The Definitive Guide to Booking Cheap Airfare to Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has long enjoyed a reputation as an exotic paradise, with plenty nature and wildlife, sun, sand, surf, and just a touch of tropical partying. In fact, more than 20 million people every year visit this little Central American nation that has a long-standing constitution but no army. While airfare can usually be one of the biggest expenses when you take a vacation, you’ll probably spend more on drinks during your relaxing stay, and it only takes 2 to 5 hours to fly to Costa Rica from almost anywhere in the U.S.
It seems like every month, another airline announces new routes and flights to Costa Rica – many of them nonstop. As opposed to making a connection and having a layover, nonstop flights mean you can get to the airport in New York by breakfast and be on the beach in Costa Rica by lunch (aided by the one-hour time difference!) If you’re in Houston or Florida, you’ll spend more time waiting for the flight than you will in the air.
More airlines and flights also means that consumers have better options and the prices come down significantly. In fact, you can usually find a ticket to Costa Rica for a couple hundred dollars and change each way (or less), so it very well could cost less to fly to Costa Rica than it does coast to coast in the U.S.
These are airlines flying direct to Costa Rican airports from U.S. or Canadian destinations:
American (Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami)
Air Canada (Toronto)
Continental (merging with United) (Newark, Houston)
Delta (Atlanta, Minnesota/St. Paul, and Los Angeles (seasonal))
JetBlue (New York, Orlando, and now Boston)
Southwest (Florida, Baltimore)
Spirit Air (Ft. Lauderdale)
United (Chicago, Newark, Houston)
US Airways (Charlotte, North Carolina)
These are some other airlines flying to Costa Rica that may have cheap fares:
Where to fly into?
Your best option when booking a flight to Costa Rica is to fly in and out of the international airport in San Jose, the capital city. With airport
code SJO, Juan Santamaria International Airport is big, modern, and convenient. The biggest international airport is San José’s Juan Santamaría International Airport (airport code: SJO). San José is the main city, and a central hub if you want to hit the beach in Manuel Antonio or Jaco, the Central Pacific coast, Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, or the Southern zone closer to Panama.
Getting around once you’re there.
From there, you can easily take a taxi or shuttle into the city and explore the big, bustling city, but the good news is that it’s just as fast to hit the road and make for the Pacific coast right from the airport. Thanks to a new highway that runs from the airport to Playa Jaco, the country’s most popular beach destination, it can take only an hour before you dip your toes in the sand.
Only a decade ago, getting to and from San Jose to the coast meant a hot, sweaty, often nauseating half-day caravan through smaller, poor quality roads.
Here are 15 tips on booking cheap airline tickets to Costa Rica:
- Use reverse searches:
If you are flexible with which days you can travel, a lot of cheaper airfares may open up for you. There are several travel search engines that will allow you to search by destination without putting in a hard date.
- Travel off-season.
Costa Rica, like many countries in tropical climates, doesn’t have set winters and summers like up north. Instead, they have a dry season from approximately late November through April, and a rainy season from May to November. If you don’t mind some clouds and a little rain mixed in with sunshine, it can actually be cooler (but still plenty warm) and far less crowded, meaning cheaper flights, hotels, etc.
- Let the travel sites do the work.
There are some great Internet search sites out there that will do all of the work for you. Even better, register a search to a certain destination or below a certain price and they will give you automatic email alerts. I like:
- Check the airline websites directly.
Search engines are great, but also search directly on the airlines’ websites. They often offer private deals or promotions that the search engines can’t access. Increasingly they are running cheap deals on social media sites like Facebook, so it’s worth it to Like their page and check in.
- The best time to search for tickets.
Did you know there are up to 10 different ticket prices on the same flight? So how do you get one of the cheap seats? Timing is everything.
Airlines release their new weekly fares on Mondays, so at Tuesday by 3 pm their competitors have released their deals, making it the exact time to search.
Studies show that the cheapest time to book is 49 days before your departure, or 81 days ahead of time for international flights. Interestingly, flights booked 200 days or more in advance are more expensive, and last minute flights may be cheaper, but the seat availability is extremely limited.
If you are flying during the holidays, start searching 10 weeks ahead of time. If you’re headed to a non-vacation destination, shop on a weekend – it will save you 5%.
- The best time to fly.
The majority of air travelers want to fly on a Friday or Sunday, so you’ll find the best deals available for flights on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday.
Flights at the crack of dawn, at dinnertime, or red-eye flights over night are cheapest.
- Follow the airlines on social media.
Almost every airline has a social media page, at least on Facebook and Twitter these days, and often release specials and limited time deals that aren’t publicized elsewhere. Like or follow a few airlines ahead of time so you can track their updates.
- Book a package deal.
Booking a package usually drops your airfare into the leisure travel category, saving you money. Arranging a ticket for your hotel, rental car, and airfare together may give you access to lower prices on internet search engines, and travel agents can be helpful when it comes to these bargains.
- Ask for organizational discounts.
Contact any organizations, unions, or membership sites you belong to, like AAA, AARP, unions, Veterans groups, or even Sam’s Club or Costco, as they may offer bulk discounts.
- Sign up for frequent flyer miles and points.
Always register to earn frequent flyer miles and keep track. Confirm with the booking agent and at the check-in counter to make sure they credited you your miles, and once you get home check to make sure they were registered.
- Use a credit card that offers award points of frequent flyer miles.
Some of them are great but only give you miles on one airline. I have a Chase Sapphire card that allows me to accumulate points for all flights, hotels, rental cars, or even restaurant meals. I run all of my bills through it but pay it off every month, and the result is that I get at least two free flights every year.
- Factor the airline’s luggage policy into the total price.
When booking a flight, ask about their luggage policy. Slightly cheaper tickets for your family does no good if you are paying $50 each for baggage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, airlines make over $3 billion in baggage fees alone every year!
- Call back the next day to see if the price went down.
After you book your flight, call back the next day, within 24 hours, to check if the fare went lower. Most airlines have a policy where you could cancel and re-book for the lower fare within 24 hours without penalty.
- Check the airline websites.
While it’s convenient to go to one website and search for the best fares among all airlines and schedules, you can often find specials or the best deals on the airline’s own website. So do a little research but then cross reference with the airline.
- Call and chat with a representative but then book online.
I love getting an actual human being on the phone from the airline or travel websites because they can guide you and offer their tricks, tips, and vast experience. But if you want to book over the phone there’s usually a service charge of $15 to $50. So to save money, call and chat to identify what you want and then thank them, hang up, and book online.
Costa Rica Gurus is a full service travel agency helping travelers get the most out of their vacation. We help our clients find the best accomodations, dependable transportation and the funnest and safest adventure tours available. We can be contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-954-495-9330.