I mean c’mon, after reading all of the terrible reviews on LoungeBuddy, you practically have to stop at the Copa Club in Juan Santamaria International.
Ever the hopeless optimist, I figured the lounge couldn’t be all bad…
To me, it was like any other lounge – a quick respite from the normal airport hustle. I understand the folks that travel constantly; they’ll have a different opinion of lounges, and will probably have more experiences to compare with any given lounge. For me though, a lounge is just a spot to relax and grab a few snacks. Hell, I didn’t even know lounges existed until I started travel hacking!
Copa Clubs are run by Copa Airlines, which has a big presence in Central and South America. Purely coincidence, I’ve actually been writing about Copa a few times recently, and it’s the only international carrier I’ve ever flown. I was excited to try out the lounge, even if it was only somewhere to sit and grab a snack. The Copa Club at Juan Santamaria International Airport is 1 of 5, with the others in Panama City (Panama), Santo Domingo (DR), Guatemala City (Guatemala), and Medellin (Colombia). Our Copa flights to Peru actually stopped in Panama City, but that was long before I started travel hacking, or knew anything about lounges.
Now, I’ve got some experience under my belt. We used our Priority Pass memberships to access the lounge. No problems there – the Copa Club was a about a third full (seats-wise), and the front desk was very accommodating. They even had a small sign up, “Priority Pass Accepted Here.” My girlfriend handed over her Priority Pass Select card (from her Chase Sapphire Reserve), the attendant scanned it, and we strolled over to find some good seats.
By the way, the Copa Club is very easy to find. Once through security, turn left and walk a few minutes. The entrance is located near Gate 5, on your left, and the lounge itself is on the lower level. You’ll see a small desk at the top of the stairs, and a sign points you downward. There are also elevators down, and either option will leave you just outside the door to the lounge. We only spent about half an hour in the Copa Club, just enough time to relax after the rush to the airport. We would have had more time, but…I cut it pretty close on returning the rental car, after I had to get gas and got (just a little bit) lost driving through Alajuela.
The food on offer was standard for airport lounges in my experience. Assorted finger foods, fruit, pastries, and a few simple side dishes. Nothing stood out in particular, but the options made for a great (read: free and quick) lunch! They also had juice, coffee, and tea – but I didn’t stop by the bar while there. According to Loungebuddy, you’ll be paying for beer, wine, and liquor when ordering.
Listen, if you’re looking for world-class food and service, don’t waste your time here. However, if you’re at SJO and want to take a quick break from the busy airport scene, the Copa Club will absolutely meet your needs. I may be in the minority here, but I find it difficult to complain about something that I’m gaining access to at no cost (through Priority Pass, in this case) and improves my airport experience even a fraction. I enjoyed my last taste of fresh papaya – Boston isn’t quite the climate to grow papaya in – and we all reflected a bit on our adventure in Costa Rica.
Seating was adequate for the size of the lounge, and it wasn’t too crowded during our time there (approximately noon local time on a Wednesday). To be honest, I was surprised the airport itself seemed so busy after exiting the lounge, as we were sheltered from the rush in our comfortable armchairs. Ultimately, we wound up sitting outside the gate for our Southwest flight a bit longer than I anticipated. The plane was delayed by about 20 minutes – definitely not enough to ruin the flights home, but I would have loved the extra time in the lounge instead of at the gate!
Whenever I get the chance to visit a lounge, I do. It’s a great way to relax and get excited about an upcoming trip, or to finish off a great adventure on your way home. Of course, the food and drink is a nice touch! I hope you all get to experience lounges occasionally too, and until my next trip, I wish you fatter wallets and fuller passports!