As someone who has to constantly travel to Costa Rica for her job, I’m always looking for flights and trying to find the best price. 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 finding flights to Costa Rica for the past 9 years.
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.
*This post was updated April 2019.*
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.
To find the cheapest flights to Costa Rica, my recommendation is to use 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. For alerts and fare forecasts, Airfarewatchdog is another excellent one.
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 first step is to sign up for travel credit cards. One of the best ones for starters is Chase Sapphire.They give you 60,000 miles after spending 4,000 in purchases the first 4 months (equal to $750 in travel) and offer 2x points on travel and dining and also offer perks like car rental insurance and trip delay insurance.
Second, 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. I used to fly United a lot as they had the best and cheapest flights to Costa Rica from Seattle so I racked up a ton of United miles. Now I fly with Alaska and have their credit card so I have a ton of miles on there!
Third, read sites that talk about travel hacking like The Points Guy. You’ll get a lot of tips on how to maximize your points and find out which credit card is best for you.
Cheap Flight Subscriptions
Next, we recommend signing up to a 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.
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 doesn’t have as many to Costa Rica but they have a good selection for international trips. They also offer 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 $49 a year. Between the two, I have seen more cheap flights to Costa Rica from Scott’s.
For example, I have seen roundtrip fares from Atlanta to San Jose, Costa Rica for $350 roundtrip when it’s normally at least around $600-700! I’ve also seen cheap flights from Toronto to Costa Rica for around $250 CAD.
Honestly, after signing up to their subscription plans, there is no looking back. We’ve saved a ton of money using their services and booked trips to Ireland, Madrid and Portgual when we found their cheap fares!
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 flights to Costa Rica from Portland $150 cheaper than Seattle! The Portland Airport is only 2 hours from my parents house so driving an extra hour would have saved me $150.
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 really on a budget, then you should visit Costa Rica during our low season (May, June, September and October). Right after US Thanksgiving and before mid-December and the first couple weeks in January after the New Year usually has cheap fares too.
For example, I have bought flights to Costa Rica from Seattle for $500 roundtrip in beginning of May. In July, it was $700!
If you have to travel during Christmas, New Years or February – 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 since prices can be almost half as much! I have purchased roundtrip flights from Seattle to Costa Rica for $450 roundtrip beginning of December.
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.
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.
If you can, you can also book stopovers as those are cheaper and you’ll get to visit another destination on your way to Costa Rica.
Check Both Airports
Last tip is to check both international airports. Liberia International Airport is smaller than San Jose International Airport with less routes. Because of this, flying in and out of Liberia is usually around $100-200 more expensive. Always make sure to check both airports and consider flying into San Jose instead to save money.
Read about which Costa Rica international airportCosta Rica international airport is best for you to fly into.
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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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