Traveling to Costa Rica using points and miles in 2024


This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy.

Advertiser Disclosure: This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. This relationship may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. All information about the Citi cards, the JetBlue cards, British Airways Visa Signature® Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, American Express® Green Card, Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful™ credit card, Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, the World of Hyatt Credit Card, the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card, and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by Lonely Planet. These cards are not available through Lonely Planet.

Costa Rica is the ultimate destination for families, sun seekers, adventure travelers and everyone in between.

It’s easy to get to from the US, affordable and diverse in its travel offerings. Points and miles can make a trip to Costa Rica even more affordable by allowing you to leverage their loyalty program points and miles for flights, hotels, rental cars, and other travel expenses.

Whether you’re looking for a luxury escape or a budget adventure, Costa Rica has it all. Here are all the best ways to travel to Costa Rica using points and miles:

How to get started with travel points and airline miles

Costa Rica hotels you can book with points 

You can book many great hotels in Costa Rica with points. All the major hotel chains have multiple properties in popular tourist destinations like San José and Papagayo in the Guanacaste Province. Whether you’re an adventure traveler or looking for a beach vacation, there’s a variety of hotels you can book for as little as 3,500 points per night.

Here’s an overview of the best options, broken down by loyalty program:

Best travel credit cards for hotels

IHG One Rewards

IHG One has five hotels in Costa Rica, ranging from around 18,000-25,000 points per night. The program doesn’t publish an award chart; exact rates can vary by season and demand. If you have an IHG credit card, you’ll get the fourth night free when booking consecutively. This equates to a 25% discount, making IHG an excellent choice for your San José hotel stay. IHG also allows Points + Cash bookings, so you can do a partial point redemption if you don’t have enough points for a free night.  

Here are our top picks for IHG hotels in Costa Rica that you can book with points: 

The best travel credit cards

The courtyard of the Holiday Inn San Jose La Sabana
The courtyard of the Holiday Inn San Jose La Sabana © Holiday Inn San Jose La Sabana

Best budget hotel: Holiday Inn San José La Sabana (around 18,000 points per night)

The newly-renovated Holiday Inn San José La Sabana offers the best of both worlds: An excellent location in the city’s downtown area and resort amenities, including an on-site casino, world-class gym and indoor and outdoor pools. 

How to make a travel budget using points and miles 

Best mid-tier hotel: Crowne Plaza San José La Sabana (around 21,000 points per night)

The Crowne Plaza San Jose La Sabana offers a more elevated experience at a reasonable rate. Located near La Sabana Park, the hotel is within walking distance of popular tourist sights, dining and entertainment. Like the Holiday Inn, the Crowne Plaza San José has an on-site casino and an on-site pool so you can explore and unwind in one place. 

Best credit cards for international travel

Best luxury hotel: InterContinental Hotels Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall

If you’re looking to shop in San José, the InterContinental Hotels Costa Rica is perfect, located near Multiplaza Mall. The property offers full resort amenities, including an on-site spa. The InterContinental doesn’t have much award availability on points. However, you can book a cash rate using a credit card like the Capital One Venture Card and then redeem miles towards the booking. 

Should you book travel with cash or points?

IHG Premier One Rewards World Elite card
IHG Premier One Rewards World Elite card © The Points Guy

How to earn IHG points

You can earn IHG points through one of the co-branded credit cards or by transferring points from Bilt Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards.

  • IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn 140,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months from account opening.
  • IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card: Earn 80,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months from account opening. 
  • IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 in the first three months of account opening. 
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.

How to use points and miles to save money on travel

Hilton Honors

Hilton doesn’t publish an award chart, but standard award nights typically range from 5000-150,000 points. There are eight Hilton hotels in Costa Rica and award nights vary depending on the property and travel dates. Hilton also offers Points and Money awards, allowing you to stretch your points further and save money if you don’t have enough for a full award booking. 

Hilton Silver members and above also receive the fifth night free on award stays, making these hotels even more affordable. You can get automatic Silver status with the Hilton Honors Credit Card, which has no annual fee.

Best travel credit cards for foodies

Best budget hotel: Hilton Garden Inn San Jose La Sabana (around 30,000 points)

Forget everything you know about Hilton Garden Inn hotels – the San Jose La Sabana property is indistinguishable from a high-end hotel. Located next to Sabana Park, the hotel provides a great location to explore everything the city offers. With rates costing around 30,000 points per night, this is a great budget hotel where you can enjoy a comfortable stay without paying through the roof.

The best credit cards with no international fees

Hilton San Jose La Sabana
A room with a view at the Hilton San Jose La Sabana © Hilton San Jose La Sabana

Best mid-tier hotel: Hilton San Jose La Sabana (around 50,000 points)

The Hilton San Jose La Sabana is located near the National Stadium, just 2.5 miles from downtown. This mid-tier hotel borders on luxury, with modern rooms offering floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city and mountains. The hotel also has a luxurious indoor pool and an executive lounge, which Hilton Diamond members can access free of charge. You can get complimentary Diamond status from the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

Best credit cards for road trips

Best luxury hotel: Gran Hotel Costa Rica, Curio Collection by Hilton (48,000-57,000 points)

Consider the Gran Hotel Costa Rica if you want to add a little boutique glamour to your San Jose getaway. This Curio collection property is located in downtown San Jose and has been designated a national historical site and even played host to President John F. Kennedy. The hotel is located near museums, cafes and the National Theatre. It’s a great way to redeem your Hilton points and make your trip more luxurious. 

10 amazing hotels around the world you can book with points

How to earn Hilton points

Earning Hilton points is relatively easy, thanks to numerous credit card partnerships. You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards to Hilton at a 2:1 ratio, though that’s not the best use of points. You’re better off applying for a Hilton credit card with a substantial bonus (Terms Apply):

  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card*: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $6,000 in purchases in the first six months of card membership.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card*: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in your first six months of card membership and get up to $200 back each year on eligible Hilton purchases.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Business Card*: Earn 130,000 points after you spend $3000 in the first three months of card membership.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card*: Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card in the first six months of card membership.

Traveling to Japan using points and miles

The Marriott Bonvoy Bold card
The Marriott Bonvoy Bold card © Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy

Marriott Bonvoy

As the largest hotel operator in the world, Marriott Bonvoy has nearly two dozen hotels in Costa Rica to suit every budget and traveler type. While Marriott doesn’t publish an award chart and rates vary depending on season, you can still find very reasonable rates at fantastic hotels. All Marriott Bonvoy members receive the fifth night free on award stays, allowing you to save significantly on longer stays.

Marriott also offers discounts through Point Savers, offering point savings of 20% or more. Here’s a look at the best Costa Rica hotels you can book with points:

How to get major perks at global events and concerts with your credit card

Aloft San Jose Hotel, Costa Rica
The restaurant and bar at Aloft San Jose Hotel, Costa Rica © Aloft San Jose Hotel, Costa Rica

Best budget hotel: Aloft San Jose Costa Rica (around 13,000 points)

The Aloft San Jose Costa Rica is a great place to stay during a brief layover, as it’s just five miles from the airport yet still accessible to the city’s main attractions. The hotel features spacious rooms and modern decor at a very reasonable price. Guests receive complimentary breakfast and on-site parking, making this an excellent hotel for budget travelers.

10 amazing US hotels you can book with points

Best mid-tier hotel: AC Hotel San Jose Escazu (around 22,000 points)

The AC Hotel San Jose Escazu is a great mid-tier hotel option if you want to use Marriott points. From just 22,000 points per night, you’ll get a large room in a prime location and complimentary self-parking. The hotel is within walking distance of Sabana Park, shopping, dining and more.

The best credit cards for Global Entry

The main pool at Planet Hollywood Costa Rica
The main pool at Planet Hollywood Costa Rica © Planet Hollywood Costa Rica, An Autograph Collection All-Inclusive Resort

Best luxury hotel: Planet Hollywood Costa Rica, An Autograph Collection All-Inclusive Resort (around 50,000 points)

Planet Hollywood is a well-known name in the hospitality industry, and its all-inclusive hotels offer exceptional value for your Marriott points. The Planet Hollywood Costa Rica is located in the Guanacaste region, overlooking the Papagayo Peninsula. The resort has a family-friendly and adults-only section, providing every traveler with a peaceful oasis and fun. 

Best credit cards for adventure travel

The Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express Card
The Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express Card © The Points Guy

How to earn Marriott points

You can earn Marriott points easily thanks to numerous transfer partnerships and credit cards. Points from Amex Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to Marriott 1:1. In addition, both Chase and Amex offer multiple Marriott credit cards that will give your account balance a substantial boost (Terms Apply):

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card*: Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first six months of Card Membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card*: Earn 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first six months of card membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful™ credit card: Earn 85,000 Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in your first three months from your account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card*: Earn three Free Night Awards after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in eligible purchases within the first six months of card membership. Redemption level up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points for each bonus Free Night Award, at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Limited time offer: Earn 5 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $5,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months from account opening. Plus, earn up to 14X total points for every $1 spent at thousands of hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy.

Best credit cards for traveling with kids 

World of Hyatt

World of Hyatt has ten hotels in Costa Rica, one for every budget. Hyatt is one of the only loyalty programs still publishing an award chart and hotels in Costa Rica start at just 3500 points per night. With reasonable redemption rates and lots of options for earning points, Hyatt is an excellent option for booking hotels in Costa Rica with points. 

The best credit cards for rental cars

Best budget hotel: Hyatt Place San Jose/Pinares (3,500-6,5000 points)

The Hyatt Place San Jose/Pinares is an excellent option for a quick stay in San Jose, with rates starting at just 3,500 points per night. The hotel is located in the Curridabat area, quite a way from the tourist sights but still a good base if you’re looking for a budget option during a short stay. Hyatt Place properties are great for families and group travelers, providing spacious rooms with pull-out couches and freebies, including breakfast, parking and Wi-Fi. 

10 incredible branded hotels that have boutique hotel vibes

Alta Las Palomas
The balcony view from Alta Las Palomas © Alta Las Palomas

Best mid-tier hotel: Alta Las Palomas (12,000-18,000 points)

The Alta Las Palomas hotel is just a 30-minute drive from Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), providing a scenic and tranquil base to explore the city and its surrounding hiking trails. This Category 4 Hyatt hotel is bookable for just 12,000 points per night.

Traveling to Europe using points and miles

The view from a suite at Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica
The view from a suite at Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica © Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica

Best luxury hotel: Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica (21,000 – 29,000 points)

Hyatt has several luxury hotels in Costa Rica, but the Dreams Las Mareas offers exceptional value. This all-inclusive resort is a Category C property, requiring 21,000-29,000 points per night. Guests booking this hotel with points receive a spacious suite with a balcony outfitted with a hot tub to enjoy the stunning views. Considering all of your meals are included in the point rate, this is an exceptional way to redeem your Hyatt points in the Guanacaste area.

How to travel to the Seychelles with points and miles

How to earn Hyatt points

World of Hyatt is a 1:1 transfer partner of Bilt Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can also piece together several free nights for your Costa Rica vacation with the welcome bonuses from Hyatt credit cards:

  • World of Hyatt Credit Card: Earn up to 65,000 bonus points: 35,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within the first three months from account opening. Plus, earn up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 bonus points total per $1 spent on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point for the first six months from account opening or up to $15,000.
  • World of Hyatt Business Credit Card: Earn up to 75,000 bonus points: 60,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 within the first three months from account opening, plus 15,000 bonus points after spending $12,000 in the first six months from account opening.

How to travel to Italy with points and miles

Hiking the Costa Rican jungle
Hiking the Costa Rican jungle © Westend61 / Getty

The cheapest award flights to Costa Rica

Flying to Costa Rica using miles is quite affordable, especially economy class. Award flights range from 16,000 to 35,000 miles round-trip, depending on the loyalty program. Business and first class aren’t worth it on these routes since most tend to be recliner-style seats rather than luxurious flatbed seats. You’re much better off saving your miles for a long-haul flight where you can enjoy a truly premium experience.

There are two primary airports you can fly into directly to embark on your Costa Rican adventure: Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) and Liberia Guanacaste (LIR). Juan Santamaria is the best airport if you want to start your trip. 

Meanwhile, Guanacaste is ideal for visiting the country’s northwest coast, known for its tropical rainforest and stunning beach resorts. This is where a lot of adventure travelers start their vacation.

Several airlines operate direct flights to Costa Rica and provide travelers with a more comfortable mode of transportation. JetBlue and Southwest price award tickets based on cash fares, while other carriers price them out based on distance or region flown. 

Below is a list of the cheapest award flights to Costa Rica, along with ways you can earn those miles from credit card welcome bonuses:

  • American AAdvantage: From 16,000 miles round-trip.
  • JetBlue TrueBlue: From 17,400 points round-trip.
  • British Airways: From 18,000 Avios round-trip.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards: From 22,000 points round-trip.

TSA PreCheck vs. Clear: which one is best to expedite your travels

American AAdvantage

American Airlines flies directly to San José from Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX). An award flight from Miami starts at just 16,000 miles round-trip, while the LAX route will set you back 25,000 miles. You can earn American AAdvantage miles through their co-branded credit cards or transfer points 1:1 from the Bilt Rewards program. 

If you’re looking to give your AAdvantage account balance a boost, here are the best cards for the job:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive Mastercard®: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $10,000 within the first three months of account opening. 
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 within the first four months of account opening.
  • Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee within the first 90 days.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months of account opening.

How to travel to Australia with points and miles

An Airbus A321neo from JetBlue's fleet
An Airbus A321neo from JetBlue’s fleet © Zach Griff / The Points Guy

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue has one of the most comfortable economy cabins with one of the cheapest award tickets to Costa Rica. The Airline operates flights to Guanacaste Airport (LIR) from Boston (BOS), New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX). Meanwhile, you can fly directly to San José (SJO) from Miami (MIA), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), LAX, JFK and Orlando (MCO). 

Like Southwest, JetBlue award ticket costs depend on the paid fare – the higher the fare, the more points you’ll need to redeem. The airline also offers a “best fare finder” tool to help you find the lowest ticket prices. We found fares as low as 17,400 points round-trip between Orlando and San José and 18,800 points out of New York’s JFK airport.

You can earn points for JetBlue flights to Costa Rica with the airline’s co-branded credit cards. Alternatively, you can transfer points from Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and the Citi ThankYou program at a 1:1 ratio.

Below are some credit cards that can help you earn the JetBlue points needed for flights to Costa Rica (Terms Apply):

  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express*: Earn 120,000 points after spending $15,000 within the first three months of card membership.
  • American Express® Business Gold Card*: Earn 70,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first three months of card membership.
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $8,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express*: Earn 80,000 points after spending $8,000 in the first six months of card membership.
  • American Express® Gold Card*: Earn 60,000 points after spending $6,000 within the first six months of card membership.
  • American Express® Green Card*: Earn 40,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first six months of card membership
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • JetBlue Business Card: Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 90 days. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 bonus points when a purchase is made on an employee card.
  • The JetBlue Plus Card: Earn 40,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.

How to travel to New Zealand with points and miles

A British Airways flight takes off from LAX
A British Airways flight takes off from LAX © Zach Griff / The Points Guy

British Airways Avios

British Airways is a Oneworld alliance member and offers the cheapest award tickets to Costa Rica. The Executive Club program prices award tickets out by segment and distance, so short-haul direct flights are cheaper than long-haul ones with stopovers. As such, flights operated by Alaska Airlines between Miami (MIA) and San José (SJO) start at just 18,000 Avios round-trip.

Flights from the West Coast are also reasonable, at just 26,000 Avios round-trip out of Los Angeles (LAX). What makes these awards so accessible isn’t just the low redemption rates but how easily Avios can be acquired. In addition to two co-branded credit cards, you can transfer Avios at a 1:1 ratio from American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One miles and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Here’s a look at the highest current welcome bonuses on cards affiliated with British Airways and its transfer partners:

Traveling to Hawaii with points and miles

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest Airlines operates direct flights to Costa Rica from three US airports: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), Denver International (DEN) and Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). Southwest flights from these airports fly to both San José (SJO) and Guanacaste (LIR). 

Southwest Airlines prices award tickets based on cash prices, with Wanna Get Away Fares being the cheapest. What’s unique about Southwest is that all passengers get two free checked bags per flight – even when booking the lowest fare. This can save you a substantial amount on checked-bag fees if you’re not a carry-on type of traveler. 

Using the Southwest low-fare calendar, you can find fares from the US to Costa Rica for as little as 22,410 points roundtrip. These points are easily accrued through the Southwest credit card and a 1:1 transfer partnership with Chase Ultimate Rewards (see above). Here’s a round-up of credit cards that can help you earn enough Southwest points for two round-trip tickets to Costa Rica.

  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 80,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. Earn an additional 60,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first nine months of account opening.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Earn 50,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: Earn 50,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of account opening.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Earn 50,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of account opening.

How to travel to Bali with points and miles

A waterfall in La Paz, Costa Rica
A waterfall in La Paz, Costa Rica © Jakub Maculewicz / Shutterstock

Activities and ground transportation

Once you have flights and hotels covered, you’ll need to set a budget for ground transportation, activities and tours. Luckily, you can use points to cover these expenses too. The Chase Ultimate Rewards portal allows you to redeem points towards activities, tours and transit at 1-1.5 cents each, depending on your credit card. Points are worth 1.25 cents for Sapphire Preferred cardholders and 1.5 cents if you have the Sapphire Reserve.

Capital One miles are an excellent alternative if you’d rather save your Chase points for a better redemption. The Capital One Venture and Venture X cards allow you to redeem miles towards any travel purchases at one cent each. While the rate is lower, remember that these credit cards earn at least 2 miles for every dollar spent. So, replenishing your balance is a lot easier than with Chase. Capital One has the added advantage of allowing you to redeem miles towards any travel purchase, regardless of whether you booked through Capital One or not. 

American Express Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards

Bottom line

Traveling to Costa Rica on points and miles is affordable and accessible. American Airlines offers the cheapest award flight, which charges just 16,000 miles round-trip. Hotels are also attainable, with free nights starting at just 3500 Hyatt points and up to 57,000 points for high-end resorts. You can cover activities, tours and transportation with points by booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or redeeming Capital One miles towards these bookings at one cent each.

The best credit cards for airline miles

* Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top