Family Travel: How to Get to Costa Rica for Nearly Free (And What to Do Once You’re There!)

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Family travel is a huge part of the miles & points world.  Lots of folks get into this hobby because they want to visit family, or they want to vacation with their family.

David, author of Wise Flys, is a family travel expert.  So I asked him to share with you his top tips for traveling with a family each week!

David:   Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world.  It has everything from beaches to mountains, along with plenty of family-friendly adventures.  Plus, it’s relatively close, and there are plenty of options to get there with miles & points!

Family Travel How To Get To Costa Rica For Nearly Free And What To Do Once Youre There
Somehow Still Feeling Safe 70 Feet Above The Ground In the Rainforest of Costa Rica

Have you ever thought about visiting Costa Rica, but don’t know where to start?  I’ll give you advice for how to get there and what to do in the land of Pura Vida!

How to Fly to Costa Rica With Miles and Points

It’s easy to fly into Costa Rica from nearly anywhere.  It has 2 major international airports:   San Jose (SJO) and Liberia (LIR).  And you can use miles to get to them both for close to free!

1.   United Airlines

Link:   United MileagePlus® Explorer Card

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

There are lots of ways to earn United Airlines miles.  Including transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines.  Or opening the Chase United Explorer card!

Family Travel How To Get To Costa Rica For Nearly Free And What To Do Once Youre There
It Costs 35,000 United Airlines Miles Round-Trip to Fly to San Jose, Costa Rica, From Anywhere in the US. And There Are Currently Lots of Available Seats From New York in October and November!

Of the 2 main airports in Costa Rica, I find that San Jose generally has more available award seats.  A round-trip coach award ticket on United Airlines costs just 35,000 United Airlines miles from anywhere in the US.

2.   Southwest

Link:   Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Link:   Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Link:   Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest also flies into both San Jose and Liberia.

As a family, we love to fly on Southwest.  That’s because we have the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows a family of 3 like us to fly 1 passenger for (almost) free!  If you have the Southwest Companion Pass, flying on Southwest can be an unbeatable deal.

The number of Southwest points required for an award flight depends on the cost of a paid ticket.  When cash prices go down, so do award prices!  So you’ll save even more by monitoring Southwest deals.  Here’s how to tell if a Southwest sale is worthwhile.

Family Travel How To Get To Costa Rica For Nearly Free And What To Do Once Youre There
It Can Cost as Little as ~15,500 Southwest Miles Round-Trip to Fly to San Jose, Costa Rica From New York. That’s a Great Deal For Any Family Looking to Get Big Travel With Small Money!

3.   Delta or Flying Blue

Link:   Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Link:   Flying Blue Miles Calculator

Delta no longer publishes an award chart.  So you’ll need to search specific routes and dates to find the price of an award ticket.  The cheapest one-way flights I found between the US and Costa Rica cost 17,500 Delta miles in coach.

Family Travel How To Get To Costa Rica For Nearly Free And What To Do Once Youre There
Delta No Longer Has an Official Award Chart, so You’ll Have to Check Travel Dates to Get a Feel for Award Prices

You can also use Flying Blue miles for flights on Delta.  Flying Blue is the loyalty program of Air France and KLM, and a SkyTeam alliance partner of Delta.

Earning Flying Blue miles is extremely easy, because they are a transfer partner of all 4 major flexible points programs:

To book flights with Flying Blue, you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points for free at a ratio of 1:1.  And to find available award flights, use the Flying Blue Miles Calculator and search Delta as the airline.

Family Travel How To Get To Costa Rica For Nearly Free And What To Do Once Youre There
Flights Cost 2,500 Miles Less With Flying Blue Than With Delta

Note:   You can also transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Delta, but you’ll have to pay an excise fee of $0.06 per point.  You will NOT pay any fees to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue for the same Delta flights.

4.   Budget Airlines

It’s a good idea to check fare deals on discount airlines, such as JetBlue and Spirit Airlines.  They often have promotions where you can get a cheap ticket to Costa Rica from select US cities.

Fun Family Activities in Costa Rica

Here are my recommendations for fun family activities where you can explore nature and wildlife in Costa Rica!

1.   Zip-Lining Through The Forest

Zip-lining is a fun family adventure.  In Monteverde, children of almost any age can enjoy zip-lining.  Even children as young as 2 years old can try the longest zip-line park in Latin America!

2.   Hot Springs and Water Slides

In the small town of La Fortuna, we went to Baldi Hot Springs.  There were 25 thermal water pools with beautiful waterfalls and intense water slides.  The warm water was relaxing when the sun went down.

Family Travel How To Get To Costa Rica For Nearly Free And What To Do Once Youre There
The Thermal Pools Were Fun and Relaxing. The Pools Closer to the Source Were the Hottest

3.   Hiking And Visiting Waterfalls

Costa Rica has endless waterfalls and lush surroundings.  As a family, we did many hikes through the rainforest and observed wildlife.  We saw birds native to Costa Rica and monkeys jumping from tree to tree.  Any time we saw a waterfall, we went swimming, despite the freezing cold water.

Family Travel How To Get To Costa Rica For Nearly Free And What To Do Once Youre There
Most of the Hikes We Did Were Mild and Suitable for Families With Young Children. On the Difficult Inclines, I Carried My Daughter on My Back

In Monteverde, we got a bird’s eye view when walking across suspension bridges from tree to tree.  It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.  The views and wildlife were breathtaking, but the shaky bridges were nerve racking.

4.   Visit Coffee Farms

You’ll get some of the freshest coffee and fruits when visiting local farms.  Through Airbnb, we stayed 3 days on an organic farm with plenty of fresh fruits.  Everyday we picked fresh mandarins, bananas, and avocados outside our rustic farm cabin.

Family Travel How To Get To Costa Rica For Nearly Free And What To Do Once Youre There
It Was Coffee Harvest Season When We Visited an Organic Farm Outside Monteverde. Our Host Gave Us the Most Delicious and Freshest Coffee Everyday

Bottom Line

Costa Rica is a great place to visit for your next family vacation. There are many outdoor activities to enjoy with your family.  From visiting waterfalls to zip-lining through the rainforest to swimming in hot springs!  There are a bunch of action-packed activities for kids of all ages.

There are plenty of exciting family activities, and it is easy to reach with miles & points.

For example, you can find a round-trip flight from the US to Costa Rica for as few as ~15,500 Southwest points.  And if you have AMEX Membership Rewards points, you can transfer 15,000 points to Flying Blue for a one-way coach flight.

Have you visited Costa Rica?  Please share your favorite experiences in the comments!

Million Mile Secrets features a team of points and miles experts who have traveled to over 80 countries and have used 60+ credit cards responsibly to accumulate loyalty points and travel the world on the cheap! The Million Mile Secrets team has been featured on The Points Guy, TIME, Yahoo Finance and many other leading points & miles media outlets.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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