Traveling by air in Costa Rica is easy and economical, a quick and comfortable alternative to often long and bumpy road travel. Flights to airstrips around the country are rarely more than 40 minutes from San José. Book well in advance.
The domestic airline SANSA (tel. 506/2229-4100, or in North America tel. 877/767-2672, www.flysansa.com ), a division of Grupo Taca, uses 22- to 35-passenger Cessnas. Reservations have to be paid in full and are nonrefundable. You can check in at the airport or SANSA’s San José office (no tel.) at Avenida las Américas and Calle 40, which provides a free minibus transfer to Juan Santamaría Airport. SANSA’s baggage allowance is 11 kilograms. Schedules change frequently, especially between seasons.
The privately owned Nature Air (tel. 506/2299-6000, U.S. tel. 800/235-9272, www.natureair.com ) flies to 14 destinations (including Nicaragua and Panamá) from Tobías Bolaños Airport, three kilometers west of downtown San José. Its rates are higher than SANSA’s. Baggage limit is 12 kilograms.
You can charter small planes to fly you to airstrips throughout the country. The going rate is about $300–500 per hour per planeload (usually for up to 4–6 people). You’ll have to pay for the return flight, too, if there are no passengers returning from your destination. Luggage space is limited.
Aerobell (tel. 506/2290-0000, www.aerobell.com ) is recommended for small plane or helicopter charter, as is Paradise Air (tel. 506/2231-0938, www.flywithparadise.com ). Aerodiva (tel. 506/2296-7241, www.aerodiva.com ) also offers helicopter tours and charter.