What is your favorite place to travel to in the wintertime? I have one requirement – someplace warm! A friend and I do an annual girl’s trip every winter and our destination is anyplace warm. We went to Vietnam last year and to Thailand the year before. This year it was Costa Rica and, of course, I used points. Points to fly there points to stay there! Costa Rica on points is what this post is all about. After all, that’s what this travel hacker tries to do with all her travel!
There are tons of ways to use miles to fly to Costa Rica on points. I love to look at Juicy Miles to see what I can do with my points for any trip. I ended up using Delta Miles for a first-class flight to San Jose, Costa Rica from Denver for 57,000 miles but the main cabin was only 13,000 and Delta Comfort was 18,000. It probably would have been good to save my points and just book comfort but I was feeling generous with myself that day. It is a long flight and I have a bad knee too! (excuses, excuses)
My flight home was booked from San Jose through LAX to Denver. I used 27,500 Delta miles for a first-class ticket for the first part of the trip. This was an early morning flight and I loved that extra space. Travel hacking lets me spoil myself! The last part of my trip home (LAX-DEN) was on a separate booking with Virgin Atlantic miles in first-class for 22,500 miles. Check out Juicy Miles if you want to book a trip to Costa Rica with your award points to see lots of options. I spent a lot on my first-class flights, you can expect to spend much less flying in economy class.
I had a one-week certificate left from a Marriott Nights and Flights deal before the big Starwood/Marriott merger. It was only a category 4 week though so I wanted to use it at the very best category 4 hotel I could. In warm weather, of course. I got online (don’t you just love Google?) and searched for reviews on the best Marriott category 4 hotels. I came up with one in San Jose, Costa Rica, and booked it. It’s not on a beach but it had great reviews. I love to lay by a nice pool and read, and I could take an excursion to the beach for a day or two. Sounded perfect! We even decided to tack on a couple of beach days at the end in Manual Antonio – a national park near a beach that has tons of monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife.
Here is our hotel, the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen. It is rated a 4.6 out of 5.0 and that is a great score. It really pays to look at reviews of hotels on their sites or Trip Advisor so you won’t be disappointed. You could stay at a category 4 hotel for as little as 20,000 points. We were there at peak time so it would be 30,000 points a night. Because Marriott gives you the 5th night free with award bookings, you could get 5 nights for 120,000 points!
That is not bad at all because you can often get 100,000 points with a credit card sign-up. Imagine getting to stay in this great hotel with just you and your husband signing up for a Chase Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card and meeting minimum spend! Costa Rica on points is so doable with a couple of signup bonuses!
There are several other Marriott hotels to stay in the area too, ranging from a category 2-5. Indeed, in Costa Rica, you can find 13 Marriott hotels scattered around. I have stayed previously in Tamarindo, a cute little surf town that’s a throwback to the ’60s and I highly recommend it!
You can find hotels to stay at with points in Costa Rica from all four of my favorite brands:
Because I have hotel status with Marriott, we got upgraded to a room with a nice view and executive lounge access.
Our hotel was awesome – think old-world Spanish charm and lots of Latin music. It was right near the airport so a quick shuttle ride and I was there. It was tucked away from the busy streets so it felt like the nicest resort to get away and relax. And I did just that – read, enjoyed the sun, and the pools.
Because I still have Marriott Platinum Elite status, we could use the Executive Lounge at the hotel. This got us free breakfasts each morning with tons of cold and hot options. We also had cold soft drinks and water available all day and appetizers at night – so many that it made a meal! Talk about a cheap vacation! I hardly paid for any food!
As I said previously, we spent a lot of time relaxing and reading by the pool. From San Jose, we did take two tours from GetYourGuide though.
The first was an all-day trip to Tortuga Island. They picked us up at our hotel, fed us breakfast and took us on a catamaran to the island.
We had a great breakfast and then headed to the island for snorkeling, a fantastic lunch and banana boat rides! Calypso Cruises did an awesome job of meeting our needs and providing a fun time. I recommend it if you go to San Jose.
We were picked up by our guide at our hotel and taken to the Sarapiqui River where we met others to begin our rafting. We picked a low-level rafting trip of Class ll and lll rapids but it still had some great rides, got soaked, and had a blast. Our guide was the best – especially because he had four women in his raft! At the conclusion of each rapid, we would bring our oars together and yell, “Pura Vida”! We stopped after an hour for some cliff jumping and fresh fruit. At the end of our day, we had a great traditional Costa Rican lunch.
We really enjoyed our experience but we had to drive over 2 hours to the river from San Jose so should have done it from our second location probably. It would have been on a different river. but I’m sure it would be fun.
After a week in San Jose, we were picked up by Super Shuttle at our hotel for a 3-hour drive to Quepos. They took us to our hotel Shana by the Beach Residences and Spa. We did have to pay for this stay (can’t travel hack everything). It was located so our balcony faced a jungle and monkeys would come to visit daily.
There was a gorgeous beach just minutes from us called Biesanz beach where the water was warm as a bathtub (too warm for me but gorgeous). We enjoyed the beach and the pool at the hotel and the yummy free breakfasts that were included with our stay. Our room had two king beds and a huge kitchen – it was great!
We went to Manuel Antonio National Park one day and saw iguanas, monkeys, sloths, and many birds. My advice for you on this is to not hire a guide. They are available for 3 hours but we would see them show people leaves and talk about things we would have been bored to hear. We would just stop when big groups were gathered and saw plenty. We were able to go to Espadilla Beach, Manuel Antonio Beach (both located in the park), swim at both, and see plenty of animals in less than 3 hours.
I can’t write about this trip to Costa Rica and not say a few things about where I stayed last time. We stayed in Tamarindo, the cutest ’60s, hippie, surfer town and loved it too. On that trip, we flew into Liberia Airport and my husband and I rented a car to get to Tamarindo where we shared an Airbnb with friends. There is a surf school that my son goes to every year and my husband enjoyed trying to catch a few waves while we were there. I whole heartily recommend Tamarindo as another area to visit in Costa Rica.
Our favorite places to eat there were:
Costa Rica is a beautiful country to visit. It is full of natural beauty and there are so many fun activities to do, animals to see, and wonderful people to meet. Luckily, it is possible to travel hack your flights and even some of your stay to make your trips cheaper. Is Costa Rica on your travel hacking destination bucket list?