The most important airport in Costa Rica. It's also one of the Central American airports with more traffic of the region.

The History:

The SJO airport (IATA Code) was inaugurated in July, 1955 as a replacement for the La Sabana Intl Airport (initially known as Llano Grande de Mata Redonda, don't confuse it with Liberia's Llano Grande!), located where now stands the "La Sabana" recreational park. The Juan Santamaria is located in the province of Alajuela, 23km west from San Jose and 3km south of the city of Alajuela. So technically it's located in Alajuela, not in San Jose.

The decision to build this airport was taken due to the fact that La Sabana's runways (2 of them) were short for bigger planes and too close to the mountains and the city of San Jose. Engineers looked for a place equidistant from all the mountains in the valley and found an area close to the town of El Coco, in the province of Alajuela.

First known as "El Coco Airport" the "Juan Santamaria Airport" was a big breakthrough in aviation in Costa Rica: it had an asphalt runway. That was the first of it's kind in the country. Previously all were made of grass.

Just after it's inauguration, LACSA started international flights to destinations like Panama City, La Habana, Miami, etc. This airport saw the first jet to arrive to Costa Rica: a BAC 1-11-400 (named "El Tico") bought by LACSA and delivered on April 15th, 1967.


The Pictures:


Counter area inside new ternimal building.
©Roberto Espinoza. Feb 2003
Baggage claim area on new terminal.
©Roberto Espinoza. Feb 2003

Old terminal building beein torn down.
©Roberto Espinoza. Feb 2003
Old building of the main terminal.
©Andre Quiros, Dec2002
Aerial view of the main terminal.
©Andre Quiros, Dec2002


The Runway:

The Juan Santamaria airport has only one physical runway but both ends are usable. The two usable runways are 07 and 25.

Runway 07: Runway 25:
- Displaced Threshold: 600ft
Usable Lenght: 8721ft - 2670m Usable Lenght: 7913ft - 2412m
Width: 151ft - 46m Width: 151ft - 46m
Approach Lights: HIRL - MALSR - REIL - PAPI Approach Lights: HIRL


Additional Navigational Aids

Id: TIO _ .. - - -
Location: 0.9NM SW
Frequency: 115.7 MHz

Name: Horcones
Frequency: 260 MHz

Frequency: 109.5 MHz


The Approach Charts:


To view this charts you need ADOBE ACROBAT Viewer (click here to get it). These charts are only to be used for reference and NOT FOR ACTUAL NAVIGATION.


ILS RWY 07 (450kB)
VOR RWY 07 (350kb)
Airport Layout (150kB)


The Flights:

Click here for the current flight schedule for Juan Santamaria Intl Airport.


The Future:

The airport will be subject to the administration from a private company. This company is Alterra Partners and it has experience managing airports around the globe. The infrastructure and the land will remain in the Costa Rican Goverment but the administration and maintenance of the facilities will be made by the company. This contract is valid for 20 years.

Among the plans for the airport are:

- Construction of a new terminal building next to the atual one (this is now completed and operational).

- Build a new taxiway to the south of the Bravo intersection that will extend to the runways 25 (this will include buying the terrain necessary.

The following graphic illustrates some of the changes to the Juan Santamaria in the following years:

In blue are depicted the new taxiway (rwy 25) and waiting area (rwy 07), in green color are the areas that will be needed to buy, and the red spots are the best plane spotting places around SJO.





Important: These pictures and files are property of the author (me) or when specified, from other authors. It's ilegal to use these pictures or files for commercial purposes or to change them in any way. They are free for personal use but if you are interested in copies or commercial use then send me an e-mail.

Andre Quiros (C) San Jose, Costa Rica. 1998-2003