CRC Daily: Flying Costa Rica's domestic airlines

Shaving hours off a vacation can be money well-spent.

Happy Travel Tuesday! Let’s explore Costa Rica’s domestic airlines.

Costa Rica’s road infrastructure has come a long way since a single-car ferry pulled vehicles across the Tarcoles River. Today, the country has a network of modern highways, and some of the bridges even have two lanes!

Even so, driving across Costa Rica takes time — something you can never have enough of, especially when you’re on vacation. By far the fastest way to traverse the country is by air.

Costa Rica has several domestic airlines: Aerobell, Skyway, SANSA and Green Airways. As of publication, only SANSA and Green Airways are currently operating scheduled flights; the other two haven’t fully resumed operations due to the pandemic.

SANSA is well-established in Costa Rica — it’s been flying since the 1970s — and has an extensive network. Green Airways has scheduled service to just three destination, though they also offer charter flights.

Booking a ticket on either airline is easy through their website. We should note SANSA has a separate page with lower prices for citizens and residents, and they also share discount codes on Facebook.

Prices vary, but we’ve never seen better than $50 for a one-way ticket. Flying an entire family round-trip can be costly.

Other than the San José-area airport and Liberia International Airport (LIR), the majority of Costa Rica’s aerodromes are little more than runways in the middle of forest. Arriving at one of those airstrips two hours before departure means you’ll be spending about 115 minutes sitting on a bench and waiting.

A few more things of note:

  • All of Costa Rica’s regional airlines fly very small planes. Luggage space and weight are limited, so make sure you know what your ticket allows.

  • You’ll need to plan transportation from the regional airport to your actual destination. Many hotels and rental-car companies offer pickup. In a pinch, taxis are almost always waiting for scheduled flights.

  • When flying into or out of San José, you’ll do so from the airport’s new domestic terminal. That means you won’t face the long lines that are common in the international departures hall.

  • Enjoy the ride! The planes are small, but the windows are big, and there’s no better way to appreciate Costa Rica’s diverse landscape. And there’s no better feeling than a 6-hour drive becoming a quick 25-minute hop with a great view.

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