The international airports in the capital cities of Central America might sound like they are large, with many runways. But their names are deceiving. Many are relatively small with few runways and gates. But the rise in interest in travel to Central America has brought on significant expansions in several of the busiest ones. If you're planning a trip to Central America for its world-class beaches, scuba diving or natural adventures, airport codes and airline information will come in handy.
San Jose (Alajuela): Juan Santamaría International -- SJO
Located just outside downtown San Jose, about a 30-minute drive from hotels and restaurants and about 2 hours from beach resorts. The airport is a hub of Avianca El Salvador (formerly TACA), which has direct flights from the U.S. and flights throughout Central and South America. Other airlines that fly into San Jose are Delta, American Airlines, JetBlue, Alaska Air, Southwest, Spirit, British Airways and Mexicana.
Liberia: Daniel Oduber Quiros International -- LIR
Liberia's international airport is close to the beaches of the Pacific Coast and the Nicoya Peninsula, which makes it a convenient starting point for a Costa Rica beach vacation. The traffic into this airport increased to such a degree that a new terminal opened in 2012. It's served by many airlines, including American, Delta, JetBlue, United and Avianca.
Guatemala City: La Aurora International -- GUA
La Aurora is just 4 miles from Guatemala City's downtown area and 16 miles from Antigua.
It was renovated and expanded in 2008. Airlines that fly into La Aurora include Avianca, American, Delta and United.
San Salvador: Monsenor Oscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (formerly El Salvador International) – SAL
This airport serves as the main hub for Avianca Airlines. It's in the midst of a major plan for expansion, which will last for several years.
Besides Avianca, it is served by American, Delta, Spirit and United.
Tegucigalpa: Toncontin International – TGU
Toncontin International Airport is infamous for its white-knuckle landings. The airport is in the mountains and has one of the shortest runways in the world. What that means: a lightning fast descent followed by a sharp turn toward the runway. And it's often windy, which ups the scary landing ante. The History Channel's show "Most Extreme Airports" called it the second most dangerous in the world. It's small, but it's famous. Avianca, American, Delta and United regularly attempt these landings.
Managua: Augusto C. Sandino International -- MGA
Name changed from Managua International in 2007 in honor of the Sandinista regime. Its last expansion was completed in 2006. Managua's location is convenient to Nicaragua's Pacific Coast beaches. Avianca, American, Delta, Spirit and United serve the airport.
Belize City – Philip S. W. Goldson International -- BZE
The Belize City international airport is about 30 minutes by car from the city center. It's a small airport in a very small country, but it has a big draw: It takes you to one of the world's best scuba diving destinations.
It's served by Avianca, American, Delta, Southwest and United. And you won't have any trouble understanding the locals in Belize, the former British Honduras -- it is the only country in Central America where English is the official language.
Panama City: Tocumen International – PTY
Tocumen International Airport is the largest airport in Central America as of 2017 and is a regional hub for flights to the Caribbean and across the Americas. It's also the home of Copa Airlines, Panama's national airline. It's served by a long list of airlines and includes Avianca, American, Delta, Spirit and United, along with several Europe-based airlines.