In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, TPG has highlighted the most points-friendly cities in Latin America.
From the tropical paradise of Rio de Janeiro and the mountains of Medellin, Colombia, to the fabled restaurants of Lima, Peru, and Mexico City, we’ll show you how to explore some of Latin America’s most dazzling cities — all while leveraging your points.
La Paz, Bolivia
Bolivia, a landlocked nation of mountains, high deserts and crystalline lakes, is often described as “The Heart of South America.” The epithet is due not only to Bolivia’s geographic location in the center of South America but also because Bolivia has the highest percentage of Indigenous people in the Americas. La Paz — where neighborhoods, streets and sky trams climb the steep slopes of the Andes — appears almost as an organic outgrowth of the mountains themselves.
Millions of twinkling lights from La Paz’s mountainside communities render the skyline hypnotically beautiful at night when the Andean air is crisp and clear. Besides its historic architecture, terrific museums and dynamic nightlife, La Paz is the ideal launching pad for exploring natural wonders like the salt desert of Salar de Uyuni and Lake Titicaca.
From the East Coast, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Miami International Airport (MIA) are the ideal cities for catching flights to La Paz’s El Alto International Airport (LPB).
Avianca operates a flight from Miami to La Paz with a quick connection in Bogota, Colombia, for less than $500; the total travel time from Miami to La Paz is about nine hours. Flights from New York to La Paz with an 11-hour duration and a connection in Bogota hover around $800.
United MileagePlus awards start at 49,500 miles one-way in economy from the East Coast to La Paz if you’d rather use points to cover your trip.
Air Canada Aeroplan offers lower award rates at 30,000 points.
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Where to stay in La Paz
While there are no points hotels in La Paz, you can use Capital One miles to book an independent hotel. Book directly or with an online travel agency and charge it to your Capital One card. Then, you can redeem miles at a fixed rate of 1 cent per mile toward any travel purchase.
Consider opening the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which offers 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. That’s $750 toward hotel stays, but you can easily maximize your points by leveraging transfer partners.
San Jose, Costa Rica
In 1949, Costa Rica amended its constitution to abolish the military. The funds that would have been used for weaponry were instead earmarked for conservation.
The world should be superlatively grateful to Costa Rica for this monumental decision, as the nation offers some of the richest biodiversity and most stunning ecology on Earth. There are cloud forests high in volcanic mountains, coastal mangrove forests teeming with marine life and countless species found nowhere else on the planet.
San Jose has long been a popular destination with U.S. tourists. Many refer to Costa Rica as “Latin America for beginners” due to the high levels of English proficiency, the use of the dollar and the country’s modernized infrastructure. San Jose, located in central Costa Rica, is worth exploring for a few days — especially for the coffee lovers among us. However, the city’s greatest attribute is its proximity to Costa Rica’s superb national parks, such as Manuel Antonio and Irazu Volcano.
Delta Air Lines offers daily nonstop service from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in San Jose, Costa Rica.
In January 2024, you can find round-trip tickets for this route starting at $711.
Alternatively, one-way award flights in January start at 33,000 SkyMiles.
Where to stay in San Jose
The Costa Rica Marriott Hotel Hacienda Belen is a stately tropical resort outside San Jose. Standard rooms cost between $146 and $300 or 25,600 and 59,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
With its whitewashed facade, swaying palm trees and grand columns, the Gran Hotel Costa Rica, Curio Collection by Hilton looks straight out of an Ernest Hemingway novel. A night in a standard room in early 2024 starts at 48,000 Hilton Honors points.
The latter is affiliated with the Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts program. Holders of The Platinum Card® from American Express are entitled to benefits like space-available room upgrades; they’ll even receive up to $100 of credit to spend at the hotel’s spa, shops or restaurants. If you book a room out of pocket (around $175 per night for a basic room), be sure to use an Amex Platinum card, as you get 5 points per dollar spent on prepaid accommodations booked via Amex Travel.
For those who favor the camaraderie and casual atmosphere of a hostel, San Jose does not disappoint. Costa Rica Backpackers (which charges $15 per night for a bed in a dorm-style room) is a classic Costa Rican hostel with a lively pool and patio that keeps the party going most nights of the week.
The “City of Eternal Spring” has undergone a renaissance over the last few decades. Once considered the most dangerous city on Earth due to the cartels’ reign of terror, the Medellin of the 21st century is safe to visit. It recently won the Urban Land Institute’s prestigious award as the World’s Most Innovative City.
With its beautiful cafes, excellent public Wi-Fi and cheap cost of living, Medellin has become one of the hottest cities in the world for digital nomads. The natural beauty around Medellin — in the balmy equatorial Andes — is nothing short of mesmerizing, and the Paisa culture is welcoming and joyful.
Moreover, the small city punches above its weight for art, music and architecture. The world-renowned sculptor and painter Fernando Botero was from Medellin, and there’s an excellent museum in downtown Medellin housing Botero’s work.
JetBlue flies from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) to Medellin’s José María Córdova International Airport (MDE). The route operates five days a week but will increase to daily service during the last week of October.
Round-trip flights start at $427, but you can also use JetBlue TrueBlue points to cover your costs. You can redeem JetBlue points toward award flights at roughly 1.4 cents apiece, so the more expensive a flight is, the more points it will cost.
Where to stay in Medellin
The Medellin Marriott Hotel starts at just 21,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. The hotel is within striking distance of Medellin’s best bars and nightclubs in the colorful Zona Rosa neighborhood. If you pay with cash, a night at the Medellin Marriott will run you between $200 and $350.
The Hampton by Hilton Medellin is a thriftier option with rooms between $88 and $168 per night, but it’s still comfortable and located within a short distance of the Zona Rosa neighborhood. If you have a stack of Hilton points after applying for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, a night at the Hampton by Hilton Medellin will cost you 20,000 points.
For even more affordable accommodations, choose one of the city’s excellent, quirky hostels in the Zona Rosa, such as the Casa Kiwi Hostel (from $35 per night) or the Rango Hostel (from $38 per night). Fair warning before your stay: You’ll be in the thick of the most raucous neighborhood in a city that knows how to party.
You could spend several lifetimes exploring Mexico City, the largest city in the Americas.
CDMX, as the city is frequently abbreviated, offers a little of everything. There are Michelin-starred restaurants; spectacular museums housing the masterpieces of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and unknown Aztec masters; and nightlife that easily holds its own against any city in the world.
Most visitors to CDMX favor Roma Norte, a neighborhood of youthful energy, narrow streets and hole-in-the-wall bars. La Condesa — the leafy abode of Mexico City’s well-to-do and home to many of the city’s best eateries — is also a popular spot. One of the greatest perks of visiting Mexico City is the ability to eat in temples of fine dining — places like Quintonil and Pujol — and pay only a fraction of the price of comparable restaurants in New York City, San Francisco or Europe.
A round-trip flight from New York directly to Mexico City International Airport (MEX) is six hours and costs more than $550 on Aeromexico in January 2024. However, round-trip flights from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to MEX can sometimes go for as low as $212 on low-cost carrier Viva Aerobus.
If you have American AAdvantage miles to burn, you can redeem as few as 10,000 miles to book a one-way economy ticket from the U.S. to Mexico City. Business class starts at 20,000 miles.
Where to stay in Mexico City
Given Mexico City’s importance as a commerce hub in Latin America, it should come as no surprise that the city boasts plenty of enviable hotels.
Rooms at the JW Marriott Hotel Mexico City Polanco in the hip and foodie-friendly Polanco neighborhood — close to both the revelry of Roma Norte and the luxury of La Condesa — go for between $398 and $558 or 41,000 and 73,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night in January 2024. The W Mexico City and The St. Regis Mexico City are also solid options.
The Hyatt Regency Mexico City, also in Polanco, offers rooms for an average of around $220 per night or, as a Category 3 hotel, 9,000 to 15,000 World of Hyatt points. The hotel is next to Parque Chapultepec, the city’s version of Central Park where many top-notch museums reside.
Signing up for a World of Hyatt Credit Card and spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership will earn you 30,000 bonus Hyatt points — possibly enough for a free long weekend. Plus, you can earn 2 points per dollar spent in the first six months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 bonus point on up to $15,000 spent (up to 30,000 additional bonus points).
If you want to splurge, check out the Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City, one of Latin America’s most luxurious hotels. If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, using it at this Four Seasons outpost will allow you to reserve a table at the hotel’s renowned restaurant Il Becco, which serves modern Italian, and another top on-site eatery Zanaya, where dishes inspired by the seafood-forward cuisine of Yucatán are on the menu. Since this is a Fine Hotels + Resorts property, booking the Four Seasons with this card will also give you benefits such as extended checkout times and room upgrades.
Whether you’re a history buff interested in the Inca Empire, a gourmand keen to sample the most delicious ceviche in the world or an adrenaline junkie looking to tour the wild recesses of the Amazon, Peru should be at the top of your list of dream destinations. Lima, with its Incan art and history museums, fabulous dining and nearby beaches, promises to keep visitors captivated for days.
Moreover, the Peruvian capital is the ideal launching point for exploring the Andes, Machu Picchu, the Amazon and Peru’s Pacific coast.
United has a regularly scheduled nonstop flight between Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport (LIM) that starts at around $700 in January. One-way award tickets start at 26,400 United miles or 55,000 miles in Polaris business class.
Additionally, you can fly from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to LIM with LATAM. You can book an economy seat on this flight via Alaska Airlines for 30,000 miles or via Qantas for 30,200 miles. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy points to Qantas Frequent Flyer.
While the routing can be draining, American Airlines offers flights on this route from just 15,000 in economy and 25,000 miles in business class.
Where to stay in Lima
The Category 2 Hyatt Centric San Isidro Lima sits on sea cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the San Isidro neighborhood. In this area, you can stroll past Incan ruins and boutique restaurants. Rooms cost between $160 and $228 or 6,500 to 8,500 World of Hyatt points per night.
If you want to pamper yourself in Lima, look no further than Miraflores Park, A Belmond Hotel. Belmond’s luxurious glass-and-steel tower overlooks the ocean and sits within walking distance of all the fun of Miraflores. Since it’s affiliated with Amex’s Fine Hotels + Resorts program, Platinum Card holders are entitled to perks such as late checkout, room upgrades and daily breakfast for two.
Traveling to Central and South America in fall is ideal since temperatures in many of the region’s cities are mild and enjoyable. You’ll also be able to honor Hispanic Heritage Month by experiencing the rich Hispanic and Indigenous influences in these destinations.