama, Potrero, Flamingo, Conchal, Grande, Tamarindo, Langosta) or the northwestern part of the Nicoya Peninsula (e.g., Samara, Carrillo, Nosara, Punta Islita). Popular inland areas (e.g., La Fortuna/Arenal, Monteverde, Tenorio/Celeste,), as well as the southeastern part of the Nicoya Peninsula (e.g., Santa Teresa, Mal Pais, Montezuma, Tambor) may be accessed rather interchangeably via either Costa Rica airport–the SJO airport or the LIR airport.

INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES SERVING COSTA RICA AIRPORTS

  • International airlines that currently fly to the SJO airport include Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air Panama, Air Transat, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines (US Airways), Avianca/TACA/LACSA, British Airways, Condor, Copa Airlines, Cubana, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Iberia, Interjet, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Southwest, United Airlines (Continental), and Volaris
  • International airlines that currently fly to the LIR airport include Air Berlin, Air Canada, American Airlines (US Airways), Avianca/TACA/LACSA, Copa Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, United Airlines (Continental), and WestJet

DOMESTIC AIRLINES SERVING COSTA RICA AIRPORTS

  • Domestic airlines that currently fly to the SJO airport include Sansa Regional and Nature Air
  • Domestic airlines that currently fly to the LIR airport include Sansa Regional and Nature Air

COSTA RICA AIRPORT DEPARTURE TAX

Depending on the airline you will be flying with, the Costa Rics airport departure tax may already be included in the cost of your ticket. For more information, don’t miss our related blog post:

Flying to Costa Rica: What To Know About International Flights To Costa Rica, Departure Tax, Airlines, Check-In, Baggage, And More!

Assuming that the cost of the Costa Rica departure tax has not already been included in the cost of your ticket…

  • At the SJO airport, the Costa Rica airport departure tax is paid to the right of the entrance; there is a line of approximately six-to-ten airport employees waiting to take your payment (payments can be made in USD, Costa Rican Colones, or with VISA/Mastercard)
  • At the LIR airport, the Costa Rica airport departure tax is paid to the left of the entrance; there is a small both with one-to-two employees waiting to take your payment (payments can be made in USD, Costa Rican Colones, or with VISA/Mastercard)

COSTA RICA AIRPORT PARKING

  • The SJO airport offers parking in two lots onsite for a fee (most recently this was $2.48 USD per hour, $35.00 USD per day, or $200.00 USD per week and prices are subject to change at any moment); the parking lots are within walking distance to the arrival and departure gates (note: there is a parking lot on each airport level)
  • The LIR airport offers one parking lot onsite for free; the parking lot is within walking distance to the arrival and departure gates

Tip:

  • If you have rented a car for your trip and your departure flight (assuming you fly out of the SJO airport) requires you to be at the airport very early in the morning, some vehicle rental agencies will allow you to leave the vehicle in the airport parking lot, locked, with the keys hidden in the glove box (the vehicle rental agency will then send a representative to the airport to pick-up the vehicle once their office opens). If you choose to do so, do not forget to inform the vehicle rental agency whether you parked the car in the upper lot (i.e., access from the departures gate) or the lower lot (i.e., across from the arrivals gate). As a side note for any traveller considering this vehicle return option, the SJO airport maintains that their parking garage offers camera surveillance for the protection of users and vehicles.

COSTA RICA AIRPORT WIFI ACCESS

  • The SJO airport offers WiFi access for free throughout the majority of areas
  • The LIR airport offers WiFi access for a fee (or else free, with paid entry into the LIR airport lounge)

COSTA RICA AIRPORT DINING

  • The SJO airport offers a variety of dining options once inside the airport (after passing through the security checkpoint) and one main restaurant/cafe in the main entrance (up the escalator from the airport’s departures gate, prior to passing through the security checkpoint)
  • The LIR airport offers a restaurant for dining at once inside the airport (after passing through the security checkpoint)
Costa Rica airport
Safe Travels!

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Which airport have you flown into/out of? If you have experienced flying into or out of both, which of the two did you prefer?

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2 thoughts on “Which Costa Rica Airport Is The Best To Fly To? Comparing The San Jose (SJO) And Liberia (LIR) Airports”

  • If you are planning on visiting Tortuguero, Arenal , Monteverde and Manuel antonio areas , San Jose airport is your best choice to arrive, However, if Guanacaste is your destination , Liberia Airport may be the one to choose from.

  • Thanks nikky and ricky for that informative post.
    Ive never been to cista rica before and its always overwhelming with geographical options with no clue what is what. But your other article to help select is great. Were coming down for soon and looking forward to it. Just finding that perfect vacation home is hard. : )
    Take care.
    Lee

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