Juan Santamaria Airport ( SJO )

'Landing in the heart of Costa Rica, welcome'

Address Maps Transportation Pictures Arrivals/Departures Domestic flights

juan santamaria airport alajuela costa rica

Juan Santamaria airport is the first door that travelers use to come to Costa Rica, in fact it was for many years the only airport in our country. It is located in the middle of Costa Rica which provides you with easy access to major cities, beaches and mountains.

Juan Santamaria airport code is SJO, this would make you think that the airport is located in San Jose, but it is not, actually the airport is located in Alajuela, but as San Jose is the capital of the country and for being considered as the first province in importance was decided to use SJO instead.

Although this airport uses SJO as its code at least they paid tribute to an Alajuelense (people from Alajuela) when it was opened in 1955, Juan Santamaria is the name of Costa Rica's National hero and his statue is situated a couple of steps on the right hand side of the arrivals building.

As Juan Santamaria airport (SJO) is fairly small it is very easy to find the different areas depending on your needs. For example, if you see the airport from outside you will notice two levels.

Arrivals, someone is waiting for you...

The first one is the arrivals area, the easiest way to realize that you are in this section is because our friend Juan Santamaria is the first one to greet you at your entrance to Costa Rica because his statue is located on the left hand side of the building at the time that you are leaving Juan Santamaria airport.

It is also very common to see shuttles from hotels, tour operators and car rentals outside the airport with

employees holding signs with people names awaiting to meet their customers ( well, just if asked in advance).You'll also notice lots of orange cars, those are taxis and are the official airport transportation, these taxis just operate for the Juan Santamaria airport, its service is outstanding and have the great advantage of having bilingual staff, keep in mind that in Costa Rica not everyone speak English.

Departures, why ? Do not leave Costa Rica :(

The international departures area is located on the second level, right in front of the arrivals section, it has also a parking area and has the peculiarity that is connected by bridges to the central airport building.

Here you will see people giving farewells to their relatives, it is so funny because you will notice people either happy, crying or making promises and so on while saying goodbye to wives, husband, lover or close friends. Love is in the air in Juan Santamaria departures level...I am sure you will feel it.

Address to SJO airport, the best two routes

There are multiples ways to get to the Juan Santamaria airport, however I am going to help you with two which I consider the best routes. Both are pretty easy to learn and there is no way to get lost.

Driving from San Jose to Juan Santamaria Airport

If by the end of your vacations you stayed in San Jose, Heredia, Cartago or Limon that means that you will need to use the General Canas highway which will take you to the airport.In the next video I show you the road and views from San Jose to the airport, specifically driving from the highway.

Here are the instructions:

  • You pass the toll, if you are driving a rented car you should pay seventy five colones.
  • Once you paid, continue straight.
  • After driving for some metter you will see a traffic light, continue straight (in green...haha).
  • You will see an exit, take left. There is a also a big sign indicating the exit names.
  • Continue straight.
  • When you are really near the airport you will notice some palm trees on the left that will make you feel that there are beaches around, no worries there is none, remember that SJO is a city airport.
  • Continue straight.
  • Turn left.
  • And done! Congratulations you arrive to Juan Santamaria International airport, remember...level one arrivals, level two departures.

Driving from Alajuela to Juan Santamaria Airport

Here are the instructions:

  • If you are staying in Alajuela the first thing you need to do is to get to Francisco Orlich highway.
  • The reference point is the Mall Internacional which is on righ hand side of the road.
  • Continue straight.
  • You will see big red roof on the horizon, that is the airport which is located around three kilometers.
  • At some point you will pass below a bridge.
  • Continue straight and then turn right.
  • Then turn left.
  • And done! Congratulations you arrive to Juan Santamaria International airport, remember...level one arrivals, level two departures.

Click on the next video to show you what I mean...


' Orange, red, yellow and white...you choose '

Once that you arrive to Costa Rica you will need transportation to reach your hotel, there are different choices to do that, to me the next four are the most important. Here is my rank: Airport Taxi, regular taxi, public transportation and airplane.

1. Airport Taxi

These taxis are the official transportation from the airport, they have orange color and are allowed to park right in front of the arrivals area, they offer sedan car and van, so if you bring a lot of luggage you better ask for the second option.

The drivers of these taxis are bilingual and definitely they can guide you on your first minutes in Costa Rica, they also must wear business uniform, white shirt, brown pants and tie and also carry an ID card.

They work 24/7 and something that I really like about using these taxis is that you can paid in advance inside the airport making this more safe to you because the rates are established according to distance, after you paid they will assign you a driver...cool, isn't.

2. Regular Taxis

These taxis are red colored and you will not see much of them inside the airport, most of their drivers do not speak English, so I would not recommended it to you if you are a first time traveler, you better stick with the orange ones.

The red ones charge you base on a device called 'Maria' which is a kind of taximeter, and from my point view can cause some problems at the time of payment for foreigners specially for those ones that does not speak Spanish fluently, again stick to the orange taxis unless you learn how the red operate.

3. Public transportation

public transportation airport san jose costa rica

I just recommend the public transportation to either backpackers or those who know how to use the currency correctly, if you want to use this service it is recommended that you handle a good level of Spanish because it not required that the bus drivers speak English.

The bus stop is located outside the airport and if you decide to take

the bus, hurry up ! The public transportation drivers should meet very tight schedules and having to help you with your luggage would delay them too much, so do not expect them with a happy face.

If you're going to Alajuela,San Jose or Heredia there are two companies offering the service, Tuasa and Station Wagon (this one not for Heredia). Tuasa is red colored and SW ligth yellow.

The most common are Tuasa, the fee is less than 2 dollars, but watch out.Whether the bus sign says. Alajuela-San Jose-Heredia, always ask first to the driver or people on the bus stop because most of the time drivers take the bus route from a prior driver and they might be occasions where they forget to update the sign, so be aware of not taking the wrong bus.

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