Where to Fly in Costa Rica: 9 Best Vacation Spots in Costa Rica

by Global Viewpoint
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Have you been wondering where to fly in Costa Rica? Are you planning a vacation to this gorgeous Central American country but don’t know where exactly to go? Or what to see and do once you’re there? In this post, I want to help you out with this. I’ll show you what airport to fly into for Costa Rica, where you’ll want to fly if you want the best beaches, and the most efficient ways to get around.

Costa Rica is a fascinating country. It’s among the smallest countries in the world, but the animals and natural beauty you’ll find here make you forget about that immediately. What you always hear when people talk about Costa Rica is the biodiversity. In this one tiny nation, you’ll encounter rainforests, temperate forests, beaches, and coasts. The country is also home to wildlife such as toucans, howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas, jaguars, and so much more.

Of course, one pretty amazing aspect of Costa Rica, one I alluded to above, is that it has coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The driving distance between the coasts is only several hundred miles. That means you can drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea in just a few hours. All this planning and coordination means that you are definitely going to need to know where to fly into Costa Rica.

So let’s get into it! We’re about to take off for Central America. Let’s settle in and learn about where to fly in Costa Rica.

This article about where to fly in Costa Rica contains affiliate links, where I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Quick tip on where to fly in Costa Rica for cheap

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Top Costa Rican Getaways: Where to Fly in Costa Rica in 2023

Whether you’re looking to experience Afro-Caribbean history and culture, sample some tasty regional delicacies, explore the tropical wilderness, or catch some rays on a gorgeous, golden beach, Costa Rica is an unforgettable vacation spot. Here’s where to fly in Costa Rica in 2023:

1. San Jose

Nestled in the heart of Costa Rica, San Jose is a vibrant and bustling capital city that offers a perfect blend of cultural immersion, historical landmarks, and modern amenities. A visit to San Jose is an essential part of any Costa Rican adventure, providing travelers with a unique insight into the country’s rich heritage and urban charm.

The cityscape of San Jose, one of the most popular travel destinations in Costa Rica

San Jose serves as a central hub, making it a convenient starting point for exploring other popular destinations within Costa Rica. From here, travelers can easily access the beautiful cloud forests of Monteverde, the breathtaking Arenal Volcano National Park, and the stunning beaches of Manuel Antonio, among other attractions.

The sunset over Monteverde in Costa Rica

Explore the iconic National Theater, an incredible architectural gem that hosts captivating a wide range of performances from local and international artists. Dive into Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian past at the Gold Museum, home to an impressive collection of ancient gold artifacts. Or, wander through the historic neighborhood of Barrio Amón, with its beautifully restored colonial mansions, art galleries, and charming cafes.


 
 
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2. Cartago

After visiting Costa Rica’s current capital, step back in time with a trip to the country’s former capital, Cartago. A truly captivating city, Cartago holds immense historical and cultural significance. Travelers seeking to delve into the country’s past by exploring colonial architecture and sacred sites will find Cartago to be a treasure trove of excitement and discovery.

The view of the Cartago Valley from the summit of Irazu Volcano in Costa Rico

The Santiago Apostol Parish Ruins, remnants of a once-majestic church destroyed by earthquakes, offer a poignant glimpse into Cartago’s history. Visitors can explore the ruins and appreciate the intricate stonework that has stood the test of time.

Afterward, a visit to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles is a must. One of Costa Rica’s most revered religious sites, the basilica houses a sacred relic, the Black Madonna. Pilgrims from all over the country flock here to seek blessings and pay their respects.

Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, a historic structure in Cartago, one of the best places to fly in Costa Rica

For nature enthusiasts, a hike up the majestic Irazú Volcano is a breathtaking experience. Enjoy panoramic views of Cartago and beyond as you ascend to the summit, where a massive crater awaits. On a clear day, you may even catch a glimpse of both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Cartago is also home to the Orosi Valley, a haven of natural beauty. Explore the picturesque town of Orosi, visit the colonial church, and soak in the tranquility of the lush surroundings. Cartago will surely be high up on any tourist’s list of where to fly in Costa Rica.

3. Heredia

Known as the “City of Flowers,” Heredia boasts a uniquely serene atmosphere that offers the perfect escape from bustling city life. Surrounded by verdant landscapes, Heredia’s central point of attraction is its stunning Central Park. Here, locals and visitors alike can gather to relax and soak in the charming Costa Rican ambiance. 

A nighttime view of Heredia, Costa Rica's "city of flowers"
gsdgs | Credit: Victor Quirós A

If you’re interested in biodiversity, don’t pass up a chance to visit INBio Park. This ecological park is home to a wide range of plant and animal species. It provides an excellent opportunity to learn about Costa Rica’s remarkable natural heritage through interactive exhibits, nature trails, and butterfly gardens.

Alternatively, those looking to experience Costa Rica’s local arts scene can take in a show at the Heredia Theater. This beautifully restored architectural gem hosts a variety of cultural performances, including music, dance, and theater.

Barva Volcano, one of the most popular natural attractions in Costa Rica
gsdgsd | Credit: MadriCR

A short distance from Heredia, adventure awaits at the Barva Volcano. Embark on a hiking expedition through lush cloud forests and encounter the distinctive flora and fauna, then ponder the awe-inspiring crater lakes that dot the volcanic landscape. They’re like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

4. Liberia

The city of Liberia is a gateway to the natural wonders of Costa Rica’s scenic Guanacaste Province. It offers an ideal balance of cultural experiences and outdoor adventures. The whole region is steeped in history, making Guanacaste Museum an essential stop for first-time visitors. Discover artifacts, photographs, and exhibitions that showcase the area’s historical significance and learn about the traditions of Guanacaste.

Palm trees alongside the shore of Playa Hermosa, one of the best beaches to fly to in Costa Rica

Elsewhere, nature enthusiasts will be captivated by the nearby Rincon de la Vieja National Park. This is a haven of volcanic landscapes, dense forests, and cascading waterfalls. Embark on exhilarating hikes, spot wildlife, and take a dip in natural hot springs, immersing yourself in the park’s extraordinary beauty.

Beach lovers, meanwhile, won’t want to miss the Papagayo Gulf. There, on the shores of Playa Hermosa and Playas del Coco, vacationers can dive into crystal-clear waters, go snorkeling or scuba diving to discover vibrant marine life, or simply bask in the sun on the golden sands.

A pair of Brahmin bulls at Rincon de la Vieja National Park,

Finally, adventure seekers can embark on thrilling canopy tours, ziplining through the treetops and enjoying breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Horseback riding excursions, ATV tours, and river rafting adventures are also popular activities in the area, offering adrenaline-fueled experiences. If you’ve been wondering where to fly in Costa Rica for unparalleled thrills, now you know the answer.

5. Quepos

Situated on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, Quepos offers excitement and enchantment in equal amounts. This charming town of Quepos is a true hidden gem, with its abundant outdoor activities, local wildlife, and laid-back coastal vibes.

Sunset over Quepos, Costa Rica
gsdg | Credit: kansasphoto

First and foremost, Quepos is most famous for its proximity to the renowned Manuel Antonio National Park, an earthly paradise teeming with exotic flora and fauna. Touring the park’s well-maintained trails will lead you through dazzling rainforests and postcard-perfect beaches. Keep your eyes peeled for the many monkeys, sloths, colorful birds, and vibrant butterflies that call this park home.

Central American squirrel monkeys in a tree in Quepos, a popular destination in Costa Rica

After a long day of wildlife-watching, head back to town. Here you can explore the lively Marina Pez Vela, a hub of activity with its waterfront restaurants, shops, and bars. Relax with a refreshing drink as you watch the boats come and go, or sample fresh seafood at one of the many seaside eateries.

6. Puerto Limon

The city Puerto Limon invites travelers to experience the vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture and the natural beauty of Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. It offers a winning blend of vibrant markets and captivating eco-tourism experiences, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking an authentic Caribbean experience in Costa Rica.

A golden-sand beach along the cost of Puerto Limon, another popular place to fly in Costa Rica

To delve into Puerto Limon’s history and culture, a visit to the Museo Etnohistorico de Limon is highly recommended. This museum provides insight into the Afro-Caribbean heritage of the region, showcasing artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the story of the local communities and their storied traditions.

Alternatively, you can experience the culture firsthand at the bustling Central Market. Here, tourists can browse through local handicrafts, sample tropical fruits, and savor traditional Afro-Caribbean dishes. Indulge in flavorsome dishes like rice and beans, coconut-infused stews, and fresh seafood, showcasing the region’s distinct culinary legacy.

A bend in one of the Tortuguero Canals, which snake throughout Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

Last but not least, embark on a boat tour through the Tortuguero Canals. This labyrinth of waterways winds through dense mangroves and rainforests. Along the way, you may see howler monkeys, tropical birds, or even the occasional manatee. The canals also serve as nesting grounds for sea turtles, offering a unique opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures during their nesting season.

7. Tamarindo

Tucked along the dazzling Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Tamarindo is a beach lover’s paradise and an ideal destination for travelers seeking thrilling adventures and pristine natural beauty. With its golden sandy shorelines, world-class surfing waves, and abundant marine life, Tamarindo has something for everyone.

srghdrd | Credit: Tamarindowiki

Tamarindo’s main draw is its stunning beaches, such as Playa Tamarindo and Playa Langosta. These idyllic stretches of sand provide a picturesque setting for sunbathing, swimming, and leisurely walks along the shore. Surf enthusiasts will find themselves in heaven as Tamarindo offers fantastic waves for both beginners and experienced surfers alike. Take a surf lesson, catch a wave, and feel the exhilaration as you ride the rolling tides.

For an unforgettable underwater experience, snorkeling and scuba diving in the warm Pacific waters off Tamarindo is a must. Dive into a magical world of vibrant coral reefs, encounter exotic tropical fish, and perhaps even swim alongside majestic sea turtles and gentle manta rays. After a day of exploration and adventure, unwind at one of Tamarindo’s beachfront restaurants, where you can savor delicious seafood dishes while enjoying a spectacular sunset over the ocean.

8. Santa Teresa

From its home on Costa Rica’s pristine Nicoya Peninsula, the small town of Santa Teresa serves as one of the best places to fly in Costa Rica if you’re looking for a more laid-back vacation experience. This bohemian haven is the perfect place to create cherished memories with friends and family.

Sunset on the horizon near Santa Tereza, one of the best places to fly in Costa Rica

Santa Teresa’s culture is characterized by its welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. The town attracts a diverse mix of people from different corners of the globe who are drawn to its natural beauty, waves, and fun, artsy vibe. Here, you’ll find a lively community of artists, musicians, yogis, and entrepreneurs who have embraced a more unconventional way of life.

Known for its thriving yoga and wellness scene, Santa Teresa is the perfect spot to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul through yoga classes and wellness retreats. Or, you can visit Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, a protected area teeming with diverse vegetation and wildlife.

Montezuma Waterfalls near Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Outside Santa Teresa are even more wonders to be found. A short drive away, the Montezuma Waterfalls offer breathtaking scenery and a chance to cool off in the refreshing pools below. For more waterside adventure, take a boat tour to Isla Tortuga. This picturesque island is famous for its white sand beaches and excellent snorkeling opportunities. It’s an ideal location for a delicious beachside barbecue.

9. Jaco

Located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Jaco is a captivating beach town that offers an array of attractions and activities for travelers. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, water sports, or happening nightlife, there’s never a shortage of things to see and do in Jaco.

Aerial view of the shoreline near Jaco, Costa Rica

Looking to explore Costa Rica’s great outdoors? Take a boat tour on the Tárcoles River and witness the impressive population of crocodiles that inhabit its waters. You can also spot various bird species and enjoy the scenic mangrove forests. Or spend the day at Jaco Ropes Adventure Park. Here you can challenge yourself with zip-lining, canopy tours, and aerial obstacle courses set amidst the lush rainforest.

A crocodile swimming in Tarcoles River near Jaco, one of the most popular places to fly in Costa Rica

When hunger strikes, Jaco can please your palate with a variety of restaurants and eateries serving up mouthwatering dishes. Sample local delicacies and savor international cuisine that caters to all tastes and preferences. Then, in the evening, discover Jaco’s incredible nightclub scene. Enjoy live music, dance to the rhythms of Latin beats, and mingle with the locals at an assortment of beachfront bars, clubs, and lounges

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about where to fly in Costa Rica

International travel is always an exciting prospect. However, it’s also one that requires a lot of preparation. Whether you’ve been to Costa Rica a hundred times before or you’re planning your first visit there now, my goal is to help make your vacation unforgettable. Here are some frequently asked questions about where to fly in Costa Rica, along with their answers.

Which airport should I fly into for Costa Rica?

When it comes to choosing the perfect airport in Costa Rica for your arrival, let me take you on a whimsical tour of options:

  1. Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO): Picture yourself landing in the vibrant heart of Costa Rica, embraced by lush greenery and a warm breeze. Located in the capital city of San José, this airport serves as the main gateway to the country. It’s like stepping into a bustling rainforest-themed airport where toucans serve as flight attendants and sloths navigate the baggage claim. From here, you can easily embark on your thrilling Costa Rican escapades.
  2. Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR): For those who yearn for a sun-soaked beach getaway right from the moment of touchdown, LIR is the airport for you! Nestled in Liberia, the gateway to Costa Rica’s enchanting Pacific coastline, this airport is your ticket to sandy shores, swaying palm trees, and endless waves of adventure. As you step off the plane, you might even be greeted by a friendly macaw offering a colorful lei to enhance your tropical experience.
  3. Limón International Airport (LIO): Are you seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure, shrouded in mystery and vibrant Caribbean vibes? Then LIO is your mystical portal to Costa Rica’s stunning east coast. Prepare to be greeted by rhythmic reggae beats, exquisitely dressed dancers, and an explosion of flavors as you disembark from your flight. You’ll feel as though you’ve entered a secret island hideaway, complete with coconut-scented air and palm-fringed beaches.

When considering the best places to fly into Costa Rica, it’s important to envision your ideal Costa Rican getaway. Whether it’s exploring rainforests, lounging on white sandy beaches, or immersing yourself in the Caribbean spirit, there are so many destinations to discover!

How can I save money when flying to Costa Rica?

International travel is never exactly cheap, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be affordable. 

Remember that flight prices vary significantly depending on the time of year and day of the week. Consider traveling during the shoulder season or midweek when airfares tend to be cheaper. Another good tip is to book in advance. Last-minute bookings are often more expensive, so try to plan and book your trip ahead of time. It’s a great way of securing better deals.

If you really want to save money when thinking about where to fly in Costa Rica, though, my biggest recommendation would be to sign up for Going (formerly known as Scott’s Cheap Flights). Since joining Going, I’ve saved thousands of dollars on discount airfare to Costa Rica and other destinations all over the world. The premium membership, in particular, has proven extremely useful, helping me uncover a wealth of hidden bargains.

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Colorful foliage along the Costa Rican coast

What is the main airport for Costa Rica?

The main airport servicing Costa Rica is Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), located in Alajuela. It’s just a short drive from the capital city of San Jose. This makes it a great launchpad to reach any of a wide range of destinations. SJO is the primary gateway for international travelers visiting Costa Rica, serving numerous airlines and offering flights to and from many other airports worldwide.

That said, if you’re wondering what airport to fly into for Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) is also a good choice. Located in Liberia, Guanacaste, LIR isn’t as busy as SJO. However, it does serve as a convenient entry point for visitors seeking popular beach destinations in the Guanacaste province.

Both airports provide essential services for travelers and are well-connected to major cities and tourist destinations in Costa Rica. It’s recommended to check with your airline or travel agent to determine which airport is most convenient for your travel plans in Costa Rica.

What cities do you fly into in Costa Rica?

Welcome to one of my favorite countries of Costa Rica, where exciting cities beckon you with open arms! Let’s embark on a flight to CR and discover the 3 main cities you can land in:

  1. San José: Prepare for a thrilling touchdown in the beating heart of Costa Rica! San José, the capital city, offers a delightful blend of modernity and rich cultural heritage. As you descend, catch a glimpse of the bustling markets, stunning architecture, and captivating museums that await you.
  2. Liberia: Nestled in the enchanting Guanacaste province, Liberia is your gateway to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Imagine stepping off the plane and being embraced by warm, tropical breezes as you embark on your beachside adventures. Get ready to soak up the sun and dive into a world of surf, sand, and sheer bliss.
  3. Limón: Prepare to be enchanted by the vibrant spirit of the Caribbean as you land in Limón. This colorful city on Costa Rica’s east coast welcomes you with open arms and a rhythmic beat. Immerse yourself in the Afro-Caribbean culture, tantalize your taste buds with exotic flavors, and explore the pristine beaches that lie beyond.

So choose your city of arrival wisely and let the magic of Costa Rica unfold before your eyes. Whether you prefer the urban charms of San José, the coastal allure of Liberia, or the Caribbean rhythms of Limón, your Costa Rican adventure awaits!

What documents do I need when flying into Costa Rica?

If you’re planning to visit the best places to fly in Costa Rica, you will need the following travel documents:

  • Valid Passport: Ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended departure date from Costa Rica.
  • Return or Onward Ticket: You will be required to show proof of a return or onward ticket. This indicates your intention to leave Costa Rica within the authorized period of stay.
  • Visa (if applicable): Citizens of many countries, including the United States, Canada, the European Union, and many others, do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica for tourism purposes. The length of permitted stay varies depending on your nationality. Visitors from visa-exempt countries are generally granted a stay of up to 90 days. However, it’s essential to check visa requirements specific to your country before traveling.
  • Health Declaration Form: Prior to arrival, you will need to complete an online Health Declaration Form, providing information about your health status and travel history.
A toucan perched on a branch in the Costa Rican rainforest

Is it better to fly into San Jose or Liberia Costa Rica?

Looking for the best places to fly into Costa Rica and you’re deciding between San José or Liberia? Let’s uncover the secret charms of both and help you decide:

San José: If you’re a culture vulture craving a taste of city life mixed with historical wonders, San José is your go-to destination. Marvel at colonial architecture, wander through bustling markets, and indulge in delicious local cuisine. It’s the perfect launchpad for exploring Costa Rica’s captivating rainforests, volcanoes, and enchanting cloud forests.

Liberia: Are you a sun-seeker yearning for endless beachy bliss? Look no further than Liberia! This vibrant city is your gateway to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, where pristine beaches, azure waters, and thrilling adventures await. Unleash your inner beach bum, catch some waves, and soak up the tropical vibes.

So, when you’re looking for cities to fly to in Costa Rica, remember to consider your travel desires. If you’re after urban exploration and a gateway to natural wonders, San José is your match. But if you crave beachside bliss and coastal escapades, let Liberia be your tropical haven. The choice is yours!

What is the best time of year to visit Costa Rica?

The best time to visit Costa Rica depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to engage in. It’s important to note that Costa Rica has a tropical climate with two primary seasons. This includes the dry season (December to April) and the rainy season (May to November).

Costa Rica’s dry season is characterized by warm and sunny weather throughout most of the country. This makes it an ideal time for beach activities, exploring national parks, and outdoor adventures. However, the dry season is a popular time for tourists. So, expect more crowds at popular destinations and higher prices for accommodations and activities.

Alternatively, Costa Rica’s rainy season brings frequent showers, which result in dense green landscapes and vibrant vegetation. For nature lovers, this is a great time to experience Costa Rica’s rainforests in their full glory.

Additionally, the rainy season is considered the “off” season. This makes it easier to save money on transportation, lodging, and other expenses. This makes it one of the cheapest places to fly in the spring and summer. Moreover, there are fewer tourists, which means more peace and quiet.

Where is the best place to fly in Costa Rica?

When choosing the best place to fly into Costa Rica, Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) takes the crown. It’s located near the capital city of San Jose, making it a very convenient city to fly into Costa Rica. From there, you’ll be perfectly positioned to explore Costa Rica’s diverse wonders. This includes rainforests, volcanoes, wildlife, and exhilarating adventures. So fasten your seatbelt and get ready for an unforgettable journey in the heart of this tropical paradise!

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