You're looking at around a 4-hour drive back to Alajuela, on a clear road with an early start. However, its highly recommended to stay near the airport for your last night, to minimize unexpected problems on the road, delays and stress!
Totally agree with the above. Always better to stay the night before near the airport. You just never know!
Depends on what you are looking for. Near the center of town where you can walk around, shop, go to the bank, etc - Hotel Los Volcanes. Outside of town in the hills, Orquideas Inn, Pura Vida Hotel, Hotel Buena Vista. Close to the airport - Hotel Casa Antigua. Casa Antigua is very close to the airport, Hotel Los Volcanes about 7-10 minutes away - the others no more than 20 minutes.
Stayed in Samara the last night before leaving a couple trips ago and I had no problem getting to the airport on time- I actually had to stall and stop at a lot of shops b/c I was too early. But I left at 7:30 AM and my flight was 3:30PM- took less than 4 hours. If you have a late flight like that, you would have no problem. But if you don't want to risk it, the Holiday Inn Express is right next to the airport and has a shuttle to the airport.
Hotel El Aeropuerto...
And for simple place 3 minutes from SJO...firstname.lastname@example.org
There are a lot of small hotels around Alejuela that sort of specialize in people spending their first and last nights in Costa Rica. Usually you can have your rental car picked up there and arrange transportation to the airport. We are going to use a place called Milenium II this trip. Haven't used it before, however.
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