Costa Rica’s Domestic Airlines

Domestic Flights on SANSA & Nature Air

The hub airport is the main difference between the two airlines.  Their rates, routes, equipment, and schedules are similar, and we’ve had good reports and bad about each. NatureAir puts much more emphasis on serving tourists which makes it more likely that you’ll find someone there who speaks (or e-mails) English.

SANSA is consistently a couple dollars cheaper, but probably not enough to influence a choice between the two.  Generally flights range form $40-$160 each way (there may be additional fees).

Airplanes Used In Costa Rica
Most SANSA flights are in 14 passenger Cessna 208-B Grand Caravans (left), but they have a variety of aircraft available to accomodate from 10-46 passengers. NatureAir flies Twin Otter DHC6 300 Vistaliner 19 passenger aircraft (right).

If you’re planning to fly everywhere NatureAir might be the better choice because they have better connections between outlying destinations with shorter stopovers in San José.

SANSA has lockers in their terminal at Juan Santamaría airport, something the main international terminal at SJO doesn’t provide.

Both airlines also offer charter services to all of the airports they normally serve plus others lacking scheduled flights.

Both airlines serve essentially the same outlying destinations.  While nearly all flights still begin or end at San José NatureAir started adding a few flights from Quepos and Tamarindo directly to other popular destinations and rearranged their schedule to make one stop flights from Arenal more convenient. In 2012 they expanded this program to include more flights and capacity (see schedules and rates NatureAir)

There are Two San José Airports

SJO Bolanos Airport locations map
SJO Bolanos Airport locations map

Depending on which airline your domestic flight is on it will depart from one of San José’s two airports.

NatureAir used to fly exclusively out of Tobias Bolaños airport north of Pavas.  In 2014 they got rights at SJO and began shifting some flights there.  This isn’t necessarily a good thing because Tobias Bolaños is just one large room and you breeze through ticketing, check in and security but at SJO you’re waiting in some lines with the crowds international travelers.

Check your NatureAir airports carefully.  It takes time to transfer between airports!

SANSA operates out of Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) south of Alajuela.  SJO is Costa Rica’s main international airport where the major international carriers like Continental, United, American, and TACA land and the rental car companies maintain their offices and fleets.

A taxi ride between the two airports costs around $25 and takes less than 30 minutes (plus up to an hour or more for traffic delays at peak times).