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Stories about San José

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Flying to Nicaragua

Updated: Jul 1, 2018

The Yellow Cathedral de Granada. If your flight to Nicaragua takes the right flight path, you can see this view.

One of Nature Air's "Twin Otter" planes that is used for the flight from San Jose, Costa Rica to Managua, Nicaragua. Built by the Dehavilland Corporation of Canada, these planes have a great reputation as bush planes in the northern wilds of Canada and in Alaska.

by Michael Miller

(December, 2014)

Flying to Nicaragua.  Granada, Nicaragua is a popular destination for many North Americans living in Costa Rica.  The question is, how to get from Costa Rica to Nicaragua.  Unless you are lucky enough (or brave enough) to own a car in Costa Rica, you have to decide whether to take a bus or to fly.

The obvious advantage of the bus is that it is inexpensive, about $40 (US) each direction.  But it is an all-day ordeal (each direction).  The trip from San José, Costa Rica to Granada by bus, can take anywhere from seven to ten hours, depending on how long you are detained at the border.

Should you decide to fly to Nicaragua, the flight on Nature Air takes all of 75 minutes.  But there are a couple of factors you should consider.

Because you are in a small propeller driven plane, the flight may be a bit bouncy for many fliers. But you will be closer to the ground, which will give you lots of opportunities to get some great arial photos.

The first consideration is the cost.  When we recently called Nature Air to book a flight from San José to Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, we were told that the round-trip airfare was $180 (US) “plus tax.”  Then the nice lady on the phone casually mentioned that the total, with the tax, was $355 per person.  That’s a lot of tax!  (And that did not include Costa Rica’s $29 exit tax.)

But that was just the beginning.  In addition to the airfare, most people will need to take a taxi to the airport.  Then when they get to Managua, you will need to take another taxi to Granada.  (The taxi from Managua airport to Granada was $55, including a small tip for the driver.)  On the return trip, you will have the taxi fares all over again.

The second consideration is the airplane.  Nature Air uses a brightly painted “Twin Otter” from the Dehavilland Corporation of Canada, a plane which has a great reputation.  But it is a small plane, and some may find the ride a bit bouncy.  In addition, you could spend most of the ride completely in the clouds.

Within minutes after taking off from San Jose's Juan Santamaria Airport, you will pass over the city of Alajuela. I was lucky enough to get a great shot of the Alajuela Cathedral.

However, given a reasonably nice day, it can be a very pleasant trip.  And the real payoff is the view.  As you take off from San José International Airport, you turn north over the suburban city of Alajuela.  Soon you will be high enough to see the Gulf of Nicoya and the Pacific Coast as you pass over miles of Costa Rica’s beautiful rural countryside.

About half way through the flight, you will find yourself over the massive Lake Nicaragua.  This is the largest lake in Central America, 110 miles from the north to the south end. As you fly over Lake Nicaragua you will see countless islands of all sizes, some uninhabited, some with an individual luxury home, and some big enough to support farms and small towns.

A sample of some of the hundreds of islands in Lake Nicaragua. Some are privately owned with elegant homes, and some are big enough to have small towns.

As the plane makes it’s descent into Managua, you will fly at a low altitude over the city of Granada, which sits like a lovely jewel on the shore of Lake Nicaragua.  You may get to see the iconic yellow Cathedral de Granada.  If you are lucky you will be able to get a photo or two that will make the trip worthwhile.

Lovely Granada, Nicaragua, one of the oldest cities in The New World, sits on the western shore of Lake Nicaragua.

This is the photo that made the trip worth while!!! The famous Yellow Cathedral of Granada, the Central Plaza and the stately buildings nearby were in clear view as we flew over Granada, minutes before touching down in Managua.

After you land at Managua International Airport, getting through customs is a relatively quick and easy experience.  Then you are ready to start your Nicaragua adventure.

One of the great advantages of living in San José, Costa Rica is that you have lots of transportation options. From San José you can get virtually anywhere in Costa Rica, and travel to other cities in Central America is easy. It’s all part of the real San José.

On your return flight to San Jose, you will follow Highway 1, The Pan American Highway, as you make your final approach into San Jose's Juan Santamaria International Airport.

Michael Miller is the author of the first and only guide book that focuses on Downtown San José, Costa Rica, titled The Real San José. Paperback copies are available for sale at selected retail outlets in San José.  An electronic version of The Real San José is available at Amazon/Kindle.  To access it, click here.

Your questions and comments are always welcomed. You can contact Michael directly by email: You can see additional stories that Michael has written about Downtown San José at his website:


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