Not everyone has a huge cachet of Marriott Bonvoy points to spend on the top-end category 8 resorts. What you might be surprised to hear is that there are a lot of pleasant surprises when it comes to the base category 1 hotels in the Marriott family.
I’ve done a full breakdown of Hilton category 1 properties so it’s now time to we dive into the category 1 hotels with Marriott that are pound-for-pound amazing deals.
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Best Category 1 Hotels with Marriott
There are over 8,000 Marriott properties all over the world spanning over 31 different brands including Le Meridien, Westin, W Hotels, St. Regis, AC Hotels, Moxy, and Aloft.
With over 200 designated as Marriott category 1 hotels around the world, there are only so many that are actually good deals. I’ve gone through all of them and I’ve curated a list of the ones that are truly hidden gems according to:
- Cash price of room – all prices updated in 2021
If you’re looking for a tool by Marriott themselves, make sure to head over to the redemption hotel search tool. It’s easy to use – just make sure you select a region first and then enter in a min and max of 5,000 points to ensure you only see category 1 hotels.
Properties in the United States and Canada certainly aren’t as flashy as some of the international properties but it’s worth going through a few that would make perfect road trip destinations or weekend trips if you’re local.
TownePlace Suites Baton Rouge South
This is an extended-stay type of property under the Towneplace Suites banner which means suites and studios have a fully equipped kitchen with stovetop, dishwasher, microwave, pots, pans, dishes, and glasses.
While it isn’t located in the heart of the city, this is only an 11 minutes drive to the Baton Rouge downtown since you’ll most likely have a car for your trip here..
Four Points by Sheraton Bakersfield
Located in the Bakersfield business district, this property is notable in a couple of ways.
First of all, it’s a Four Points which for category 1 hotels is arguably one the best brand you can get.
For those that are thinking about doing road trips along the west coast, Bakersfield is a perfect pit stop.
Lastly, this is a well-reviewed property that’s been modernized, comes with a large pool, is in the core of the city, is close to an In-N-Out Burger, and is near the Kern River.
Aloft Little Rock West
I love this boutique hotel located on the west end of Little Rock. If you’ve never stayed at an Aloft, this is an ultra-modern property that gives the W Hotel vibes without the cost.
While primarily used as a business hotel, you should consider this if you plan on driving through Arkansas or coming to Little Rock to explore.
The best part is that this category 1 hotel is minutes away from Pinnacle Mountain State Park, a must-visit!
This is the second of the Aloft category 1 hotels by Marriott in the United States.
Near the city of Broken Arrow, you’re close to tons of shopping, Expo Square, and Union Multipurpose Activity Center. With a car, you’re also close to the Tulsa Zoo, Gathering Place, Gilcreae Museum, and Philbrook Museum of Art.
While this property is normally sub $100 during off-peak, if you have the points, this is still a worthwhile property to consider especially if you’re travelling through the state or planning on visiting Tulsa specifically.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Winnipeg
Winnipeg is also lucky enough to have a category 1 hotel with Marriott under the Fairfield Inn & Suites brand.
Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport is located close to the city itself so this property has the convenience of having a free airport shuttle to the airport and also being 12 minutes drive to the downtown.
When you look at the breakdown of category 1 Marriott hotels is that they’re mostly centralized in Spain with a few one-offs here and there.
AC Hotel La Linea
This is an incredible hidden gem that has so much going for it.
- Right across the street from the beach Playa de Poniente
- Easy access to Gibraltar without paying the premium of staying in the town itself
- Rooms with a balcony have a panoramic view of Gibraltar
- Can use this as your connection to Morocco
To get to Gibraltar from La Linea de la Concepcion in Spain is an easy walk across the border. Don’t Stop Living has a great breakdown of his backpacking experience. Once you get to Gibraltar, you can walk in or take a local bus. It’s quite easy.
When you get to Gibraltar as a day trip, you should look into booking one of these many popular tours:
- Dolphin watching cruise – Watch pods of dolphins splashing in the Strait of Gibraltar with views of North Africa and the Rock of Gibraltar.
- E-bike to the Rock of Gibraltar – Unique active and guided 3-hour tour to the Rock.
- Guided tour of the Rock – For those that are tight on time and want to see the Rock of Gibraltar in 2 hours, this is it.
- Full Day Gibraltar tour – A full day tour that’ll take you up to the Rock, the underground passages in Cuevas de San Miguel, and shopping at the Cale Real.
- Walking tour of the Upper Rock of Gibraltar – If you’re looking to see more off-the-beaten path locations, this is a great 3 hour tour.
If you prefer to be on the Algeciras side of the Bay of Gibraltar, the AC Hotel Algeciras is also another great category 1 option.
AC Hotel Palacio de Santa Ana
Have you ever wanted to stay in a converted monastery by the river? The cloister is covered in glass and you’ll have walking access to the gardens and overlooks the mighty Duero. They also have a Turkish bath here!
Located in the city of Valladolid of northwest Spain, there’s plenty to see here including the Royal Place which was home to Spanish kings in the early 1600s. Christopher Columbus also died here so you can delve into the Christopher Columbus Museum (heads up – in Spanish only). The National Museum of Sculpture is also worth seeing.
Consider doing a private walking tour in Valladolid while you’re here to learn about its history, culture, art, and everyday life.
AC Hotel Murcia
Murcia may not be as well known the neighbouring Valencia but this is a beautiful city to explore and is also a great a waypoint towards Cartagena in Spain.
This category 1 property is a 4-star hotel that has all the modern features you expect with an AC Hotel. Rooms are comfortable and you’ll also find a fitness room and Turkish bath here.
The hotel is 5 minutes drive from the city’s main attraction and the core is also accessible by tram. There is also plenty of street parking nearby.
Moxy Aberdeen Airport
Shifting away from Spain, this is a nice find for anyone planning a trip to Scotland. Located just off of Aberdeen Airport, you’re in for a treat if you’ve never stayed in a Moxy before.
Moxy is Marriott family brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously. They’re geared towards travellers that don’t need large rooms and are on a budget. Where they excel are in stylish communal spaces and fun bars.
While you’re in Aberdeen, I recommend these tours:
- Dunnotar Castle and Royal Deeside – A 9-hour small-group tour from Aberdeen that takes you to these two majestic highlights.
- Loch Ness and the Highlands – Full day tour that takes you to Loch Ness, Clava Cairns, and Culloden Battlefield with many stops at famous mountains and castles.
- Speyside Whisky Trail – Fancy good whisky? This is an affordable tour that’ll take you to Cambus O’May Forest and Speyside Cooperage.
Without burying the lead too much, the best value Marriott category 1 hotels is in the continent of Africa and it comes from a brand that most people will not have ever heard of – Protea.
Protea Hotel Transit O.R. Tambo Airport
Connected to the Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Airport in the international terminal is this Protea hotel.
This means that you won’t be picking up your luggage when you arrive nor clear customs. Once you land, you go straight to the hotel via the “International Transfers” section.
On our honeymoon where we started our safari from Johannesburg, we used the Protea Hotel O.R. Tambo which is not the same as the category 1 hotel here.
This is ideal for those that are using Johannesburg as a connection to another country but have an overnight layover where it doesn’t make sense to leave the airport.
Protea Hotel Cape Town Durbanville
When you’re in Cape Town, you have to allocate some time to see the lush vineyards of the region. At the this Protea, you’ll have the opportunity to follow the Durbanville Wine Route.
While in Africa, you’ll learn that the Protea properties are high quality properties with updated furnishings, and great service.
We didn’t get a chance to stay this property during our 1 week itinerary in Cape Town, we did something similar by staying at the Protea Dorpshius and Spa Stellenbosch and were completely blown away by what we got for so few points.
Protea Hotel Lusaka Safari Lodge
This has to be one of the best finds on this list. This Marriott category 1 hotel is on its own private reserve property and also runs their own safari game drives for its guest.
Normally, you have to spend lots of money to stay at a nice private reserve game lodge as we did at Elephant Plains but here you can do it for free.
The only extra cost would of course be the food and the 1 hour game drives.
The price of a game drive is 50 ZMW per person per hour ($2.34 USD) which is absolutely insane. They run from 9AM to 5PM every day.
Asia, Australia & Pacific Islands
While there are certainly a ton of properties here, the number of quality ones are limited. Overall, most hotels are business hotels outside of large city centres but I’ve done my best to point out a few that are interesting.
Unfortunately, you also won’t find any category 1 Marriott properties in Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands which is why none show up here.
ITC Kakatiya, a Luxury Collection Hotel
Like you, I was really surprised to see a Luxury Collection Hotel on this list. No, it’s not a mistake.
This 5-star hotel located in Hyderabad, India with butler service, first-class food, friendly staff, and cosy large rooms.
The hotel overlooks the picturesque Hussain Sagar Lake and is also close to the Buddha Statue as well.
Check out this full day sightseeing tour of Hyderabad as you start planning your trip.
Le Meridien Kochi
This is the second Le Meridien property you can find on this list.
Located in Kochi, India, this hotel is on a sprawling 18 acre plot of land, surrounded by the Kochi backwaters.
As a 5-star property, expect deluxe comforts in the room, butler service, games room, spa, bar, gym, pool, and excellent overall service.
One way to explore the whole city is with one of these tuk tuk tours.
Moxy Shanghai Hongqiao CDB
This is the newest hotel on the list, opening March 2021.
Under the Moxy brand, you’re guaranteed to have a hip stay here with modern rooms, lots of lounging space in the lobby, and a lively bar.
Located in Hongqiao means that you’ll be near the SHA International Airport (second airport used for domestic flying), and Hongqiao Railway Station.
Hongqiao CDB is a brand new development district west of the Shanghai core that’s brings in a mix of commercial space, shopping, green spaces, shopping, and huge boulevards.
Courtyard Xi’an North
If you’re coming to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors, the Couryard Xi’an North is the perfect category 1 hotel that’s within the walls of the ancient city.
By being within the walls, you’re within walking distance to lots of food, shops, and you’re also close to the western gate where you can head up to the top of the wall to go cycling.
Book your private half-day tour to the Terracotta Warriors here.
AC Hotel Kuala Lumpur
Location is everything here. Staying here puts you right in the hub of Kuala Lumpur with access to LRT, Monorail, shopping, and entertainment.
A guest recently said:
“The location was strategic in the middle of the city. It also near to the public transport station which is LRT and Monorail. Room very clean and satisfied. It suitable for leisure and work when staying here. Recommended to people who travel for work and family holiday also. The price was also reasonable and worth it. Easy access to restaurant and hospitality.”
A few incredible tours that you need to book before you go are:
- Firefly Boat Tour: Cruise along the Selangor River and see the fireflies, silvered leaf monkeys which also includes a seafood buffet and round-trip transfers.
- Genting Highlands Day Trip: Get away from the city with this trip to this hill resort north of KL.
- Petronas Twin Towers: Skip the line with these e-tickets because you know you’re going.
- Dragon Back Trek: If you’re an active traveller, spend a day in nature, scrambling through the jungle with views of the city.
Mexico, Central, and South America
Next to Atlapa Convention Centre, this is a modern hotel brings a lively social environment wrapped with state-of-the-art technology, culinary surprises, pool, and new furnishings.
A nice bonus is that this hotel is also pet friendly.
This category 1 hotel is a superb property that is everything you expect in an Aloft with comfortable rooms, free parking, outdoor swimming pool, free wifi, restaurant, and modern chic decor all around.
Queretaro is a delightful city filled with remnants of its colonial past with gorgeous squares, grand fountains, charming churches, and historic mansions.
One thing to be aware of though is that this hotel is 12 km from the city centre and 26km from the international airport so you will need a car rental.
AC Hotel Veracruz
A perfect spot for an upscale getaway to Mexico with this boutique hotel. As a Marriott category 1 hotel, you’re getting a new AC Hotel with close access to the Plaza America Mall and Playa Mocambo.
A guest recently said:
“Great and friendly staff, super nice rooms, close to the beach and shopping mall, highly recommendable travelling with pets!”
Complete list of Marriott category 1 hotels
For the full list of 267 Marriott category 1 hotels, expand the below.
Marriott Category 1 Hotels (Expand to open)
Last updated: February 18, 2021.
What is off-peak, standard, and peak?
Knowing the category of the hotels is one thing but what has never been clear from Marriott is what exactly does it mean to be booking a hotel during off-peak, standard, or peak time periods?
How does it work?
The new Marriott Bonvoy program that was created when Marriott and SPG merged introduced the idea of a dynamic redemption system depending on the time of year you book.
There are 3 tiers: off-peak, standard, and peak.
In essence this rewards you for booking when it’s not busy but punishes members if you’re trying to travel during high-season.
What is frustrating is that peak and off-peak dates are determined by an “algorithm” that is adjusted to the local market of the hotel so off-peak in one country may be completely different in another country.
When is off-peak?
The best way to find out when off-peak is for a hotel is to just check whether you’re seeing 5,000 points for redemption.
Intuitively, off-peak is when it is least desirable to go to a location so that means not during a holiday and usually during the winter (if it’s not a winter-sport destination).
Thankfully, there is some general guidance from Marriott for when off-peak award rates come into play for popular vacation destinations:
- New York: January to February
- Hawaii: October to mid-December and late September to October
- Napa, California: Mid-November to April
- Orlando: Beginning of May and August to September
- Washington, D.C.: Late November to February
- Costa Rica: August to October
- Cape Town: May to August
- Dubai: May to September
- Europe: November to March
- Maldives: May to June and end of August to early October
- Bora Bora: January to March
- Bali: November to mid-December and mid-January to March
- Phuket: May to June
- Koh Samui: October to mid-December and September to October
- Macau: March to June
These fluctuate year-to-year so these may become outdated quickly but it gives you a starting point.
Frequently asked questions
There are free night vouchers that come with credit cards such as the American Express Marriott Bonvoy Card but otherwise, if you book 4 nights on reward, the 5th night is free.
To join Marriott Bonvoy, sign up here.
Yes, Marriott makes changes annually to their portfolio and shift hotels out and into category 1.
Just like paid bookings, you can cancel reward bookings 2 days before arrival.
Travel hackers will tell you that it’s better to save up your points on top category properties but if you don’t have a lot of points, you might be better off getting many free nights at a category 1 gem versus a few nights here and there with mid-category properties.
If you book off-peak right now before February 21, 2021, redemptions are an additional 10% off (4,500 points instead of 5,000 points for category 1).
I was as surprised as you when I looked through the list of Marriott category 1 hotels. I still can’t believe there’s a full-on Luxury Collection hotel, safari lodge, and several Le Meridien properties on this list. Which one will you be trying?