Flying in to Costa Rica

Flying into Costa Rica

The Caribbean Sea from Above


     In Costa Rica there are two international airports to which you can arrive. The major airport is the Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) near the capital city of San Jose in the town of Alajuela. The other is the airport in Liberia, which is northwest of San Jose, and closer to the Pacific side of Costa Rica. I’ll discuss the San Jose airport here, as that is the one you’ll fly into if you are coming to the Caribbean. Aside from the major airlines that fly into San Jose, smaller airlines that sometimes offer good deals are JetBlue and Taca. I do not recommend Spirit Air.

       For travel within Costa Rica there are two domestic airlines which serve many small airports in Costa Rica, using small 10 to 20 passenger propeller planes. Sansa Airlines, flies out of Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose. Sansa is the one who can bring you to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.
The closest airport to Puerto Viejo is in Limon, a city one hour north of Puerto Viejo. Sansa offers a 30 minute flight from San Jose to Limon daily at 2:10 p.m.. They also have a 6:50 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Their return flights from Limon to San Jose are daily at 7:45 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. They also fly from Limon to Tortuguero 7:45 a.m. and Tortuguero to San Jose at 12:45 p.m. and 2:50 p.m..

Once you have arrived at the airport in Limon you still have an hour’s drive to Puerto Viejo. You can take the public bus, hire a private taxi or take a shared shuttle. For information and help with these choices, contact me.

Flying in to Costa Rica

Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)

     Nine years have gone by, since I moved to Costa Rica. I’ve flown in and out of Costa Rica at least five times, so I know the drill. Nevertheless, I remember what it was like the first time. I was nervous flying into a foreign country.  I couldn’t speak Spanish. What if I had problems in customs? What if I didn’t know where to go? Well, if you happen to be in the same situation it can help to see a preview. This page was written to help you get around the airport all by yourself.  Or, through my Guide Service, I can pick you up at the when you get off the plane and help assure a great start to your Costa Rica visit.

Now imagine your trip. Soon you’ll be landing. Take a look at San Jose from the air.

Costa Rica from the Air


San Jose from the Air

San Jose, Costa Rica from the air

costa rica airport

1. Your plane has landed.


San Jose, Costa Rica Airport

2. Take walkway into airport gate.

San Jose, Costa Rica Airport

3. Pass through waiting area.

San Jose, Costa Rica Airport

4. Go through customs.

In customs, you walk through the line until you come to the desk. You must show your passport and the papers they gave you to fill out on the plane. Most of the customs officials speak some English. They may ask you if this is your first time in Costa Rica and where you are going. Don’t be concerned, just answer the best you can. They may also ask for proof that you have a flight out of Costa Rica. This is a requirement in order to be admitted to the country. The Costa Rican government has an agreement with the airlines. The airlines are not allowed to bring you into Costa Rica unless you have purchased a flight out within the next 3 months. Three months is the maximum time a visitor is allowed to stay.

They don’t always ask you about this in customs because often they assume the airline has taken care of it. But beware of what can happen. You buy your one way ticket, take the first few flights of your trip and are about to get on the international flight out of the country to Costa Rica. But they won’t let you! The gate attendants say you must buy a return ticket before you are allowed to board the plane. And then of course you don’t want to lose what you have already paid for. So you fork out twice as much money as you would have if you’d bought the ticket in advance. There is a way around this. Contact me and I’ll tell you what I do.

Costa Rica Airport

4. Baggage Claim

After customs, you go downstairs to baggage claim. You can change your dollars to colones at the money exchange but you’ll get a better rate at a bank or ATM machine. And many places accept dollars in Costa Rica, so you don’t have to rush to change your money.

Costa Rica Airport

Money Exchange – DON’T STOP HERE

Before you leave you go through another line. You put your baggage on the conveyor belt so the guys with the x-ray machines can look inside.  It goes fast and easy.

Costa Rica Airport

4. Go out through the exit door.

Costa Rica Airport

5. Grab a cab.

From there you can proceed to the bus as show in my article on Costa Rica Bus Transportation. Or you can take a taxi. If you are having a communication problem just ask for someone who speaks English. (Necesito hablar Ingles.) One of the cab drivers will find someone for you.

Now you’re on your way to a grand Costa Rica Adventure. Pura Vida!