Gateway to Paradise

Juan Santamaría International Airport is playing an increasingly important role in supporting Costa Rica’s booming eco-tourism market. Sebastian Schmitz travels to the capital San José to find out more.

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An ABX Air Boeing 767-300 on final approach to San José /Juan Santamaría is framed against the Cordillera Central mountains at sunrise. AirTeamImages.com/Andres Meneses

Costa Rica has long been the poster child for ecotourism. The Central American nation may be relatively diminutive in stature – it covers around 19,700 square miles (51,100km2), roughly comparable with Bosnia or Slovakia – but it contains an estimated 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Visitors from across the globe flock in their millions to see its diverse landscape and magnificent wildlife – so much so in fact that tourism has been Costa Rica’s biggest export for almost two decades, bringing in more cash than bananas, pineapples and coffee combined. The vast majority of the country’s international guests – more than 2.5m a year – arrive through its busiest gateway, Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO / MROC).

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