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). All Canadians get easily get 17 free nights (if they have a travel buddy) and these are the best Marriott Category 1 hotels you can choose from for those 17 free nights. They are definitely worth planning a trip around if you want to travel for less!
Whether you are considering earning 53,000 points easily with the Marriott Bonvoy Card‘s Welcome Bonus (or 91,800 with the American Express Cobalt‘s Welcome Bonus if you can spend more) or already have a stash of Marriott Bonvoy Points (also formerly known as SPG points)…
…prioritizing staying in Category 1 hotels is by far the best way to get more free hotel stays. Staying for 5 nights at a time and looking for the off-peak dates are the two other best tips; you can read how to use Marriott Bonvoy Points to maximize their value for more info.
We want to give you a good idea of where you could be spending those 8 completely free nights you get by simply getting the Marriott Bonvoy Card. To get the 17 nights instead of 8, you simply need a travel buddy who will get another card.
Obviously, that requires being flexible on the destination, but it’s very doable… and many eligible destinations are amazing!
Here are the countries you can choose from and exactly where Marriott Category 1 hotels are located.
Here’s how we’ve organized this post: first, we’ll summarize the best of the best. The top countries.
Then, we’ve split the world into regions to make it simpler to navigate this guide and show you all your options.
For each region, we’ll list every country that has Marriott Category 1 hotels, and we’ll show you a few examples of the best ones that the country has to offer.
We’re ranking the countries by how attractive an option it is for Marriott points, based on:
- how popular a destination it is
- how well-located the Marriott category 1 hotels are
- how many Marriott category 1 hotels the country has
So it is a somewhat subjective ranking but should be a great one to help give you an idea of where to go. We’ll have a lot more content about these destinations, remember to sign up for our free travel reward points newsletter.
Finally, we believe you’ll be as excited about these as we are, but if you want to check out all 300+ Marriott Category 1 hotels on your own, you can take a look at the map of all Marriott hotels sortable by category or the list of all Marriott Category 1 hotels.
You can see all Category 1 hotel locations in this screenshot (soon to be updated).
Category 2 hotels would also give you quite a few free nights, so in case you want a lot more destination options, we’re preparing a similar article for those (again; sign up to get it when it’s ready).
Let’s start with the short version.
The best countries for Marriott Category 1 hotels
Some specific regions really stand out to maximize your points (because they have many Category 1 hotels):
- South Africa
- a bunch of other ones all over the place
Now here are the best countries for Marriott Category 1 hotels, and the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in that country.
Asia’s best Marriott Category 1 hotels
The continent offers so many different experiences, and for the best value in travel, Asia is often at the top of the list. It sure is for Marriott Category 1 hotels.
Many countries have luxurious Marriott Category 1 hotels, but Indonesia is definitely among the best for that. If you are looking for a vacation, Indonesia is a particularly great option. But even for regular trips, many hotels are in ideal locations, where you can explore the local culture.
And since it’s a country of 17,000 islands, you’re never too far from the ocean in Indonesia. The cost of living will also be incredibly low in this country, one I can’t wait to return to! It’s a destination that both Flytrippers co-founders enjoyed discovering on separate trips in 2018.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Indonesia: 13
Here are some of the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in Indonesia:
Four Points by Sheraton Bali Ungasan (starting March 3rd 2021)
Wow, two additions on the beautiful island of Bali. We’ll have more details soon. We’ll just leave you with a picture of each so you can daydream about this amazing new opportunity.
This one is a resort in the lush Bali greenery.
Fairfield Bali Legian (starting March 3rd 2021)
The other one has an even better location if you want to be closer to the action, in Kuta.
Belitung 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 by Sheraton Manado
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.
Aloft Jakarta Wahid Hasyim
If you prefer exploring Indonesia’s cities, you have a few options, like this one in the heart of Jakarta (which is one of the world’s largest cities). The trendy Aloft hotel looks like a great base to explore the city.
What I just said about Indonesia mostly applies to its northern neighbor too. Also very affordable, also beautiful. And in Malaysia, you have Marriott Category 1 hotels in Kuala Lumpur, an amazing metropolis that I would definitely recommend visiting at least once, even if you’re not a city-slicker.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Malaysia: 5
Here are some of the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in Malaysia:
Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan
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
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.
Also one of the top countries for Marriott Category hotels, and not just because there are a lot of them in India. It’s that they are often very luxurious. You can actually find the only hotel from the upscale “Luxury Collection” banner to be in Category 1.
And India happens to be a country that so many people rave about! My trip to India was canceled by the coronavirus, unfortunately, but from my research, it also appears to be extremely affordable.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in India: 33
Here are some of the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in India:
ITC Kakatiya, A Luxury Collection Hotel (Hyderabad)
This 5-star hotel looks stunning, and each of the 3 Luxury Collection properties I have visited in the world was an exceptional hotel.
The 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.
While China’s popularity as a destination might be at a low point after the current crisis, I absolutely enjoyed my two weeks there and definitely want to return since there is so much to see in this vast country.
It is very rich in history, and it is also very rich in Marriott Category 1 hotels, in all regions! It’s the country that has the most outside of the USA, with more than twice as many as the runner-up.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in China: 78
Here are some of the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in China:
Element by Westin Foshan Nanhai
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
The island of Hainan is a popular leisure spot for Chinese travelers (often called the “Hawaii of China”) 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
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.
While not everyone is as fascinated by Central Asia (the “stans”) as I am, this country now has a Marriott Category 1 hotel that is worth the detour if you’re in the area.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Kazahkstan: 1
Here is the only Marriott Category 1 hotel in Kazahkstan:
A beautiful full-service hotel with a view of the Caspian
Sea “body with special legal status”, the Renaissance Aktau is also centrally located in the city.
Europe’s best Marriott Category 1 hotels
Many Canadians love to visit Europe, and it happens to be where arguably the best country for Marriott Category 1 hotels is located.
España is beautiful and there is no shortage of reasons to visit. But its abundance of Marriott Category 1 hotels is why I spent over 2 weeks there last fall, and I loved it.
It’s true that most of them are in smaller less-touristy towns (typical for an expensive country—even though Spain has one of the lowest cost-of-living in Western Europe), but the hotels are beautiful and centrally-located in the cities. And it will make for a more authentic trip and a typically Spanish experience.
You can read our detailed post about the 10 Marriott Category 1 hotels in Spain.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Spain: 10
Here are some of Spain’s best Marriott Category 1 hotels:
AC Hotel Palacio de Santa Ana (Valladolid)
There is a 5-star hotel you can choose from! The AC Hotel Palacio de Santa Ana in Valladolid is a historic luxury hotel built on the site of an 18th-century convent, north of Madrid. From here you can even day-trip to popular sites like Segovia, Salamanca, or Ávila.
AC Hotel Guadalajara
You have plenty of options with great locations near the historic city centers in smaller cities like in Guadalajara, in the Castilla-La Mancha region, near the capital. You could even day-trip to Madrid from here (1 hour by bus, $15). Or even visit the very popular sight that is Segovia, a little further away.
AC Hotel Palencia
In the northern part of the country, the AC Hotel in the small town of Palencia is another option. It is close to the city center and has a sauna and a Turkish bath where you can relax (like many others have as well).
Montenegro is not on everyone’s radar yet, but the coast will be as popular as Croatia’s very soon. If you want to discover the Balkans vibe, look no further. And if you want a mountain escape, Montenegro has an amazing hotel option.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Montenegro: 1
Here is Montenegro’s only Marriott Category 1 hotel:
Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin
If you are looking for a place for outdoor lovers, you can ski here in the winter or hike in the summer. 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!
If you want a true Eastern European adventure, Russia looks absolutely incredible.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Russia: 4
Here are some of the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in Russia:
Courtyard Nizhny Novgorod
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.
This full-service hotel has a great view of the city of 1 million in Western Russia.
While it is not in the very cool city of Budapest, there is an option for you in the middle of the country.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Hungary: 1
Here is Hungary’s only Marriott Category 1 hotel:
Four Points by Sheraton Kecskemet
For an authentic Central European experience in a city with not many tourists, Kecskemet is known for its architecture and museums. Or you can daytrip to both Budapest and Szeged, Hungary’s two largest cities. Both are under an hour away.
United Kingdom (Scotland)
A very expensive country to travel to, the only Marriott Category 1 hotel is an airport hotel, not much to get excited about compared to the other countries on this list.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in the UK: 1
Here is the UK’s only Marriott Category 1 hotel:
Moxy Aberdeen Airport
Moxy is Marriott’s brand that targets younger travelers, with smaller rooms and lower prices. This one near the Northern Scotland city’s airport could be useful if you are roadtripping across the area or flying out of the airport.
This one is an affordable country to travel to, but the result is the same in this case: just one airport hotel.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Poland: 1
Here is Poland’s only Marriott Category 1 hotel:
Moxy Poznan Airport
This airport Moxy happens to be not too far from the city of Poznan itself, meaning it could be an option to visit the beautiful old town and this vibrant Polish city.
It’s a country (and region) that fascinates me. Yes, Azerbaijan could be considered part of Western Asia or Eastern Europe, like the entire Caucasus region. But since we have Russia here, let’s put Azerbaijan with Europe.
It only has one Marriott Category 1 hotel anyway, and it’s an airport hotel. But if you are willing to sacrifice more points, there is an absolutely luxurious Category 2 hotel in a prime location in the capital city.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Azerbaijan: 1
Here is Azerbaijan’s only Marriott Category 1 hotel:
Sheraton Baku Airport
The city of Baku is the country’s largest, and the largest on the aforementioned Caspian Sea, which is in fact a lake… but was declared a “body with special legal status” to resolve the conflict. This airport hotel is probably too far away to be a base to explore Baku (unless you’re getting a car rental) but could be useful before flying out.
Middle East’s best Marriott Category 1 hotels
Let’s take a look at the Middle East, but I’ll also include the neighboring Northern Africa region since they are often considered as one (MENA—Middle East and North Africa).
Turkey is one of our favorite countries ever (we’ve both been twice), and it’s extremely affordable over there! Turkey is great for those who want something different yet don’t want to go somewhere too lacking in infrastructure. Technically a part of it is in Europe, but the country is usually classified as part of the Middle East.
While Istanbul is the highlight and is simply amazing, the Category 1 hotel there is very far from the city center… and there is so much to see in this varied country. So let’s focus on the hotels that are very well-located in other cities, including a full-service hotel on the Black Sea!
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Turkey: 4
Here are some of the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in Turkey:
Sheraton Grand Samsun Hotel
It’s not just a Sheraton, it’s a Sheraton Grand. Located on the Black Sea, this looks like an amazing spot to add to the traditional Turkey itinerary (flights within the country are soooo cheap). With the views and the full-service spa, it’s only a matter of time before I go check it out myself.
Four Points by Sheraton Izmir
A nice seaside city, Izmir could be a great destination for those who want to visit the part of Turkey that could almost be mistaken for Greece. You can even hop on a ferry to the Greek islands from there (I planned on doing that this summer), but the region itself has a lot to discover.
One of the most important cities in Ottoman history, Bursa is still one of Turkey’s main cities today. 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.
Egypt is a true bucket-list destination, and while the only Marriott Category 1 hotel doesn’t have the best location, it can be useful being near the Cairo Airport. I must say that I do recommend to splurge for at least one night at the Category 2 Le Méridien Pyramids, as you can watch the sunrise over the pyramids from the hotel pool.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Egypt: 1
Here is Egypt’s only Marriott Category 1 hotel:
Le Méridien Heliopolis (Cairo)
A nice hotel that could even be a good base to explore Cairo if you don’t mind a short ride (I can say from experience that Uber was crazy cheap in Cairo).
Algeria has Africa’s highest human development index (excluding island nations) and is massive: it is the largest country in Africa, the largest in the Arab World, and the largest on the Mediterranean Sea. For more experienced travelers, it can be a very interesting destination.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Algeria: 1
Here is Algeria’s only Marriott Category 1 hotel:
Protea Hotel Constantine
In a historic city, the country’s third-largest, this hotel offers a great view and is not too far from the city center. The Mediterranean Sea is about an hour away for a beach daytrip.
While it is not the most popular destination, it has a Marriott Category 1 hotel.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Saudi Arabia: 1
Here is Saudi Arabia’s only Marriott Category 1 hotel:
Four Points Riyadh Khaldia
What this hotel has going for it is its exceptional location in the center of the country’s capital and largest city, with a pretty unique view.
Africa’s best Marriott Category 1 hotels
The best country for luxury hotels could very well be in Africa, and there are other options across the rest of the continent.
Another strong candidate as the best country for Marriott Category 1 hotels, we both visited South Africa specifically to take advantage of these well-located and often luxurious hotels.
You can take a look at our detailed post about how to get 17 free nights in South Africa.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in South Africa: 25
Here are some of the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in South Africa:
Protea Hotel Polokwane Ranch Resort
The hotel that brings the safari to you: you can see 25 species of antelope at the hotel, which is in the Limpopo natural reserve. This doesn’t even take into account the 200 species of birds.
Protea Hotel Clarens
If you are roadtripping, of if you want a quiet mountain getaway, this one might have been the most beautiful Category 1 hotel I’ve stayed at.
I spent almost a week in Zambia near Victoria Falls (or even on top of the falls), since it was a cheap flight from South Africa (or an epic train journey). The hotel I stayed at moved up to Category 2, but you still have many options in this country.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Zambia: 6
Here are some of the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in Zambia:
Protea Hotel Lusaka Safari Lodge
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!
This sparsely-populated country on the West Coast of Southern Africa will become one of the trendiest destinations in the world soon enough. You have a few options to explore it for less before everyone gets there.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Namibia: 5
Here are some of the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in Namibia:
Protea Hotel Walvis Bay Pelican Bay
This one is close to the iconic sand dunes of Namibia.
Protea Hotel Ondangwa
In the Northern part of the country, this one looks very beautiful as well.
One of West Africa’s most popular destinations, Ghana has only one option.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Ghana: 1
Here is Ghana’s only Marriott Category 1 hotel:
Protea Hotel Takoradi Select
This hotel could be a good base to explore the coast in Ghana’s Western region.
This one is very niche, but there is an option for those who prefer to go off the beaten path, in one of the world’s most populous countries.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Nigeria: 1
Here is Nigeria’s only Marriott Category 1 hotel:
Protea Hotel Owerri
This hotel is located in the Southeastern city of Owerri.
Latin America’s best Marriott Category 1 hotels
There aren’t many in this part of the world, so let’s merge all these regions into one.
If you are looking for the typical Mexican vacation in the touristy parts, forget about that. Many tourists want those hotels, so they are definitely not Category 1 hotels.
There are quite a few hotels in Mexico that you can choose from, but most are in cities that aren’t as popular (although there are a few exceptions).
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Mexico: 24
Here are some of the best Marriott Category 1 hotels in Mexico:
AC Hotel Veracruz
Lusting for a view of the sea? This hotel in Veracruz, Mexico offers indoor and outdoor pools, and a gym. Can’t beat that view!
You’ll have some renowned attractions such as Celaya Cathedral, Celaya Regional Museum of History, and the Galerías Celaya just outside your door.
Panama seems like a very beautiful country, and while it only has one Marriott Category 1 hotel, it can be a great base to explore the bustling metropolis that is Panama City.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Panama: 1
Here is the hotel:
Another Aloft! This one also has a pool, a restaurant, beautiful rooms! In the heart of Panama City. Kevin and his girlfriend liked it so much they spent about a month there.
An amazing country that is on the rise, Colombia only has one Marriott Category 1 hotel left. It happens to be well-located in a cool city though.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Colombia: 1
Here is the hotel:
Four Points by Sheraton Cali
The hotel is located near the city center. Cali is Colombia’s third-largest city, and the main one in the Southwest (and the only major one with access to the Pacific Ocean).
While it’s not located in the most popular city in Argentina, the Marriott Category 1 hotel in this beautiful and unique South American country is a very good option.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Argentina: 1
Here is the hotel:
Sheraton Tucuman Hotel (San Miguel de Tucuman)
While the name probably does not ring a bell, San Miguel de Tucuman is a major city, the biggest in Northern Argentina (if you don’t like the cold, remember that North is good in Argentina!) and this hotel is a full-service property well-located near the city center.
One of the least-visited countries on the South American continent, the country of Paraguay seems like a fascinating experience in going where mass tourism hasn’t made it yet.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Paraguay: 1
Here is the hotel:
Located relatively close to the city center in the country’s capital city, the Aloft is very modern and has a rooftop with a pool… and an epic view too.
Finally, one last option on the South American continent, albeit one that is not in a particularly popular area of Ecuador.
Number of Marriott Category 1 hotels in Ecuador: 1
Here is the hotel:
Four Points by Sheraton Cuenca
While not as well-known, Cuenca’s historic center is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the hotel is relatively close to the city center, with a great view.
North America’s best Marriott Category 1 hotels
Being an expensive and popular region, there aren’t many well-located options, but they can be useful on roadtrips when you just need a place to crash (or if you like less-popular smaller areas of course).
We’ll cover the best in the USA and Canada in a separate post soon.
Want to learn to maximize your Marriott Points?
Planning your trips around these Marriott Category 1 hotels is the way to fully maximize the Marriott Bonvoy Points you earn with your Marriott Bonvoy Card. Of course, you’ll need to be a bit more flexible, but getting 8 free nights simply by getting a single credit card is definitely worth it if you want to get more free travel.
Have any question about Marriott Points? Ask us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Indonesia hotel (photo credit: Marriott website)
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