A Guide to Southwest Flights to Central America

Direct routes are few, but Southwest flies to Belize and two airports in Costa Rica.
Alisha McDarris
By Alisha McDarris 

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Ready to book a flight to Central America? We don’t blame you. Between the beaches of Belize and rainforests of Costa Rica, there’s plenty to explore. Southwest Airlines can take you there. If you’re ready to start planning, here is a complete guide to Southwest flights to Central America.

Where does Southwest fly in Central America?

In addition to offering routes all over the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean, Southwest Airlines also travels multiple routes to these three international destinations in Central America:

  • Belize City, Belize.

  • Liberia, Costa Rica.

  • San Jose, Costa Rica.

Travel to some of these cities was put on pause temporarily due to COVID-19, but as of now, all three destinations are back on the menu. That said, there may still be ongoing pandemic-era travel restrictions in place. Check to see if you’ll be required to quarantine or provide proof of vaccination upon arrival in any of these destinations.

Where do Southwest's Central America flights connect?

Don’t expect a plethora of direct flights to any of Southwest’s Central American destinations. Most flights will originate from or connect through Houston-Hobby, Baltimore-Washington or Denver international airports before heading south. Some offer daily connections, while others depart only once or twice a week.

So if you want a direct flight, or just to know where you’ll be connecting, plan to connect in:

  • Houston or Denver if traveling to Belize City.

  • Baltimore-Washington, Denver or Houston when heading to Liberia, Costa Rica.

  • Houston or Baltimore-Washington when flying to San Jose, Costa Rica.

How to travel to Central America with Rapid Rewards points

You can use your collection of Southwest Rapid Rewards points to book award travel to these destinations.

Southwest doesn’t have an award chart. Instead, the number of points needed to redeem an award flight is tied to the fare price in cash. Destination, travel times, season and demand all determine how much a ticket will cost in points. Generally speaking, the more expensive the flight is with cash, the more points you’ll need to book it. To find the best deal, just use Southwest’s Low Fare Calendar to look at prices for entire months at a time.

To figure out if you're getting a good deal on your points booking, keep in mind that NerdWallet determined that the average value of a Rapid Rewards point is 1.5 cents each. A quick math equation — (Cost in dollars / Cost in points) x 100 — will give you the average value of the points needed to book. If this value is above the NerdWallet average, you might consider saving those points for a better booking in the future.

Even when booking a flight with points, you'll be on the hook for taxes and fees, which vary by destination. For instance, you can expect to pay around $22 for each one-way flight from the U.S. to Central America and around $52-$64 for the return trip.

With Southwest, you have three fare options to choose from when booking with points or cash:

  • Wanna Get Away.

  • Wanna Get Away Plus.

  • Anytime.

  • Business Select.

Each fare comes with the benefits you expect when flying Southwest — two bags free, no-fee changes and a refundable ticket — but other benefits differ from fare to fare:

  • Wanna Get Away is the least expensive fare, but the amount you pay for your ticket is not fully refundable, just reusable on a future booking within 12 months. If you’re paying with cash instead of points, you’ll earn 6x Rapid Rewards points for every dollar you spend on your fare.

  • Wanna Get Away Plus offers an 8x earning rate and all the benefits of Wanna Get Away, in addition to same-day confirmed changes, access to the same-day standby list and the ability to transfer flight credits to a different passenger.

  • Anytime offers free same-day changes and standby, plus you’ll get 10x points on your base fare.

  • Business Select gets you the same perks as Anytime, 12x Rapid Rewards points on your base fare, and priority boarding and security access.

How to earn Rapid Rewards points for Southwest flights to Central America

It doesn’t have to take long to earn enough points to cover the cost of a round-trip ticket.

You can earn Rapid Rewards points by flying with the airline, of course, but that’s not always the fastest way. Earn even more by booking rental cars and hotel rooms through Southwest’s partners, or by shopping and dining at participating partner locations.

But the most efficient way to a full points piggy bank is to sign up for a Southwest Airlines credit card. There are three available:

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has a $69 annual fee and offers:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • 2x points on every dollar spent on Southwest, rental car and hotel partner purchases.

  • 1x points on everything else.

  • 3,000 points on your account anniversary.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has a $99 annual fee and offers:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • 3x points on every dollar spent on Southwest.

  • 2x on rental car and hotel partner purchases plus internet, cable, phone and streaming.

  • 1x points on everything else.

  • 6,000 points on your account anniversary.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card comes with an annual fee of $149 but offers:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • 3x points on every dollar spent on Southwest.

  • 2x on rental car and hotel partner purchases and commuting (including rideshare).

  • 1x point on everything else.

  • 7,500 points on your account anniversary.

  • An annual $75 travel credit.

The bottom line

Whether it’s relaxation, adventure or culture you’re after, this area of the world has it, and you can book Southwest flights to Central America with cash or points to get you there.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:

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