Note: Formerly the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, commonly known as the Liberia International Airport, Costa Rica’s international airport located in Liberia, Guanacaste is now called the Guanacaste Airport. Its airport codes (LIR and MRLB) remain unchanged.
Whether you already call Costa Rica home or are looking forward to doing so in the next months or years, then you’ll probably become very familiar with the country’s international airports: Juan Santamaría International Airport and Liberia International Airport.
You’re here because you have questions. First of all, should you fly into San José (SJO) or Liberia (LIR)? And, if you choose Liberia, what can you expect? What services are available? Can you grab a quick meal, if you need it? Will you get a visa? For how long? And what about entry requirements, including COVID entry requirements? Where can you get a COVID test before returning home?
Indeed, if you’re a meticulous planner (like us), then you’re probably dialing in on the details. You want to know what you want to know, and you need to know at least a handful of the important things.
We see you. And this guide’s for you.
Which Costa Rica Airport is Better? San José (SJO) or Liberia (LIR)?
Before we jump into our Liberia International Airport guide, first things first: Which airport should you even fly into?
Costa Rica has two international airports: Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), also known as the San José Airport (despite not being located in San José!); and the recently renamed Liberia International Airport (LIR), formerly known as the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia.
The two airports have more in common than not: They’re both small (but modern), with plenty of international flights, onsite COVID-19 testing, free WiFi, and a handful of restaurants/quick-serve eateries.
That said, where you should fly into/out of is largely a function of two factors: your point of origin and your first/last destination in Costa Rica. Budget can also be a deciding factor – Liberia used to command a premium price – but as of 2022, prices have mostly equalized between the two airports.
Of course, there are also other factors to consider. So, here’s how to determine which airport you should choose:
- Destination: Costa Rica may look small on a map, but if you fly into San José, you’ll have a 4-5 hour drive ahead of you. Rule of thumb: If you’re visiting Guanacaste, fly into Liberia; if you’re visiting anywhere else, fly into SJO.
- Flight Origin: Perhaps even more important than your destination, your point of origin can play a major role in determining whether to fly to San José or the Liberia International Airport. Cross-check flights from your preferred airport(s) to see what layover, connections, and departure/arrival times look like for each airport.
- Cost: While you’re likely to find very little variation in flight costs – the cost differences between SJO and LIR destinations, when available, can be as little as $5 – it’s still something to look into. On very rare occasions (or, if you’re flying out of an airport that serves one or the other Costa Rican destinations), you may find enough variability to justify changing your destination.
- Convenience: If there is a significant cost difference, then consider the convenience factor – which airport will get you where you’re going, quickly and for the best cost. (For example, an airport shuttle from SJO to Guanacaste can tack an easy $200+ onto your transportation costs.)
- Connections: If you plan to connect to a local flight, check its airport of origin. (Most, but not all, local flights fly out of SJO.)
- Time: San José is, inarguably, the airport with more issues. From strike blockades and airport ash to long Immigration lines and major traffic, you’re more likely (but not necessarily likely) to have your patience tried in San José.
With all those factors taken into account, if you’re headed out to Guanacaste and Costa Rica’s northwest coast, then you’ve likely chosen Liberia International Airport. This guide’s for you!
Liberia International Airport Location & General Information
Official Name: Liberia International Airport
Also Known As: Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport
Airport Code: LIR (IATA) or MRLB (ICAO)
Location: Liberia, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
GPS: 10.596427124888216, -85.52802314906442
Located just 7 miles (11.5 kms) outside the provincial capital of Liberia, Liberia International Airport is just 30-90 minutes from many of the most popular beach towns and beaches in Guanacaste. It’s about 30 minutes to Playas del Coco/Playa Hermosa, about an hour to Playa Flamingo, and about 1h15m to Tamarindo and Hacienda Pinilla.
General Entry Requirements
To enter Costa Rica, most travelers need only a passport valid upon arrival. Note that some airlines may require validity up to 3+ or 6+ months after your date of arrival.
Generally speaking – read: outside of COVID times – passport holders from many countries need only a valid passport to qualify for a 90-day consecutive stay in Costa Rica. These countries include: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France and Germany Dependencies, Greece, Holland and Dependencies, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Uruguay.
Other countries are granted a 30-day consecutive stay in Costa Rica. These countries include: Chile, Dominica, El Salvador, Estonia, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Saint Kitts/Nevis, San Marino, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Suriname, Taiwan, Turkey, The Vatican, and Venezuela.
If your country is not listed, contact your closes Costa Rican Embassy or Consulate.
COVID-19 Entry Requirements
As of publication (February 2022), the requirements to enter Costa Rica are simple and straightforward:
- Health Pass: You must complete Costa Rica’s Health Pass within 72 hours of your arrival. Keep your Health Pass QR code on you, at all times.
- For Vaccinated Travelers: If you are fully vaccinated (see below) against COVID-19, there are no further requirements.
- For Unvaccinated Travelers: If you are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you must provide proof (via an insurer letter) of an official travel insurance policy that is valid for the duration of your stay; covers $50,000 in COVID-19 medical expenses, in the case of illness; and $2,000 in lodging expenses, in the event of quarantine. Note that insurance cards are not accepted; you must provide an official insurer letter detailing coverage.
Regarding COVID vaccination, Costa Rica recognizes full doses of the following vaccines:
- AstraZeneca: Covishield, Vaxzervia, AXD1222, ChAdOx1, ChAdOx1_nCoV19 India
- Janssen: COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen, Johnson & Johnson y Ad26.COV2.S
- Moderna: Spikevax, mRNA-1273
- Pfizer-BioNTech: Comirnaty, BNT162b2 y Tozinameran
- Sinovac: COVID-19 Vaccine (vero cell), Coronavac ™
- Sinopharm: SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (vero cell), Inactivated (InCoV)
- Covaxin: BBV152, Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine
As proof of vaccination (which you will upload as you complete the Health Pass), Costa Rica will accept the “COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card” for U.S. travelers. Passport holders from other countries may present a vaccination certificate or vaccination card that contains the following, at a minimum:
- Name (person who received the vaccine)
- Date of each dose
- Pharmaceutical site
Your proof of vaccination must be submitted in English or Spanish. Any other language must be officially translated into either English or Spanish.
To verify current entry requirements, please review information from the Costa Rican Tourism Board.
Depending on your country of destination or residence, you may be required to provide a negative COVID test upon departure from Costa Rica.
Liberia International Airport offers onsite, rapid COVID testing (PCR and antigen tests) via Lab Echandi. The testing site is located next to Arrivals at the parking area.
You must make an appointment at least 4+ hours before your departure time. If your flight departs before 6 a.m., you must take a test the day before. Appointments may be made by calling 506-2258-4334.
Before you take a COVID test, verify which test(s) is accepted by your destination country.
- COVID Antigen Test (1 hour): $65
- COVID PCR Test (Next-Day): $99
For more information or to schedule an appointment, click here.
Liberia International Airport Arrivals
LIR is a small airport with only 8 gates. It currently serves the following airlines:
- American Airlines
- Air Canada
- Air Transat
- Alaska Airlines
- Copa Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Miami Air International
- Sansa Regional
- Sun Country Airlines
- World Atlantic Airlines
Upon arrival, you will pass through Immigration (this is where they will require your Health Pass QR code), where you will receive your entry stamp for 30 or 90 days. You may then proceed to Duty-Free and Baggage Claim before passing through Customs and out into sun-drenched Costa Rica. Welcome home (or to paradise)!
Tip: If at all possible, skip Currency Exchange at the airport. The rate is never in your favor! (You’ll receive a much better rate at any local ATM.)
Transportation from Liberia International Airport
Once you’re here, there are so many ways to get to whatever where you’re headed.
Private shuttles are readily available to meet you at LIR. The biggest benefit is worry-free arrivals: You’ll literally walk out of the airport and onto air-conditioned, private transportation. You won’t have to worry about driving and your private driver will make any stops you require.
If you’re in town for a short time (vs. just shuttling home, where your own car is waiting), then LIR offers many car rental options – everything from the standards like Budget, Enterprise, and Adobe to Green Motion, Sixt, and Payless.
Shared shuttles are a good, budget option (especially for single travelers and small parties). The downside is that they can’t meet you directly at the airport, so you’ll have to walk or taxi with your luggage. Additionally, they work only on certain schedules, so you may have to wait for a few hours (or until the next day).
Taxis & Ride Share
Taxis are always waiting outside of Liberia International Airport. Unless you’re going somewhere very close to the airport, taxis will usually be more expensive. Ditto ride-share services (not as readily available), like Uber and Didi, which are less expensive than taxis but not publicly regulated (and, therefore, a bit of a sore spot for taxi drives and lawmakers).
Liberia public city buses pass by the airport every hour, between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. Destinations vary by route.
Questions About Liberia International Airport?
The entire Blue Water Properties of Costa Rica team lives in Guanacaste, so we’re very familiar with LIR airport. And we’re happy to help, in any way we can!
Because at Blue Water Properties of Costa Rica, we’re committed to you. Not to selling you a property or spamming you with all the options, but to helping – genuinely and with good intent – to match you to the perfect property for your needs and wants. We thrive on relationships and promise the fastest communication and best services in the industry.
At Blue Water Properties of Costa Rica, we’re proud to offer some of the best Costa Rica real estate. We have both condos and homes, land and businesses for sale. Go ahead – try us. Give us a chance to show off our expertise – and wow you with the possibilities! We look forward to it.