The Best Ways to Fly to Costa Rica With Points and Miles [Step-by-Step]

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Normally at UpgradedPoints, you’ll find a lot of focus on long-haul destinations. This is our typical strategy because traveling in business or first class on long-haul flights is usually much more expensive than economy, making these flights virtually inaccessible for most people without using points and miles.

This time, while the focus is on a place that’s still outside the country, it’s nowhere near as far away as places like Hong Kong, Dubai, or Spain. Located in Central America, Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination because of its proximity to the United States, smooth coffee, and beautiful landscape.

In this guide, you’ll find, in detail, the best ways to fly to Costa Rica with points and miles. Mostly about round-trip economy flights that are based on convenience to your home airport, but you’ll also see information on short-haul first class options for extra comfort.

To begin, you’ll get information on the absolute best redemptions, and then move to a few innovative, interesting, but 100% valid redemptions that can help stretch the value of your points.

Best Programs to Use to Book Flights

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue Mint Series
JetBlue Mint aboard the A321 on a single route, JFK – LIR, makes travel to Costa Rica that much better!

JetBlue is famed for having the best domestic business class in America. Known as JetBlue Mint, the A321’s featuring this excellent business class are typically operated on transcontinental flights.

However, JetBlue has recently decided to operate a Saturday seasonal Mint service starting December 15, 2018, from New York City (JFK) – Liberia (LIR)!

This is great news for travelers planning to go to Costa Rica who want an awesome business class experience.

JetBlue award costs are tied closely with the cash price, and they generally go for ~1.4 cents per point. Of course, since the seasonal Mint service is only on Saturdays, you’ll want to plan far in advance to get the best award prices.

JetBlue Award Search
Flying JetBlue Mint from New York to Liberia round-trip will have variable costs. Image courtesy of jetblue.com.

If you don’t care about flying JetBlue Mint and want to get to Costa Rica more cheaply, JetBlue also has the best award rates in economy!

All of JetBlue’s current nonstop routes to Costa Rica are in the table below:

JetBlue Nonstop Routes to Costa Rica
Fort Lauderdale (FLL) – San Jose (SJO)New York City (JFK) – Liberia (LIR) {Saturday only from Dec 15, 2018)*
Orlando (MCO) – San Jose (SJO)Boston (BOS) – Liberia (LIR) {Saturday only}

*JetBlue Mint offered

For round-trip economy tickets, JetBlue prices range from 8,800-40,000 miles, depending on the cost of the revenue ticket.

Hot Tip: Award availability on JetBlue is excellent. Since the mileage cost is pegged to the cash value of the ticket, you won’t have to jump through any loopholes to book your JetBlue award flights!

Here’s how to search for JetBlue awards:

  1. Head to JetBlue’s website
  2. Enter your flight details, including origin and destination cities, dates, and number of passengers
    • Be sure to check the box that says Use TrueBlue Points
  3. Select your flights
    • Unfortunately, JetBlue does not allow flight holds
  4. Reserve your tickets and pay any taxes and fees

Earning JetBlue TrueBlue Miles

JetBlue is a transfer partner with all major transferrable award points: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Chase and Citi both transfer to JetBlue at a 1:1 ratio.

American Express normally transfers to JetBlue at a 250:200 ratio, but with the current 25% transfer bonus, the ratio is effectively 1:1.

Marriott transfers to JetBlue at a 6:1 ratio, and for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer, you will receive a bonus of 15,000 Marriott points. That means that every 60,000 Marriott points transferred will net 12,500 JetBlue points.

Seeing as how Marriott points are so valuable, we do not suggest using your Marriott points to transfer to JetBlue.

American Express, Chase, and Citi all transfer points “almost instantly” to JetBlue, while Marriott takes around ~24 hours.

Bottom Line: If you want to try JetBlue’s famous Mint Business class (or just want to fly with the lowest possible miles cost in economy), JetBlue is your best bet. With all 4 major transferable points programs as partners, JetBlue is hands-down the best choice, especially for those originating on the East Coast. 

Recommended Citi Cards

British Airways (BA) Avios

We like British Airways Avios for a few select redemptions, and this one is no exception. Using Avios is great here because it presents a cheap way to fly to Costa Rica with points!

In particular, there are 3 routes operated by American Airlines that interest us:

Nonstop Routes to Costa Rica on American AirlinesBritish Airways Avios Round-trip CostTaxes & Fees
Miami (MIA) – San Jose (SJO)15,000~$81
Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) – San Jose (SJO)20,000~$81
Miami (MIA) – Liberia (LIR)15,000~$81

Notice that these routes are all in the South, so this method is best for those originating in Miami or Dallas-Fort Worth.

Here’s how to book your award travel to Costa Rica with British Airways Avios:

  1. Visit British Airways
  2. Log in with your member ID and password
  3. In the top right corner, use your mouse to hover over the Executive Club button
    • Click Spending Avios
  4. Scroll down and click on Book a Reward Flight
  5. Enter the origination and destination airports, dates, class of service, and number of passengers
  6. Select the desired flights and confirm your tickets by paying (with Avios, plus any taxes and fees)

Earning British Airways Avios

British Airways Avios are easy to earn since they are transferable from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Another option you have to earn BA Avios directly is through the co-branded Chase credit card! Keep in mind that Iberia and Aer Lingus Avios are all transferable to British Airways Avios. This is important because Chase has Iberia and Aer Lingus co-branded credit cards too.

Chase transfers instantly to British Airways, while Marriott may take up to 1 business day.

Bottom Line: If you’re located in the southern United States, you’ll want to give British Airways Avios lots of thought when deciding how to get to Costa Rica. You’ll pay $80 in taxes and fees and 15,000-20,000 Avios round-trip. Also, you can book your flights completely online, which makes this method a no-brainer for lots of us!

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card which has a 60,000 point bonus (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

This sign up bonus is worth $750 in travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals etc) when you redeem your points through Chase's travel portal, which works like Expedia. The bonus alone could get you multiple round-trip flights or hotel stays.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - Consider this premium card if you want to get into a lot of airport lounges. The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $450 annual fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A simple, no annual fee card that earns you a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Easy earning at 1.5% on all purchases. Just know that you won't get any travel benefits or the ability to earn bonus points with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card - This is our #1 recommended business card and comes with a whopping 80,000 sign up bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel purchases (flights, hotels etc). Also, if you pay for your cell phone bill with this card, you can get up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card - earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. In addition, get up to 5% cash back on a range of business expenses such as office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone services. This is one of the best no annual fee business cards.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Alaska Airlines livery
Image courtesy of Pandaeast17 Wikipedia.

Singapore Airlines is known for having top-notch long-haul business and first class products. At first glance, it may seem odd that KrisFlyer would be a viable way to fly from America to Costa Rica.

Upon further inspection, however, we can use the fact that Alaska Airlines is a KrisFlyer partner and leverage nonstop flights for 1 route: Los Angeles (LAX) to San Jose (SJO).

In fact, this is the cheapest way to fly from Los Angeles to Costa Rica, with the only other flight being offered by Delta Airlines (discussed below).

If you happen to be based out of Los Angeles, using KrisFlyer miles to fly on Alaska Airlines‘ nonstop flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to San Jose (SJO) might be an amazing sweet spot!

How sweet, you might ask? It’ll cost you a cool 24,000 KrisFlyer miles for a round-trip economy flight. 

Here are the steps you can take to book your Alaska flight with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles:

  1. Visit Alaska Airlines’ Award Booking section of the website
  2. Type in your cities, dates, number of passengers, and flight type
  3. Write down your desired flight number, dates, and times
  4. Call Singapore KrisFlyer Membership Services (+1-312-843-5333)
  5. Provide them with the flight numbers, airline, dates, and times of travel
    • Ask to put the flight on hold if you need time to transfer the points
  6. Complete your reservation and pay any taxes and fees.

Earning Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles

It’s extremely easy to earn lots of Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles.

Singapore Airlines is a transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Chase, American Express, and Citi should transfer within 2 business days, but are often instantaneous. Also, Marriott can take up to 6 days, so be aware of that when transferring your points!

Bottom Line: If you’re departing from Los Angeles, using KrisFlyer miles on Alaska Airlines is by far the best way to conserve your points and miles and get to Costa Rica as quickly as possible! With a cost of 24,000 miles and all major points transfer partners available, KrisFlyer is definitely one of the best ways to go. 

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months. This is our favorite card for getting into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass) and we get about $2,700+ in value from the card every year.

Plus, get up to $200 in Uber credits annually ($15 per month and a $20 bonus in December) — and up to $200 in annual credit for airline incidental charges (e.g. baggage fees). For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - We love using this card as it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x). There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly.

With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months and a $100 airfare credit per year, for many this is an easy addition to your wallet. For rates and fees of the Gold Card, click here.

Recommended Amex Cards (Business)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Right now, there's a HUGE welcome bonus of up to 100,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 50,000 after you spend an additional $15,000, on purchases within the first 3 months.

We get ~$5,525+ in value per year by leveraging many of the benefits & perks.

This is the best business card for lounge access as you'll get into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide. For rates and fees of the Business Platinum, click here.
American Express® Business Gold Card - probably our favorite Amex business card because we earn 4x points across the top 2 select categories that we spend the most money in each month. The 4x points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. This means you'll max out at a (whopping) 600,000 points per year. After that, you earn 1x. For rates and fees of the Business Gold Card, click here.
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express - This is a simple card that earns you 2x points on any business purchase, up to $50,000 annually (then 1x). That makes for an easy 100,000 points per year! The card has no annual fee. For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus, click here.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta Airlines Planes Row
Los Angeles (LAX) and Atlanta (ATL) offer nonstop flights to Costa Rica on Delta Airlines!

Delta doesn’t have an official award chart, but economy tickets generally run from 44,000 miles round-trip. Also, Delta has a very specific route network, and they only operate these flights out of Los Angeles (LAX) and Atlanta (ATL).

Delta SkyMiles are easy to earn (particularly with their co-branded credit cards), and the round-trip prices for economy class tickets are reasonable — which is why we like Delta for travel to Costa Rica.

Here are the 3 nonstop routes offered by Delta to Costa Rica:

Nonstop Flights to Costa Rica Operated by Delta Airlines
Atlanta (ATL) – San Jose (SJO)
Los Angeles (LAX) – San Jose (SJO)
Atlanta (ATL) – Liberia (LIR)

The complicated thing about Delta SkyMiles is that their award pricing is highly variable.

Flights out of LAX begin at 30,000 miles round-trip, while flights out of ATL start at 44,000 miles round-trip. 

For round-trip first class, flights out of Los Angeles start at 70,000 miles, and flights from Atlanta begin at 75,000 miles.

You can expect taxes and fees to be around ~$70-$80.

To book your Delta award flights with SkyMiles, follow these steps:

  1. Visit Delta’s website
  2. On the top banner, type in the departure and return cities, dates, flight type, and number of passengers
  3. Click the arrow on the right side that says Advanced Search
  4. Select Show Price in Miles and your desired flight class
  5. Select your desired flights and confirm by paying with your SkyMiles (plus any taxes and fees)

Earning Delta SkyMiles

American Express and Marriott are transfer partners with Delta SkyMiles. American Express transfers instantaneously to Delta, while Marriott takes <24 hours to transfer.

Bottom Line: Have lots of Delta SkyMiles? Flying out of Los Angeles or Atlanta? Give this method some thought! With round-trip economy prices starting at 30,000 miles and a lot of ways to earn Delta SkyMiles, you should really consider using Delta! 

Recommended Delta Cards

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express - The current welcome bonus is earning 30,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Plus, with a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (then $95), this is a solid Delta card. Click here for rates and fees of the Gold Delta.

United Airlines MileagePlus

United Airlines has multiple routes operated from different airports than the ones mentioned above. In particular, United operates 3 flights:

Nonstop Flights to Costa Rica Operated by United Airlines
Newark (EWR) – San Jose (SJO)
Houston (IAH) – San Jose (SJO)
Houston (IAH) – Liberia (LIR)

The main advantage is that 2 additional airports are represented: Newark and Houston. Other than that, the other methods presented above cost fewer miles.

Each of these routes cost the same: 35,000 United miles round-trip + ~$44 in taxes and fees.

In first class, these same flights will cost 60,000 United miles round-trip + ~$44 in taxes and fees.

To book your United award flights with MileagePlus, follow these steps:

  1. Go to United.com
  2. Select your flight class, type your origin and return cities, travel dates, class of booking, and number of travelers
  3. Click Find Flights
  4. Select the flights (you’ll want to find those with Saver Award availability)
  5. Finish your booking and pay any additional taxes and fees

Earning United Airlines MileagePlus Miles

Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott are both transfer partners with United Airlines.

Chase transfers at a 1:1 ratio, while Marriott’s transfer ratio to United Airlines is slightly better than the usual 3:1. With a small bonus, you will receive 27,500 United miles for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer (making the ratio 3:1.1).

You are also eligible to earn United miles through the Chase co-branded credit cards.

Chase’s transfers to United are instant, while Marriott’s transfer will be finished within 24 hours.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is a great choice to fly to Costa Rica if you’re interested in having 2 free checked bags.

The 3 routes offered by Southwest Airlines to Costa Rica are:

Nonstop Flights to Costa Rica Operated by Southwest Airlines
Houston-Hobby (HOU) – San Jose (SJO)
Houston-Hobby (HOU) – Liberia (LIR)
Fort Lauderdale (FLL) – San Jose (SJO)

Just like JetBlue, Southwest Rapid Rewards miles are worth approximately 1.5 cents per point. Since award tickets are priced relative to revenue tickets, it’s difficult to extract outsized value from miles.

Generally, the lowest price you’ll find is around 22,000 miles round-trip + ~$44 in taxes and fees.

To fly Southwest to Costa Rica with miles, follow these steps:

  1. Visit Southwest
  2. Type in your departure and return cities, dates, and number of travelers
    • Be sure to choose to pay with Points, not dollars
  3. Select your desired flights
  4. Check out and pay for any taxes and fees

Earning Southwest Rapid Rewards Miles

Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott are transfer partners with Southwest Airlines.

Chase transfers instantly at a 1:1 ratio, while Marriott transfers at a 3:1 ratio in less than 48 hours.

You can also earn Southwest miles directly with the Chase co-branded Southwest credit cards.

Need more Southwest miles? Check out our guide to learn how to earn lots of Southwest miles.

Bottom Line: Some travelers (especially those staying in Costa Rica for a long time) will find Southwest very useful because of their 2 checked bag allowance. There are only 3 routes from the United States, so be aware of that. Southwest partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards as well. Award tickets start at around 22,000 miles round-trip! 

American Airlines AAdvantage

The last option we will discuss is American Airlines AAdvantage. We generally wouldn’t recommend using AA miles for this specific redemption, but it may be worthwhile if you’re sitting on a pile of AA miles that you otherwise wouldn’t be using.

As stated above, the main routes will be through Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) and Miami (MIA).

Economy off-peak is 25,000 miles round-trip, and regular economy is 30,000 miles round-trip.

To book American Airlines:

  1. Go to AA.com
  2. Log into your AAdvantage account
  3. Check off the box that says Redeem Miles
  4. Type in your departure and destination cities and travel dates; click Search
  5. Select economy class
    • Be sure to select MileSAAver level for the lowest award prices
  6. Click your travel dates
  7. Select flights and click Continue
  8. Enter the passenger details, payment information, and confirm the tickets.

If you’re a little short, see our guide for various ways to top off your AA miles balance!

Other Options to Fly to Costa Rica

There are other ways to fly to Costa Rica with your points and miles, but the above are the best ways. Some of the alternative (less favorable) ways to book travel to Costa Rica are Spirit Airlines, Air France, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.

Final Thoughts

With such a short travel time (<5 hours from anywhere in the U.S.), Costa Rica is easily accessible from many cities.

Although we focused mostly on economy-class flights and extracting the most value from the fewest points, the definite best way to fly to Costa Rica with points and miles is on JetBlue Mint. These flights will cost anywhere from 18,000-55,000 miles each way, depending on the cash price of the ticket.

Remember that JetBlue Mint is only operated on 1 route (JFK-LIR) and only on Saturdays. You’ll definitely have to plan in advance if you’d like to experience this excellent business class product!

Overall, there’s tons of value to be had when flying to Costa Rica, especially when you fly there with points and miles!


Featured image credit: courtesy of Shutterstock

FAQ

Which airlines include carrier-imposed surcharges on award flights to Costa Rica?

There are no fuel surcharges from the United States to Costa Rica. The most you’ll be paying is taxes and fees amounting to around ~$44.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book an economy class award flight to Costa Rica?

JetBlue economy class flights can be as cheap as 8,800 miles round-trip! The mileage cost is closely tied to the cash price, so seek out the dates with low cash prices to book with points!

Otherwise, look at using BA Avios to book travel on American Airlines from Miami to Costa Rica for 15,000 Avios round-trip.

What is the fewest number of miles required to fly business class to Costa Rica?

There aren’t very many ways to fly business class to Costa Rica.

We recommend flying JetBlue Mint from JFK to LIR. The points cost will vary, but if you plan far enough in advance, you can get one-way tickets for 12,000 miles!

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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