35 Best Marriott Category 1 Hotels

The key to maximizing your Marriott Bonvoy Points is to redeem them for hotels in the lowest categories (and thus get more free stays for the same amount of points, like say 15 free nights easily). So here are the 35 best Marriott Category 1 hotels.

Whether you are considering earning 60,000 Points easily with the new Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card‘s Welcome Bonus or already have a stash of Marriott Bonvoy Points (also formerly known as SPG Points), sticking to Category 1 Hotels is by far the best way to get more free hotel stays.

We want to give you a good idea of where you could be spending those 15 completely free nights you get by simply being approved for the card. Yes, 15!

Obviously, that requires being flexible, but it’s very doable. Here’s where.

Best Marriott Category 1 Hotels

We’ve spotted the 35 best below, but be sure to also read about How To Use Marriott Bonvoy Points To Maximize Their Value and about the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card itself, if you haven’t already.

This is a very subjective ranking, it’s based on which hotels we believe most people will be excited about. If you want to check out all 357 Marriott Category 1 Hotels, check out the map of all Marriott hotels sortable by category or the list of all Marriott Category 1 hotels.

There are specific regions that really stand out to get 15 free nights and stretch your points: Spain, Mexico, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, China, Southern Africa… and a bunch of other ones all over the place.

You can see all Category 1 hotel locations in this screenshot.

All Category 1 Hotels.


Here are our 35 favorite Category 1 Hotels, by region.

You get 15 free nights in any of these, on off-peak dates (or still 10 nights on standard dates).

By the way, Category 2 hotels would also give you quite a few free nights (with a lot more options), so we’re preparing a similar article for those. Subscribe to our new free Travel Hacking newsletter to get all our great tips.


Fairfield Belitung – Indonesia

This island is considered one of Indonesia’s most beautiful, with granite boulders on its white sand coast. This hotel’s rooms look awesome (and many have an ocean view) and the common areas also look very upscale. 

Best Marriott Category 1 Hotels - Fairfield Belitung
Fairfield Belitung.


Four Points Manado – Indonesia

There are a couple other Category 1 hotels in Indonesia, a country that both Flytrippers cofounders enjoyed discovering on separate trips last year. My in-laws visited Manado to go diving, and they loved the area. If you choose to go, this hotel is an amazing value for your points. What a view.

Best Marriott Category 1 Hotels - Four Points Manado.
Four Points Manado.


Four Points Sandakan – Malaysia

I love rooftop infinity pools, but I love them even more when they are in a Category 1 hotel.

Best Marriott Category 1 Hotels - Four Points Sandakan
Four Points Sandakan.


Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur Puchong – Malaysia

We’ve actually spent a couple of days in this nice hotel ourselves last year. It is located near a subway station that will take you to downtown KL pretty quickly, but even the hotel’s own neighborhood is nice. KL is an amazing city, and one of the most affordable we’ve ever been to.

Nice urban hotel.


Four Points by Sheraton Mahabalipuram Resort – India

Located near Chennai on the East Coast, this resort will allow you to settle into a quiet oasis and take advantage of a very nice pool area.

Stunning view.


Aloft Ahmedabad – India

Thr Aloft brand is one of Marriott’s most hip and trendy ones and if you are looking to visit the northern part of India, this is an excellent option. There are about a dozen Category 1 options in India in fact. 

The Aloft lobby.


Element by Westin Foshan Nanhai – China

If you visit the Pearl River Delta mega-region around Hong Kong, considered one of the world’s largest urban areas (50M inhabitants), this hotel is a great choice: the Element brand has an environmentally-friendly theme. But most importantly, every room is a suite, so no need for an upgrade, it’s free! The in-room kitchen can be useful.

The beautiful Element design.


Four Points by Sheraton Danzhou – China

The island of Hainan is a popular leisure spot for Chinese travelers and like in most places in this country, longtime traditions are very interesting to discover. This hotel isn’t near the beaches unfortunately, but the area’s warm climate might be more tempting to you than the cold in Beijing.

The lobby.


Courtyard Xi’an North – China

A 3rd one in China, simply because there are so many Category 1 hotels to choose from over there, in all regions! And I honestly loved discovering this country solo back in 2017. This one is not too far away from the historic city of Xi’an in Western China. Mass transit is nearby (and efficient) so everything is easily accessible.

The very modern Courtyard hotel in Xi’an.


Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin – Montenegro

If you are looking for a place for outdoor lovers and want to discover the Eastern European vibe, look no further. This unique hotel is located in the Montenegro mountains and the interior decor mimics rustic mountain chalets. I hadn’t heard of this hotel before and now I really want to go!

A nice hotel if you want to explore nature.


Courtyard Pilsen – Czechia

There’s more to Czechia than just Prague! The city of Pilsen is charming too, and it also the birthplace of pilsner beer. It is a nice hotel smack in the middle of the town where you can go out and just walk around to discover the place’s history.

Exercising with a nice view.


Courtyard Wiesbaden-Nordenstadt – Germany

The only category 1 hotel in Germany, located in the vicinity of Frankfurt. A trip to Germany can be quite expensive so why not enjoy a few free nights at this hotel!

Courtyard Wiesbaden-Nordenstadt


AC Hotel Vicenza – Italy

Located 1 hour from Venice, this modern hotel has all you need for a relaxing Italian vacation. There is another one in the Italian city of Brescia as well.

AC Hotel Vicenza


AC Hotel San Sebastian de los Reyes – Spain

Do you want to visit Madrid, the iconic capital city of Spain? This hotel is located in the commercial and industrial area of San Sebastián de los Reyes… and there are more around the city!

AC Hotel San Sebastian de los Reyes (photo credit: AC Hotel San Sebastian de los Reyes website)


AC Hotel Valencia – Spain

Spain is the country where there are the most category 1 hotels. This one is well located right beside the Oceanogràfic, Europe’s largest aquarium…. and most importantly, right in the middle of this beautiful city.

AC Hotel Valencia (photo credit: AC Hotel Valencia website)


AC Hotel Almeria – Spain

I’ll add a 3rd hotel example in Spain, but I really want to reiterate that it’s the best destination to visit to use your points for lots of free nights. This one is in the beautiful Andalusia region in Southern Spain. 

The common areas are quite lovely.


Courtyard Nizhny Novgorod – Russia

Located in the heart of the historical center of one of Russia’s oldest cities, this unique hotel will allow you to immerse yourself into this special culture, all while being within walking distance of the city’s main sights. There are also 3 other Category 1 hotels in Russia.

Unique facade that meshes well with the historical city center.


South America

Aloft Panama – Panama

Another Aloft! This one also has a pool, a restaurant, beautiful rooms! In the heart of Panama City. There is also another Category 1 hotel in the city’s suburbs.

Aloft common space in Panama City.


Four Points by Sheraton Bogota – Colombia

A brand new hotel in Bogota, it is located near Parque 93, Bogota’s most popular neighborhood where you’ll find many shops, bars and restaurants. There are also 2 other Category 1 hotels near the airport.

Four Points in Bogota.


Four Points by Sheraton Baranquilla – Colombia

If you prefer the part of Colombia that is near the Caribbean Sea, head to Baranquilla to enjoy a vibrant city where everything is affordable! Prefer to move around the country? In addition to this one and the ones in Bogota, you can find a Category 1 hotel in Cali as well.

Nice city view from the pool.


Courtyard Guayaquil – Ecuador

If you are going to Ecuador, you are likely going to stop in Guayaquil! This city is full of history. You will discover San Francisco Church, Iguana Park, Guayaquil Cathedral, Cristo Redentor and many more! There is another in the city of Cuenca too.

Courtyard Guayaquil (photo credit: Courtyard Guayaquil website)


Four Points by Sheraton Montevideo – Uruguay

In the heart of Montevideo city, Uruguay’s capital, you will be right in the middle of the action. If you want some R&R, the city has great beaches, such as Pocitos, Buceo, Malvin, Playa de los Ingleses, Playa Verde, Punta Gorda and Carrasco.

Four Points by Sheraton Montevideo (photo credit: Four Points by Sheraton Montevideo website)


Courtyard Paramaribo – Suriname

Have you ever thought about going to Suriname, a less-known country in Northern South America? Well I have, and I happen to be going next fall, and I booked this very hotel for 5 nights to maximize my points. It apparently has an incredible view on the Suriname River. 

Nice outdoor area at the Courtyard Paramaribo… can’t wait!


North America

AC Hotel Veracruz – Mexico

Lusting for a view of the sea? This hotel in Veracruz, Mexico offers a great menu selection, indoor and outdoor pools and a gym. Can’t beat that view!

AC Hotel Veracruz (photo credit: AC Hotel Veracruz website)


Aloft Celaya – Mexico

You’ll have some renowned attractions such as Celaya Cathedral, Celaya Regional Museum of History and the Galerías Celaya just outside your door. You’ll also find Category 1 hotels in about a dozen other cities in Mexico!

Aloft Celaya (photo credit: Aloft Celaya website)


SpringHill Suites Tulsa at Tulsa Hills – United States

Have you ever dreamed of a road trip across all the United States on the famous Route 66? This hotel could be on your itinerary! All rooms are suites, so you can feel a bit like a VIP!

SpringHill Suites Tulsa at Tulsa Hills (photo credit: SpringHill Suites Tulsa at Tulsa Hills website)


Fairfield Albuquerque University – United States

If you go on an epic roadtrip to see beautiful landscapes across the Western US, you can take a nice city break in New Mexico’s largest city. There are many Category 1 hotels in the US, but they are almost all located outside of city centers, so they’re ideal if you’re roadtripping the country, but not so much if you don’t have a car given the US public transport situation that isn’t ideal compared to most international destinations.

Fairfield Albuquerque room.



Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! – South Africa

Located in downtown Johannesburg, you’ll get a pretty good view of the city from the rooftop bar and pool. Great hotel to stay after a long flight, or just before a road trip to the Kruger National Park! There are over two dozen Category 1 hotels in South Africa, one of the best places to go for free hotels.

Protea Hotel Fire & Ice!


Protea Hotel Lusaka Safari Lodge – Zambia

Located within its own private game reserve of approximately 2,500 acres, you could get your own african-styled chalet where safaris are right outside your door! There are about a dozen Category 1 hotels in Zambia and neighboring countries (Namibia, Malawi).

Protea Hotel Lusaka Safari Lodge (photo credit: Protea Hotel Lusaka Safari Lodge website)


Protea Hotel Dar es Salaam Courtyard – Tanzania

This hotel offers great rooms with a peaceful view on the hotel’s gardens and pool. Why don’t you get some rest before heading to the famous Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Sealous Game Reserve and/or Zanzibar? There is also another one in neighboring Uganda.

Protea Hotel Dar es Salaam Courtyard (photo credit: Protea Hotel Dar es Salaam Courtyard website)


Protea Hotel Takoradi Select – Ghana

Located only 2km from city center and 3km from the airport, this hotel have everything to fill your need in a surprising Western African nation on the rise.

Protea Hotel Takoradi Select (photo credit: Protea Hotel Takoradi website)


Protea Hotel Benin City Select Emotan – Nigeria

Perfect hotel for those who prefer to go off the beaten path, in one of the world’s most populated countries. There is another one in the nearby city of Owerri.

Protea Hotel Benin City Select Emotan (photo credit: Protea Hotel Benin City Select Emotan website)


Middle East

Aloft Al Ain – United Arab Emirates

A little different, but if you like the sun and heat, head to Al Ain for an amazing hotel that requires very little points and enjoy the desertic landscapes.

Aloft Al Ain pool.


Four Points by Sheraton Izmir – Turkey

A nice seaside city, Izmir could be a great destination for those who want something different yet don’t want to go somewhere too lacking in infrastructure. Turkey is one of our favorite countries ever, and it’s extremely affordable over there! 

A great view of the city.


Aloft Bursa – Turkey

One of the most important cities in Ottoman history, Bursa is still one of Turkey’s main cities today. While there are also Category 1 hotels in Istanbul (a bit far from the center), this Aloft in Bursa is well-located: close enough to the city center while still having a nice view of the city from the nice outside terrace. 

A nice outside lounge to take in the view.


Bonus: Canada

At Flytrippers, we love to give you more for your money so we always add bonuses to our list articles: here is a 36th Category 1 Hotel.

Fairfield Edmonton North – Canada

We had to at least let you know that you do have a few options here in Canada, for those who don’t want to travel too far away. There aren’t many Category 1s here since we live in a rich and developed (read: expensive) country, but there are 5 in Alberta. This one is conveniently located pretty close to downtown Edmonton and West Edmonton Mall, but you can stretch your points in Calgary, Red Deer and Lethbridge too.

The classic Fairfield lobby.

Bottom Line

Of course you’ll need to be a bit more flexible and plan your trips around these Category 1 hotels to fully maximize your Marriott Bonvoy Points. But getting 15 free nights simply by getting a single credit card is definitely worth it if you want to get more free travel!

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about travelling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself, he aims to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveller, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to Travel Hacking... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 45/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Does the 60,000 bonus point expire?

    1. Hi, Marriott Points expire only after 24 months with no activity. Just earning a single point with a 50 cent purchase on your credit card will restart the clock for another 24 months so since the card is effectively free, the points essentially don’t expire if you simply use the card once per year 🙂

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