Southwest’s New Destinations – Where to Stay Using Points in Central America

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Update:   Thanks to Million Mile Secrets readers for pointing out that many folks don’t stay right in San Jose or Belize City.  Emily and I haven’t been to these destinations, so it’s helpful when our readers add their experiences!  We hope these guides can save folks time when searching for hotels, and that our readers continue sharing their feedback and advice.

In response to the news that Southwest will start flying to Belize, Million Mile Secrets reader Julianna commented:

Someone should do a post on points and rewards hotels in Belize…just sayin’.

I’m taking this a step further and checking out which hotels are available using points in all of Southwest’s new international destinations!

We’ll continue by looking at Southwest’s new destinations in Central America:

  • Belize (Belize City) (Starting June 2015)
  • Costa Rica (San Jose) (Starting March 2015)
Southwest's New Destinations Where To Stay Using Points In Central America

Want to See the Mayan Ruins in Belize? Southwest Will Take You There Starting June 2015

Southwest’s New Destinations – Where to Stay Using Points Index

  • Part 1 – Mexico (Cancun, Los Cabos, Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta)
  • Part 2 – The Caribbean (Aruba, The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico)
  • Part 3 – Central America (Costa Rica and Belize)

Southwest Flies to Central America – Here’s Where to Stay!

Link:   Hotel Award Charts

Using AwardMapper, I searched for hotels in each Southwest city.  It’s a tool that displays major chain hotels (and the points required per night) on a map.

Southwest's New Destinations Where To Stay Using Points In Central America

AwardMapper Is Handy for Finding Hotel Award Nights in Unfamiliar Destinations

Note:   Some of these hotels are away from the main tourist areas, for example near the airport or downtown instead of the beach.  So check the location before you book!

1.   Belize City, Belize

Southwest will begin flights to Belize in June 2015.  It’s a popular destination for folks who like the outdoors, with great scuba diving, hiking, and eco-tourism.

Southwest's New Destinations Where To Stay Using Points In Central America

There Are Thousands of Caves and Underground Caverns to Explore in Belize

Best Western

Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza – 16,000 points per night

Club Carlson

Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina – 38,000 points per night (Top Pick!)

Ranked the #1 hotel in Belize City by TripAdvisor, the Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina is close to Mayan ruins, snorkeling, and dive sites.

Remember, if you have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards card, you’ll get the last night free on award stays of 2 nights or more.  So you could get 2 nights for 38,000 points!

Southwest's New Destinations Where To Stay Using Points In Central America

Folks on TripAdvisor Say the Radisson in Belize City Is the Best Hotel in Town

Note:   These are the only hotels you can get with points in Belize.  Remember, you could use Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase Travel portal to save 20% on hotels.

When you can’t use points to book a hotel, consider using your Chase Sapphire Preferred card because you’ll get 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel expenses.

Or use the Barclaycard Arrival Plus to get 2.2% back on all travel purchases such as hotels.

Neither card charges a foreign transaction fee.

2.   San Jose, Costa Rica

Starting in March 2015, Southwest will fly to San Jose, Costa Rica.  Eco-tourism is 1 of the main attractions for visitors, and there are rain forests, volcanoes, and waterfalls to explore.

Southwest's New Destinations Where To Stay Using Points In Central America

There Are Dozens of Nature Preserves in Costa Rica

Best Western

Best Western Irazu Hotel and Casino – 20,000 points per night

Club Carlson

Park Inn by Radisson San Jose – 28,000 points per night (Top Pick!)

This hotel won a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award in 2014.  Folks like its central location and modern feel.

Again, Club Carlson Premier Rewards cardholders get the last night free on award stays of 2 nights or more.  So in this case you could get 2 nights for 28,000 points!

Southwest's New Destinations Where To Stay Using Points In Central America

The Park Inn Is a Newer Hotel With Spacious Rooms

Radisson San Jose – 15,000 points per night

Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, San Jose – 9,000 points per night

Choice Hotels

Sleep Inn Paseo Las Damas – 16,000 points per night

Quality Hotel Real San Jose – 16,000 points per night

Hilton

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cariari San Jose – 30,000 points per night

Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton San Jose – Airport – 40,000 points per night

Hyatt

Hyatt Place San Jose – Pinares – 8,000 points per night

IHG

Holiday Inn San Jose Aurola – 15,000 points per night

Crowne Plaza: San Jose Corobici – 20,000 points per night

Holiday Inn:  San Jose Escazu – 15,000 points per night

InterContinental:  Costa Rica at Multiplaza Mall – 30,000 points per night

Hotel Indigo:  San Jose Forum Costa Rica – 20,000 points per night

Holiday Inn Express:  San Jose Costa Rica Airport – 15,000 points per night

Marriott / Ritz-Carlton

Courtyard San Jose Airport Alajuela – 15,000 points per night

Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San Jose – 25,000 points per night

Courtyard San Jose Escazu – 10,000 points per night

Los Suenos Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort – 40,000 points per night

Starwood

Sheraton San Jose Hotel – 7,000 points per night

Aloft San Jose Hotel – 4,000 points per night

Wyndham

Wyndham Garden San Jose Escazu – 16,000 points per night

Wyndham San Jose Herradura Hotel & Convention Center – 16,000 points per night

Tryp San Jose Sabana – 16,000 points per night

Collecting Points for These Hotels

If you don’t have enough points, here are some ways to quickly increase your point balances!

Best Western

Club Carlson

Choice Hotels

Hilton

Hyatt

IHG

Marriott / Ritz-Carlton

Starwood

Wyndham

Bottom Line

Southwest will begin flying to Belize City, Belize, and San Jose, Costa Rica, in 2015.

There aren’t many hotels where you can stay using points in Belize.  But you have lots of options in Costa Rica!

Have you used points for award stays in Central America?  Which hotel is your favorite?

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16 responses to “Southwest’s New Destinations – Where to Stay Using Points in Central America

  1. Isn’t there an all-inclusive Hilton in Costa Rica?

  2. If you’re using your club carlson credit card, can you split your nights into 2’s so you keep getting the 2nd night free? I mean say I’m going to stay somewhere for 6 days. Can book 3 x 2 nights stays? I know this means having to check out and check back in later that day that’s very little effort for getting half of your hotel stay for free.

  3. @chance yes, there are 2: Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa and Doubletree Resort by Hilton Hotel Central Pacific – Costa Rica (formerly Doubletree Resort by Hilton Costa Rica – Puntarenas)
    neither are highly rated on trip advisor and distance from airport is tough with the roads through the jungle…some resorts are many hours away (not sure about these 2)

  4. Hyatt has another hotel in Costa Rica…Andaz Peninsula Papagayo (category 4). I haven’t been, but it looks pretty sweet. Anyone been there?

  5. I’ve stayed at two of the Club Carlson properties in San Jose.

    The Park Inn is fabulous. We got in just after it opened on a mistake rate and couldn’t be more pleased with the whole stay.

    The Country Inn and Suites only requires 9,000 points and had breakfast. The room was tiny and not very nice. It was fine for the one-night we had it.

    This being said, if you decide to go to Costa Rica, please consider spending the majority of your trip away from San Jose. It’s fine, but the rest of the country has so much more to offer! We stayed several nights in three different areas (Manuel Antonio, Arenal, and Monteverde). We read all the warnings about bad roads and difficult to get to places and we experienced none of that. The roads are acceptable and the people were very friendly. Used a GPS from the car rental place (Wild Rider) and had no trouble finding anything and going anywhere. Costa Rica has adventure, beach, and wildlife if you are willing to travel to see it.

  6. Not to shred this article, but San Jose is a terrible place to vacation, even if the hotel is free with points. It’s just a big, dirty city that you won’t want to stay in. The best parts of the country for tourism are far enough away that you won’t want to really stick around San Jose after you land.

  7. Through Chase UR website there are more hotels and “local” resorts listed. I wish you could use points for vacation homes.

  8. You would be a fool to stay in San Jose even if you can stay for free. Spending 2 nights is just plain foolish. I am always trying to get a flight where I could get in early enough (before 3:30PM) to rent a car and hit it to my destination to either Arenal or Manuel Antonio.
    This is a typical case of when points are not a good value.

  9. I hope no one takes the “advice” offered about hotels in this post. First off, there is NO good reason to stay in Belize City. The fact that the writer recommends staying there—even for “free”—loses me.

    Other commenters have chimed in about San Jose, and I agree. Good for an overnight but San Jose is NOT why you are in Costa Rica.

  10. The all-inclusives at Papagayo are quite a ways from San Jose, and the roads leading there are terrible. If you’re aiming to visit Papagayo you are much better off to fly into the Liberia airport instead. I’ve had luck getting some pretty rock bottom fares from D/FW direct to Liberia through AA. As others have posted here, don’t waste a lot of free nights in San Jose. Rent a car and get to Arenal, etc.

  11. There is no longer a Best Western credit card. Best Western’s website says something new is coming soon and Barclay’s website says the offer is no longer available. You need to update this.

  12. Regarding what UCIPASS said – Arriving at 3:00 or 3:30 pm in order to drive to Arenal or Manuel Antonio is pushing it for first timers No delays at the airport and good weather maybe. But the last thing you want to do is drive in bad weather and certainly not at night. You are battling the road conditions and the other drivers. I had some dumbass tailgating me for miles through fog covered mountains. At one point I hit my brakes due to traffic ahead and he careened into the oncoming lane and hit someone head on. I suspect he learned nothing from the incident.

  13. I wrote a message last night that still isn’t showing up, maybe I didn’t do something right, even though it said waiting on moderator or something like that. If you go through Ultimate Rewards and look for hotels in Belize there are a few more than those, they are just not chain hotels, but you can book them with points. Also, I didn’t mention this before but if you stay out on Caye Caulker or Caye Ambergris there are very inexpensive beach front “cabana’s” and houses that are very inexpensive. I’ll save my points for more expensive destinations. I also found very inexpensive houses – beach front and in the jungle in Costa Rica.

  14. I need to echo and reinforce what several others have said upthread: this post contains terrible “advice” and it’s obvious that whoever wrote it has absolutely zero knowledge of the places he is recommending.

    San Jose, Costa Rica is a dirty, boring city. It’s where you fly into and then flee to get to someplace decent. There is no reason to stay there, even if it’s free.

    Belize City is just a nasty place to spend any time. I was there – at the recommended Radisson – YESTERDAY. While it’s certainly true that the Radisson is the nicest hotel in the city, there is even less reason to stay there than in San Jose. Belize City offers nothing in the way of attractions. The blog post cheerfully reports, “Ranked the #1 hotel in Belize City by TripAdvisor, the Radisson Fort George Hotel & Marina is close to Mayan ruins, snorkeling, and dive sites.” Nothing could be further form the truth. It’s not “near” any of those things – the water nearby is filthy (like, cholera filthy), and nobody with any sense would dream of snorkeling or diving anyplace within an hour or two of Belize City, never mind the hotel. Mayan ruins? Hours away. Diving? You need to take a flight or a long boat ride to get anywhere near scuba diving. Now, parts of Belize are quite nice. But none of them are anywhere near that hotel. Much of Belize City is actually quite dangerous, especially after dark. I’ve been there many times and can not recommend it. It’s OK as a transit point, that’s it.

    Really bad, bad, bad “advice” here.

  15. Joe-Carlson will not let you book back-to-back for the second night free. You either move to another Carlson hotel every two nights or have your spouse book the next two nights from a separate account.

  16. Darius Could you address the Southwest Airlines new destinations with regard to where they originate. I wanted to fly LA to the Caribbean but have to use two complete flights to do that. That’s a lot of miles. Is there any way around that? Thanks