Although Costa Rica is a relatively small country, road travel can prove very time consuming so it’s essential that you fly into the correct airport at the beginning of your trip. There are two international airports located at Liberia (LIR) in the Pacific north-west and at San José (SJO), the nation’s capital, in the country’s central belt.
Liberia Airport: Visitors who are heading for the exclusive Papagayo Peninsula, the lively resorts of Playa del Coco and Playa Tamarindo or the beautiful beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula should fly into Liberia. Many North American airlines provide services to Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport which lies 14km west of the city. There are also direct services from London and Amsterdam. Travellers can pre-book airport transfers from Costa Rica’s Liberia Airport to the Pacific Coast and beyond and have a driver awaiting them on arrival.
San José Airport: San José is the recommended choice for visitors to the Caribbean coast and the Pacific beaches in the central belt and south of the country. If you’re heading for Monteverde to see the Arenal Volcano you can fly to either Liberia or San José. The Juan Santamaría International Airport lies 17km north-west of the country’s capital and is also served by many flights from North America as well as services from all over Latin America and some major European cities. Airport transfers from Costa Rica’s San José Airport can be pre-booked to provide transport to all destinations in the region.
The majority of domestic flights operate out of San José so this is the airport of choice for anyone planning on travelling around the region by air. There are also domestic services from Tobías Bolaños Airport (SYQ) which lies on the north-west edge of San José. Overland travellers might find it convenient to fly into one of the airports and out of the other so as to plan an itinerary covering much of the country.
Where to Visit from Costa Rica’s Liberia Airport (LIR)
The Papagayo Peninsula is located 50km west of Liberia Airport on the Pacific north-west coast of Costa Rica in the province of Guanacaste. This private peninsula is an example of sustainable luxury tourism which has just a handful of upmarket resorts including the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort, the Four Seasons Costa Rica and Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica. With its tropical forests, 25km of pristine beaches and impeccable facilities including an 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course this is a destination for wealthy family holidays. Nearby is the enormous UNESCO Área de Conservación Guanacaste National Park which is home to an unimaginable selection of flora and fauna including one of the region’s most important beaches for sea turtles. Other attractions within the vicinity include the Santa Rosa, Palo Verde, Rincon de la Vieja and Tenorio Volcano National Parks
Playas del Coco
The coast to the south of the Papagayo Peninsula leads to some major tourist development around Playas del Coco. This partytime resort lies just 27km south-west of Liberia International Airport and is best known for the beautiful beaches, watersports and lively nightlife. Further south (70km from the airport) is Tamarindo Beach which is another hotspot frequented mostly by American tourists. This popular beach resort is well equipped with affordable accommodation and plenty choice of bars and restaurants. For something more serene it’s well worth continuing your journey south into the Nicoya Peninsula and chilling out at some of Costa Rica’s most laid-back resorts.
Lying further down the Pacific coast, this is Costa Rica’s largest peninsula which is home to many of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. The coastal route heading further south passes through numerous chilled beach resorts such as Playa Azul, Playa Samara, Puerto Carrillo and Playa Manzanillo before arriving at the beautiful beaches around Santa Teresa and Malpaís which have grown into particularly attractive surf resorts. Just north-east of Malpaís is Montezuma which is well-known for its waterfalls, nature reserves and nudist beaches.
Anyone visiting Costa Rica for its natural attractions will have the town of Monteverde in Puntarenas on their ‘to-do’ list. Standing at an altitude of 1440 metres this small town provides access to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve which is one of the country’s top destinations for ecotourism. The area’s humidity creates a constant mist over the rainforest which is home to an incredible range of flora and fauna. The town lies approximately 125km from both Liberia and San José Airports so there’s little advantage of choosing one of these gateways over the other.
Where to Visit from Costa Rica’s San José Airport (SJO)
La Fortuna de San Carlos
Costa Rica’s Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal is home to one of the country’s active volcanos although there have been no eruptions in the last decade. Visitors to this national park would be advised to stay in La Fortuna which lies 115km north-west of San José Airport and serves as a great base from which to visit the Arenal Volcano. Other local attractions include the Catarata Río Fortuna waterfalls and there are excursions to the cloud forests of Monteverde.
Lying on the Caribbean coast some 135km north-east of San José Airport this lovely, little town is the gateway to the Tortuguero National Park. The coast of Costa Rica is one of the world’s premier breeding grounds for sea-turtles. Various species of turtles nest along the beaches of the national park such as Green Sea Turtles, Leatherbacks and Hawksbills. The nesting sites can only be reached by boat.
On the mid-west Pacific coast, some 2.5 hour drive to the south of the capital is the beautiful Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. This coastal rainforest attracts many visitors to its hiking trails and glorious beaches, many of whom stay in the seaside village of Manuel Antonio. This lively town has a well established tourism infrastructure which includes a fine selection of luxury and mid-range accommodation.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
On the Caribbean coast some 230km south-east of San José Airport lies one of Costa Rica’s premier beach destinations. This former fishing village has long been a favourite amongst surfers from around the world but has now grown into a popular resort for mainly young travellers. As well as offering some glorious beaches such as Playa Chiquita, Playa Negra and Punta Uva the town provides access to the nearby Cahuita National Park and a number of other natural attractions. It’s also a good stopping off point for travellers heading down to Bocas del Toro in Panama.
On the Pacific south-west coast, close to the border with Panama, this remote, natural habitat provides a home to more than 50% of the country’s species of flora and fauna which includes jaguars and tapirs. Most visitors choose to stay in Puerto Jiménez then take excursions into the Corcovado National Park which accounts for half of the peninsula’s land area and is considered to be one of the planet’s most biodiverse environments.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is one of the world’s most established and respected airport transfer providers. Our services are available throughout Europe as well as in North Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South America. Our friendly local drivers will ensure your safe, economical and convenient passage to and from the airport, cruise terminal or major train station of your choice with a minimum of fuss. Book your transfer with our easy to use online booking system and leave the rest up to us!