KLM Airways announces arrivals from Amsterdam to Liberia Airport starting in late 2019. This is exciting news for Europeans as it is now easier to get to the Pacific Northwest of Costa Rica, and I am sure the airport will impress.
Some people seem to have a love/hate relationship with airports. For some an airport can be an exciting portal to exotic international destinations and cosmopolitan crowds affording fascinating people-watching opportunities. But it is also a crowded maze of long lines and tense TSA inspections through which you haul everything you own on your back or drag it behind you. It seems you either love or hate airports.
The Liberia Airport (LIR) will win you over to the airport team. As airports go, it is a refreshing experience and gets you on your way to your rainforest adventure or perfect beach vacation with little or no stress. It is big enough to handle several international flights per day, and small enough to be uncomplicated and efficient. It is the best airport to use when visiting the province of Guanacaste and the northwest Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It is 7 miles (11 kilometers) from the city of Liberia.
More importantly, it is just a 25-minute trip to the pristine beaches of the Gulf of Papagayo: Coco, Hermosa, Panama, and Ocotal. It is the perfect landing spot for visiting all the other popular beaches and tourist attractions of Guanacaste, most of which are just one hour away. Flying in or out of Liberia airport may give you an extra night in your beautiful condo and a bit more beach time. Compare that to 5 hours of driving in heavy traffic and a noisy night in a San Jose hotel. The choice is obvious!
It may cost a bit less to fly into the San Jose Airport since it has more flights, but you will need to either take a 5- or 6-hour bus ride or a 4-hour car trip to get to your beach destination. However, as the number of airlines serving Liberia increases, tariffs decrease. Fares as low as $89 each way to Denver were found recently!
Liberia Airport is not as busy as its sister in San Jose, but it is still a full-amenity airport with a duty free store, car rental kiosks, souvenir shops, and a few food vendors. Currency can be exchanged right after you finish immigration. After passing through customs you can purchase a prepaid SIM card at the Kolbi kiosk in order to be able to use your unlocked phone locally. There is also an ICT Costa Rican Tourism Board office where you can get free Costa Rica maps.
The Liberia Airport is officially named the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport after the country’s president who worked to develop the area during his term 1974-1978. Though initially conceived during the government of its namesake president, it was called Llano Grande at first and then later Aeropuerto Tomas Guardia. In October 1995 the airport was re-inaugurated as an international airport. The runway was re-paved and special landing lights were installed. Initial response from commercial airlines was unremarkable; however, after one year the airport went from having only one weekly charter flight to one almost every day. The tarmac capacity of the airport was expanded in 2006 and a parallel taxiway was added. Shortly thereafter a new waiting area and airport counters were opened. A new contemporary terminal opened in January 2012 and was expanded in 2017 to handle increasing demand.
Major US airlines have daily flights: Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Sun Country and United. Canadian airlines serving Liberia are Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunwing, and WestJet. Aeromexico and Copa arrive from Mexico City and Panama City respectively. Air France and TUI bring visitors from Europe. Just recently it was announced that KLM will be arriving from Amsterdam. Additionally, you can catch any number of domestic flights or charter planes to take you to the farthest corners of Costa Rica.
A few times in recent years both of Costa Rica’s international airports have been closed due to ash from the Turrialba volcano interfering with airport operations. It’s highly unlikely that Liberia Airport would ever be shut down permanently by volcanic activity. The nearest active volcano, Rincon de la Vieja, is much quieter than Turrialba and is far enough away that prevailing winds are less likely to send ash our way.
Here are a couple of reminders: Always arrive 2 hours early for an international flight to allow time for check in and security inspections. Most airlines include a departure tax in the ticket price, but not all. Be sure and check with your carrier. See you soon in Costa Rica!