5 Ways to Get to Costa Rica Using Points and Miles


Just think, a few hours ago, I was in cold, snowy Denver.

I hate to say it, but winter is coming. Now, believe me, I'm in no rush to say goodbye to summer, but as the weather starts to cool down here in Denver, I just want to be somewhere that's warm, sunny, and has amazing food. Is that too much to ask?

Last winter I took my first trip to Costa Rica to cure the winter blues and it was incredible! Winter in Costa Rica is like a hot summer day in Colorado, so needless to say, I was loving it. Between lounging in the hot springs, exploring the area, and eating everything in sight, it was easy to get hooked on that Pura Vida lifestyle (an expression in Costa Rica that means "pure life" or just real living).

Being the adventurous guy that I am, I also went zip-lining through the rain forest, snorkeling in the middle of the ocean, and horseback riding.

Now here's the secret to how I managed to go on a trip like this - none of it would have been possible without the points and miles I saved up.

"Paying for" an international trip with award travel can seem intimidating at first, but I promise it's pretty simple (and definitely worth it). Essentially, once you have a decent amount of points and miles, you'll want to figure out the best way to maximize those rewards for your trip.

Here are 5 real examples of how you could also travel to Costa Rica using your points and miles.

1. Get There With JetBlue

The JetBlue Plus World Elite MasterCard from Barclaycard offers new applicants 30,000 bonus points after spending just $1,000 within 90 days of account opening, which is key for earning the points you'll need to book your trip.

Other perks include earning 6x points for JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. There is a $99 annual fee, but the 30,000 bonus points are well worth the $300 you'll receive towards your flights.

Another great perk from JetBlue is being able to pool points together between family members, so if you plan to travel with someone in your family (mom, dad, sibling, etc.), you can combine all of your points into one account to monitor your points and easily see how many you need to cover your trip.

To make the deal even sweeter, JetBlue is also a transfer partner of the American Express Membership Rewards program, so if you have a card like the Amex EveryDay® Preferred, Premier Rewards Gold, or Platinum Card®, you can move some of your points to JetBlue to top off your account (if needed).

Book your trip! Once you have enough points, you can book your trip on JetBlue, which happens to be one of my favorite airlines. As long as you're flexible with your dates, the 30,000 point bonus you'll earn from the JetBlue card will almost cover two round-trip award flights to Costa Rica. 

Flying from the Northeast: JetBlue offers flights to the Liberia Costa Rica Airport from JFK Airport in New York as well as from Logan International in Boston, MA.

Flying from Florida: JetBlue offers flights to the San Jose Airport in Costa Rica from Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

2. Get There With Southwest

Earn a huge amount of points - 50,000! - when you sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier credit card from Chase and spend $2,000 within three months of opening your account.

You'll also earn 2x points per $1 spent on flights booked directly through Southwest Airlines. 

Another great benefit is that Southwest is a transfer partner of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, so you can move your points there from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® and Ink Plus®.

Book your trip! While you weren't looking, Southwest has been expanding their flight destinations to international places over the last few years - including none other than Costa Rica!  

Both the San Jose Airport and Liberia Airport are options for Southwest flights originating from Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Houston-Hobby.

For example, one round-trip ticket from Baltimore to San Jose will "cost" you just over 22,000 points to book an award trip - meaning you could feasibly book two round-trip tickets for 44,000 points and still have points left over from the 50,000 point signup bonus earned with your Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier credit card. Major score!

Tropical forests, the ocean, and incredible food...ah, yes, paradise.

3. Get There With Delta (via Korean Airlines miles)

This option isn't quite as direct as the two above for booking award travel, but it's still a great option.

First, you'll need to rack up some Korean Air SkyPass miles! I recommend signing up for one of these credit cards from Chase since Korean Airlines partners with the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program. Both offer so many great benefits, but here's a very quick overview on the signup bonuses:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® - earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months of account opening. Annual fee is $95, but waived the first year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve® - earn 100,000 points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months of account opening. Annual fee is $450.

Since Korean airlines doesn't consider an award trip to Central America to be any different than a flight to Florida, it's cheaper to use their miles to fly to Costa Rica via their partner, Delta. 

Book your trip! To book a flight to Costa Rica on Delta with Korean Airline points (stay with me here) you'll need about 25,000 points for one round-trip ticket to fly out of one of their major hubs - Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, or Minneapolis.

When you're ready to book, call Korean Air to find award seats and then transfer your Ultimate Reward points to the Korean Airlines SkyPass program.

Sidenote: when I first started booking award travel, transferring points and miles to different airline carriers and reward programs seemed daunting, but it's actually quite simple to do once you get used to it. Don't give up(!) and if you have questions, let me know!

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4. Get There With American Airlines

Here's an example of two tickets to Costa Rica for 60,000 miles.

The best way to earn your way to Costa Rica with miles is to sign up for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® which offers new applicants 60,000 miles after spending $5,000 within 3 months of account opening. 

I like that the card also features lounge access, priority check-in and boarding, and a free checked bag, so you really get the rock-star experience - even when flying in economy.

It does have a $450 annual fee, but that's a small price to pay for all those miles and perks if you travel often or in this case - earning a (practically) free trip to Costa Rica!

Book your trip! As you can see in the screenshot, American Airlines will charge you just 30,000 miles for a round-trip award ticket and 60,000 miles if you'd like to book two round-trip tickets.

All in all, this is a pretty incredible reward just for signing up for a credit card. 

To get to Costa Rica, you can fly out of any of American Airlines major hubs - Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Philadelphia, or Phoenix.

5. Get There With United

Last on the list - but certainly not the least - is flying to Costa Rica with United Airlines.

Since United is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, I recommend signing up for a Chase credit card, some of which I previously mentioned above - the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Ink Plus® - and earn miles with Chase Ultimate Rewards. 

Another card to consider is the United MileagePlus® Explorer card (still Chase) that offers new applicants 30,000 bonus miles (sometimes more) when you spend $1,000 within 3 months of account opening. The card has a $95 annual fee that's waived for the first year. Still, the benefits far outweigh the fee in my opinion.

so many booking options...

Book your trip! Once you have enough miles in your Ultimate Rewards account, you can book an award trip on United Airlines to Costa Rica from any of their major hubs including - Chicago, Houston-Intercontinental, Newark, Washington-Dulles, and Denver. 

As seen in the screenshot above, flying from one of United's US-based hubs to Costa Rica (or Central America in general) will "cost" you 35,000 miles for a round-trip ticket in economy class. If you have your sights set on going on all with First/Business class, you'll need at least 30,000 award miles for your Costa Rican adventure.

Disclaimer: This content and the opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and have not been provided, commissioned, or endorsed by the credit card issuer. All information was accurate at the time of this post but card terms and conditions may change at any time. 

Have you been to Costa Rica? Let me know in the comments! 

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