Which Airport in Costa Rica

San Jose (SJO) or Liberia(LIR)

Asking yourself which airport in Costa Rica do I fly into, you need to know that there is a big difference. While Costa Rica is a small country, it is not like trying to pick between JFK or La Guardia.

Here are some of the differences that will hopefully help you decide. Hopefully, it will help make the decision easy and get you ready for your adventure.


Costa Rica has many domestic airports but only two international airports. The first is located in San Jose (SJO) ‘s capital city, not to be confused with San Jose, CA – California.  I have seen someone mistake for San Jose, CA – Central America.

The second airport is Liberia. Liberia is one of the larger towns outside of the metropolitan area of Costa Rica.


This is a principal deciding factor for most when answering which airport in Costa Rica I fly into?

The San Jose (SJO) airport is located in the center of the country in what we refer to as the Central Valley, made up of Heredia, Alajuela, and San Jose. The actual airport is located in Alajuela, about 20 miles from San Jose.

The San Jose airport’s benefit is that you are not close to any of the great tourist attractions. There are a few waterfalls and volcanos nearby. So why is that a benefit. Well, you are neither far from anywhere in the country because you in the center. So it allows reasonable access to everywhere,

The Liberia (LIR) airport is located on the northern pacific side of Costa Rica near Nicaragua. This airport was built with the main purpose of allowing tourists and foreign residents easy access to the beaches of Guanacaste. This is anywhere between 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending on which beach you are going to.

The two airports without traffic are around 3 hours from each other driving.

Because of San Jose’s (SJO) location, you certainly have options to be more versatile than the Liberia (LIR) airport. Still, if you are thinking of Guanacaste beaches, then Liberia (LIR) is your spot.


The San Jose Airport (SJO) is always expanding and just recently added a couple of hundred yards to the runway. This has me wondering after flying in all these years on a short-runway if it was safe? Well, I’m still here so I guess it was safe enough.  The number of gates is many more than the Liberia airport.

Both airports service larger planes and most commercial carriers. 

Liberia Airport (LIR) has more land as it is more situated in a rural farmland area which San Jose Airport (SJO) is located in the city. 

Flight Availability

You will find more options to fly into the San Jose Airport. The San Jose services many more incoming and departing flights and a hub for domestic airlines and a few Central American airlines.

Both airports offer direct flights from certain cities in the US.

You can probably guess that Liberia Airport (LIR) has fewer crowds. The San Jose Airport (SJO) can feel like it is busting at the seems at times.


I would say nine times out of ten; you will find cheaper flights coming into San Jose. Some people even fly into San Jose and do the extra 3-hour drive when the savings make it worth it.

When asking yourself which airport I fly into in Costa Rica, remember other prices involved other than the flight. Take into account how far you might be from your destination. Another factor might be if you arrive a day early for cheaper airfare but have to pay for hotel and food.

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