13 Awesome International Destinations Southwest Flies To [That Might Surprise You]

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Southwest Airlines began as a low-cost carrier in 1967 in San Antonio, Texas. For 12 years, Southwest only operated routes within Texas. Thanks to the Airline Deregulation Act, Southwest started servicing more of the U.S. in 1979. Now, Southwest is one of the largest and most popular airlines in the country, with both domestic and international routes.

While you may have flown Southwest Airlines within the U.S., you might not have considered them for international travel. You should; they serve a number of destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.

On a Southwest Airlines international flight, you will get all of the same benefits you are used to: 2 free checked bags, open seating, no change fees, and great customer service. Plus, if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll be able to use it on international flights too!

Now that you know you should be looking at Southwest for your next international flight, the question is: where do you go? Here are 13 exciting international destinations that Southwest flies to that might surprise you — plus some great hotel redemption options for each location!

Flying Internationally on Southwest Airlines

Flying internationally on Southwest Airlines is much like flying domestically. You will still find the same open seating and boarding process. Plus, you’ll still be able to check 2 bags for free.

However, there are a few differences between flying domestically and internationally on Southwest Airlines.

  1. When flying internationally, you can still check in online but will have to visit a Southwest Airlines ticket counter (or kiosk) to show your passport and get your boarding passes. You must check in at the counter at least 60 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time or you may not be permitted on your flight! If you are traveling from Aruba, you need to check in at the airport at least 75 minutes before your scheduled departure or you won’t be able to board the plane.
  2. Your boarding position can still be secured online, however, this isn’t always the case. This may be a time when you might consider paying for Early Bird Check-In.
  3. Curbside check-in isn’t available for itineraries containing an international leg.

Hot Tip: If you want to speed up your travel and breeze through security and customs, consider applying for TSA PreCheck and/or Global Entry. You can even get these benefits free with select credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card and the Platinum Card® from American Express.

1. Aruba

Airport: Queen Beatrix International Airport; Aruba, AW (AUA)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 3 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: U.S. Departures; Gates change daily

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI)
    • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
    • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)

Why Go To Aruba?

Aruba is a favorite vacation destination for many, located just 60 miles off the coast of South America. As part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao), it’s located outside the hurricane belt, so you can travel during hurricane season without worry.

Where To Stay

There are plenty of great hotels and resorts on the island of Aruba. You can try the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino for 35,000 Marriott points per night or opt for total luxury at the Ritz-Carlton Aruba for 60,000 Marriott points per night. Remember, when making an award booking through Marriott, your 5th night is free!

If you have Hilton Honors points, try out the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino. You can get a standard award room here for 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino. Image Credit: Marriott.com

2. Bahamas

Airport: Lynden Pindling International Airport; Nassau/Paradise Island, Bahamas (NAS)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 3 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: U.S. Terminal; Gates C41-C45

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI)
    • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)

Why Go To The Bahamas?

If you are looking for a beach destination that is very close to many U.S. cities, the Bahamas is it. The Bahamas is a nation comprised of over 700 islands and lies just 50 miles off the coast of Florida.

Where To Stay

One of the most well-known hotels in Nassau is the Atlantis Resort. Did you know that this property is actually part of the Marriott family and you can use Marriott Bonvoy points to book it? Depending on which building you choose, rooms here go for 35,000-60,000 Marriott points per night.

Atlantis Bahamas
You can book Atlantis in the Bahamas using Marriott Bonvoy points. Image Credit: Marriott.com

3. Belize

Airport: Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport; Belize City, Belize (BZE)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 3 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Terminal 1; Gate 2

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Denver International Airport (DEN)
    • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
    • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)

Why Go To Belize?

Belize is a Central American country that offers everything from Mayan ruins to world class snorkeling and scuba diving. Since the official language is English, travelers from the U.S. will find it an easy destination to navigate.

Where to Stay

Located 15 minutes from the airport on Ambergris Caye is the Mahogany Bay Resort & Beach Club. This is a Curio Collection property and can be booked for 48,000-63,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

Mahagony Bay Resort Lounge Chairs
Mahagony Bay Resort & Beach Club in Belize. Image Credit: Hilton.com

Hot Tip: If you would prefer to book a hotel right along with your Southwest flight, check out a Southwest Vacation Package. You’ll be able to book your entire vacation in one spot.

4. Cayman Islands

Airport: Owen Roberts International Airport; Grand Cayman Islands, KY (GCM)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 3 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Main terminal; Gate 8

Fly By Check-In: No

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From: Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)

Why Go To Grand Cayman?

Grand Cayman is part of the Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean Sea. Be sure to visit one of the island’s most famous tourist attractions — Stingray City. This shallow sandbar attracts throngs of visitors who congregate with the friendly stingrays that inhabit this area.

Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman Pool and Beach
Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. Image Credit: ritzcarlton.com

Where to Stay

When in Grand Cayman, why not opt for luxury and stay at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. This swanky hotel can be booked for 85,000 Marriott points per night. You may also consider the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa for 60,000 Marriott points per night.

Hot Tip: If you need some more Marriott points to book your stay, you can transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, or check out some of these ways to earn more Marriott Bonvoy points.

5. Costa Rica – Liberia

Airport: Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport; Liberia, Costa Rica (LIR)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 2 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Main terminal; Gates change daily

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI)
    • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)

Why Go To Liberia, Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is becoming a popular tourist destination for good reason — it’s full of jungles, rainforests, rustic beaches, and fantastic wildlife. It’s also a hot spot for eco-tourism because of Costa Rica’s green initiatives and goal to go plastic free by 2021.

Main pool at Andaz Costa Rica
Andaz Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica. Image Credit: Katie Seemann/Zen Life and Travel

Where To Stay

If you are looking for a great hotel redemption, check out the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort which is located an easy 30 minute drive from the Liberia airport. This Hyatt property feels like a boutique, jungle resort and is a great way to get lots of value from your World of Hyatt points — a night here only costs 20,000 points!

Hot Tip: Need a top-up? See our guide on the best ways you can boost your Southwest points balance

6. Costa Rica – San Jose

Airport: Juan Santamaria International Airport; San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 2 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Main terminal; Gates change daily

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI)
    • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
    • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)

Notes: Customers are not permitted to check more than 2 bags, oversized bags, or cardboard boxes. This rule does not extend to wheelchairs and strollers

Why Go To San Jose, Costa Rica?

San Jose, Costa Rica is the main city in this small, Central American country. While you might not think to visit San Jose for a vacation, you should reconsider — this centrally located city is a great base to start your journey around the country.

Costa Rica Marriott The Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen
The Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen is an oasis in the middle of the city. Image Credit: Katie Seemann/Zen Life and Travel

Where To Stay

If you plan on spending some time in San Jose, Costa Rica, check out the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen. This property is located minutes from the San Jose airport and is a Marriott Bonvoy Category 4 requiring 25,000 points per night. With the 5th night free benefit, you could stay here for 5 nights for only 100,000 Marriott points. This hotel also has an excellent executive lounge that serves a full breakfast and dinner every day.

Hot Tip: Get there on points! Check out a detailed guide on how to fly to Costa Rica using points and miles.

7. Cuba

Airport: José Martí International Airport; Havana, Cuba (HAV)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 3 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Terminal 2

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
    • Tampa International Airport (TPA)

Notes: Customers are not permitted to check more than 2 bags, oversized bags, or cardboard boxes. This rule does not extend to wheelchairs and strollers.

Street in Cuba
Image Credit: nytimes.com

Why Go To Cuba?

Traveling to Cuba got a lot easier in 2016, but it has recently gotten a little more complicated again. While cruise ships are no longer allowed to dock in Cuba, you can still fly there legally.

The Obama administration set up 12 travel categories that were open to travel to Cuba. The Trump administration has eliminated the most popular one — people to people educational trips. However, the other 11 categories of legal travel still remain and include things like family visits, journalism, and athletic competitions.

Where to Stay

There aren’t a lot of chain hotels in Cuba that you can book with points. If you are traveling to Cuba, it might be a good idea to look at some of the smaller, boutique hotels. Use a website like Kayak or TripAdvisor to search for a hotel that will suit your needs or check out the hotels you can book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal or American Express Travel.

8. Dominican Republic

Airport: Punta Cana International Airport; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 3 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: International terminal; Gates change daily

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: Yes

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
    • Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)
    • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)
    • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)

Why Go To Punta Cana, Dominican Republic?

Punta Cana is known for gorgeous, white sand beaches and clear, warm water. There are plenty of resorts to choose from, offering everything from a family-friendly atmosphere to a relaxing adults-only vibe.

Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana
Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana in Dominican Republic. Image Credit: Hyatt.com

Where To Stay

World of Hyatt offers some of the best hotel redemptions available. If you need more World of Hyatt points to make a booking, you can easily transfer them over from Chase Ultimate Rewards points or check out these ways to earn more Hyatt points.

Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana (adults only) and Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana (family friendly) resorts are now taking reservations for stays starting on November 1, 2019. These all-inclusive resorts are available for only 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night.

9. Jamaica

Airport: Sangster International Airport; Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 2 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Main terminal; Gates change daily

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)
    • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)
    • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
    • Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Notes: There will be a temporary baggage restriction from 8/16/19 through 9/16/19. Passengers will only be able to check 2 bags, but both bags can be overweight (over 50 lbs). However, bags can’t be oversized (over 62 linear inches). Coolers, storage containers, and boxes will not be able to be checked.

Why Go To Jamaica?

Jamaica is a popular destination for families looking for a laid back Caribbean vibe with white sand beaches and clear, blue water.

Where To Stay

If you are looking for an all-inclusive, check out the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa. This 400+ acre resort features a large beach, a waterpark, spa, and a golf course and can be booked for as few as 47,000 Hilton Honors points per night during off-peak times.

Hilton Rose Hall Resort Pool Caribbean
The Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa in Montego Bay. Image Credit: Hilton.com

Hot Tip: If you are using your Southwest Companion Pass on an international flight, the taxes will be higher than on a domestic flight. For a domestic flight, the taxes will be $5.60 each way. For an international flight, they will be about $65-$75 one way.

10. Mexico – Los Cabos

Airport: Los Cabos International Airport; Los Cabos Baja California Sur (SJD)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 2 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Terminal 2; Gates change daily

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
    • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)
    • Denver International Airport (DEN)
    • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
    • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
    • Oakland International Airport (OAK)
    • John Wayne Airport (SNA)
    • San Diego International Airport (SAN)
    • San Jose International Airport (SJC)

Why Go To Los Cabos?

Los Cabos, Mexico is a tourist destination at the tip of the Baja California Peninsula. It’s comprised of 2 main areas — Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. The area is known for its wonderful marine life including whales, sea lions, and dolphins, plus the iconic Arch or “El Arco de Cabo San Lucas.”

Cabo Arch Katie Seemann
You can fly on Southwest Airlines to see the famous Cabo Arch. Image Credit: Katie Seemann/Zen Life and Travel

Where To Stay

There are plenty of options to book a hotel with points in Los Cabos. If you have Marriott points, check out the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa where one night will cost 45,000 Marriott points.

Hyatt fans have options for every points budget. You can stay at the Hyatt Place Los Cabos for only 5,000 points per night or go for luxury at the high-end resort The Cape, a Thompson Hotel where rooms go for 25,000 Hyatt points per night.

Hot Tip: Don’t forget about resort fees when booking hotels with points. Marriott and IHG will still charge resort fees on rewards bookings. However, if you book a Hyatt or Hilton hotel with points, the resort fee will be waived.

11. Mexico – Cancun

Airport: Cancun International Airport; Cancun, Quintana Roo (CUN)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 2 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Terminal 4; Gates change daily

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: Yes

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
    • Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
    • Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)
    • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)
    • John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH)
    • Denver International Airport (DEN)
    • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
    • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
    • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
    • General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)
    • Nashville International Airport (BNA)
    • St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)
    • San Antonio International Airport (SAT)

Why Go To Cancun?

Cancun may be known as a party town, but there are plenty of options for families, too. Cancun is great for a quick getaway because it’s easy to get to and has lots of hotel options within close proximity to the airport.

Where To Stay

The JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa is a luxurious hotel located right on the beach in the heart of Cancun. The beach and pool are fantastic and very family friendly, plus the food is great. Rooms at this resort are available for 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

If you’ve got IHG points to spend, check out the Intercontinental: Presidente Cancun Resort, located on the north end of the hotel zone. One night here will cost 35,000 points or you can opt for a points and cash option.

JW Marriott Cancun Resort beach
The JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa has a fantastic beach and pool and offers great views from the guest rooms. Image Credit: Katie Seemann/Zen Life and Travel

12. Mexico – Puerto Vallarta

Airport: Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (PVR)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 3 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Terminal B; Gates change daily

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Denver International Airport (DEN)
    • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
    • Los Angeles International Airport(LAX)
    • Oakland International Airport (OAK)
    • San Diego International Airport (SAN)

Why Go to Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is another popular vacation spot in Mexico, known for having beautiful beaches and a lively old town area. It’s positioned on the same latitude as Hawaii, giving it a similar climate.

Hot Tip: Interested in flying to Hawaii on Southwest? Check out this in-depth guide on Southwest routes to Hawaii. 

Where To Stay

Marriott offers the most choices in Puerto Vallarta. Try the Westin Resort & Spa for 35,000 points per night or stay at the high-end W Punta De Mita for 50,000 points per night. You can also splurge and book the St. Regis Punta De Mita Resort for 85,000 points per night. If you need to bulk up your Marriott point balance, check out these tips to earn more Marriott Bonvoy points.

W Punta De Mita
W Punta De Mita. Image Credit: Marriott.com

13. Turks and Caicos

Airport: Providenciales International Airport; Turks and Caicos, Turks and Caicos (PLS)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 3 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Main Terminal; Gates 1-9

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: No

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)

Why Go To Turks and Caicos?

Turks and Caicos is a British Overseas Territory that claims to have 350 days of sun per year. It has some of the best beaches in the world, plus, the island boasts the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world, so it’s a top spot for scuba divers. Because English is spoken and the U.S. dollar is used, it’s an easy trip for Americans who may not want to step out of their comfort zone.

Hot Tip: You can use your Southwest Rapid Rewards points to purchase an international flight! It works just the same as using your points to purchase a domestic flight. 

Where to Stay

There aren’t many chain hotels on the Turks and Caicos Islands, so this is a time when you probably won’t be able to use hotel points. You can, however, book a hotel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or American Express Travel using your Chase or Amex points.

Beaches Turks and Caicos
Beaches Turks and Caicos is probably the most well known hotel on the islands. Image Credit: Beaches.com

Hot Tip: So, you love Southwest Airlines, but aren’t sure which credit card will be the best for you? Check out this guide to the best credit cards for Southwest Airlines flyers.

Bonus: Puerto Rico

Yes, technically Puerto Rico isn’t an international destination. But, it’s a Caribbean destination that many people don’t realize is a location that Southwest flies. Keep in mind, that U.S. residents do not need to show a passport to travel to Puerto Rico.

Airport: Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport; San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)

Suggested Time of Arrival: 3 hours ahead of scheduled flight

Terminal and Gate: Concourse C; Gates B 3,5,7

Fly By Check-In: Yes

Fly By Security: Yes

Self Tagging: No

Non-Stop Flights From:

    • Baltimore–Washington International Airport (BWI)
    • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)
    • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
    • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
    • Orlando International Airport (MCO)
    • Tampa International Airport (TPA)

Why Go To Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory located only a short plane ride from the U.S. mainland. Unfortunately, the island suffered significant damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017. While much of the island still hasn’t recovered, the tourism industry is still alive and welcoming guests. Just visiting this island and venturing outside of San Juan helps spread your tourism dollars around and boosts their economy.

Where to Stay

If you want to get really local and help support local businesses, consider booking an Airbnb. If your heart is set on using your points to book, there are still lots of options.

Try the El San Juan Hotel, A Curio Collection by Hilton Hotel for 70,000 Hilton points per night or opt for luxury at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort for 85,000 Marriott points per night.

If you are looking for a more budget-friendly accommodation, you can book the Courtyard San Juan Miramar for only 17,500 Marriott points per night.

St Regis Bahia Beach Resort
St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico. Image Credit: Marriott.com

Final Thoughts

Southwest Airlines isn’t just for domestic flying! Southwest now flies to many international destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America.

You’ll experience the same great Southwest benefits on these flights as you would on any other Southwest flight — 2 free checked bags, open seating, no change fees, and great customer service.

So, when you’re ready to plan your next vacation, consider one of these great Southwest Airlines international destinations!

Need a few more Rapid Rewards points? Learn how to earn more Rapid Rewards point (without flying)!


FAQ

Does Southwest fly internationally?

Yes, you can fly Southwest Airlines to international destinations in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

Does Southwest fly to Europe?

No, Southwest doesn’t fly to Europe. Their international destinations are located in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

How is Southwest Airlines international check-in different from domestic check-in?

When flying Southwest internationally you have to visit a Southwest Airlines ticket counter (or kiosk) at least 60 minutes (75 minutes in some locations) prior to your scheduled departure time to show your passport and get your boarding passes. If you fail to do this you may not be permitted to board your flight.

What international destinations does Southwest Airlines fly to?

Southwest Airlines flies to the following international destinations:

  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Belize
  • Cayman Islands
  • Liberia, Costa Rica
  • San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Jamaica
  • Cancun, Mexico
  • Los Cabos, Mexico
  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • Turks and Caicos
Katie Seemann

About Katie Seemann

Katie is an Ohio native who caught the travel bug after spending a semester in college in Nottingham, England. In addition to exploring England, she visited Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands during that time and loved every minute of it (everything except the hostel in Scotland - that's an experience she doesn't intend on repeating!). In late 2015, Katie discovered the world of points and miles, and it literally changed her life.

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