San Jose International Airport (SJO)

Millions of people fly in and out of San Jose Costa Rica through Juan Santamaría International Airport, one of the busiest airports in Central America and the Caribbean. It is better known by its three-letter International Air Transport Code SJO. Click here for flight arrival times and details, updated daily.

Until recently, SJO was the only major international airport in the country; it is now joined by the Daniel Oduber International Airport (LIR) located in the heart of Guanacaste, a province that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

SJO has been serving the needs of international for many decades. It is named after Costa Rica’s national hero, a brave agricultural laborer who in 1856 joined the army and volunteered for a suicide mission that succeeded in driving a band of American mercenary invaders away from the country. The SJO code may be a bit of a misnomer since the airport is actually located in the Alajuela province, although it is very close to the capital city and downtown San José.

The Crossroads of Costa Rica

The airport is strategically situated near a major highway crossing that allows travelers to use ground transportation to reach the most important tourists attractions, health care centers and business locations in the country. Surfers who arrive in SJO can be quickly whisked away to either the Pacific or the Atlantic coasts to enjoy some of the cleanest swells in Central America. Ecotourists can take their backpacks and jump in a vehicle which can take them to any of the country’s many national parks and volcanoes. The Poás Volcano, an active colossus that is one of the most visited volcanic attractions in Costa Rica, is located about 30 kilometers away from the airport.

While driving around Costa Rica is usually a scenic experience, visitors who are pressed for time can fly directly out of SJO on a domestic commuter flight operated by Sansa Airlines. The destinations where Sansa operates include Drake Bay, Playa Nosara, Liberia, Playa Tamarindo, Barra del Colorado, and the pristine Tortuguero. Paradise Air is another airline that provides domestic flights to near-secret locations, although these are chartered flights that must be planned ahead. Another domestic operator that promises the most scenic flights for tourists is Nature Air, which operates from a different airport –Tobías Bolaños– located in a suburban area near San José.

For medical tourists, SJO is conveniently located just minutes away from the prestigious CIMA hospital in the upscale community of Escazú, just west of San José. There are quite a few lodging options near the airport, although medical tourists can choose to stay even closer to their medical centers or tourist attractions if they so desire. SJO is also preferred over LIR for patients checking into Clínica Bíblica, which is located very close to downtown San José.

Patients who come to Costa Rica seeking treatment in eye care centers or dental clinics should also fly into SJO instead of LIR, unless the facilitator arranges a special package for tourists who plan to hit the beaches immediately after their procedures are performed in Guanacaste. While there are medical facilities all over the country, SJO is still preferred over LIR for most medical tourists. The new special rehabilitation centers and medical lodging facilities that are being developed in Costa Rica will be in or near the Central Valley where SJO is located.

Patients who come to Costa Rica for non-surgical weight loss treatments at spa retreats should also fly into SJO unless advised otherwise by the facilitator.

Flying into SJO

Medical tourists arriving from Canada have a couple of options. Air Canada offers regular flights to SJO from the Toronto Pearson International Airport. Lacsa, a Costa Rican airline, also provides flights out of Pearson. Air Transat provides flights out of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, but only in a seasonal basis. The same goes for Air Transat flights out of Pearson. Medical tourists are strongly advised to check with their facilitators on the seasonal availability of flights.

There are more options from the United States. National airlines TACA and Lacsa offer service from major cities like Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Major airlines such as American, Delta, United, and US Airways schedule regular flights from major airports, while budget airlines such as Spirit and JetBlue offer pretty good deals from different airports.

European medical tourists can fly directly into SJO from Madrid and Frankfurt, or through a variety of connecting flights from the United States or Panama. New flights originating from France and Germany have been added for the convenience of European patients, and more flights are planned, so it’s always a good idea to inquire with facilitators as to the best options for plane travel.

Landing at SJO

SJO has always operated in a very straight-forward and business-like manner. The extravagant amenities found in other international airports around the world, such as food courts and casinos, are conspicuously absent from SJO. The airport processes over three million passengers each year in a space that’s not designed for lounging, and thus patients should expect to clear customs and immigration rather quickly.

It is virtually impossible to get lost at SJO, but it can happen. All passengers, including those who are flying out on domestic or charter flight, are directed to a general exit where they are greeted by those who are awaiting them. This is the exit where facilitators meet incoming patients.

There are a few things to keep in mind when landing at SJO. Exchanging currency and using payphones for international calls should not be done at the baggage claim area, as these transactions can be very costly. The best thing patients can do is to wait until they meet their facilitators to exchange foreign currency and contact their loved ones; this way they do not end up paying exorbitant prices for services that are very reasonable outside of the airport.


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Medical Facilitators


We are a Medical Tourism facilitation service. We work with the best doctors and hospitals in Costa Rica to assist you with planning and receiving medical and surgery procedures. Contact Us for your no obligation information package and to ask us any questions you may have about private medical services in Costa Rica.