10 Countries You Didn’t Know You Could Fly to on Southwest
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With nearly 4,000 flights scheduled every day, Southwest’s route network is quite extensive — and it continues to expand. Since Southwest is such a popular choice on domestic routes, you might not realize it also offers service between the US and seven countries throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Here’s a look at Southwest’s lesser-known international flight options.
Fly Into: San José Del Cabo (SJD), with nonstop flights available from 10 airports including Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN) and Houston (HOU).
Why You Should Go: This city on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is home to dramatic scenery, with large stone cliffs lining beautiful beaches. Cabo is also a popular spring break destination for college students, with many affordable resort options — Starwood, Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton and IHG all have properties nearby, so it shouldn’t be too hard to put those well-earned hotel rewards points to work.
Fly into: Puerto Vallarta (PVR), with nonstop flights from five U.S. airports including Oakland (OAK), Denver (DEN) and Houston (HOU).
Why You Should Go: Known for its cobblestone streets and hilly vistas, this West Coast Mexican city is a favorite for American expats and tourists alike. Located about an hour’s drive north, the secluded resort town of Punta Mita is home to a luxurious Four Seasons Hotel and, one of our favorites, the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort.
Fly Into: Mexico City (MEX), with flights from Houston (HOU). The best round-trip fares are consistently less than $300 during the fall and winter.
Why You Should Go: Mexico’s capital city is best known for its large festivals and for being a major cultural hub. From impressive, historic 17th-century churches to its thriving nightlife scene, Mexico City continues to become more and more popular with travelers looking to get a feel for Latin America without venturing too far from home.
Fly Into: Cancún (CUN) from 16 U.S. airports with twice-daily nonstop flights from Houston (HOU), Chicago (MDW) and Baltimore (BWI), and once-daily nonstop service from Denver (DEN), San Antonio (SAT), Atlanta (ATL) and Austin (AUS).
Why You Should Go: Cancún practically defines Mexico’s beach vacation culture, while its snorkeling and diving opportunities, Caribbean waters and nearby Mayan ruins keep tourists coming back all year long.
Fly Into: Belize City (BZE), with nonstop flights available from Houston (HOU), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Denver (DEN). Fares are rarely less than $400 round-trip on this route, so keep an eye out for flight sales and other offers from Southwest that might bring the price down a bit.
Why You Should Go: Belize offers tropical jungles, gorgeous beaches, historic Mayan ruins, some of world’s best diving and snorkeling spots and friendly, English-speaking locals.
3. Costa Rica
Fly Into: Liberia (LIR), with daily nonstop flights from Baltimore (BWI) and Houston (HOU), and round-trip prices starting around $375 depending on when you go.
Why You Should Go: Costa Rica practically invented eco-tourism, and the country continues to develop its green appeal with rainforest resorts and jungle retreats. Located in the country’s Northwest corner, Liberia is close to some of Costa Rica’s best seaside resorts, like the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort.
Fly Into: San José (SJO), with daily nonstop flights from Houston (HOU), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Baltimore (BWI). Round-trip fares tend to start around $400, but we’ve also spotted prices closer to the $300 mark depending on when you visit.
Why You Should Go: Costa Rica’s capital city is a great starting point for adventures all around the country — both Arenal Volcano National Park and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are within a 3.5-hour drive of the city center.
Fly Into: Montego Bay (MBJ), with daily nonstop flights from Orlando (MCO), Houston (HOU), Chicago (MDW) and Baltimore (BWI).
Why You Should Go: Jamaica is a great warm weather destination all year round, providing visitors with the perfect blend of relaxation and nightlife, not to mention you can stay in a swanky overwater bungalow at the Sandals Resort in Montego Bay.
Fly Into: Nassau (NAS), with daily nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Baltimore (BWI), with round-trip prices as low as $165 for the short 55-minute hop from South Florida.
Why You Should Go: There’s so much more to the Bahamas than what you’ll see from a cruise ship or luxury mega-resort. But if that’s more your style or you’re short on vacation time, treat yourself to a stay at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, (located just a 30-minute drive from the airport), which you can now book with Marriott Rewards points, or you can get a free stay with FoundersCard.
6. Dominican Republic
Fly Into: Punta Cana (PUJ), with daily flights from Atlanta (ATL), Baltimore (BWI), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Chicago (MDW). Round-trip tickets start at about $400 from Baltimore.
Why You Should Go: Over the past few years, the Dominican Republic has opened dozens of new resorts, including new Starwood and Marriott properties. Punta Cana is no longer a place where people go to simply lay on the beach all day — the city and surrounding areas now feature upscale (and inexpensive) bars, restaurants and clubs, and you’ll find activities like zip lining and waterfall repelling that appeal to all sorts of travelers. The “D.R.,” as the locals say, is sure to not disappoint.
Fly Into: Aruba (AUA), with daily flights from Orlando (MCO), Houston (HOU), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Baltimore (BWI).
Why You Should Go: This beautiful desert island, located just 60 miles north of South America, has traditionally been a stronghold for East Coasters looking for a warm vacation in the dead of winter. The beaches in Aruba are second to none, and you’ll find plenty of hotel and resort options for the perfect island getaway. Best of all, it’s part of the ABC islands — Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao — whose location beneath the Caribbean hurricane belt ensures near-perfect weather all year round.
8. Grand Cayman
Fly Into: Grand Cayman (GCM), with daily nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and with flights from Houston starting in summer 2018.
Why You Should Go: Grand Cayman is home to one of TPG’s favorite properties, the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, where he’s attended the celebrity chef-packed Cayman Cookout. The island’s also home to Marriott and IHG properties, so you have other options for booking award stays. Make sure to check out the coral reefs and Stingray City, a great spot for snorkeling and capturing some great underwater photos.
9. Turks and Caicos
Fly Into: Providenciales (PLS), with daily nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale (FLL).
Why You Should Go: It’s less than a 2-hour flight from Florida, and you’ll enjoy beautiful white-sand beaches. This is yet another great destination for water sports, and don’t forget to visit both Grace Bay and Long Bay Beach.
Fly Into: Havana (HAV), with two nonstop flights per day from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and one per day from Tampa (TPA).
Why You Should Go: While the US has recently added some restrictions for citizens visiting this island nation, it’s still possible to go as part of an organized tour. And there are plenty of reasons to consider doing so; you’ll want to take in the city’s vintage cars, nightlife and great food.
Houston and Baltimore seem to have the most consistent and widespread service to these seven Latin American and Caribbean countries. And thanks to Southwest’s ever-expanding domestic network, these international cities continue to become more accessible and affordable for American travelers overall.
Additional reporting by Sarah Silbert.
Feature photo by John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images
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