As someone living and traveling in Costa Rica for her job, I’m always looking for flights and trying to find the best price. Even though I’ve been doing this for 7 years, I’m no expert or analyst on airline ticket pricing but I have quite a bit of experience and knowledge, particularly when it comes to flights to Costa Rica.
So if you’re on the hunt for your plane ticket, read about my experiences and tips. Also make sure to check our Costa Rica trip planning timeline for more advice on booking your vacation.
First things first, let’s talk about useful search engines that we personally use to help you find cheap flights to Costa Rica.
Our Favorite Travel Search Engines
If you want to find the best flight to Costa Rica, there are many websites out there to help you do that. Google Flights is an excellent one and is my go to since they have flight tracking. They’ll send you alerts for when the flight you want increases or decreases in prices which is very helpful.
If you want to find the cheapest flights to Costa Rica, my recommendation is Skyscanner or Momondo. Hipmunk is a good one too.
These search engines scour the web for the best cheapest tickets and are particularly good if you are looking for a stopover (a long layover that allows you enough time to sightsee the destination) on an international flight.
Keep in mind that some airlines, like Southwest for example, does not show up on search engines so you will have to go to their site directly to check prices.
Our Experience With Skyscanner
We used Skyscanner for tickets from Costa Rica – Seattle – Taipei – Seattle – Costa Rica. We stayed in Seattle for 2 weeks and had a 15 hour stopover in China before landing in Taipei. That whole itinerary was $900 per person. We purposefully wanted a long layover in China and Skyscanner made it easy to find one.
Does it matter when you search for tickets?
In my personal experience, I think so. I always set up a bunch of alerts and I do notice prices dropping on Tuesday nights and going up on the weekends. I’ve never purchased tickets on a weekend and I usually purchase them as soon as I see a great price.
What is flight hacking? you may ask. It’s basically collecting points and miles from programs to use for travel. Many credit cards have options to get a certain number of miles per dollar or hotel points which is awesome. I’ve used miles for hotels and I know people who had enough to pay next to nothing for flights using only their points!
The Points Guy is my go to website to learn about travel hacking and how to get the most of our miles/points for travel. He and his team has hundreds of articles on the best credit cards for travel, which airlines offers the best value for miles/points, best loyalty programs and much more. For anyone who wants to take the plunge into travel hacking, he is the one to learn from.
The first step is to sign up for travel credit cards. One of the best ones is Chase Sapphire, they give you 60,000 miles after making 4,000 in purchases the first 4 months. Then sign up to be a member of the airline you’re planning on flying so you can earn miles to use in the future and get member perks.
Cheap Flight Subscriptions
Next, we recommend signing up to a cheap flight subscription service to find the cheapest flights to Costa Rica. These are sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights or Dollar Flight Club. What they do is they look for last minute deals, error fares and low fares and send you emails about them. These fares usually last for 1-3 days and may be basic economy or require a long layover so keep in that mind.
I personally use both. I’ve used Scott’s Cheap Flights for Iceland but they have a ton for Costa Rica, especially flying in and out of San Jose. Dollar Flight Club hasn’t had as many to Costa Rica but they have a good selection for international trips. They also offer many giveaways on their Facebook page.
They offer free and premium plans with premium members getting perks like deals before anyone else, getting 100% of all the deals they find, being able to select your departure apart and text alerts (plus ad free). Prices are very similar, Dollar Flight Club is $40 a year, Scott’s is $39 a year. I have seen some pretty cheap flights to Costa Rica from Scott’s and more frequently.
For example, roundtrip fares from Atlanta to San Jose, Costa Rica for $350 roundtrip when it’s normally at least around $600-700! I also saw cheap flights from Toronto to Costa Rica for around $250 CAD.
Consider Departing From Another Airport
Make sure to check all of your surrounding international airports since one may have cheaper fares than the other. Once I found cheap flights to Costa Rica from Portland, around $100 cheaper than Seattle! The Portland Airport is only 2 hours from my parents in Washington state so driving an extra hour would have been a great way to save $100.
General Tips for Cheap Flights to Costa Rica
The biggest tip I can give you for finding cheap flights to Costa Rica is to travel in the off season. If you are flexible on time and are really on a budget, then you should visit Costa Rica during our low season (May, June, September, October). Flights are pretty cheap in September, October and May and hotels and tours are cheaper as well. Right after US Thanksgiving and before mid-December and right after the New Year for the first couple weeks in January has good cheap fares too.
I have purchased roundtrip flights from Seattle to Costa Rica for $450 a person right before mid December. In May, it was $500 roundtrip which is a big difference compared to high season which is around $700-800 into Liberia.
If you have to travel during Christmas, New Years or January – April, be prepared to pay the more expensive prices. Christmas easily can be around $1000 from Seattle! But if you’re flexible, visit the beginning of December or the week before Easter. Prices can be almost half as much!
Additionally, if you sign up to Dollar Flight Club or Scott’s Cheap Flights, you can grab those mistake or last minute low fares and save a ton of money that way. Both have offers to places all around the world and you can set your home airport for the most relevant deals.
Book a Flight with a Layover
Non stop flights cost more so if you want to save money, book a flight with a layover. From Madrid, we found tickets for $600 each with a layover in Miami. Nonstop tickets from Madrid to San Jose, Costa Rica were around $900 so we saved a good chunk for getting a flight with a layover.
Check Both Airports
Second tip is to check both international airports. Liberia International Airport is smaller than San Jose International Airport and only in the last couple years have more airlines opened routes to LIR Aiport. Because of this, flying in and out of Liberia is usually more expensive.
I used to pay around $200-300 more to fly into Liberia back in 2012 when I first moved and it was already very expensive from Seattle so it was worth the 6 hour bus ride to San Jose. Always make sure to check both airports because normally, Liberia is more expensive but sometimes it’s very comparable to San Jose.
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Read more Costa Rica travel tips below!
Travel insurance: Find out why we recommend to get travel insurance for your trip to Costa Rica
Best time to visit Costa Rica: Not sure when to visit Costa Rica? Find out in this post
Best places in Costa Rica: Don’t know where to go? Read this post to help you decide
Costa Rica survival guide: The do’s and dont’s of traveling in Costa Rica
Costa Rica maps: The best maps for Costa Rica plus where to get free local maps
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