Costa Rica Airports: The Complete Guide

Costa Rica Juan Santamaria International Airport SJO MROC

Welcome to the ultimate guide to the airports of Costa Rica, your one-stop resource for all things related to air travel in this beautiful Central American country. Whether planning a leisurely vacation or a business trip, understanding the airport landscape in Costa Rica is crucial for a smooth travel experience. This comprehensive guide will cover all the major international and domestic airports.

About Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a captivating travel destination renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, diverse ecosystems, and warm hospitality. Costa Rica offers a remarkable blend of outdoor adventures and serene relaxation, from pristine beaches on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts to lush rainforests teeming with wildlife. Travelers can explore its numerous national parks, embark on thrilling zip line adventures, witness awe-inspiring volcanic landscapes, and indulge in the vibrant local culture and cuisine. With its commitment to environmental conservation and sustainability, Costa Rica is a haven for nature enthusiasts and a responsible traveler’s dream destination.

How many airports are in Costa Rica?

The country is home to more than 25 airports, including international, regional, and smaller domestic airfields, which connect travelers efficiently to various destinations within its borders.  These airports are strategically located nationwide to ensure efficient connectivity to tourist destinations and business hubs.

Map of Costa Rica Airports

A comprehensive map of Costa Rica’s airports reveals a well-distributed network that strategically connects travelers to the nation’s diverse landscapes, from its bustling cities to secluded natural paradises. Costa Rica, known for its commitment to conservation and eco-tourism, has developed its aviation infrastructure to ensure accessibility while preserving its environmental integrity.  To help you visualize the airport network in Costa Rica, we’ve included a detailed map showcasing the locations of major international airports and domestic airfields across the country. This map will be a valuable resource for planning your travel itinerary.

The best airport to fly into Costa Rica and why

When choosing the best airport to fly into for a trip to Costa Rica, travelers are primarily considering Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in San José and Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia. Each airport offers distinct advantages, depending on the nature of your visit.  The choice between SJO and LIR should be based on your itinerary in Costa Rica. If your trip focuses on exploring a wide array of environments, including the rainforest, city culture, and some Pacific beaches, SJO offers more flexibility and connectivity. However, if your vacation is centered around the Guanacaste region's beaches, resorts, and natural parks, LIR is undoubtedly more convenient, reducing travel time upon arrival and departure.

Airlines flying to Costa Rica

Major airlines such as United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Southwest Airlines offer direct flights from various cities in the United States, reflecting Costa Rica's popularity among American tourists. From Europe, carriers like British Airways and Iberia provide direct links to cities like London and Madrid.

Latin American visitors have robust options too, with airlines like Avianca, Copa Airlines, Volaris, and LATAM facilitating easy access from major cities across the continent. These carriers offer direct flights or convenient connections, underscoring the region's interconnected travel network.

Domestic airlines such as Sansa Airlines and Nature Air operate extensive networks within Costa Rica for those looking to explore the country's lush landscapes and pristine coastlines. These airlines provide vital links between the major hubs and remote destinations, including Tortuguero, Drake Bay, and the Osa Peninsula, making even the most secluded destinations accessible.

Flight time to Costa Rica

The flight time to Costa Rica can vary significantly depending on your departure city and whether you can book a direct flight or require a connection.  Here are some approximate non-stop flight times from major cities in the United States to the two primary international airports in Costa Rica:

  • Miami to SJO: approximately 2h 30min.
  • Newark to SJO: approximately 4h 30min.
  • Fort-Lauderdale to SJO: approximately 2h 30min.
  • Atlanta to SJO: approximately 3h 30 min.
  • Los Angeles to LIR: approximately 5h 30min.
  • Dallas to LIR: approximately 4h 15min.
  • Atlanta to LIR: approximately 4h.

These are approximate flight times and may vary based on factors such as weather conditions, routes, and layovers.

List of airports in Costa Rica

San Jose Costa Rica Airport

Juan Santamaria International Airport is the country's largest airport, often called SJO Airport or San Jose Costa Rica Airport.  It is a vital gateway for international travelers arriving in Costa Rica, offering a warm and welcoming introduction to the country's diverse landscapes and vibrant culture. Inaugurated in 1958, this airport has played a pivotal role in connecting Costa Rica to the rest of the world, facilitating both tourism and business ventures.

Located in the Alajuela province, the airport is conveniently situated just 12.4 miles west of the capital city, San Jose, easily accessible for visitors heading to the central region of Costa Rica. With an annual passenger count exceeding 5 million, San Jose Costa Rica Airport has established itself as a major aviation hub in Central America.

Travelers arriving at San Jose Costa Rica Airport are greeted with modern facilities and services designed to enhance their travel experience. The airport boasts duty-free shops, various dining options, car rental services, and comfortable lounges where passengers can relax before or after their flights. It's a place of transit where you can immerse yourself in Costa Rica's vibrant culture and hospitality.

As the primary entry point for international tourists, the airport is the starting point for countless adventures across the country, whether exploring the Pacific coast's pristine beaches, venturing into lush rainforests, or embarking on eco-tourism excursions. San Jose Costa Rica Airport sets the stage for a remarkable journey through Costa Rica, and it continues to play a crucial role in connecting the world to this Central American paradise.

Liberia Costa Rica Airport

Liberia International Airport, officially known as Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR), located in Liberia, the capital city of the province of Guanacaste, offers travelers immediate access to some of the country's most sought-after tourist destinations. The famed Papagayo Peninsula, Tamarindo, and the Rincon de la Vieja National Park are all within a relatively short drive from the airport. As such, visitors keen on surfing, hiking, or simply soaking in the tropical sun find Liberia Airport exceptionally convenient.

The Liberia Airport has witnessed substantial growth in recent years. Boasting a modern terminal with an array of amenities, travelers can enjoy duty-free shopping, diverse dining options, and comfortable lounges while awaiting their flights. The airport's connectivity to the United States is impressive. Major airlines, including Delta, American Airlines, Southwest, and United, operate regular flights to and from key U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, and New York. This extensive network ensures that U.S.-based travelers have ample options.

A noteworthy advantage of flying into Liberia Airport, especially for first-time visitors, is the streamlined and efficient entry and exit procedures. The airport staff, known for their warmth and professionalism, ensure a smooth transition for incoming and outgoing passengers. Ground transportation is readily available, with numerous airport car rental agencies, taxis, and shuttle services.

Tobías Bolaños International Airport / Pavas Airport

Tobías Bolaños International Airport, commonly known as Pavas Airport, is situated in the district of Pavas in San José, Costa Rica. Serving as one of the main domestic airports in the country, it stands as a crucial hub for connecting flights to Costa Rica's more remote destinations, making it an essential gateway for tourists eager to explore the nation's diverse terrains and attractions without traversing lengthy road distances.

Though primarily catering to domestic flights, Pavas Airport also serves several charter and private international flights. Its proximity to the capital city of San José, just a few kilometers away, makes it a convenient choice for business travelers and tourists. Over the years, its role in facilitating internal travel and connecting the country's remote corners has established its importance in Costa Rica's aviation landscape.

Limon International Airport / Limon Airport

Limon Airport, officially Aeropuerto Internacional de Limón, is a significant gateway to Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. Located in the province of Limón, this airport connects travelers to the vibrant tapestry of cultures, pristine beaches, and lush rainforests for which the region is renowned. Historically significant, Limón is a melting pot of Afro-Caribbean, indigenous, and mestizo cultures, making it a unique destination for those eager to experience a different side of Costa Rica.

While Limon Airport is smaller compared to some of the country's other international airports, it plays a crucial role in boosting tourism and commerce in the Caribbean region of Costa Rica. Its strategic location offers convenient access to popular destinations like Tortuguero, Cahuita, and Puerto Viejo. With recent modernization efforts, the airport aims to accommodate more travelers, enhancing their experience with improved facilities and frequent flights.

Arenal Airport (IATA: FON, ICAO: MRAN) 

Arenal Airport, also known as Aeropuerto de La Fortuna or Arenal Volcano Airport, is a small regional airfield near La Fortuna in the Alajuela Province of Costa Rica. This airport primarily serves the region around Arenal Volcano National Park, one of the country's most popular tourist destinations renowned for its iconic volcano, hot springs, and lush rainforests.

Though the airport is modest, it plays a pivotal role in Costa Rica's tourism sector by providing swift access to the Arenal region. Tourists often fly into Arenal Airport to save time and bypass the longer road journey from cities like San José. While primarily serving domestic flights, the airport facilitates services from various Costa Rican airlines, offering tourists and locals a convenient gateway to the breathtaking landscapes and adventures awaiting them in the Arenal area.

The Arenal Airport code is FON (IATA), and its counterpart ICAO code is MRAN.

Bahía Drake Airport (IATA: DRK, ICAO: MRDK)

Bahía Drake Airport, nestled in the heart of Costa Rica's lush Osa Peninsula, is a crucial gateway to one of the country's most pristine and biodiverse regions. This small yet vital airport is close to the tranquil Drake Bay, an area renowned for its untouched natural beauty and access to the world-famous Corcovado National Park. Primarily catering to light aircraft, Bahía Drake Airport facilitates the movement of tourists and locals alike, offering a unique and scenic entry point to a region rich in wildlife and natural landscapes. The airport's runway, though compact, efficiently accommodates domestic flights, mainly operated by local airlines such as Sansa Airlines and Nature Air, providing a seamless connection to San José and beyond. 

Barra del Colorado Airport (IATA: BCL, ICAO: MRBC)

Located in the northern Caribbean region of Costa Rica, it is a vital air hub for accessing the remote and ecologically rich area of Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge. This airport lies near the Nicaraguan border, surrounded by vast wetlands, rivers, and diverse flora and fauna, making it a prime destination for eco-tourists and fishing enthusiasts. Designed to accommodate small aircraft, it primarily sees light planes. It is frequented by domestic airlines, including Sansa Airlines, that offer regular services to and from Costa Rica's capital, San José. The airstrip at Barra del Colorado Airport is suited for short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft, facilitating the movement of passengers and supplies to this otherwise hard-to-reach locale. 

Tortuguero Airport

Tortuguero Airport, officially Barra de Tortuguero Airport, situated in the heart of the Costa Rican rainforest, is a gateway to one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. This small, primarily domestic airport is nestled in the Tortuguero Village, serving as a vital conduit for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the wonders of the Tortuguero National Park—a sanctuary known for its rich flora and fauna, meandering rivers, and a labyrinth of canals. The remote nature of Tortuguero makes the airport an essential transport link for those who wish to access this ecological treasure without the lengthy boat journey.

What distinguishes Tortuguero Airport and the region it serves is its role in sea turtle conservation. The nearby beaches are crucial nesting grounds for several sea turtle species, including the endangered green turtle. As such, many visitors utilize the airport as their starting point for guided turtle-watching tours, particularly during the nesting season. While the airport's facilities are basic, given its size and the region's commitment to minimizing environmental impact, its importance for eco-tourists, researchers, and nature enthusiasts cannot be overstated. It offers a unique opportunity for travelers to step immediately from plane to rainforest, setting the stage for an authentic and memorable Costa Rican adventure.

Tamarindo Airport (IATA: TNO, ICAO: MRTM)

Tamarindo Airport, located on Costa Rica's sun-drenched Pacific coastline in the province of Guanacaste, offers travelers swift access to one of the country's most sought-after beach destinations. This regional airport, primarily servicing domestic flights, is a convenient entry point for those drawn to Tamarindo's golden sands, azure waters, and surrounding areas, famed for their surf, ecotourism, and vibrant nightlife.

The allure of Tamarindo, with its serene beaches and bustling town life, has made the Tamarindo Airport a crucial hub for tourism in the region. Despite its smaller scale, the airport is well-equipped and continuously undergoes enhancements to cater to the ever-increasing influx of sun-seekers and surf enthusiasts. Many travelers opt for a short flight into Tamarindo, bypassing the longer overland journey, maximizing their beach time, and experiencing the area's offerings to the fullest.

Carrillo Airport (IATA: PLD, ICAO: MRCR)

Carrillo Airport is a small domestic airport located near Puerto Carrillo in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. This airport is a convenient entry point to one of Costa Rica's most picturesque and tourist-friendly regions, famed for its stunning Pacific coastlines, vibrant beach communities, and abundant natural reserves. Primarily catering to light, single-engine aircraft, Carrillo Airport is frequented by domestic flights and charter services, facilitating seamless access for travelers and locals alike to the area's renowned beaches, such as Samara and Carrillo Beach, and eco-tourism destinations. The airport's runway and facilities are designed to support small-scale operations.

Coto 47 Airport (IATA: OTR, ICAO: MRCC)

Coto 47 Airport is a small domestic airstrip located in the southern part of Costa Rica, near the border with Panama. Situated in the Puntarenas province, this airport serves the community of Coto 47, providing crucial access to one of the country's most agriculturally rich and ecologically diverse regions. The airport primarily accommodates light aircraft, including small single-engine planes, catering to domestic flights and offering a vital link for residents and tourists seeking to explore the remote areas of Costa Rica's southern zone.  Its operation is especially important for those looking to visit nearby national parks, engage in eco-tourism, or access agricultural sites that are otherwise difficult to reach by road.

Golfito Airport (IATA: GLF, ICAO: MRGF)

Golfito Airport, strategically positioned in the southern part of Costa Rica, near the tranquil Golfo Dulce, is a pivotal access point to Golfito's remote and picturesque region. Once a bustling banana port, this area has transformed into a haven for eco-tourism and sport fishing and a gateway to the untouched rainforests and beautiful beaches of the South Pacific coast. The airport primarily serves small, light aircraft. It is a key destination for domestic airlines like Sansa Airlines, offering regular connections to San José and facilitating travel for locals and international tourists. Its runway is well-suited for short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft, making it an essential infrastructure for reaching this less developed but ecologically rich part of Costa Rica. 

Guápiles Airport (IATA: GPL, ICAO: MRGP)

Guápiles Airport is a modest aviation facility located in the Limón province of Costa Rica, serving the town of Guápiles and the surrounding region. Positioned strategically within the country's Caribbean lowlands, this airport facilitates access to the rich biodiversity and agricultural areas that characterize the eastern part of Costa Rica. Guápiles Airport primarily accommodates light aircraft, including small single-engine planes. The airport is especially valuable for tourists and locals traveling to the Tortuguero National Park and other nearby natural reserves, offering an alternative to the lengthy and sometimes challenging overland routes. 

Islita Airport (IATA: PBP, ICAO: MRIA)

Islita Airport is in the picturesque Nicoya Peninsula of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. This charming airstrip lies in close proximity to the small, artistic community of Punta Islita, making it a convenient gateway for travelers seeking the serene beauty and cultural richness of this coastal area. The airport primarily caters to small, single-engine aircraft, facilitating domestic flights and charter services that connect visitors with San José and other parts of Costa Rica. 

Los Chiles Airport (IATA: LSL, ICAO: MRLC)

Los Chiles Airport is a small domestic airport located in the northern region of Costa Rica, near the border with Nicaragua. Situated in the town of Los Chiles, this airport serves as a vital link for the Alajuela province, providing access to one of Costa Rica's less-explored areas, renowned for its rich biodiversity and proximity to the Rio Frío and the Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. The airport primarily accommodates light, single-engine aircraft, supporting domestic flights and charter services that connect the area with the rest of the country.

Nosara Airport (IATA: NOB, ICAO: MRNS) 

Nosara Airport is located in the Nicoya Peninsula of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, serving the popular surf and yoga retreat destination of Nosara. This regional airport is a crucial gateway for tourists and locals, providing easy access to the stunning beaches, lush jungles, and wellness resorts that define the area. Primarily catering to small, single-engine aircraft, Nosara Airport hosts domestic flights and charters from Costa Rica's main cities, including San José.

Palmar Sur Airport (IATA: PMZ, ICAO: MRPM) 

Palmar Sur Airport is a strategically located airstrip in the Puntarenas province of Costa Rica, serving the community of Palmar and the surrounding Southern Pacific region. This airport is particularly important for travelers exploring the Osa Peninsula, known for its rich biodiversity, including Corcovado National Park, and the Sierpe Wetlands. Palmar Sur Airport caters mainly to light, single-engine aircraft and is a hub for domestic flights, facilitating connections with Costa Rica's capital, San José, and other key locations. 

Quepos La Managua Airport (IATA: XQP, ICAO: MRQP) 

Quepos La Managua Airport, located just outside the vibrant town of Quepos on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, serves as an essential hub for travelers heading to the stunning Manuel Antonio National Park, known for its diverse wildlife, lush rainforests, and breathtaking beaches. This regional airport caters mainly to small, light aircraft, including private planes and domestic flights operated by Costa Rica's leading regional airlines such as Sansa Airlines. The facility has a paved runway that accommodates the specific needs of short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft, perfectly suited for the area's geographical challenges and environmental considerations. 

San Isidro de El General Airport (IATA: IPZ, ICAO: MRSI)

San Isidro Airport is situated in the Perez Zeledon region of Costa Rica, serving the bustling community of San Isidro de El General and the surrounding areas. This regional airport is strategically located in the country's southern zone and primarily accommodates light, single-engine aircraft.

Nicoya Airport (IATA: NCT, ICAO: MRNC)

Nicoya Airport serves the historic town of Nicoya, located in the heart of the Nicoya Peninsula, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. This small but significant airport plays a crucial role in connecting the interior parts of the peninsula with the rest of the country, facilitating access to one of Costa Rica's culturally rich and ecologically diverse regions. Primarily catering to light, single-engine aircraft, Nicoya Airport hosts domestic flights from key locations such as San José, including charters and scheduled services. 

Tambor Airport (IATA: TMU, ICAO: MRTR)

Tambor Airport is a key air gateway located on the Nicoya Peninsula in the Puntarenas province of Costa Rica, serving the quaint coastal town of Tambor and its surrounding areas.  Primarily accommodating light, single-engine aircraft, Tambor Airport hosts several domestic flights operated by Costa Rica's main regional airlines, such as Sansa Airlines, facilitating quick and convenient connections to San José and other parts of the country.