San Jose International Airport Costa Rica (SJO)

Arriving at or departing from San Jose International Airport? Find out how to navigate the airport with ease, from transportation to parking, hotels, and amenities. This guide is your one-stop solution for stress-free airport experience.

I’m Tim Schmidt, and I lived between Miami and Costa Rica for many years.  I’ve flown into Juan Santamaria airport over 400 times, and I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.  

SJO Airport – What to Know

  • Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) is the primary entry point to Costa Rica, located near downtown San José and serving as a hub for connecting travelers to the country’s diverse destinations.
  • A range of ground transportation options from SJO, including Uber, private shuttles, taxis, and public buses, offer visitors various choices with an emphasis on licensed services for safety and reliability.
  • SJO provides essential amenities and services for traveler convenience, such as ample parking facilities, nearby hotels with shuttle services, free WiFi, dining and shopping options, and car rental services for exploring the area.

Juan Santamaría International Airport Overview

Aerial view of Juan Santamaría International Airport

Standing proudly in Alajuela, just over 20 frustrating minutes away from the vivid life of downtown San José, lies one of the most important international airports, the Juan Santamaría International Airport, the most significant airport in Costa Rica. Known to the world by its airport code, SJO, the airport is the entry point for millions of visitors every year who come to experience the country’s resplendent biodiversity and rich cultural heritage. Another noteworthy airport in the country is the Liberia International Airport, which also serves as a gateway for travelers.

Operating round the clock, the airport’s main terminal caters to international flights, providing seamless connectivity for passengers worldwide. From the moment you step foot in Juan Santamaría International Airport, also known as Juan Santamaria Airport, you are welcomed by the warm Costa Rican hospitality and a wide array of services designed to make your journey comfortable and enjoyable.

Airport Code and Location

Identified by its airport code SJO, the Juan Santamaría International Airport, also known as Juan Santamaría Airport, guides travelers and air traffic controllers to its location in Alajuela province, about 10 kilometers from downtown San José, Costa Rica. Its strategic location serves as an ideal launchpad for your Costa Rican adventure, whether you’re heading to the bustling streets of downtown San José or setting off to explore the country’s many natural wonders.

The other International airport in Costa Rica is Daniel Oduber (LIR) in Liberia.

Annual Passenger Traffic

In 2019, the airport’s visitor count exceeded 5 million, making it the busiest airport in the country. This staggering number is a testament to the airport’s pivotal role in Costa Rica’s tourism industry, connecting travelers from around the world to the country’s myriad destinations.

Transportation Options at San Jose International Airport

Taxi waiting area at San Jose International Airport

A wealth of ground transportation options are available at San Jose International Airport to facilitate your journey from the airport to your final destination. Whether you’re heading to downtown San José or setting off to explore the rich landscapes of Costa Rica, the airport’s comprehensive transportation network has got you covered.

The airport is serviced by the following transportation options:

Each option provides a unique blend of convenience and affordability. For a safe and reliable journey, it is advisable to utilize licensed taxi or shuttle bus services, which can be easily located within the airport terminal.

Uber and Private Shuttles

For travelers seeking personalized transportation, Uber and private shuttles present a dependable alternative. You can pre-book a ride up to 90 days in advance, ensuring a seamless transition from the airport to your destination.

The typical cost for an Uber ride from downtown San José to the airport is around $20, offering an affordable and stress-free transportation option.

Taxis and Public Buses

Taxis provide a fast and handy means of city transportation. Licensed taxi companies operate from the terminal building, offering reliable and secure transportation options.

Some key points about taxis:

  • They are a convenient mode of transportation
  • Licensed taxi companies provide reliable and secure services
  • Fare varies depending on the destination, with the fare to downtown San José typically around $25 USD.

Public buses provide a more economical means of travel. The bus stop, conveniently located near the Alajuela exit on Route 1, offers regular services to downtown San José, making it an affordable and accessible transportation option.

Parking Facilities at San Jose International Airport

Parking lot at San Jose International Airport

Juan Santamaría International Airport provides convenient parking options for those arriving by car. The parking fees are $2.48 USD per hour, $35 USD per day, and $200 USD per week, providing travelers with flexible options to suit their needs.

The airport’s parking facilities are equipped with surveillance cameras, ensuring the safety and security of your vehicle. Whether you’re taking a quick business trip or embarking on a lengthy vacation, you can rest assured that your vehicle is in safe hands.

Hotels Near San Jose International Airport

Hotel shuttle bus near San Jose International Airport

A selection of hotels near the airport awaits travelers in need of a restful place. Options like Adventure Inn, Country Inn & Suites By Radisson, and Xandari Resort Hotel & Spa provide comfort and convenience, with many offering free shuttle services to and from the airport.

Whether you’re catching an early flight or arriving late, these nearby hotels offer the convenience of a short commute to the airport, allowing you to maximize your rest and minimize travel stress. With a range of amenities from luxurious swimming pools to on-site dining, these hotels cater to a variety of traveler needs and budgets.

There is also a San Jose Marriott not far from the airport that I can personally vouch for.

Domestic Terminal at SJO

The SJO airport boasts a dedicated domestic terminal, “Terminal Domestica SJO”, for travelers setting out on domestic journeys. This terminal services domestic flights, connecting passengers to regional airports within Costa Rica such as the Guanacaste Airport.

From the moment you step into the domestic terminal, you are met with a host of facilities and services designed to make your journey as smooth as possible. As the only European airline with such an extensive range of amenities, from bicycle racks to a variety of food and beverage restaurants, the terminal ensures a comfortable travel experience for all passengers.

Amenities and Services at San Jose International Airport

Passenger enjoying free WiFi at San Jose International Airport

Beyond being a transportation hub, San Jose International Airport, also known as San Jose Airport, embodies the warmth of Costa Rican hospitality. From the moment you step in, you are welcomed with a range of amenities and services designed to make your journey enjoyable.

Stay connected with the world with the airport’s complimentary WiFi service, or indulge in some retail therapy at the diverse selection of shops. Hungry travelers can savor a taste of Costa Rican cuisine at the various dining establishments, including the renowned Café Britt. And for those who prefer to hit the road immediately, car rental facilities are conveniently located within the airport.

Tips for a Smooth Experience at San Jose International Airport

Arriving at least 3 hours before departure is recommended for a seamless, hassle-free experience at SJO. This allows ample time to check-in, pass through security, and relax before your flight.

When considering transportation options, it is recommended to utilize licensed services such as official taxis, pre-booked shuttles, or reputable car rental agencies to ensure a dependable and secure experience. And if you’re planning to rent a car, don’t forget that insurance is compulsory in Costa Rica.

Exploring Nearby Attractions and Destinations

The airport’s vicinity is rich with attractions that highlight Costa Rica’s cultural and historical heritage, making it more than just a bustling hub. From the Juan Santamaría Historical Cultural Museum in Alajuela to the Britt Coffee Tour, there’s much to explore without venturing far from the airport.

For those with longer layovers or early arrivals, guided city tours such as the San Jose Walking and Bus City Tour or the Explore San Jose By Night: Food and Culture Tour offer an exciting way to experience the vibrant local culture and cuisine in downtown San Jose, all within close proximity to the airport.

Renting a Car at San Jose International Airport

The convenience of renting a car at San Jose International Airport enables you to:

  • Discover Costa Rica at your leisure
  • Have the freedom to explore different areas
  • Avoid the hassle of public transportation
  • Save time and money on taxis or tours

With several car rental companies available on-site, you can hit the road as soon as you land.

When renting a car, it’s important to be aware of your responsibilities. Costa Rica mandates adherence to paved and labeled routes and highways, and personal liability extends to any damage resulting from off-roading or driving along beaches. So, whether you’re navigating the bustling streets of San José or exploring the country’s stunning landscapes, ensure you stay on the right path.

Summary

From the moment you land at Juan Santamaría International Airport, you’re welcomed with warm Costa Rican hospitality and a wealth of services and amenities. Whether you’re catching a domestic flight, renting a car to explore the country, or simply relaxing before your journey, SJO ensures a seamless and enjoyable experience. So, whether you’re beginning your Costa Rican adventure or bidding adieu, let SJO be your gateway to this vibrant and beautiful country.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does SJO stand for airport?

SJO stands for Juan Santamaria International Airport, the primary airport serving San José, the capital of Costa Rica. It is located 20 kilometers west of downtown San José.

Is SJC a big airport?

Yes, San José Mineta International Airport (SJC) is a big airport, covering 1,050 acres and being recognized as the Best Midsize Airport in the United States.

How early should I arrive at SJO?

You should arrive at least 2 hours prior to your scheduled departure for domestic flights, and 3 hours prior for international flights, according to TSA recommendations. Arriving early will help ensure a smoother check-in and security process.

How many terminals does San Jose airport have?

San Jose airport has 2 terminals – Terminal A at the north end and Terminal B at the south end. The airport has a total of 36 boarding gates across both terminals.

Is San Jose airport better than LIR?

San Jose airport has more daily flights and is located in the center of the country.  It’s not as modern as the LIR airport in Liberia, but it does present challenges with the high number of flights arriving in SJO.  Sometimes immigration lines can be very long.