Amazing sunset at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) (Photo by Carlos Chaves)
Amazing sunset at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) (Photo by Carlos Chaves)

The most convenient way to visit Costa Rica, of course, is to fly into one of the two main airports in Costa Rica, servicing international flights.

There is definitely no shortage of airlines that fly into Costa Rica, and it’s also easy to catch a domestic flight once you arrive.

When you fly into Costa Rica, you have two choices for where you land: the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) just outside San José or the Guanacaste Airport (LIR) (formerly known as Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia.

Juan Santamaria International Airport is technically in Alajuela but very close to San José and it is a hub for lodging, transportation and local activities. It is also located in the central part of Costa Rica (known as the Central Valley), in between the two coasts.

While Guanacaste Airport is in the north of Costa Rica, just outside Liberia, and located very close to some very beautiful beaches along the Pacific Ocean. Most people who fly into Guanacaste Airport don't stay in Liberia; they go directly to their beach destination.

When choosing which airport to fly to, there are a few things you should consider. First and foremost, think about where you want to visit and spend most of your time. If you are planning on creating an itinerary and sticking to it, you’ll need to simply see which airport meets your geographic needs.

If you have a looser itinerary planned and don’t care which part of Costa Rica you visit (cause really, everything is amazing here!), you may want to just hop on the best deal you can find for your travel time frame.

If you have a preference for a specific airline, you should check and see which airport services that airline. You may find that your favorite airline only lands in one of the airports, and that will help you make your decision.

You may also want to consider other factors, like how many connections there are on a flight. I am a big fan of direct flights or the least number of connections as possible to avoid unnecessary delays as well as multiple take-offs and landings.

So, the first thing to do when deciding which airport to fly into when visiting Costa Rica is to consider your priorities. Keep in mind that you can fly into one airport, and then plan your trip so that you head toward the other airport and fly out of that one.

Taca - Avianca Airlines at San Jose International Airport (SJO)
Taca - Avianca Airlines at San Jose International Airport (SJO)

When to Choose San Jose International Airport (SJO)

I recommend using San Jose International Airport if your trip is going to take you to La Fortuna (Arenal Volcano), Manuel Antonio, Tortuguero or Puerto Viejo as well as any destination on the Osa Peninsula, as this airport offers easier access to these areas.

You can also use the domestic airlines to travel to more remote parts of Costa Rica. Although both airports (San Jose Intl Airport & Guanacaste Airport) have domestic flights, San Jose Intl Airport (SJO) is the hub and it is much easier, cheaper & faster to travel from with domestic airlines. So if you are visiting the Caribbean, Pacific beaches in the south or the Central Valley, this is your hub.

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Modern terminal in Daniel Oduber Intl Airport, Liberia
Modern terminal in Guanacaste Airport, Liberia

When to Choose Guanacaste Airport (LIR)

I recommend using the Guanacaste Airport (LIR) if your trip is going to take you to any of Guanacaste's beautiful areas like Tamarindo beach or the Nicoya Peninsula, as this airport offers easier access to these areas. You can use either airport if your final destination destination is Monteverde, though some travelers prefer to fly into and out of the smaller airport which is Guanacaste Airport.

The Guanacaste Airport will give you easier access to the sunny northwest Pacific beaches, as well as some of the national parks of the Guanacaste region and other popular spots like Playas del Coco, Papagayo Gulf and Samara.

No matter what you plan to do when you visit Costa Rica, or which airport you land at, you are going to have an amazing adventure during your stay. From white water rafting to surfing to zip-lining, stick around on our site to find out all the activities you can plan and all the places you can stay in Costa Rica.

See you soon!