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Costa Rica Aiports: Which is best for you?

When flying into Costa Rica, the question on many travelers’ minds is which airport to choose?  Costa Rica currently has two international airports.  Juan Santamaria (SJO) in Alejuela and Daniel Oduber (LIR) in Liberia.

Juan Santamaria is the better-known airport as it is 20mins from the capital city of San Jose.  The larger of the two international airports, Juan Santamaria was for many years the only international airport in the small nation.  Now served by most U.S. airlines such as Delta, United, and American among others, Juan Santamaria airport is also a stopping point for several other international carriers like Air Canada, KLM, TACA, Virgin Atlantic and more.  By far the busiest Costa Rica airport in the country, the central location and proximity to the major centers make it a logical choice for many as their first destination in Costa Rica.  From this central point, travelers can reach practically any point in Costa Rica within 6hrs drive.

Having gone through recent and significant upgrades and renovations, Daniel Oduber International Airport (or the Liberia International Airport) is located in the northern part of the Guanacaste province.  This has become an increasingly popular landing choice for many international travelers whose destination lie in the popular west costa of Costa Rica.  With quick access to the sunny, world-class beaches of Tamarindo, the Nicoya Penninsula, and the Papagayo Gulf, this once small airport is now host to most major U.S. carriers and international airlines.

Once in Costa Rica, a great way to get around the country is using the dozens of domestic carriers.  With nearly 30 small air strips scattered around the nation, travelers can catch at quick flight at Tobías Bolaños International Airport in San Jose and cut a 4hr drive to the northwest down to 30 minutes.  With small carriers like Nature Air offering domestic and international flights in the region, that 6hr trip to the tropical islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama is shaved down to an easy 1hr excursion.

One consideration that often catches travelers off guard leaving Costa Rica is the Departure Tax of $26USD due prior to checking in.  Commonly, this airport tax is included in most ticket prices, but no so in Costa Rica.  This is a simple process of paying the tax at an efficiently run counter upon entry to the airport.  You are not able to clear immigration or board the plane without the proof of purchase issued upon paying this mandatory tax.

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