How to get to Los Cabos on points and miles
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As one of the few countries completely open to American travelers during the pandemic, Mexico became a hugely popular travel destination. Mexico remains popular because of cheap (and short) flights and affordable hotels. While it seems like everybody’s been flocking to Tulum, Cancun or Mexico City in recent months, there’s another option with just as much promise: Los Cabos.
Los Cabos has scenic beaches, incredible hotels and lots of ways of getting there on points. Here’s what you need to know about getting to Cabo (and staying there) using points and miles.
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When I visited Cabo in 2018, I managed to score a cheap cash fare from Washington for only $250 round-trip. Even better, I booked just a few days before my mid-July trip. Because it wasn’t a long-haul, I was fine with flying basic economy on American Airlines, even though I was limited to a carry-on bag.
That said, if you don’t want to pay cash, there are several ways to put your miles to use. Whether you’re staying in Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo (the two are roughly 20 miles apart), you’ll fly into San Jose Del Cabo (SJD).
Cheapest Oneworld awards to Los Cabos
Your best bet option within the Oneworld alliance is to use either American Airlines AAdvantage miles, Alaska Mileage Plan miles or British Airways Avios. If you take advantage of American’s off-peak award chart, you can snag round-trip economy tickets for just 12,500 miles plus taxes and fees one-way. If you prefer to fly up-front, that price will increase to 25,000 miles one-way.
If you’re low on AAdvantage miles, one of the easiest ways to earn them is through sign-up bonuses and everyday spending on co-branded credit cards. Citi and Barclays currently issue six credit cards with different welcome bonuses and point-earning abilities.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases. ($450 annual fee)
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on gas station, restaurant, and eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases. ($99 annual fee waived for the first 12 months)
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first four months of account opening. ($99 annual fee, waived for the first 12 months)
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card: Earn 10,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on grocery store and eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases. (No annual fee)
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after making your first purchase in the first 90 days and paying the $99 annual fee. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile elsewhere.
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard®: Earn up to 75,000 miles: Earn 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days and earn another 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card. Earn 2x AAdvantage miles on office supply, telecom, car rental and American Airlines purchases, and 1 mile elsewhere. ($95 annual fee)
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select, Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red, and Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
British Airways uses a distance-based award chart instead of a traditional zone-based one. That means you can score big on short-haul partner flights starting at just 9,000 Avios round-trip in American’s economy class.
Avios are easy to collect thanks to British Airways’ partnership with three major transferable points currencies. You can transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio. You can also transfer from Marriott at a 3:1 ratio (plus a 5,000-Avios bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer).
Alaska Mileage Plan can also be a great option for travel to Mexico. A one-way economy class award starts at just 10,000 miles.
Cheapest Star Alliance awards to Los Cabos
Turkish Miles & Smiles is the best Star Alliance option, with awards for just 10,000 miles each way in economy or 15,000 in business class. You can transfer Citi ThankYou points to Turkish at a 1:1 ratio using the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi Premier® Card.
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
United doesn’t publish an award chart anymore, but you can still find cheap fares down to Mexico. One-way award tickets to Cabo from Chicago (ORD) start at just 17,500 MileagePlus miles each way in economy in March. Meanwhile, business class starts at 30,000 miles.
If you’re starting from scratch or looking to save up for an expensive award, you’ll want to consider signing up for a United credit card. You’ll have your choice between entry-level and premium cards and personal and business options:
- United Gateway Card — Best no-annual-fee card for United flyers
- United Explorer Card — Best for occasional United flyers
- United Business Card — Best for small business owners
- United Club Infinite Card — Best for United Club access
- United Club Business Card — Best for small business owners who want lounge access
The information for the United Club Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Cheapest SkyTeam awards to Los Cabos
Air France and KLM Royal Dutch’s loyalty program is called Flying Blue, which you can search for Delta awards. One thing to note is that all Flying Blue award tickets are priced dynamically, which means that there’s no set award chart and that some tickets can be costly.
Instead, Flying Blue now offers a pricing calculator, which will let you know the minimum number of miles needed for an award. I ran several searches from airports like Miami (MIA) and Salt Lake City (SLC) and the cheapest awards I found cost 14,500 miles one-way in economy or 36,000 miles one-way in business.
The best way to earn Flying Blue miles is by using a transferrable points card. You can transfer points to Flying Blue from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. Amex, Citi and Chase transfer at a 1:1 ratio, Capital One transfers at a 1:1.5 ratio, and Marriott transfers at a 3:1 ratio.
Like United, Delta also uses dynamic pricing. But you can still snag great award availability on short-haul flights. For instance, a round-trip November flight from Atlanta (ATL) to Cabo starts at just 26,000 SkyMiles round-trip in basic economy, but just 32,000 miles in Main Cabin and 50,000 in Comfort+.
Delta SkyMiles has one credit card transfer partner: American Express Membership Rewards. You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio. You can also transfer hotel points from a variety of programs to your Delta SkyMiles account.
Here’s a look at the full suite of Delta SkyMiles credit cards from American Express (terms apply):
- Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card: Earn 10,000 miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
You’ll find Choice, Hilton, IHG, Marriott and Hyatt hotels between Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas, along with other smaller hotels. When I visited Cabo in 2018 (I stayed in Cabo San Lucas), I stayed in a small boutique hotel. I loved it, but keep in mind that you might be subjected to a timeshare presentation like I was.
There are four Choice-branded hotels in the region, ranging from the modest Comfort Inn & Suites Los Cabos at 8,000 Choice points a night to Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf Spa Resort, Ascend Hotel Collection at 100,000 points a night.
If you frequently stay at Choice Hotels properties, you may want to get the Choice Privileges Visa Signature Card. That’s because this card earns 15 Choice points per dollar spent at eligible Choice Hotels, which equates to a 9% return based on TPG’s valuations. The information for the Choice Privileges Visa card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
You could also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Choice Privileges at a 1:1 ratio or convert Amtrak Guest Rewards into Choice Privileges points. You’ll get 15,000 Choice Privilege points for every 5,000 Amtrak points transferred.
There are four Hilton properties in the area. Hilton no longer publishes an award chart and causes frequent heartburn with its seasonal pricing. For instance, rooms at the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal start at a whopping 380,000 Hilton Honors points a night and go up to an astronomical 1.7 million points per night in April.
That said, there are plenty of ways to extract substantial value, like at the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Los Cabos, which you can book for 17,000 Hilton Honors points for April dates.
There are a variety of ways to boost your Hilton Honors account balance. One of the quickest ways is by adding one of the program’s co-branded credit cards to your wallet. Here are the current options:
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn up to $130 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of membership.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of card membership.
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 100,000 Hilton honors points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of cards membership, plus earn $100 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of membership.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you can earn up to $130 in statement credits on eligible purchases made on the card at any of the Hilton family hotels in the first 12 months of Membership. Offer expires 7/6/2022.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The Holiday Inn Express Cabo San Lucas is the only IHG hotel in Los Cabos. Rates start at 12,500 points per night.
There are two IHG Rewards Club credit cards currently accepting applications. The IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card earns 10x points total at IHG hotels and resorts, 5x points on travel, gas stations, and restaurants, and 3x on everything else. The IHG Rewards Traveler Credit Card earns 5x points at IHG hotels and resorts, 3x points at gas stations, monthly bills, and restaurants; 2x on everything else.
Finally, you can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to IHG Rewards Club at a 1:1 ratio. However, we only value IHG Rewards Club points at 0.5 cents each, so you’ll only want to do this if you have a specific redemption in mind.
There are seven Marriott Bonvoy properties in the Cabo area, though not all of them are bookable using points.
The best bang for your buck will be the Fairfield Inn Los Cabos, a Category 2 property starting at 10,000 points per night for off-peak dates. If you’re looking for more luxury, the Category 6 JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa has PointSaver awards for as low as 35,000 points a night.
The Category 6 Westin Los Cabos Resort Villas & Spa is 40,000 a night for off-peak dates. Finally, Solaz Los Cabos, a Category 7 property, can be booked for as low as 50,00 points a night during off-peak. Regardless of which option you choose, remember that you’ll get the fifth night free on award stays.
The fastest way to earn Marriott points is by spending on a co-branded credit card. You can transfer points from both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio, but this usually represents a pretty poor redemption value.
If you’re short on Marriott points, there are several cards for you:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: 75,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of cards membership.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 5 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
World of Hyatt
You’ll find three World of Hyatt properties in the area. The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, which we reviewed back in 2019, is perhaps the best hotel for your value in the region at just 25,000 Hyatt points a night. The all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos is another luxury option — and it’s cheaper, at 20,000 points a night. Finally, the Hyatt Place Los Cabos is a solid option for budget travelers at just 5,000 Hyatt points a night.
If you’re short on Hyatt points, the World of Hyatt Credit Card ($95 annual fee) can easily get you to your next redemption. The World of Hyatt card offers 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 bonus points total per $1 spent on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point, on up to $15,000 in the first six months of account opening.
If you have lots of points saved up, you can use Chase’s Travel Portal to search for activities. This might not be the best use of your points, however.
If you already have some Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned via the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for instance, they are only worth 1 to 1.25 cents each toward travel.
If you want to drive in Cabo, you’ll need to pick up a car at the airport. The airport is served by major rental car companies like Hertz, Budget and National. If you have a card that earns cash back or transferable rewards, you can redeem them for car rentals.
The Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is a great place to redeem points for rental cars. If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points are worth 1.5 cents each, while Sapphire Preferred cardholders are worth 1.25 cents each. You’ll be eligible for primary car rental coverage if you use points tied to your Sapphire Preferred or Reserve account.
You can also redeem Amex Membership Rewards points for rental cars through Pay with Points. This isn’t the best value, considering you’ll get 0.7-0.85 cents of value out of each point, while TPG values Membership Rewards at 2 cents each.
Unlike more popular destinations in Mexico, getting to and staying in Los Cabos on points and miles is fairly simple. Even if you don’t have hundreds of thousands of miles and points banked up, you can still have an enjoyable time, especially if you consider booking lower-end hotels, staying off-peak dates or using an airline’s (for instance, American’s) off-peak award chart.
Featured image by raisbeckfoto/Getty Images
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