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Get to Costa Rica and back for $200 or less this fall

April 17, 2022
7 min read
Arenal volcano
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Many of us are busy putting the finishing touches on our spring travel plans and planning for summer travel. Let’s think a little further ahead for a moment to the fall and – dare I say – winter months. Don’t worry, if cold weather is the last thing you want to think about at this point, that’s not at all what this is about. In fact, we’re talking about trips to the Caribbean, and some deals you might want to take advantage of before they disappear.

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Several airlines are currently offering round trips to Costa Rica for $250 or less for travel in the final months of 2022 and early part of 2023. For a destination that can often cost travelers several hundreds of dollars in airfare, or more, this is a great deal for anyone looking to explore everything from the island’s volcanos, wildlife and white water rafting opportunities, to Costa Rica’s beaches and relaxing resorts.

Rio Celeste Falls in Costa Rica. (Photo by Kryssia Campos/Getty Images)

Of particular note is that these deals do not just involve flights from East Coast destinations. In fact, some of the best prices we found involved round trips from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Related: The best times to visit Costa Rica

It depends on the city, but we found the best options popping up generally at the tail end of this summer (think sometime in August) with the very cheapest options showing up right around the time holiday travel figures to subside in mid-January 2023.

TPG first learned of these deals from Scott’s Cheap flights, which offers a premium membership that alerts readers on discounted fares starting from $49 per year for economy class deals and $199 per year for an elite membership, which also includes first, business and premium economy deals.

Deal Basics

Airlines: Volaris, United, JetBlue, American

Routes: LAX/LGA/JFK/IAD to SJO

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How to book: Directly through the airlines or through Google Flights

Travel dates: Generally late August or early September through February 2023, excluding holiday season

Sample Flights

The deals we took note of involve round-trip economy fares around $250 or below, with some itineraries going for as low as sub-$200 for a round trip, particularly if you book in early 2023. How early differs a bit from city to city, but they generally start late in the summer, and are pretty reliably available during the September/October/early November months, and in mid- to late-January and February 2023.

The one downside: the deals aren’t nearly as good over the Thanksgiving and winter holidays – the prices noticeably rise (as is typically to be expected) starting in about mid-November and mid-December.

Here are just a few of the itineraries we found:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) for $199 on Volaris
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) for $194 on United
  • Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) for $198 on Volaris
  • New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) for $240 on JetBlue
  • New York-LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) for $254 on American

Certainly, the deals out of Los Angeles stood out, since its not the easiest to find a round trip spanning such a distance for close to $200. The deals out of LAX become widely available in August, and depending on your travel dates, you may be able to find options on Volaris or United.

Looking at booking in September, you can get a round trip for $199 on Volaris out of LAX, departing just a few days after Labor Day. There’s a short layover in both directions in Guatemala City (GUA), with about a 90-minute flight between there and Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in Costa Rica. All of the flights on this itinerary are aboard Airbus A319 aircraft.

(Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights)

Now for the winter months: while those in southern California might have to search for warm or mild weather in January to the same extent that those in other parts of the country would, it’s still a great time to go explore a place you might not be able to normally travel to as inexpensively. I found direct flights out of LAX on United for less than $200. The nonstop flights between California and Costa Rica last about six hours, give or take 20 minutes.

(Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights)

Travelers departing from the East Coast have some great options as well. Travelers in our nation’s capital region are among those that can take advantage of these deals. Looking at flights in September, I found options for under $200 departing from Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Costa Rica.

The service aboard Volaris involves a short layover in each direction at El Salvador International Airport (SAL). Keep in mind, the outbound itinerary does involve some rather strange departure times – you leave at 1:58 a.m. – but, hey, you’ll get a full day in Costa Rica!

(Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights)

Related: Redeeming 100,000 Chase Points to book the trip of a lifetime

When it comes to flights out of New York, there’s some good and bad news. The good news is that if you’re looking to travel to Costa Rica as soon as possible, as opposed to waiting until later in 2022, there are relatively inexpensive options around $250 during May of this year.

On the other hand, the flights out of the New York area don’t seem to ever range quite as low as what we saw out of Los Angeles or D.C. – you’re going to find round trips closer to the $250 mark. Still, it’s a pretty good deal compared to what you could often pay. JetBlue offers nonstop service out of JFK throughout much of the fall, and winter months for right around $240. American Airlines also has options out of LaGuardia for about $10 to $15 more than the JetBlue.

(Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights)

Maximize your Purchase

Pay with: The Platinum Card® from American Express for 5 points per dollar on airfare booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), the Citi Prestige® Card for 5 points per dollar on airfare, the Citi Premier® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve for 3 points per dollar on air travel, the American Express® Gold Card for 3 points per dollar on airfare when booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel, or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for 2 points per dollar on travel.

Many beautiful waterfalls can be found in Costa Rica's jungles. (Photo by Elen Turner)

Bottom line

Costa Rica has something for just about every traveler. Whether you’re looking to get an up-close look at its sloths, monkeys, birds, wild cats and amphibians….do some hiking, or just sit by the pool, it’s always an incredibly popular destination. From the East Coast to the west, this is a great chance to book your airfare at a fraction of the cost you might otherwise pay.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

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  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
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Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more