Since Drake Bay is located in such an isolated part of Costa Rica, getting there - especially from abroad - requires a little more time. We try to make our travel days as relaxing as possible, selecting flights departing from home in the afternoon if at all possible. In this case, we flew out of Toronto at about 6 p.m. EST. With a five hour flight we landed in San Jose at about 10 p.m. CST.
This meant spending a night in San Jose before continuing on to our next destination. The travel agency we used to navigate the difficulties of regional travel within Costa Rica, Anywhere.com, recommended staying at the Holiday Inn Alajuela Airport.
We flew from San Jose to Drake Bay with Sansa Airlines. This was not an easy flight to book, as we struggled with their website and no one ever seemed to pick up the phone when we tried calling from Canada. Anywhere.com offered to book just our flights, without requiring we use any other services with them. Choosing to fly puts some pretty limited weight restrictions on luggage; the smaller aircraft used to shuttle people about inside Costa Rica have limited cargo capacity and each additional pound means more fuel is burned in the air. Our check-in luggage had a limit of 30 lbs per person and 10 lbs for carry on. Being experienced hikers, we have a good selection of light weight, multi-purpose, and more importantly quick-dry, clothing. With a little help from packing cubes, we were able to fit almost everything we needed into two hiking bags, with total weight (bag and luggage) coming in at about 26 lbs each. Admittedly, our carry-on was a little more challenging. Our camera equipment alone was over 10 lbs. Fortunately there is some allowance for overweight carry-on but be aware that extra weight comes at an additional charge of USD $1 per pound (not at all unreasonable from our perspective).
Anywhere.com Tour Company
Useful Notes About Travelling With Sansa
This information was accurate in Dec. 2019, make sure to check for updates
• Recommended Check-In: 1 hour before the flight
• Check-In Cut Off: 30 min before the flight
• The price of the ticket does not include a “landing and airstrip fee” which can cost between $3 - $7.
Official Website: Flysansa.com
If you’re taking a shuttle to the Domestic Terminal (where Sansa flies from), make sure you let the driver know that you want the Domestic Terminal, and give yourself plenty of time. Our shuttle came late to the hotel, was a bit overwhelmed by the number of passengers and volume of luggage, and dropped off everyone but us at the International Terminal. Once inside the Domestic Terminal we were confronted with a not over-long line up, but a very slow check-in process. As a result we barely made check-in.
Why was the check-in process slow, you may ask. Well, we learned that many people hadn’t done their homework in advance regarding luggage restrictions on these smaller aircraft. As a result there were a number of “at the counter” negotiations that slowed up everyone in the line. In addition, Sansa not only weighs check-in and carry-on baggage, they weigh the passengers as well (a first for us). That’s because there’s a strict limit as to how heavy the plane can be to fly safely, which means if the total weight of the people and bags is too high check-in bags start getting pulled off the plane. This makes is particularly important that valuables and medications are placed in your carry-on. Even though we were very diligent about staying under the checked baggage weight limit of 13.6 kg (30 lbs) one of our bags was randomly selected to be removed from the flight (that was small stuff compared to another couple who had three of theirs pulled!) While we read about “landing and airport” fees and carry-on overweight fees (limit of 4.5 kg; 10 lbs) we were charged neither of those fees (full disclosure, one of our carry-on bags weighed in at 6.5 kg - oops!).
The bag was placed on a later flight, arriving at Drake Bay 8 hours after we landed.
The Sansa Airlines Domestic terminal is small, quite clean and modern. You’ll find plenty of places to charge your device, including USB ports. They do have a few food options in the small gift shop. You can pick up a sandwich, empanada, yogurt or fruit bowl after security. The washrooms are nicer than some large international airports we’ve been to.
The boarding process is informal and rather quick. Your carry-on will be placed in a holding area behind the seating area so take out anything you want access to in your seat. Tall and wide people will find getting on this plane a little squishy.
The flight to Drake Bay only takes only thirty minutes in the air. Don’t bother taking a book and please look away from your phone - because you’re cruising at a relatively low altitude the scenery is truly lovely. First we crossed over green mountains with silver rivers of tin roofs streaming down the contours. Then we flew along beautiful coastline, and finally over crystal clear waters. We tried to spot a whale or dolphins in the water, but instead saw big patchworks of dark coral.
The temperature and humidity blanketed us as soon as we got off the plane. The silence, broken up only by bird call, is also notable. As far as we could tell everyone at the airport had a driver waiting for them, as did we. So make sure you arrange transportation to your accommodations with your resort or lodging.
As soon as pulled away from the airport terminal we found ourselves in a different
world. The rough, clay/gravel road is lined with small-hold farms as soon as you leave the airport. Cows lazed in the grass, a big sow trotted along the rough road, a chicken seemed to be determined to run under the wheels of our car. We drove through a bit of flooded road and then past two cyclists standing calf deep in water seeming to be in the midst of casual conversation. Through the trees we spotted a naked woman languidly taking in the sun on a beach. It takes about 20 min of slow driving along rough road, to reach the village. This is a great chance to enjoy your first taste of the wild, and lush, plant life. And there was still one more stage of the trip to our resort - but you’ll have to read the Drake Bay Wilderness Resort blog (coming soon) to find out more about that.