10 countries you didn’t know you could fly to on Southwest
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
With more than 4,000 flights scheduled every day, Southwest’s route network is quite extensive — and it continues to expand. Since Southwest is such a popular choice on domestic routes, you might not realize it also offers service between the U.S. and 10 countries throughout Central America and the Caribbean, along with Puerto Rico. Here’s a look at Southwest’s lesser-known international flight options.
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Fly into: Cozumel, with flights from Austin, Denver and Houston.
Why you should go: Known for its clear turquoise waters, Cozumel is very popular for those who enjoy snorkeling because of its location as part of the second-largest barrier reef in the world. Or check out Centro Nacional de Antropología e Historia to channel your inner archaeologist. The Chankanaab Adventure Park, part of Arrecifes Cozumel National Park, allows visitors up-close views of sea lions, crocodiles and manatees and also offers guided snuba and Sea Trek tours.
Cabo San Lucas
Fly into: San José Del Cabo, with nonstop flights available from 10 airports including Los Angeles, Denver, Houston and Baltimore.
Why you should go: This city on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is home to dramatic scenery, with large stone cliffs lining beautiful beaches. The fishing is great in the Sea of Cortez and a must-see is the El Arco, a natural archway carved into the sea cliffs. Cabo is also a popular spring break destination for college students, with many affordable resort options. Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton and IHG all have properties nearby, so it shouldn’t be too hard to put those well-earned hotel rewards points to work.
Fly into: Puerto Vallarta, with nonstop flights from 10 U.S. airports including Oakland, California; Denver; Chicago; and Houston.
Why you should go: Known for its cobblestone streets and hilly vistas, this west coast Mexican city is a favorite for American expats and tourists alike. Located about an hour’s drive north, the secluded resort town of Punta Mita is home to the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita and, one of our favorites, the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort.
Fly into: Cancún from 16 U.S. airports with twice-daily nonstop flights from Houston, Chicago and Baltimore, and once-daily nonstop service from Denver, San Antonio, Austin and Atlanta.
Why you should go: Cancun practically defines Mexico’s beach vacation culture, and its snorkeling and diving opportunities, Caribbean waters and nearby Mayan ruins keep tourists coming back all year long. Cash in your IHG Rewards Club points to book a trip to the InterContinental Presidente Cozumel Resort Spa for $234 or 50,000 points a night.
Fly into: Belize City, with nonstop flights available from Houston and Denver.
Why you should go: Belize offers tropical jungles, gorgeous beaches, historic Mayan ruins, some of the world’s best diving and snorkeling spots and friendly, English-speaking locals. The Belize Barrier Reef, part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef), is considered a hot spot for divers, snorkelers and biologists. Consider a stay at the Gaia Riverlodge, a Hyatt Small Luxury Hotels of the World property in the country’s Cayo District, with rates starting at $205 or 25,000 points per night.
Fly into: Liberia, with daily nonstop flights from Baltimore, Denver and Houston.
Why you should go: Costa Rica practically invented eco-tourism, and the country continues to develop its green appeal with rainforest resorts and jungle retreats. Located in the country’s northwest corner, Liberia is close to some of Costa Rica’s best seaside resorts, such as the Andaz Costa Rica Resort At Peninsula Papagayo. Rates there start at $547 or 17,000 Hyatt points a night.
Fly into: San José, with daily nonstop flights from Houston and Baltimore).
Why you should go: Costa Rica’s capital city is a great starting point for adventures all around the country — both Arenal Volcano National Park and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are within a 3.5-hour drive of the city center. Stay at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, Curio Collection by Hilton starting at $141 or 41,000 points per night.
Fly into: Montego Bay, with daily nonstop flights from six cities including Orlando, Houston, St. Louis and Baltimore.
Why you should go: Jamaica is a great warm-weather destination all year round, providing visitors with the perfect blend of relaxation and nightlife. Popular spots include a ride down the Martha Brae River, playing a round of golf at the Cinnamon Hill Golf Club or catching some rays at Doctor’s Cave beach. Stay in a swanky overwater bungalow at the all-inclusive Sandals Resort in Montego Bay for $1,573 a night in July 2022.
Fly into: Nassau, with daily nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale and Baltimore.
Why you should go: There’s so much more to the Bahamas than what you’ll see from a cruise ship or luxury mega-resort. Be lazy and enjoy sunbathing at Cable Beach, visit the Educulture Junkanoo Museum or sample Bahamian food during the Tru Bahamian Food Tours. Treat yourself to a stay at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, located just a 30-minute drive from the airport, which you can book starting at $522 or 240,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.
Fly into: Punta Cana, with daily flights from Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale and Chicago.
Why you should go: Over the past few years, the Dominican Republic has opened dozens of new resorts, including the Margaritaville Island Reserve Cap Cana and the Radisson Blu Punta Cana. Punta Cana is no longer a place where people go to simply lay on the beach all day — the city and surrounding areas now feature upscale (and inexpensive) bars, restaurants and clubs, and you’ll find activities like zip-lining and waterfall rappelling that appeal to all sorts of travelers. The “D.R.,” as the locals say, is sure to not disappoint.
Fly into: Oranjestad, with daily flights from Orlando, Houston, Fort Lauderdale and Baltimore.
Why you should go: This beautiful desert island, located just 60 miles north of South America, has traditionally been a stronghold for East Coasters looking for a warm vacation in the dead of winter. The beaches in Aruba are second to none, and you’ll find plenty of hotel and resort options for the perfect island getaway, including the Radisson Blu Aruba. Best of all, it’s part of the ABC islands — Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao — whose location beneath the Caribbean hurricane belt ensures near-perfect weather all year round.
Fly into: Grand Cayman, with daily nonstop flights from Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale.
Why you should go: Grand Cayman is home to one of The Points Guy Brian Kelly’s favorite properties, the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, where he’s attended the celebrity chef-packed Cayman Cookout. Book a king room starting at $695 or 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
The island is home to several Marriott and IHG properties, so you have other options for booking award stays. Make sure to check out the coral reefs and Stingray City, a great spot for snorkeling and capturing some great underwater photos.
Turks and Caicos
Fly into: Providenciales, with daily nonstop flights from Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale.
Why you should go: It’s a 3.5-hour flight from Baltimore and less than a two-hour flight from Florida. You’ll enjoy beautiful white-sand beaches, a plethora of water sports and sunbathing at Grace Bay and Long Bay Beach. Stay at the all-inclusive Beaches Turks & Caicos, which has a 45,000 square-foot water park, 21 gourmet restaurants, a 12-mile beach and 10 pools. A luxury double room goes for $2,485 a night.
Fly into: Havana from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.
Why you should go: While the U.S. has added some restrictions for citizens visiting this island nation, it’s still possible to go as part of an organized tour. And there are plenty of reasons to consider doing so, including the city’s vintage cars, nightlife and great food. Enjoy the white sand and turquoise water at Santa María del Mar beach, about 12 miles outside of Havana, which is popular with locals.
There are no U.S. chain hotels in the city, so do what I did for my 2017 trip — book an Airbnb. I stayed at Sweet Habana ($80 a night), a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment centrally located in the Vedado neighborhood, near the Havana University, the Habana Libre and Nacional hotels, the Malecon, Coppelia’s Ice Cream and a street market.
Houston and Baltimore seem to have the most consistent and widespread Southwest service to these seven Latin American and Caribbean countries. Combined with Southwest’s ever-expanding domestic network, these international cities continue to become more accessible and affordable for American travelers overall.
Additional reporting by Michael Spelfogel.
Featured photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images.
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