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.
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.
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.
Four Points Sandakan – Malaysia
I love rooftop infinity pools, but I love them even more when they are in a Category 1 hotel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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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