Normally at Upgraded Points, you’ll find a lot of focus on long-haul destinations. This is our typical strategy because traveling in premium cabins on long-haul flights is usually much more expensive than doing so in 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 U.S., 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 U.S., incredible coffee, beautiful landscape, and so much more.
In this guide, we’ll dissect the best ways to fly to Liberia (LIR) and San José (SJO) in Costa Rica with points and miles. We’ll primarily examine round-trip economy flights based on convenience to your home airport, but you’ll also see information on short-haul first class options for extra comfort.
Let’s dive right in!
Best Programs for Booking Flights
JetBlue is known for having the best domestic business class in America. Known as JetBlue Mint, the Airbus A321 aircraft featuring this excellent product typically fly transcontinental flights.
However, JetBlue now operates Mint services between Liberia (LIR), and 3 U.S. cities: Boston (BOS), Los Angeles (LAX), and New York (JFK). 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. In general, you’ll want to plan far in advance to get the best award prices.
If you don’t care about flying JetBlue Mint and just want to get to Costa Rica, 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|
|Boston (BOS) – Liberia (LIR)*||Miami (MIA) – San José (SJO)|
|Fort Lauderdale (FLL) – San José (SJO)||New York (JFK) – Liberia (LIR)*|
|Los Angeles (LAX) – Liberia (LIR)*||New York (JFK) – San José (SJO)|
|Los Angeles (LAX) – San José (SJO)||Orlando (MCO) – San José (SJO)|
*JetBlue Mint offered
For round-trip economy tickets, rates generally start at around 8,800 points, though the exact price depends on the cost of the revenue ticket.
Hot Tip: Award availability on JetBlue is excellent. Since the point cost is pegged to the cash value of the ticket, you won’t have to jump through any hoops to book your JetBlue award flights!
Here’s how to search for JetBlue awards:
- Head to JetBlue’s website.
- Enter your flight details, including the origin and destination cities, dates, and the number of passengers.
- Be sure to check the box that says Use TrueBlue Points.
- Select your flights (unfortunately, JetBlue does not allow flight holds).
- Reserve your tickets and pay any taxes and fees with your credit card.
Earning JetBlue TrueBlue Points
JetBlue is a transfer partner with many major transferable reward programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate 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, which is effectively 1:0.8.
Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to JetBlue at a 6:1 ratio. For every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points you transfer, you will receive a bonus of 1,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. That means that every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred will net 12,500 JetBlue TrueBlue points.
Seeing as how Marriott Bonvoy points are so valuable, we do not suggest using your Marriott Bonvoy points for transfers to JetBlue.
American Express, Chase, and Citi all transfer points almost instantly to JetBlue, while Marriott Bonvoy takes around ~24 hours.
Bottom Line: If you want to try JetBlue’s famous Mint Business class (or just want to fly for the lowest possible cost in economy), JetBlue is your best bet. With 4 major transferable points programs as partners, JetBlue is hands-down the best choice, especially for those originating on the East Coast.
British Airways Avios
We like British Airways Avios for a few redemptions — and this is one of them. Using Avios allows you to fly to Costa Rica for reasonable prices. In particular, there are several routes operated by American Airlines that interest us:
|Nonstop Routes to Costa Rica on American Airlines||British Airways Avios Round-Trip Cost (Economy)||Taxes & Fees|
|Austin (AUS) – Liberia (LIR)||22,000||~$81|
|Charlotte (CLT) – Liberia (LIR)||22,000||~$81|
|Chicago (ORD) – Liberia (LIR)||26,000||~$81|
|Chicago (ORD) – San José (SJO)||26,000||~$81|
|Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – San José (SJO)||22,000||~$81|
|Miami (MIA) – Liberia (LIR)||18,000||~$81|
|Miami (MIA) – San José (SJO)||18,000||~$81|
|New York (JFK) – Liberia (LIR)||26,000||~$81|
|New York (JFK) – San José (SJO)||26,000||~$81|
Note that these routes are all subject to change due to seasonality or scheduling.
Here’s how to book your award travel to Costa Rica with British Airways Avios:
- Visit British Airways’ website.
- Log in with your member ID and password.
- In the top-left corner, use your mouse to hover over the Book button and click Book a flight with Avios.
- Enter the origination and destination airports, dates, class of service, and the number of passengers.
- 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 you can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.
Another option you have to earn BA Avios directly is through its co-branded Chase credit card. Also, 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 as well.
Amex, Capital One, and Chase transfer instantly to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio, while Marriott Bonvoy may take up to 1 business day at a 3:1 ratio.
Bottom Line: If you want cheap economy tickets to Costa Rica, you’ll want to give British Airways Avios some thought when deciding how to book flights. You’ll pay $80 in taxes and fees and 18,000 to 26,000 Avios round-trip. Also, you can book your flights completely online, which makes this method a no-brainer for many!
Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)
Business Owner? Read our article on the best Chase business cards that earn Ultimate Rewards.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Singapore Airlines is known for having top-notch long-haul business and first class products. At first glance, it may seem odd that its KrisFlyer program would provide a viable way to fly from the U.S. to Costa Rica.
However, Alaska Airlines is a KrisFlyer partner and so we can 2 of its routes to Costa Rica: Los Angeles (LAX) to San José (SJO) or Liberia (LIR).
In fact, this is the cheapest way to fly from Los Angeles to Costa Rica, with the only other flight being offered by Delta Air Lines (discussed below), making it an amazing “sweet spot” redemption.
How sweet, you ask? It’ll cost you just 24,000 KrisFlyer miles for a round-trip economy flight.
Here are the steps you should take to book your Alaska flight with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles:
- Visit Alaska Airlines’ Award Booking section of the website.
- Type in your cities, dates, number of passengers, and flight type.
- Write down your desired flight number, dates, and times.
- Call Singapore KrisFlyer Membership Services (312-843-5333).
- 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.
- Complete your reservation and pay any taxes and fees with your credit card.
Earning Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles
It’s easy to earn lots of Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. Singapore is a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards, Brex Rewards, Capital One Miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.
American Express, Brex, Capital One, Chase, and Citi should transfer within 2 business days but are often instantaneous. Marriott Bonvoy points can take up to 6 days to transfer, so be aware of that when transferring your points!
Bottom Line: If you’re departing from Los Angeles, using KrisFlyer miles to book an Alaska Airlines flight is the best way to get to Costa Rica with as few points as possible.
Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)
Business Owner? Check out our article on the best Amex business cards that earn Membership Rewards.
Delta doesn’t have an official award chart, but economy tickets generally run from 30,000 miles round-trip. The airline offers nonstop flights to Costa Rica from its hubs in Atlanta (ATL), Los Angeles (LAX), and Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP).
Here are the nonstop routes offered by Delta to Costa Rica:
|Nonstop Flights to Costa Rica Operated by Delta Air Lines|
|Atlanta (ATL) – Liberia (LIR)||Los Angeles (LAX) – San José (SJO)|
|Atlanta (ATL) – San José (SJO)||Minneapolis (MSP) – Liberia (LIR)|
The complicated thing about Delta SkyMiles is that its award pricing is highly variable. On the other hand, Delta SkyMiles are easy to earn (particularly through co-branded credit cards), and the round-trip prices for economy class tickets are reasonable.
You can expect to pay at least 30,000 miles round-trip from Los Angeles (LAX) and at least 44,000 miles round-trip from Atlanta (ATL) or Minneapolis (MSP). In first class, you can expect to pay at least 70,000 miles from LAX and at least 75,000 from ATL and MSP. You can expect taxes and fees on all tickets to be around between $70 and $80.
To book your Delta award flights with SkyMiles, follow these steps:
- Visit Delta’s website.
- On the top banner, enter the departure and return cities, dates, class of service, and the number of passengers.
- Click the arrow on the right side that says Advanced Search.
- Select Show Price in Miles and your desired flight class.
- Select your desired flights and confirm by paying with your SkyMiles and with your credit card for the taxes and fees.
Earning Delta SkyMiles
Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy are transfer partners with Delta SkyMiles. American Express transfers instantaneously to Delta, while Marriott Bonvoy transfers take around 1 day to complete.
Recommended Delta Cards
United Airlines MileagePlus
United Airlines has a distinct advantage for Costa Rica flights: it offers service from numerous hub airports, as detailed in the table below:
|Nonstop Flights to Costa Rica Operated by United Airlines|
|Chicago (ORD) – Liberia (LIR)||Los Angeles (LAX) – Liberia (LIR)|
|Chicago (ORD) – San José (SJO)||Los Angeles (LAX) – San José (SJO)|
|Denver (DEN) – Liberia (LIR)||Newark (EWR) – Liberia (LIR)|
|Denver (DEN) – San José (SJO)||Newark (EWR) – San José (SJO)|
|Houston (IAH) – Liberia (LIR)||San Francisco (SFO) – Liberia (LIR)|
|Houston (IAH) – San José (SJO)||Washington, D.C. (IAD) – San José (SJO)|
Each of these routes starts 35,000 United miles round-trip + ~$44 in taxes and fees. In first class, these same flights will start at 60,000 United miles round-trip + ~$44 in taxes and fees.
To book your United award flights with MileagePlus, follow these steps:
- Go to United.com.
- Select your flight class, your origin and return cities, travel dates, class of booking, and the number of travelers.
- Click Find Flights.
- Select the flights that work for you.
- Finish your booking and pay any additional taxes and fees with your credit card.
Earning United Airlines MileagePlus Miles
Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy are both transfer partners with United Airlines.
Chase transfers at a 1:1 ratio instantly, while Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a 3:1.1 ratio in around 3 days. With a small bonus, you will receive 27,500 United miles for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points you transfer.
You can also earn United miles through the Chase co-branded credit cards.
Recommended United Cards
Southwest Airlines is a great option for getting to Costa Rica, especially if you’re bringing a lot of luggage with you since the airline offers each passenger 2 free checked bags.
Here’s a look at Southwest’s nonstop routes to Costa Rica:
|Nonstop Flights to Costa Rica Operated by Southwest Airlines|
|Baltimore (BWI) – Liberia (LIR)||Houston-Hobby (HOU) – Liberia (LIR)|
|Baltimore (BWI) – San José (SJO)||Houston-Hobby (HOU) – San José (SJO)|
|Denver (DEN) – Liberia (LIR)|
Like JetBlue, Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth approximately 1.5 cents apiece. 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:
- Visit Southwest’s website.
- Enter your departure and return cities, dates, and the number of travelers.
- Choose Pay with Points.
- Select your desired flights.
- Check out and pay for any taxes and fees with your credit card.
Earning Southwest Rapid Rewards Miles
Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy are transfer partners with Southwest Airlines. Chase points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio, while Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a 3:1 ratio in less than 48 hours.
You can also earn Southwest miles directly with Chase’s co-branded Southwest credit cards.
Recommended Southwest Cards
Hot Tip: Need more Southwest miles? Check out our guide that covers how to earn lots of Southwest miles.
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 a reminder, here’s a look at American’s routes between the U.S. and Costa Rica:
|Nonstop Routes to Costa Rica on American Airlines|
|Austin (AUS) – Liberia (LIR)||Miami (MIA) – Liberia (LIR)|
|Charlotte (CLT) – Liberia (LIR)||Miami (MIA) – San José (SJO)|
|Chicago (ORD) – Liberia (LIR)||New York (JFK) – Liberia (LIR)|
|Chicago (ORD) – San José (SJO)||New York (JFK) – San José (SJO)|
|Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – San José (SJO)|
You can book an off-peak round-trip economy ticket for 25,000 miles, while a regular economy ticket will cost you 30,000 miles round-trip.
To book your American Airlines award flight, follow these steps:
- Go to AA.com.
- Log into your AAdvantage account.
- Check the box that says Redeem Miles.
- Type in your departure and destination cities and travel dates; click Search.
- Select economy class, and be sure to select MileSAAver level for the lowest award prices.
- Enter your travel dates.
- Select flights and click Continue.
- Enter the passenger details and your payment information to confirm the tickets.
If you’re short some AAdvantage miles, see our guide for various ways to top off your AA miles balance!
You can reach Costa Rica in under 6 hours from anywhere in the continental U.S., which contributes to its popularity among American travelers.
Although we focused mostly on economy-class flights and extracting the most value with the fewest points, the best way to fly to Costa Rica with points and miles is in JetBlue Mint. These flights will be priced depending on the cash price of the ticket, so the value you get with points is more or less fixed.
No matter how you decide to fly, there’s tons of value to be had when flying to Costa Rica, especially when you use your points and miles!
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.