While some folks are just figuring out where to travel this summer, my mind is already on 2024. Yes, I plan far in advance. Because we are a family of five and I use miles and points, I’ve had the best luck getting flights 11-12 months in advance.
After considering several new-to-us destinations, my family landed on our choice: Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Again?
Yes, my family has been to Costa Rica before. We flew into Liberia in March 2020 right before the world shut down and spent 5 nights at the incomparable Hyatt Andaz Costa Rica at Peninsula Peninsula (see my review here). It was a lovely trip, and my kids keep reminding me of the awesome breakfast buffet at the hotel.
Truth be told, we’re not just going back to Costa Rica for the unique wildlife and “Pura Vida!” lifestyle. We have an ulterior motive. My husband and I are considering retiring in Costa Rica. We’re still years away from retirement. But, we’d like to check out some areas near San Jose as a potential future home.
Manuel Antonio National Park is closer to San Jose than Liberia. It looks beautiful, with its jungles and beaches. A 5- to 6-night trip should allow us ample time to explore the city and the park.
Strategy for Flights Using Miles
Our trip will either be in May or July. Both are considered the off-season for Costa Rica. Still, flights to San Jose are surprisingly expensive. Tickets can be around ~$1000 round-trip in Economy. Yikes! So of course, I’ll be using miles and points to reduce our expenses.
American Airlines has a nonstop flight between DFW and SJO. I’ve seen it as cheap as 10k miles and as high as 65k miles. My first choice would be this nonstop flight. It’s only 4 hours. AA also has connecting flights through Miami. We have a stash of AA and Alaska miles we could use.
Another option is using Avianca or United miles to fly on Taca Airlines (which is now part of Avianca) from DFW to San Salvador and then onto San Jose. This route has good availability for 19k miles on United and around 22k miles on Avianca.
Using Points for Hotel
Hyatt has an SLH property in the Manuel Antonio area, Los Altos Resort. It costs 30k points a night, but each room is a 3-bedroom condo. That would be perfect for my family of 5. But of course, availability is extremely limited on points.
Several readers have enjoyed Si Como No Resort. Unfortunately, we would need to book two rooms at that hotel.
Most likely, we’ll book a home on airbnb and save our Chase points to transfer to airlines.
Are you thinking about your 2024 plans yet?
How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.
2nd for Tulemar. We stayed there for 3 nights 8 years ago and my husband still talks about it.
4th, 5th, or whatever for hiring a naturalist guide in MA. Absolutely essential. Otherwise you will walk towards the beach area, see some monkeys (which is cool), and then you will leave 15 minutes later because you’re not trained to see the wildlife in a dense jungle! You’ll miss everything.
Another tip: that’s the rainy season so be prepared. I think mornings are best and then it starts raining in the afternoon for awhile so if there is really something you want to do that requires some good weather plan accordingly. Have fun!!!
@Tammie Thank you for the advice!
Our family spent four nights at Los Altos in December. It is a gorgeous property, you will not be disappointed spending your Hyatt points here. I traveled with my elderly parents and teen son, so we needed two rooms. Points covered only two people, the additional two people (in one room) cost an extra $150, but it was well worth it. Condo was HUGE with lots of room to spread out and a beautiful balcony overlooking the ocean. Great location, it’s a private reserve but you can walk up the drive and access restaurants and shops.
Breakfast was included and was amazing. Restaurant is a lovely outdoor patio with a sea and jungle view. We saw sloths two mornings while waiting for our pancakes to arrive! Lots of wildlife on property. Several nice hiking trails and an infinity pool. Private beach with bar service. It is family owned, and the service is terrific. They can set up guides, tours, and transfers from San Jose if you don’t feel comfortable driving. Manuel Antonio National Park is about 10 minutes further down the road.
Consider spending a night or two along the way at Alta Hotel Las Palomas (I know the name sounds similar!) It is located on the southern side of San Jose up the mountain, so it’s in the direction you’ll be going anyway. Lovely SLH property, just decreased to a Category 4, so good place for free night certs. The neighborhood of Escazu is popular with expatriates, so you can get a feel for what retiring in San Jose would be like. Rooms have lovely balconies overlooking the city and the mountains, and the restaurant is a foodie-destination. Nice wildlife rehab center right next door.
@Lisa Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Was the $150 extra charge per night, or per stay? I will definitely check out Alta Hotel Las Palomas!
The $150 surcharge was per night. We felt it was worth it for the spacious condo, great breakfast, and extensive property amenities. I would absolutely stay there again. It is next door to Tulemar.
Thanks for the info, Lisa!
As for the planning way ahead part… YES! Especially when you’re confined to a school schedule and travel at peak times, booking as far out as possible, and making a plan for the resources to do it, is highly advantageous. 2024? Shoot I have some plans forming already for 2025!
@projectx I have some ideas for 2025 but I’m not sharing them with my husband yet. 🙂
Kathryn K. says
Hi Nancy – As I’ve shared elsewhere my husband and I went to Costa Rica on our honeymoon and Manuel Antonio National Park was one of our stops. We enjoyed the guided wildlife spotting tour we took but otherwise were underwhelmed. I’ll second projectx that the park is very small as well as quite busy. However, it does have a couple nice beaches. So if you want this to mainly be a chilling vacation it would be fine but if you want to do a lot of hiking or other activities it’s not the best pick.
@Kathryn K. Thanks for your feedback of the area! We’re mostly looking for chillaxin (according to my teens).
Just spent 4 nights at Los Altos in March on points. Lovely place. MA is awesome. Definitely agree with hiring a guide, they spot things we’d never have seen. Booked MA guide, sunset boat cruise and transport to San Jose all through the Chase portal.
@Cyndi I’m glad you were able to book it using points! It looks lovely.
Definitely a place I would love to go to one day! beautiful!
We spent 5 days in this area in 2019. Manuel Antonio is very small, and is a one day visit is plenty. But, definitely a can’t miss activity! Most importantly, HIRE A GUIDE. The amount of wildlife our guide spotted was unbelievable, and we have some fantastic photos from it with the help of his scope. We would’ve missed 95% of the wildlife we saw if we didn’t have him.
For lodging, check out Tulemar. After researching the area and staying here, I can’t imagine staying anywhere else. It’s not cheap, but is my favorite lodging experience of all time. Simply incredible. At the time it was rated as Trip Advisor’s #1 hotel in the world.
If you need anything else let me know, you have my email! 🙂
@projectx Thanks for the tip about hiring the guide! And once of the airbnb properties I was considering is in Tulemar. It’s a bit pricey but m maybe worth it for just 2-3 nights.
If you’re willing to pay 30k URs to stay at a Hyatt, then cash them out at 1.25cpp with PYB. Problem solved!
Hey, I’m already making plans for 2025! That’s next level “crazy”. But I change my mind a lot, so many of my plans don’t actually materialize. I was seriously thinking about taking kids to Manuel Antonio, but settled on Andaz in Papagayo instead. If you love it, perhaps we can go there next time.
On Los Altos resort: I’ve read that they charge extra if you have more than two people. Not sure if that applies to points bookings, but something to look into. If they allow all five of you to stay for 30k points per night, that would be my choice.
@Leana Thanks for the heads up on Los Altos. It looks lovely, but I somehow doubt we’ll end up staying there.
I’m just like you. I plan way ahead. We already know our two big trips for 2024 with dates and everything. I live and work for my vacations!!!! Lol…
@Liz Yes!!!! You get it!
I’ve been hearing more about people moving here is the cost of living that much cheaper? What made me sad when I visited was the dog over- population, there were so many strays and some with puppies!
@Boonie Housing is definitely cheaper, as well as healthcare (even private, highly rated healthcare). The dog situation would make me sad. We didn’t see that on our previous trip.