Flights to Costa Rica: The Ultimate Guide
Costa Rica is one of the most versatile vacation spots in the world. It's a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and people all over the world because it's a wonderland of natural attractions. So what are you waiting for? Grab your notebook and get ready to start planning the best vacation ever.
This guide provides expert advice on flying to Costa Rica as well as some useful tips and information.
- Where Are You Coming From to Visit Costa Rica?
- Nonstop Routes to Costa Rica
- Christmas Flights
- Private Charter Flights to Costa Rica
- Flying to Guanacaste vs. San Jose
- Airlines That Fly to Costa Rica
- When are Tickets Cheapest?
- Best Days of the Week to Travel
- Tips on Customs & Immigration
Time to look more at where you are. Where are you coming from, and how easy can you get to Costa Rica from your hometown? Are you a direct flight away from San Jose or Guanacaste? Or will you need to travel with layovers? Below, we'll make things easier for you to figure all this out by listing the top twenty busiest airports in the United States, followed by the top ten each in Canada, Europe, and Latin America. This will give you a better idea of the closest airport with direct flights to Costa Rica to you.
We'll simply label these airports with a "yes" or "no" to start with (plus airlines) and then delve a little deeper as to which of the two international airports in Costa Rica (San Jose or Guanacaste) receive flights from them. Cross-referencing this with the airline info above should make it easy to nail down the most convenient flight to get you to Costa Rica. Let's go!
Direct Flight to Costa Rica? United States’ Top Twenty Busiest Airports
- Atlanta: Yes (Delta)
- Los Angeles: Yes (Alaska, Delta, JetBlue, United)
- Chicago O'Hare: Yes (United)
- Dallas/Fort Worth: Yes (American)
- Denver: Yes (United)
- New York JFK: Yes (American, JetBlue)
- San Francisco: Yes (United)
- Seattle: No
- Orlando: Yes (Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit)
- Las Vegas: No
- Charlotte: Yes (American)
- Newark: Yes (United)
- Phoenix: No
- Houston: Yes (Southwest, United)
- Miami: Yes (American, Avianca, Frontier, Spirit)
- Boston: Yes (JetBlue)
- Minneapolis: Yes (Sun Country)
- Detroit: No
- Fort Lauderdale: Yes (JetBlue, Spirit)
- Philadelphia: No
Of the top twenty busiest airports in the United States, only five (Seattle, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Detroit, and Philadelphia) do not operate direct flights to Costa Rica at this time. The other 15 airports all offer direct flights, some with multiple airlines. Los Angeles, Miami, and Orlando are the cities with the most direct flights into Costa Rica.
Direct Flight to Costa Rica? Canada's Busiest Airports
Here are the top ten busiest airports in that country from 2023 to show you which ones have direct flights:
- Toronto: Yes (Air Canada, Sunwing, WestJet)
- Vancouver: No
- Calgary: Yes (WestJet)
- Montreal: Yes (Air Transat)
- Edmonton: No
- Ottawa: No
- Winnipeg: No
- Halifax: No
- Kelowna: No
- Victoria: No
As you can see from the above list, direct flights into Costa Rica from Canada were thin on the ground even before the pandemic. So unless you live near Toronto, Calgary, or Montreal, chances are you'll need to layover someplace (either in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Panama, or elsewhere) to get to Costa Rica. Toronto is the Canadian city with the most connections to Costa Rica.
Direct Flight to Costa Rica? Europe's Busiest Airports
- London Heathrow: Yes (British Airways)
- Paris: Yes (Air France)
- Amsterdam: Yes (KLM)
- Frankfurt: Yes (Lufthansa)
- Istanbul: No
- Madrid: Yes (Iberia, Iberojet)
- Barcelona: No
- London Gatwick: Yes (British Airways)
- Munich: No
- Rome: No
Five of the busiest airports in Europe offer direct connections to Costa Rica. The European city most connected to Costa Rica by air is Madrid, Spain.
Latin America's Busiest Airports
- Mexico City: Yes (Aeromexico, Volaris)
- São Paulo Guarulhos: No
- Cancun: Yes (Volaris)
- Bogota: Yes (Avianca, Wingo)
- Santiago: No
- Guadalajara: No
- Brasilia: No
- Lima: No
- São Paulo Congonhas: No
- Campinas: No
Looking at the list above, you can see that only three of the busiest airports in Latin America offer direct flights to Costa Rica. Two are in Mexico (Mexico City and Cancun), and one is in Colombia (Bogota).
Other Latin American cities with direct flights include some of Costa Rica's Central American neighbors – Panama City, Guatemala City, and San Salvador, but none of these rank as the busiest. Four of the top ten busiest airports in Latin America are in Brazil. And there has never been direct Brazil to Costa Rica flights in operation.
If you're traveling to Costa Rica from Latin America, your best bet is to fly through Bogota, Panama City, or Miami.
You can easily fly from the Southeast region of the United States to Costa Rica. There are several major airports in the Southeast that offer nonstop and connecting flights to Costa Rica:
- Atlanta International Airport (ATL): You can fly non-stop to San Jose (SJO) from Atlanta (ATL) with Delta Airlines any day of the week. With Frontier Airlines you can fly direct on Sundays and Thursdays.
- Miami International Airport (MIA): You can fly non-stop to San Jose (SJO) and Guanacaste (LIR) from Miami (MIA) with American Airlines every day of the week. Plus, find deals on connecting flights with multiple airlines.
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL): You can fly non-stop to San Jose (SJO) from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) with JetBlue and Spirit Airlines every day of the week.
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT): You can fly non-stop to San Jose (SJO) with American Airlines from Charlotte (CLT), every day of the week. There is also one flight on Saturdays from Charlotte(CLT) to Guanacaste (LIR).
- Nashville International Airport (BNA): There aren't any non-stop flights from Nashville to Costa Rica. However, you can find connecting flights.
- Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY): There aren't any airlines that provide direct flights from New Orleans to Costa Rica. However, you can find connecting flights.
After looking at some major airports, flight information and airlines, below you'll find more information on deals to Costa Rica:
Costa Rica is a destination that simply cannot be missed, and it seems airlines agree! With the recent surge in new routes and flights to this tropical paradise, travelers now have an abundance of options to choose from. For example, Frontier Airlines is now operating once-weekly service between Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport to Guanacaste Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica.
Last month, (March 2023) Southwest Airlines launched non stop flights from Denver International Airport to San Jose, Costa Rica, on Saturdays.
Delta Air Lines has recently announced its plans to expand its service to Latin America and the Caribbean even further. They're adding more seasonal flights than ever before, with expanded service from major U.S. hubs, making it the largest-ever holiday schedule to Latin America for Delta. The service will run from December 16, 2023, to January 7, 2024, giving travelers even more options to explore these incredible destinations.
There are nonstop direct flights to both San Jose (SJO) and Liberia, Costa Rica from various locations.
Let's start with San Jose (SJO), the most significant and busiest of the two international airports in Costa Rica. It serves the capital city of San Jose, although it's located outside of town in Alajuela. In this section of our Ultimate Guide to Flying to Costa Rica, we wanted to highlight what we've already mentioned above, but this time show you what exact direct routes fly into San Jose.
From the United States, you can fly directly into San Jose from the following cities:
- Fort Lauderdale
- Los Angeles
- New York
That works out 13 U.S. cities in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas. Elsewhere worldwide, Canada, Europe, and Latin America send most of their direct flights from Costa Rica to San Jose.
Below, find the other cities outside of the United States with nonstop flights to San Jose, Costa Rica:
- Guatemala City
- Mexico City
- Panama City
- San Salvador
We hope, though, to add more cities to this list soon. Indeed, according to Avianca, flights from Cali, Medellin, and Managua are on their way. So now let's look at Guanacaste Airport.
Direct, nonstop routes to Liberia, Costa Rica.
Until July 2021, Guanacaste Airport was called Liberia Airport. The rebranding was part of an effort to make the airport appear more inclusive to the province of Guanacaste in northern Costa Rica rather than the city of Liberia – Guanacaste's capital – itself. And there was also the small matter of avoiding confusion between the West African country of Liberia and the Costa Rican city of Liberia.
The official name of Guanacaste Airport is Daniel Oduber International Airport, named after a popular president in the 1970s. Everyone calls it Liberia (and now, Guanacaste) Airport, though. The airport code remains LIR for Liberia.
Putting aside that important detail about names and branding, Guanacaste Airport is Costa Rica's second-largest and second-most important after San Jose. In addition, it's the only airport in Costa Rica outside of San Jose that accepts commercial jet airliner traffic from abroad.
In this section of the guide, we'll show you the cities from where you can fly directly into Guanacaste Airport from the list of routes we've already given you.
From the United States, you can fly direct to Guanacaste Airport from the following cities:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Francisco
Interestingly, although Guanacaste is a smaller airport, it receives direct flights from more U.S. cities than San Jose, 15 compared to 13.
That said, some Guanacaste flights are seasonal vacation flights rather than regular schedules. But as it stands, you can get to Guanacaste Airport directly from cities in the states of California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.
Below, find more cities from around the world offering direct flights to Guanacaste Airport:
- Amsterdam (not precisely direct – it arrives in Guanacaste via San Jose)
For now, Amsterdam is the only international city with a service (via San Jose) to Guanacaste and the only European airline offering a transatlantic connection to LIR. In more normal times, Air Transat and Westjet offered direct flights to Guanacaste from Toronto, Montreal, and other Canadian cities, while TUI flew direct from the U.K. Copa also offered a service from Panama City. We'll update this info if and when these flights return.
It might not be the most ecologically sound way to get to Costa Rica, but it's undoubtedly the most comfortable. And if you're in a large enough group, it might not even be as expensive as you think. So yes, if you're so inclined, you can travel to Costa Rica on a private flight. And your last name doesn't need to be Kardashian to do so, either.
This section will discuss chartering a private plane rather than buying one. If you're interested in buying your private jet or already have one, there's not much advice we can give you on this page other than which Costa Rican airport to fly to (see below). Outside, we should ask you for advice rather than the other way round!
But if you're considering chartering a private plane, we can offer you some information about flying to Costa Rica.
Why Would You Hire a Private Flight in the First Place?
We've already seen many airlines flying in and out of Costa Rica worldwide. So what are the advantages of going private?
There's the luxury factor, as a private plane offers more comfort and style, which is a given. However, it also provides more convenience. You can pick your departure time without dealing with airline schedules. If you're traveling with young children or pets, flying private offers you no end of extra convenience. And these days of Covid, flying in a plane without being surrounded by total strangers in your space can also offer you peace of mind. You know all this already, of course. Everyone knows the benefits of flying private, even if most people have never had the pleasure of doing so. What you want to know is the price, right?
How Much Does It Cost for a Private Charter Flight to Costa Rica?
Private flights charge by the hour, depending on where you're coming from. They also charge by the size of the aircraft. So a smaller plane with a smaller passenger capacity will cost less than a larger plane. So you're looking at two factors: flight length and plane size.
When considering these factors, you also need to consider the range of your plane (how far your plane can travel before having to refuel). Smaller planes have lower ranges, while larger planes can fly further.
For a short journey of fewer than three hours (say, 3.5 hours at the absolute maximum), you can get away with a smaller light jet or turboprop, as long as you have a maximum of six passengers and aren't going crazy with the luggage. Three and a half hours in a light jet or turboprop would cover some southern Florida, some parts of the extreme south of the United States, and the Caribbean.
A flight like this would start at around $4,000 per hour, rising to about $5,500. But again, you're limited by the small number of passengers in your group. So if you took a midsize jet carrying eight or nine of you, you're looking from around $7,000 to $9,500 per hour.
A midsize jet can also travel further, increasing your range to around seven hours of flying time, enough to cover much of the United States. But again, here, it depends on the plane.
If you're a larger group or traveling from further afield, you'll need a heavy jet capable of long distances. These planes carry around 16 people up to 50, and prices range from $11,000 to $20,000 per hour.
So, say you're four people from Miami in a Cessna Citation CJ3 (a light, six-seater jet). The cost of that will come to $5,500 per hour for a three-hour flight. That's $17,500, which works out at $4,375 per person (or $2,917 per person if you're six people). Now, let's look at the same flight on a midsize jet. This time, there are nine of you on a Gulfstream G200. Again, at $9,500 per hour for a three-hour flight, that's around $3,100 each.
Sure, these flights aren't cheap. But neither are they multi-zillionaire prices.
You're looking at a few grand per person, which could be doable for some of you. However, there are landing fees to consider, based on the size and weight of the plane—these range from around $100 to $500.
One way to get the cost of flying the private way down is to take out the flexibility and look at "empty-legging" it, which means you hop on the coattails of someone else's flight – say, someone hires a private jet to Costa Rica for a vacation. That plane needs to travel back to the United States. You can snag it for up to 75% off the regular price if it's going anywhere near your way. Of course, there's no flexibility here, and you have to go where the plane's going, but it could be doable.
A final consideration with private flights is that you're not 100% tied down to San Jose or Guanacaste Airports unless you're on a larger jet. Smaller planes can use regional airports like Limon on the Caribbean side. In San Jose, many private flights come in and out of Tobias Bolaños Airport in Pavas, a district of San Jose. Landing fees are less, and you're much closer to the city center than you would be with SJO.
With the holiday season being one of the busiest times to travel, it's important to be strategic with your flight booking. Check out our top 5 tips for securing the best deals.
- Book early: Christmas is a popular travel season, December is the most expensive month and prices can rise quickly. To get the best deals, book your flights as early as possible, ideally several months in advance.
- Be flexible with your travel dates: Christmas and New Year's are peak travel times, and prices can be significantly higher on specific dates. Consider traveling a few days before or after the holidays to save money.
- Consider flying midweek: Flights are usually more expensive on weekends, so try to book your flights for a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday departure and return.
- Decide which airport to fly into: San Jose International Airport or Guanacaste Airport - and compare prices for both. Set up flight alerts for both airports to get the best deal.
- Choose economy class: Pick the most affordable travel experience.
We've rinsed out about as much as possible on airlines, routes, and cities with direct flights to Costa Rica. Now let's look at Costa Rica and your final destination when you get here, which is the fun stuff!
This guide mentions that Costa Rica has two international airports, Guanacaste (LIR) and San Jose (SJO). Depending on where you're going in Costa Rica, either LIR or SJO will be better for you in terms of travel time and convenience once you arrive in-country.
Here, we'll look at Costa Rica's most popular tourist destinations and determine which airport you should fly to for the most accessible access to that destination. Please note that we're only looking at the ease of transfer from SJO or LIR to a given destination in Costa Rica. We've already covered the ease of flights to SJO or LIR, so this will not affect what we're saying here.
It could well be that you live in a city where it's easier to travel to the other airport than the one we suggest for where you're going. In that case, you'll have a decision on how to best get to your Costa Rica destination, but at least you'll have all the info you need to make that decision.
We will start by discussing the differences between San Jose and Guanacaste Airports and then move on to which parts of Costa Rica are served best by each airport.
The official name of San Jose Airport is Juan Santamaria Airport, and it's officially not in San Jose at all but Alajuela, about half an hour outside of the capital. Its airport code is SJO, although old aviation hands still call it Coco, after the district of Alajuela where it was built in the 1950s. SJO is Costa Rica's biggest airport and the second-busiest in Central America after Tocumen in Panama City, Panama. In 2019, San Jose Airport handled over five million passengers.
Guanacaste Airport is the new name for Liberia Airport and is Costa Rica's second international airport. They rebranded Liberia to Guanacaste in July 2021 to make it more inclusive of the province of Guanacaste as a whole rather than the city of Liberia. The airport code remains LIR. The official name of Guanacaste Airport is Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, and it handled almost two million passengers in 2019. This airport is part of the VINCI Airports Group and has recently won numerous awards, including Best Airport in Latin America and Best Airport for Customer Service.
Why Would You Fly Into SJO, and Why Would You Fly Into LIR? What’s the Difference?
There are two main reasons to fly to any airport, and Costa Rica is no exception. The first reason is convenience. Is your final destination in Costa Rica closer or easier to reach from SJO or LIR?
Guanacaste (LIR) Airport
For the most part, the rule of thumb is that if you're flying into Guanacaste Airport, you're staying in that province. Guanacaste and its "Gold Coast" have been home to most of Costa Rica's tourist expansion in recent years. In addition, Guanacaste is where you'll find most of Costa Rica's larger beach resorts.
The communities of Tamarindo, Flamingo, Coco, and – in particular – the Papagayo Peninsula are all close to Guanacaste Airport, no more than an hour max. These places have seen the bulk of tourist development in Costa Rica, and Guanacaste Airport aims to make it far easier to reach them than ever before. In years gone by, before the LIR Airport expansion, it took at least five or six hours to get to these areas from San Jose. That's no longer a necessary journey if you fly into Guanacaste Airport instead.
If you're staying in any of the Guanacaste resorts, you're far better off flying into Guanacaste Airport.
San Jose (SJO) Airport
SJO Airport is more central and more or less covers the rest of Costa Rica. Therefore, if you're spending time in the capital city of San Jose or around the Central Valley, SJO is more convenient. Also, you're better off using SJO if you're heading to the southern Nicoya Peninsula (via ferry from Puntarenas), the Central Pacific coast (Puntarenas to Quepos/Manuel Antonio), and the Southern Zone (Quepos south to the Panama border, including Uvita, Dominical, and the Osa Peninsula. Finally, those travelers going to Costa Rica's Caribbean side are also better off using San Jose Airport.
Please note, using San Jose to get to either coast of Costa Rica still involves quite long transfer times (the shortest being about an hour to Puntarenas, but mostly quite a bit longer than that). But the places mentioned here are still much quicker and more convenient to reach than Guanacaste.
Using San Jose over Guanacaste for an Internal Flight in Costa Rica
SJO and LIR accommodate Costa Rica's network of internal flights, called puddle jumpers. These small planes take travelers to small airstrips all over Costa Rica and massively reduce travel time. But San Jose is the hub airport for these smaller airlines, and pretty much everything goes through there rather than Guanacaste. So if you're traveling around Costa Rica by air, you're better off using San Jose as your international entry and departure point.
Suppose you're going to the Arenal Volcano area (and most travelers to Costa Rica do) or Monteverde. In that case, there's not much difference between using Guanacaste Airport or San Jose. Both locations have the same travel time from either airport (two to three hours). In that case, it comes down to convenience for you and cost.
You'll find cheaper airfare to Costa Rica by flying into San Jose rather than Guanacaste because more airlines use San Jose – a busier airport with more competition. But don't take that to the bank. You can often find great deals in Guanacaste, especially during the December-April period, when seasonal charters fly into that airport. And prices to Guanacaste have decreased significantly in recent years as the airport expands and attracts more airlines. So the significant price differences we used to see no longer apply.
And if you offset any higher price of airfare into LIR against the transfer cost from San Jose, you're probably paying more to fly into SJO.
Scoping out which airlines fly to Costa Rica in the first place is an excellent place to start.
After all, your airline preferences might be based on where you live or have miles through a particular loyalty program. Here's a list of all the current carriers flying in and out of Costa Rica's two international airports.
- Aeromexico (Mexico)
- Air Canada (Canada)
- Air France (France)
- Air Transat (Canada)
- Alaska Airlines (United States)
- Avianca (Colombia)
- British Airways (United Kingdom)
- Condor (Germany)
- Copa (Panama)
- Delta (United States)
- Edelweiss (Switzerland)
- Frontier Airlines (United States)
- Iberia (Spain)
- Iberojet (Spain)
- JetBlue (United States)
- KLM (Netherlands)
- Lufthansa (Germany)
- Southwest (United States)
- Spirit (United States)
- Sun Country Airlines (United States)
- Sunwing (Canada)
- TUI Fly (United Kingdom)
- United Airlines (United States)
- Volaris (Mexico)
- WestJet (Canada)
- Wingo (Colombia)
U.S. carrier American Airlines is one of the most prominent players in the Costa Rica market. The American Airlines Costa Rica routes connect San Jose and Guanacaste airports directly to numerous American cities daily. Below, we list the current American Airlines routes operating to Costa Rica plus future routes opening later in 2021:
- Miami (MIA): American operates direct flights from Miami to Costa Rica (3x daily to San Jose (SJO), 2x daily to Guanacaste (LIR)). Flight time is approximately three hours.
- Dallas Fort Worth (DFW): If you're traveling from DFW to Costa Rica, you're most likely flying American Airlines. American offers two daily direct flights from Dallas to San Jose and a daily service from Dallas to Guanacaste. Flight time is around four hours.
- Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT): American Airlines offers a daily, direct service from Charlotte to San Jose and Guanacaste airports. Flight time is about 4.5 hours.
In November 2021, American Airlines resumed its direct services from JFK to Costa Rica. In addition, they added a thrice-weekly flight to San Jose from Chicago, complemented by a weekly service from the Windy City to Guanacaste Airport. Also, travelers from New York will have a daily option to both San Jose and Guanacaste. And you will see a new route between Guanacaste Airport and Austin, Texas, flying four times a week.
Delta Airlines is another U.S.-based carrier offering direct flights to Costa Rica. Its central hub is Atlanta, Georgia (ATL), from where it operates a direct flight each day to both San Jose (SJO) and Guanacaste (LIR). If traveling from the U.S. west coast, you can book Delta flights to Costa Rica from LAX (Los Angeles). Delta flies from LAX to Costa Rica airports as red-eyes through the night. To summarize Delta's Costa Rica operations, see below:
- Atlanta, GA (ATL): One flight daily to SJO, one flight daily to LIR
- Los Angeles, CA (LAX): One flight daily to SJO, one flight daily to LIR
U.S.-based United is one of the world's major airlines and operates several routes from various American cities to Costa Rica.
See below the current direct routes into Costa Rica offered by United:
- Chicago, IL (ORD): Once a week (Saturdays) to San Jose (SJO) with a flight duration of 4 hours and 55 minutes.
- Denver, CO (DEN): Twice a week (Mondays, Thursdays) to San Jose (SJO) with a flight duration of 5 hours and 5 minutes.
- Houston, TX (HOU): Three flights daily to San Jose (SJO), two flights daily to Guanacaste with a flight duration of 3 hours and 40 minutes.
- Los Angeles, CA (LAX): One flight daily to San Jose (SJO), thrice-weekly (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays) to Guanacaste (LIR) with a flight duration of 5 hours and 49 minutes.
- Newark, NJ (EWR): Two flights per day to San Jose (SJO), two flights per day to Guanacaste (LIR) with a flight duration of 5 hours 25 minutes.
- United started flying directly from San Francisco, CA (SFO) to Guanacaste (LIR) in December 2021 with a flight duration of 6 hours and 15 minutes.
Alaska Airlines is a U.S.-based carrier servicing the West Coast. It operates service from Los Angeles (LAX) to Costa Rica, primarily daily to San Jose (SJO) but also to Guanacaste Airport (LIR) four times a week.
Love 'em or hate 'em, low-cost carrier Spirit is now a solid feature in aviation between the United States and Costa Rica, offering ultra-low fares. Spirit offers daily routes from Florida to San Jose (SJO), Costa Rica, with a flight each from Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. In November 2021, Spirit planned to start a new daily route direct to San Jose from Miami (MIA).
Low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines operates cheap flights to Costa Rica from Florida, flying twice a week (Mondays and Fridays) to San Jose (SJO) from Miami (MIA) and Orlando (MCO) on Thursdays and Sundays. Frontier plans to add another twice-weekly route (Thursdays and Sundays) between Orlando and Guanacaste (LIR) Airport in November 2021. Pre-pandemic, Frontier operated direct from Denver to Costa Rica. However, that route still appears off the table for now.
This U.S. airline operates a daily service from Houston (HOU), Texas, to both San Jose (SJO) and Guanacaste (LIR) airports. It also operates a weekly (Saturdays) service to Guanacaste airport from Baltimore / Washington (BWI) and started a Saturday flight from Denver, CO, to Guanacaste (LIR).
JetBlue is a low-cost airline based in the United States. It offers daily flights to Costa Rica from Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, New York, and Los Angeles. Check out your JetBlue Costa Rica routes below:
- Boston, MA (BOS): One flight weekly (Saturdays) to Guanacaste Airport (LIR)
- Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL): Daily flights to San Jose (SJO)
- Los Angeles, CA (LAX): Daily flights to both San Jose (SJO) and Guanacaste (LIR) Airports
- Orlando, FL (MCO): Daily flights to San Jose (SJO)
JetBlue also offers twice-weekly direct flights to Costa Rica from New York City (JFK) during the December-April high season.
Sun Country Airlines
Sun Country Airlines is another low-cost airline out in the United States. It offers seasonal (December to April) direct flights from Minneapolis (MSP) to Guanacaste (LIR). This route operates one to four times a week during the Costa Rica high season, depending on the month. Saturdays are the one constant with Sun Country. Flight time is about 5.5 hours.
Colombian carrier Avianca is Latin America's second-largest airline, and its routes to Central America, including Costa Rica, have expanded in recent years. Avianca provides direct services into San Jose, Costa Rica, from the following cities:
- Bogota, Colombia (BOG): Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays; 1.5 hours
- Miami, FL (MIA): Daily
- San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL): 3x daily; 1 hour
- Guatemala City, Guatemala (GUA): Daily; 1.5 hours
- Los Angeles, CA (LAX): Daily nonstops; 6 hours
- New York, NY (JFK): Daily nonstops; 5 hours
Avianca announced it would open up new direct flights to San Jose from Mexico City, Cali and Medellin (Colombia), and Managua (Nicaragua).
Aeromexico is Mexico's national carrier and largest airline. It flies thrice-weekly (Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays), direct from Mexico City (MEX) to San Jose (SJO). The return leg from SJO to MEX departs on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The Flight time from Mexico City to San Jose, Costa Rica, is around three hours.
Volaris is a Mexican low-cost airline operating between Mexico, North America, and Central America. It operates flights into San Jose (SJO) from Cancun (CUN), Mexico, twice daily and from Mexico City (MEX) on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Volaris also operates a direct flight from Guatemala City (GUA), Guatemala daily except for Tuesdays.
Copa is Panama's national airline. It offers five direct daily flights between San Jose (SJO) and Panama City (PTY). In addition, Copa provides an extensive range of flights to the United States and Latin America from Panama City, so if you don't mind a layover on your trip to Costa Rica, this could be a good option. Copa also runs a daily flight between San Jose and Guatemala City.
Another Latin American low-cost airline, Wingo, flies into San Jose (SJO) from Panama City (PTY), Panama, twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. In addition, Wingo arrives in San Jose from Bogota (BOG), Colombia, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
After seven months of not flying to Costa Rica due to the pandemic, Air Canada is back. Air Canada provides nonstop service from Toronto and Montreal to Guanacaste. They also offer flights from Toronto to San Jose.
Air Transat flights are being resumed to either Costa Rica’s airport. But we highly recommend you check the website, as there are limited flights and seasonal to either Liberia Airport or San Jose.
It looks like WestJet is back on but only flying to the Liberia Airport currently. If you head their website, it shows San Jose, but if you look up a flight to San Jose, there was none found. The route to the Liberia airport from Toronto will operate weekly on a Saturday. WestJet is also coming from Calgary to Costa Rica.
You will see flights running with Sunwing from Toronto to Liberia. Make sure you check the dates as they are specific dates. And if you can make those dates, then a win for you!
Air France, the French national airline, operates a direct service between Paris, France, and San Jose, Costa Rica. This 11.5-hour flight operates between the two cities on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. When flying from Costa Rica to France, you arrive a day later (on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday).
British Airways has returned to flying to Costa Rica after being out for 18 months due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, you will not be able to find a direct from the U.K.; you will have to take a connecting flight through Europe (Madrid, for example) or North America.
Swiss airline Edelweiss offers a varying schedule of direct flights to San Jose (SJO), Costa Rica, from Zurich (ZRH), Switzerland, depending on the time of year. Edelweiss flies weekly between Zurich and San Jose on Fridays in August, September, and October. Then from November to April, it increases its service to three times a week – Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays – before dropping to a twice-weekly (Tuesdays and Fridays) for May, June, and July. This direct route is about 12 hours of flying time.
Spanish national carrier Iberia offers direct flights to Costa Rica from Europe, with a Madrid (MAD) to San Jose (SJO) service operating once daily, which is the only European airline offering a daily flight to Costa Rica. Flight time is around 11 hours for this route.
Iberojet is another Spanish carrier offering direct flights between Madrid (MAD) and San Jose (SJO). This airline began its Costa Rica operations in July 2021 and flew twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Dutch carrier KLM operates a triangle service connecting Costa Rica with Schiphol Airport (AMS) in Amsterdam. By triangle-service, we mean KLM departs Amsterdam and flies directly to San Jose (SJO). It then hops up to Guanacaste Airport (LIR) and flies back to the Netherlands from there. Flight time between the two countries is around 14 hours, and it flies this route three times per week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
The national airline of Germany, Lufthansa, flies direct from Frankfurt (FRA) to San Jose (SJO) on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The flight duration takes around 12 hours.
Condor is flying to Costa Rica, and t the flight is heading into San Jose. In addition, you will see flights from Dusseldorf and Munich.
TUI will fly you into Liberia Airport from the London Airport. You will want to plan with this airline because the flights book quickly. Give yourself at least 1 - 2 months to grab a flight.
And while we just gave you a ton of information about different airlines, make sure you head to the airlines' websites to confirm what we have found for you.
Once upon a time, before the internet, you used to use a travel agent to buy flights or go directly through the airline. You'd call them or head down to their office, and they'd hook up your flights for you through a computerized reservation system.
If you were in the office, the agent would sit on one side of a desk, and you another. They'd have access to airlines, flight numbers, and airlines on their screens and give you some options. Prices would be similar, although they might vary depending on the airline. You'd then choose your flight, pay for it, and return in a few days to pick up your tickets (or have them mailed to you). There was no real way of determining when tickets would be cheaper or not.
There's a reason for the history lesson. It's to point out how things used to be compared to how they are now. Nowadays, it's all changed. For example, airline ticket prices vary on a whim, and things can get confusing when looking for a flight deal.
Going forward, we'll assume you don't have air miles or belong to any individual airline's reward program. We'll also assume you're not traveling standby or working for an airline. This is about finding the cheapest airfare to Costa Rica as regular travel with no perks in front of you.
Those with air miles should know the value of your miles (or points) changes depending on the time of year. The busier travel times discussed below can mean your miles drop slightly in value. Check with your airline.
Airline Ticket Prices Vary on Two Fronts
First, there's the seasonal reason. It's cheaper or more expensive to fly to Costa Rica depending on how popular Costa Rica happens to be during a particular time of year. And then there are the whims of the airlines themselves. So let's take the seasonal reason first.
It makes sense to assume that nonstop flights to Costa Rica (or any flights, for that matter) will be less expensive when fewer people travel to Costa Rica. And Costa Rica has definite tourist seasons, so it's pretty easy to figure out when flights will be cheaper.
The high tourist season in Costa Rica runs in line with the dry season when it doesn't rain so much. The dry season (or "summer") runs from around mid-December until the end of April, and you can expect flights to be more expensive during that time. Not always, but generally. The rest of the year, from May to early December, is low season, or green season, and it's wetter, which means fewer tourists and lower airfare.
Reminder: This Is Our General Guide but Keep In Mind, Things Change
It would be best if you also considered school holidays in the United States, Canada, and other countries. Ditto national holidays like Labor Day or Thanksgiving, when many travels. You can expect flights to be more expensive during the school summer holidays, even during the green season in Costa Rica. Many people travel to Costa Rica in June, July, and August because school's out.
Flights to Costa Rica are most expensive over Christmas and Easter – school holidays coinciding with the dry season. They remain higher in January and February, dropping down in May before rising again in June, July, and August. September and October are the wettest months in Costa Rica, with the least tourists and the best flight deals. November is the same before you get the Thanksgiving spike and a slight drop in early December before Christmas travel kicks in, and prices shoot up.
Again, consider the above a general guide. You can find deals during peak travel times and also find yourself shocked at high prices in the low season. But consider this a general rule of thumb.
Check out our guide for the best time to visit Costa Rica for more info on each month's pros and cons (outside of flight prices).
Outsiders Looking In at Airlines and Flights
We say "outsiders" because we don't work for the airlines and have no actual insight into their pricing algorithms. As someone once said, they're a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma. But we'll try anyway.
The first thing to know about booking flights online is that airfare opens up about a year in advance. So you can buy your tickets anytime from the same day of travel to a year in the future. Beyond a year, you have to wait.
The best thing to do when looking for good flight deals is to get on it as soon as possible, once you know your travel dates. We recommend using an app like Hopper, which does a lot of the work of figuring things out for you. Hopper differs from booking sites like Expedia because its whole schtick is about finding the right time to book a flight. So, for example, if you're looking for flights from Atlanta to Costa Rica, you'd download the app to your phone, enter your route, and they'll show you a calendar telling you the dates with the cheapest and most expensive fares. If your dates are flexible, this is the perfect way to get a deal.
Remember the Days
There used to be a time when booking a flight on a Sunday at midnight was cheaper. Or Tuesdays at 3:00 PM. Or whatever. Travel sites have torn themselves into pieces going nuts about this, trying to beat the algorithms. According to Hopper, though, it doesn't matter. They say booking no later than three weeks before your trip is most important. Sure, there might be changes before that, but they're negligible. Booking within three weeks, though, pretty much guarantees a more expensive flight.
One note on booking three weeks in advance. Treat that as the latest time you should book. If you're traveling to Costa Rica during the December-April high season, please book as far in advance as possible – like months. That especially goes for travel over Christmas, Easter, and February (Spring Break season).
So the general rules here are to avoid peak travel dates and book over three weeks in advance (unless it's high/peak season when you should book as far as possible). So now we'll delve down a little further on this theme and look at the best days of the week to travel to Costa Rica.
Most people tend to travel at weekends, or failing that, on Fridays. It makes sense, after all. However, if you're traveling to Costa Rica for a week, you want to make the most of your time and stretch it out if possible.
Traveling on a Friday means you could eke out a couple of extra nights without losing work time. In addition, your seven-night vacation can become an eight or nine-night one if you fly home on Saturday or Sunday. What's not to love about that?
Well, one thing not to love is that you're not alone and everyone else is doing the same thing, which means that Fridays and Sundays are the busiest, most expensive days of the week to travel. If you can avoid these days, do it unless you don't mind paying more money and dealing with more lines and crowds at the airport.
Midweek is vital for those with flexible schedules who want the most straightforward, stress-free flight that isn't private.
It's a long-known and famous old travel hack to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For the most part, airports are less busy on those days, and planes are emptier. Plus, there's the question of price. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are generally cheaper.
Mondays and Thursdays are the next best days to fly for the same reasons, with Saturdays also coming in as an excellent second-best option if you can't make Tuesday or Wednesday. But, it's because Saturday is crammed between those busy Fridays and Sundays. In addition, Saturday is the heart of the weekend, and who wants to be traveling then?
As ever with flights, this is just a general guide. Holidays – in either your country of origin or Costa Rica – can throw the whole thing out of whack.
For example, a long weekend in the United States like Thanksgiving (always on a Thursday) can turn those usually cheap and peaceful Tuesday and Wednesday traveling days into chaos. Remember the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles?
It's a myth that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year, but it's close. If you plan to travel that in November, why not on Thanksgiving Thursday itself? You'll have the skies much more to yourself and get to celebrate turkey day on the beach if you're early enough.
Same thing with July 4th, Christmas, and, well, just about any other holiday.
U.S. Independence Day is another super-busy time to fly. And if July 4th falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then either side of the weekend becomes tougher than it would typically be. So, like Thanksgiving, try to travel on the 4th and avoid the crowds.
Christmas is another time to throw the established rules out of the window. Avoiding December 23rd and 24th is a good idea, ditto the 26th and the days around New Year. Remember what we said earlier about flying to Costa Rica over this period? It's the busiest time of the year for tourism, and so never completely ideal. But if you can fly on December 25th, December 31st, or January 1st. You might find it slightly less hectic.
You've followed this guide and found some great flight tickets to Costa Rica from the city of your choice with the airline of your choice. You have a tremendous direct connection at a reasonable price, midweek, with little stress. All you have to do now is show up at the airport, check in, board, take off, travel, and arrive. Now what?
Of course, you need your passport to travel to Costa Rica (valid for at least three months after your arrival date). You're going nowhere without that.
Upon arrival, the norm used to give travelers 90 days in the country, which is the maximum allowed. However, the official rule for immigration is to provide tourists UP TO 90 DAYS, and anything from zero to 90 is up to their discretion.
As an obvious tourist on vacation, you'll be fine, although you'll now see they give you the exact number of days you're insured for or when your flight home departs, instead of an automatic 90 days. You'll see how long they give you by the number they write over your entry stamp in your passport. Once you're stamped into Costa Rica, it's over to baggage claim and customs. Try to travel as light as possible to avoid waiting around baggage claim, but if you can't do that, mark your cases to make them distinguishable and easy to notice on the carousel. Then, pick up your bags, head to customs, put them through the x-ray, and you're out the door onto the street.
As a client of Costa Rican Vacations, we offer a unique concierge service to help you through the arrival process from the moment you come off the plane. We'll take you through immigration, baggage claim, customs, and out to meet your driver to take you to your hotel. Ask us about this. It's a great perk to have, especially during these strange times.
So That's Your Ultimate Guide To Flying To Costa Rica
Now all you have to do is enjoy your vacation and then reverse on the other side. One thing to remember when traveling home is that you might need to take a Covid-19 test to enter the country you live in. Our team on the ground here will help you with all aspects of getting Covid tests, so don't hesitate to ask them.
Which airlines are flying to Costa Rica?
The major airlines are back to flying to Costa Rica. Check out United, Delta, American, Air Canada, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Jetblue, and British Airways.
What month is the cheapest to fly to Costa Rica?
Usually, from May to early December is when it is the low season or green season. As a result, it is wetter, which means fewer tourists but lower airfare.
Where can I fly from Costa Rica?
The two international airports are San Jose and Liberia (Guanacaste). Still, other airports available are Nosara, Carrillo/Samara, Quepos, La Fortuna, Punta Islita, Tamarindo, Tambor, Tortuguero, and Golfito, to name some of the smaller airports.
What cities have direct flights to Costa Rica?
From the Guanacaste Airport: Atlanta, Amsterdam, Austin, Baltimore/Washington, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Newark, New York, Orlando, and San Francisco
From the San Jose Airport: Amsterdam, Atlanta, Bogota, Boston, Cancun, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Frankfurt, Fort Lauderdale, Guatemala City, Houston, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mexico City, Miami, New York, Newark, Orlando, Panama City, Paris, San Salvador, Toronto, and Zurich.
What is the best airline to fly to Costa Rica?
It truly depends on where you are coming from, what city you are flying into, and what you prefer. At least, that's how we see it. A Travel Consultant may love one airline, but another may hate it. So, we want to provide you more with your time in Costa Rica than picking what airline.