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Flying into San Jose vs. Liberia Airport

Flying into San Jose vs. Liberia Airport

Price shouldn’t be the only factor when deciding which airport to fly into on your Costa Rica vacation. Both the San Jose and Liberia international airports have recently expanded to comfortably accommodate tourist traffic, but each provides distinct advantages depending on your travel plans. 

Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) is more convenient if you:

  • Want to use the Alajuela or San Jose area as a base for Central Valley day trips, or excursions to central Pacific beaches and Arenal.
  • Plan to visit Tortuguero, or the southern Caribbean beaches: both are four to five hours travel time from San Jose versus eight from Liberia.
  • Wish to explore the Osa Peninsula on the south Pacific coast – home to Corcovado National Park and the country’s most diverse wildlife.
  • Prefer budget accommodations in the local vicinity; both Alajuela and San Jose have considerably more backpacker options to choose from.
  • Want easy access to domestic flights, as Sansa and Nature Air make more daily connections in San Jose.

Daniel Oduber Quiros Airport (LIR) is more convenient if you:

  • Only plan on visiting Costa Rica’s north Pacific region, including the Nicoya Peninsula, and attractions such as Rincon de la Vieja and Santa Rosa National Parks.
  • Desire quick access to popular Guanacaste beaches like Tamarindo, Playa del Coco, Conchal, Flamingo, Hermosa, or Samara. Driving time to most is between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours versus four plus hours from San Jose.
  • Are willing to pay a slightly higher airfare to get a head start on your vacation and avoid driving time to Guanacaste beaches. Fares are typically 20% more than those into San Jose.
  • Have an all-inclusive vacation booked at one of Papagayo’s luxury resorts; transport time from Liberia is less than one hour. 
  • Are renting a car and prefer to avoid the traffic and congestion prevalent in San Jose.
  • Plan on continuing travels north to Nicaragua; the Penas Blancas border crossing is just over an hour from Liberia.