Stuck on a Costa Rica layover at Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in Costa Rica? If so, you’ve landed in Central America’s second busiest airport. The airport offers a lot to do, and if you have a long layover, and venture out into Costa Rica, you’ll find that there’s a lot of fun activities available. If you’re trying to figure out if you can leave the airport during your Costa Rica layover, click here for useful tips.
If you’re stuck in the airport, you can find duty free shops, souvenir shops (that include local crafts, coffee and cigars), cafes and a food court with three fast food restaurants. There’s also a bank where you can exchange money and use the ATM, public phones, and a national tourism office. There is also a business lounge in the main terminal exclusive to certain airlines and travel companies.
There are a number of hotels nearby, if you’re looking to drop off your stuff or catch up on some rest.
Upon leaving the airport, the Costa Rican government charges a departure fee of $26 USD that can be paid in cash or Credit Card (in USD or Colones).
The airport is located in Alajuela, which is 20km (roughly a twenty minute drive) from Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. In the exit area you can find car rental offices of car and a counter to buy airport taxi tickets. Taxis accept only USD dollars and Colones, and make sure to look for licensed taxis which are either orange (for airport taxis) or red with yellow triangles on the doors. Buses leave every 5 minutes from a bus stop outside the airport to San Jose.
Layover Guide’s Suggestions Of Things To Do On A Costa Rica Layover:
Costa Rica Tours
A tour is a great way to see a bunch of sites in a limited period of time, and San Jose offers many options including zip lining, hiking and biking tours, eco-tourism, outdoor activities, and tons more!
Arenal Volcano National Park
For much longer layovers, Arenal Volcano is located about 2.5 miles from Juan Santamaria airport, but a great stop for those who have some time. The impressive volcano offers much in the way of touring, wildlife, and canopy tours. There’s also the natural hot springs nearby at the Tabacon Resort, which is a relaxing way to spend the day.
Monteverde Cloud Forest
For a long layover (1-2 days) check out the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The Cloud forest is nearly 5,000 feet high and straddles the Continental Divide. There’s tons to do in Monteverde including the high bridge Sky Walk, incredibly long and exciting canopy tours, tons of hikes and trails and other activities.
Manuel Antonio National Park
It take about 3.5 hours by Express Bus (tel. 2223-5567) or alternatively, you can take a 30 minute flight from the Juan Santamaria International Airport on Sansa. The area of Manuel Antonio is beautiful, combining beaches and rain forests, and there’s plenty of wildlife to see. If you tour, make sure you hire a guide to spot out the animals only a trained eye can see. For more information about planning a trip to Manuel Antonio, click here.
A haven for surfers and beachcomers, the beaches in Jaco are hard to beat. The trip takes roughly 2-3 hours by bus or car (depending on numbers of stops), and Jaco does not have an aiport in itself. For more information on getting there, click here. Once in Jaco, you can do activities including horseback riding on the beach, surfing, sport fishing and sea kayaking.
If you have any great suggestions for a Costa Rica layover, please comment below!