These are the best Latin American cities to use your points and miles
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, TPG has highlighted the most points-friendly cities in Latin America.
From the tropical paradise of Rio de Janeiro and the mountains of Medellin to the fabled restaurants of Lima and Mexico City, we’ll show you how to explore some of Latin America’s most dazzling cities — all while leveraging your points to the max.
La Paz, Bolivia
Bolivia, a landlocked nation of mountains, high deserts and crystalline lakes, is often described as “The Heart of South America.” The epithet is due not only to Bolivia’s geographic location in the center of South America but also because Bolivia has the highest percentage of Indigenous people in the Americas. La Paz — where neighborhoods, streets and sky trams climb the steep slopes of the Andes — appears almost as an organic outgrowth of the mountains themselves.
At night when the Andean air is crisp and clear, millions of twinkling lights from La Paz’s mountainside communities render the skyline hypnotically beautiful. Besides its historic architecture, terrific museums and dynamic nightlife, La Paz is the ideal launching pad for exploring natural wonders like the salt desert of Salar de Uyuni and Lake Titicaca.
From the East Coast, New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Miami International Airport (MIA) are the ideal cities for catching flights to La Paz's El Alto International Airport (LPB).
From Miami, Avianca operates a flight to La Paz for less than $500 with a quick connection in Bogota; the total travel time from Miami to La Paz is about nine hours. Flights from New York to La Paz hover around $800, with an 11-hour duration and a connection in Bogota.
If you'd rather use points to cover your trip, United MileagePlus awards start at 33,000 miles one-way in economy from the east coast to La Paz.
Related: Avianca adds slew of new US flights in 23-route expansion
Where to stay on points
While there are no points hotels in La Paz, you can use Capital One miles to book an independent hotel. Just book directly or with an online travel agency of your choice and charge it to your Capital One card. Then, you can redeem miles at a fixed rate of 1 cent per mile toward any travel purchase.
Looking to top-up your Capital One balance? Consider opening the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card which offers 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. That's $750 toward hotel stays, but you can easily maximize points further by leveraging transfer partners.
Related: Comparing the best fixed-value point credit cards
San Jose, Costa Rica
In 1949, Costa Rica amended its constitution to abolish the military. The funds that would have been used for weaponry were instead earmarked for conservation.
The world should be superlatively grateful to Costa Rica for this monumental decision, as the nation boasts some of the richest biodiversity and most stunning ecology on Earth. There are cloud forests high in volcanic mountains, coastal mangrove forests teeming with marine life and countless species found nowhere else on the planet.
San Jose has long been a popular destination with U.S. tourists. Many refer to Costa Rica as “Latin America for beginners” due to the high levels of English proficiency, the use of the U.S. dollar and the country's modernized infrastructure. San Jose, located in central Costa Rica, is worth exploring for a few days — especially for the coffee lovers among us. However, the city’s greatest attribute is its proximity to Costa Rica’s superb national parks such as Parque Manuel Antonio and the Irazu Volcano.
Delta Air Lines offers daily nonstop service from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in San Jose, Costa Rica. In February 2023, you can find round-trip tickets on this route starting at $615.
Alternatively, one-way award flights start at 25,000 SkyMiles in February.
Where to stay on points
The Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Haciendo Belen is a stately tropical resort located right outside of San Jose. Standard rooms at the Haciendo Belen go for about $180 or between 30,000 and 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
With its white-washed facade, swaying palm trees and grand columns, the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, Curio Collection by Hilton looks straight out of a Hemingway novel.
The hotel is affiliated with American Express’ Fine Hotels & Resorts program, and The Platinum Card® from American Express holders are entitled to benefits like room upgrades; they'll even receive up to $100 of credit to spend at the hotel’s spa, shops or restaurants. If you book a room out-of-pocket (around $175 per night for a basic room), be sure to use an Amex Platinum card, as you get 5 points per dollar on five-star hotel rooms booked via Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts.
If you use points, a night in a standard room starts at 45,000 Hilton points in early 2023.
For those who favor the camaraderie and casual atmosphere of a hostel, San Jose does not disappoint with this style of lodging either. Costa Rica Backpackers ($11 per night for a dorm-room bed) is a classic Costa Rican hostel, complete with a lively pool and patio that keeps the party going most nights of the week.
The “City of Eternal Spring” has undergone a renaissance over the last few decades. Once considered the most dangerous city on the planet due to the cartels’ reign of terror, the Medellin of the 21st century is safe to visit. It recently won the Urban Land Institute’s prestigious award as the World’s Most Innovative City.
With its beautiful cafes, excellent public Wi-Fi and cheap cost of living, Medellin has become one of the hottest cities in the world for digital nomads. The natural beauty around Medellin — which is in the balmy equatorial Andes — is nothing short of mesmerizing, and the Paisa culture is welcoming and joyful. Moreover, the small city punches above its weight for art, music and architecture. The world-renowned sculptor and painter Fernando Botero was from Medellin, and there’s an excellent museum in downtown Medellin housing Botero’s oeuvre.
JetBlue flies from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) to Medellin Jose Maria Cordova International Airport (MDE). The route currently operates three days a week but will increase to daily service in 2023.
Round-trip flights start at just less than $330 next year, but you can also use JetBlue TrueBlue points to cover your costs. JetBlue points redeem at a cash value of roughly 1.3 cents apiece toward award flights, so the more expensive a flight is, the more points it will cost.
Other airlines that fly from the U.S. to Medellin include American Airlines, Avianca and Spirit Airlines.
Where to stay on points
The Medellin Marriott starts at just 25,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. The hotel is within striking distance of Medellin’s best bars and nightclubs in the colorful Zona Rosa neighborhood. If you pay with cash, a night at the Medellin Marriott will run you between $200 and $300.
The Hampton Inn Medellin is a thriftier option ($60 per night), but it's still comfortable and located within a short distance of the Zona Rosa neighborhood. If you have a stack of Hilton points after applying for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, a night at the Hampton Medellin costs 13,000 points.
If you’re really on a budget, there are some excellent, quirky hostels in the Zona Rosa, including the Casa Kiwi ($9 per night) or the Rango Boutique Hostel ($36 per night). Fair warning before your stay: You’ll be right in the thick of the most raucous neighborhood of one of the world’s most hard-driving party cities.
You could spend several lifetimes exploring Mexico City, the largest city in the Americas.
CDMX, as the city is frequently abbreviated, offers a little bit of everything. There are Michelin-starred restaurants; spectacular museums housing the masterpieces of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and unknown Aztec masters; and nightlife that easily holds its own against any city in the world.
Most visitors to CDMX favor Roma Norte, a neighborhood of youthful energy, narrow streets and hole-in-the-wall bars. La Condesa — the leafy abode of Mexico City's well-to-do and home to many of the city’s best eateries — is also a popular spot. One of the greatest perks of visiting Mexico City is the ability to eat in temples of fine dining — places like Quintonil or Pujol — and pay only a fraction of the price of comparable restaurants in New York City, San Francisco or Europe.
A round-trip flight from New York directly to Mexico City International Airport (MEX) is six hours and costs more than $500 on Aeromexico in January 2023, even in economy. However, round-trip flights from Houston's George Bush International Airport (IAH) to Mexico City can sometimes go for as low as $150 on low-cost carrier VivaAerobus.
If you have American AAdvantage miles to burn, you can redeem as few as 10,000 miles to book a one-way economy ticket from the U.S. to Mexico City.
Where to stay in Mexico City
Given Mexico City’s importance as a commerce hub in Latin America, it should be no surprise that Mexico City boasts plenty of enviable hotels.
Rooms at the JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City in the hip and foodie-friendly Polanco neighborhood — close to both the revelry of Roma Norte and the luxury of La Condesa — go for about $380 or 58,000 points per night in January 2023. The W Mexico City or St. Regis Mexico City are also solid options.
Related: Your complete guide to Marriott hotel brands
The Hyatt Regency Mexico City, also in Polanco, offers rooms for about $220 per night or, as a Category 3 hotel, 12,000 points. The hotel is right next to Parque Chapultepec, the city’s version of Central Park, and is home to the best museums.
Signing up for a World of Hyatt Credit Card and subsequently spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership will earn you 30,000 bonus Hyatt points — almost enough for a free long weekend. Plus, you can earn 2 points per $1 spent in the first six months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point, on up to $15,000 spent; so, you'll receive up to 30,000 more bonus points.
If you want to splurge, check out the Four Seasons Mexico City, one of Latin America’s most luxurious hotels. If you have an Amex Platinum Card, using it at the Four Seasons Mexico City will allow you to reserve a table at the hotel’s renowned restaurant Il Becco, which serves modern Italian and Zanaya crafts dishes inspired by the seafood-forward cuisine of Yucatán. Booking with this card will also give you benefits such as extended check-out times and room upgrades.
Related: 13 things every tourist must eat (and drink) in Mexico City
Whether you’re a history buff interested in the Incan Empire, a gourmand keen to sample the most delicious ceviche in the world or an adrenaline junkie looking to tour the wild recesses of the Amazon, Peru should be at the top of a list of dream destinations. Lima, with its Incan art and history museums, fabulous dining and nearby beaches, promises to keep visitors captivated for days on end.
What’s more, the Peruvian capital is the ideal launching point for exploring the Andes, Machu Picchu, the Amazon and Peru’s Pacific coast.
If you’re comfortable with a rather long flight (11 hours) with one connection, United maintains a round-trip flight from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) that starts at just less than $750 in January. Award tickets start at 20,000 United miles one-way if you connect through Houston.
Additionally, you can fly from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to LIM with LATAM. You can book this flight for 25,000 SkyMiles one-way in economy.
Where to stay in Lima
The Hyatt Centric San Isidro Lima sits on sea cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the San Isidro neighborhood. In this area, you can stroll past both Incan ruins and boutique restaurants. Rooms go for about $180 per night or 12,000 Hyatt points.
If you want to pamper yourself while in Lima, look no further than Miraflores Park Hotel. Belmond’s luxurious glass-and-steel tower overlooks the ocean and sits within walking distance of all the fun of Miraflores. Since it’s affiliated with Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program, Platinum Card holders are entitled to perks such as late check-out, room upgrades and breakfast for two.
Traveling to Latin and South America in the fall is ideal since temperatures in the above cities are mild and enjoyable. You’ll also be able to honor Hispanic Heritage Month by experiencing the rich Hispanic and Indigenous influences in these destinations.
Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh.