Costa Rica is home to two international airports. Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela (SJO) and Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia (LIR). Due to their lengthy Spanish names (being named after a war hero and a President, respectively) they are typically just referred to as San José and Liberia airports.
Domestically there are several small airports that tourists can make use of with the NatureAir and Sansa airlines, but unless you are traveling from one end of the country to the other on a tight schedule, these are usually not economical options (especially with their fairly restrictive weight restrictions on luggage).
Of the two airports San José is by far the busier, doing nearly ten times the annual passenger volume of Liberia airport. Both airports can be a bit deceptive in figuring out their locations; although called San José airport, it is actually located in the city of Alajuela some 11 miles from the center of San José. Especially if you are going to the La Fortuna/Arenal area this is an important distinction.
Liberia airport is located a couple miles outside of Liberia as well, but considering that most traffic to Liberia is headed to the beaches in Guanacaste this isn’t a problem, as the airport is on the main road heading to the beach from Liberia. At times Liberia airport will have cheaper flights, but (unless you’re going to the beach) with it’s central location and access to public transportation San José airport is usually the most convenient option.
Due to a lack of agreement for collecting taxes from the airlines, you have to pay the exit tax that is normally included in the price of your ticket before you can check in. When you arrive at the counter you will have to go pay $27 to get your immigration form to leave the country. They’re in the process of eliminating it, but as in government–especially Latin American governing–these things take way longer than necessary. For more transportation tips check out our Transportation Overview.