I get really amused when my prospective guests say, “Man, you must love Island Life there in Costa Rica.” Being an advocate of the adage the customer is always right, I never giggle or correct. But when they continue to say they are checking flight schedules into San Juan (the capital of Puerto Rico), I must say something before they end up in the wrong place. San Jose (SJO) is the best airport to fly into from the US when you’re visiting Casa Tranquila. It’s an easy flight, and many US hubs (JFK, ERW, DFW, IAH, MIA, FLL, ATL, LAX, and others) have non-stops. To offer a benchmark, Atlanta to San Jose is 3½ hours. My favorite software for finding the best fares is ITA. It’s owned by Google, so it’s not ad-driven.
SJO is in a valley, so your final approach can be fun coming in from over the mountains, but the airport itself is 21st century with long runways, so hang on and enjoy the landing. Since ALL flights entering SJO are international, just follow the crowd as you deplane, because everyone is going to immigration, and the pathway is well-marked in English.
Even if the immigration lines are long, the process is fast. There are plenty of agents to handle your arrival, and they all speak English. Have your passports and immigration forms in hand, and you’ll probably be through before you luggage even arrives. SJO offers free luggage carts, but while you wait for your bags you absolutely want to go to the duty-free shops (next to baggage claim) for any liquor or wine. The prices are half of any store in Costa Rica, so make the time. You will be glad you did. (Since all flights are international, they let you buy at the duty-free upon arrival). And the guys pack everything up very neatly in a box (with handles) so it’s really easy to carry. Just put your box(es) on your luggage cart and head to Customs.
There are three lines at Customs, so send someone ahead to see if a different line is shorter. Have your customs form handy, put your things on the x-ray belt, load them right back onto your cart and head for the door. You’ll pass the rental car counters and into the exit area where you transfer your luggage to a porter’s cart. He will help you to your next transport: a) your rental car company’s van (there are no onsite lots), b) your Sansa (the domestic airline) flight or c) Carlos’ (Casa Tranquila’s driver) van. As Casa Tranquila’s guest, I will help you decide which transport is best for you.
Remember that Manuel Antonio is on the Pacific Coast, and San Jose is in central Costa Rica, so it’s an easy 2½ hour ride to get to Casa Tranquila, or a 20 minute domestic flight on Sansa.
Relax. The arrival process is really easy. The agents are friendly. Signs are in English too. Everyone is coming on vacation, so they are all happy. If you get confused with anything, you can call me at Casa Tranquila. Ticos are very proud of their cell phone, and they will be happy to let you borrow it for a call. There’s no “long-distance” in all of Costa Rica. I’ll answer at 8997-0579.
And I will be waiting for you at Casa Tranquila . . . out on “The Island”.