Traveling to Costa Rica - Travel Information about Direct Flights, Times, Expenses and Direction to the Southern Zone

May 11, 2023 in Discover Costa Rica, Tips for Buyers

Direct flights to and from San Jose (SJO International Airport)

From Europe:

British Airways (UK) - non-stop service from London’s Gatwick Airport to SJO on Wednesdays and Saturdays (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in the winter).

Thomson Airways (UK) - non-stop service from London’s Gatwick to Liberia (LIR) once a week (day depending on the time of year).

Air France (France) - non-stop service from Paris to SJO on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The airline also offers luxury sleeper seats.

Edelweiss Air (Switzerland) - non-stop service from Zurich to SJO on Tuesdays and Fridays from Zurich.

Iberia (Spain) - non-stop service every day of the week from Madrid to SJO.

Condor (Germany) - quick layover service from Frankfurt to SJO on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays (in Santo Domingo) and Munich to SJO on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays (seasonal).

KLM Royal Dutch (Netherlands) - non-stop service to SJO on Tuesdays and Fridays from November to March on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (seasonal service).

Lufthansa (Germany) - non-stop service from Frankfurt to SJO on Thursdays and Saturdays beginning in March 2018.

There are other airlines that fly weekly between ports in Europe and Central America, with transfers typically in the U.S. or Panama.

From United States:

There are a wide variety of options for direct North American flights due to the proximity of Costa Rica to the U.S. and Canada. To get an idea of your potential travel route, find your city below, then read the approximate fares (2-6 month advance purchase, round trip, including all taxes and fees). Some cities appear in multiple lists because they are ports for more than one carrier.

U.S. Cheap Cities-- Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, New York, Newark, Los Angeles (L.A. jumped onto the cheap list in spring 2016 when Southwest started direct flights).

These cities all have direct flights to SJO (San José International), LIR (Liberia International) or both, which generally means prices are lower.

Average High Season-- $550.
Average Low Season-- $500.
Good Deal-- $450 or less.
Great Deal-- $350 or less.

U.S. Average Cities-- Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, L.A., New York, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco.

Most flights from these departure cities require one stop and the total fare tends to depend on the fares to the domestic stopover city.

Average High Season-- $650.
Average Low Season-- $550.
Good Deal-- $450 or less.
Great Deal-- $375 or less.

U.S. Expensive Cities-- Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle.

Average High Season-- $750-850.
Average Low Season-- $700-800.
Good Deal-- $650 or less.
Great Deal-- $550 or less.

From Canada:

Fares from Canada vary widely but generally it's fairly expensive compared to the U.S. Some Canadians prefer to avoid U.S. stopovers (TACA and AeroMexico both stop in Mexico rather than the U.S.). Driving to a U.S. airport can generally save you money.

Average High Season-- $750-1150.
Average Low Season-- $ $450- 600.
Good Deal-- $ 600 or less.
Great Deal-- $ 400 or less.

Remember these are average prices. That means that for everyone who saves a hundred bucks someone else is paying a hundred bucks more than the price displayed. If you start looking early, your dates are flexible and you can travel mid week you'll have a better chance of getting or beating the average.

From Asia:

There are a number of ports that fly to San Jose Costa Rica, however there are no direct flights from Asia as of yet. Most airlines offer two-stops to reach Costa Rica and around 30 hours of travel time.

Last Minute Bargains?

Unlike domestic flights in North America, where purchasing far in advance is the best way to get a cheap flight, prices for flights to Costa Rica tend to start high for the two to six month advance purchase and then drop by as much as 30% for two to four weeks advance purchase. Perhaps this is because people are willing to pay more for the security of knowing they have a flight and can make hotel and activity reservations. Advance planning for many hotels and tours in this southern zone region is not generally necessary, and our team will be happy to assist you in finding the best businesses to suit your hospitality needs, including hotels, B&B s, and home stays.

Do I Need a Tourist Visa?

Your home nation will determine the amount of days available for you to stay in the country as a tourist. Residents from US, Canada, all European Union nations, Australia (for a full list of visa exempt countries, see here) are typically granted up to 90 days without question.

Sometimes, the Immigration official may request that you show economic solvency for your stay in the country (generally $500 USD per 90 days).

Even when you could have a 90-day tourist visa, the immigration official may assess the amount of time of your stay allowed on your passport (there is very little precedent for this discretion being implemented).

Visitors to Costa Rica must have a passport that is valid for minimum of 6 months from their date of arrival, as well as proof that they will be exiting the country before their visa or entry stamp expires, usually within 90 days.

All travelers must have either a return ticket or a ticket showing that they will be exiting the country, commonly referred to as an "outbound, exit or onward ticket."

An onward ticket is required of non-residents who are:

  • traveling on a one-way ticket
  • entering the country with a return ticket dated more than 90 days after arrival
  • flying into Costa Rica and flying out of another country.

By law, an onward ticket can be any one of the following on approved, commercial transport:

  • a pre-purchased bus ticket out of the country
  • a pre-purchased flight out of the country
  • proof of passage on a cruise ship.

What kind of inoculations do I need to enter Costa Rica?

There are no inoculations required for people arriving from most countries. However, if traveling from the following countries, travelers must possess a yellow fever vaccination certificate: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador as well as the Republic of Guyana.

Visiting in the Low Season

While hotel, car rentals, domestic flights and tour prices certainly decrease in the off season, airfare to Costa Rica doesn't necessarily decrease in proportion. What this season does offer is a quieter time to do tours, take in sites, and peruse properties, all in the comfort of mid-20's range temperature (high-70's Fahrenheit) and afternoon rains refreshing the jungle habitats of this region.

How to Get to the Costa Ballena area from the Juan Santamaría International Airport

By Plane:

Two small turbo-prop airlines fly many times daily between SJO airport and Quepos (as well as other locations around the country). Nature Air flies twice a day (8:35 am and 1:30 pm) and Sansa Airlines flies 5 times a day to Quepos/Manuel Antonio. Flights cost about $70 per person with 1 checked baggage of 30lbs/14kgs and one carry-on of 10lbs/4.5 kgs (additional weight is subject to availability and has an additional $1/lb charge).

Car rentals can be organized at the airport, where you will travel on the Costanera highway 34 (going south).

By Car:

It is a 3 1/2 hour drive (with minimal stops) to the Costa Ballena from SJO airport. We strongly recommend renting a 4-wheel drive vehicle as the roads are quite rugged in the mountain villages of this region.

There are two main routes from San José International Airport, but we recommend the new toll highway (Hwy 27) and coastal road (Hwy 34) route, which takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours from San José. We strongly recommend your rent a GPS or use Waze navigation on your phone.

The other route is through the mountains along Highway 2, taking you along a 2-lane highway with breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys to San Isidro, and then down to Dominical and on to Highway 34.

 By Alex Swift

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