Marriott provides many opportunities to earn free category 1-5 nights. Their credit cards each offer a free cat 1-5 night per year. They frequently run “Megabonus” promotions in which two stays results in 1 free cat 1-5 night (make sure to register!). And, the best value Marriott Travel Package results in a certificate for up to 7 nights in a category 1-5 hotel (see: 12 things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages).
Marriott divides their properties into 9 ascending categories. Typically, higher categories are associated with higher cost and quality hotels. Category 5 Marriott hotels tend to be average hotels at average prices. But that correlation between category and quality is far from perfect. That’s good because there are some diamonds in the rough worth seeking out.
I scoured through Marriott’s list of category 5 properties (found here) to find the gems that were highly rated. My goal was to find hotels that appear to be good vacation destinations, so I removed the ones that appeared to be business oriented. My secondary goal was to find the properties that represented good value for your points or free night certificates, so I removed hotels that typically charge less than $150 per night. Next, based on reviews, location, and appearance, I picked what I consider to be the 5 best. Note that I have yet to visit any of these, so this collection is based entirely on internet research…
New Brunswick Canada
The Algonquin Resort St. Andrews by-the-Sea, Autograph Collection
(Unfortunately this hotel has moved up to category 6)
The best vacation destination category 5 property I could find in North America is in New Brunswick Canada (not far from Maine). This looks like a very nice spot to stay while exploring the area.
Typical summer rate: $170
Award availability: Very good
Marriott’s Village d’lle-de-France
This is a Marriott Vacation Club (think timeshare) property located just four miles from Disneyland Paris. Personally, I’d far prefer to stay within the city of Paris, but I could imagine that this resort would be a great option for families with young kids. Unfortunately award availability is currently limited to Sunday night stays in the wintertime.
Typical rates: $175 winter, $575 summer
Award availability: Virtually non-existent
Roomers Baden-Baden, Autograph Collection
This new hotel in southwest Germany gets incredible reviews on TripAdvisor. According to Wikipedia, Baden-Baden is a spa town in an area that is ideal for hiking and mountain climbing, and it is a skiing destination in the winter.
Typical summer rates: $240
Award availability: Very good
Sopot Marriott Resort & Spa
This is another resort in a spa town. Wiki Voyage says this about Sopot:
Sopot is a seaside spa resort city in Poland. Sopot and two nearby cities, Gdańsk and Gdynia, are often referred as Tricity (Polish: Trójmiasto). It is a smallest of the three and the most affluent on average, attracting the rich and famous from the local area (who tend to settle there), and from Poland, Europe and elsewhere, who come over for vacations or maintain a pied-a-terre there.
Typical summer rates: $220 (much cheaper in winter)
Award availability: Excellent
Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park
Reader Kalboz told us about this great new property in Bangkok. While it’s not as expensive as other properties on this list (and so you’re not technically getting as much bang for your buck from your free certs), it looks fantastic!
JW Phu Quoc
(Unfortunately this hotel has moved up to category 6)
Our own Nick Reyes stayed here early this year and has great things to say about this new resort (see: Marriott Cat 5 Sweet Spot: JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa). Unfortunately award availability is scarce at the moment.
Typical rates: Over $400 per night
Award availability: Poor
Marriott’s stylish AC Hotels brand has quite a few highly rated category 5 properties. Most AC Hotels are in cities, so they could be great for weekend getaways. I would definitely consider using my Marriott credit card free nights for weekend getaways at one of these properties, but I wouldn’t use a 7 night stay certificate. You can find a list of AC Category 5 locations here.
- The Marriott Marquis Queens Park in Bangkok looks amazing (see this review). The only reason it didn’t make the list above is that its daily rate is under $150.
- New Paragraph Resort & Spa Shekvetili, Autograph Collection in Georgia (the country, not the state). Looks gorgeous, but room rates are cheap.
- JW Marriott Hotel Quito. Nick says that its location isn’t ideal.
- Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel. Looks like a business hotel. Recent reviews not great.
- AC Hotel Carlton Madrid. Reader Patrick reports liking the hotel, breakfast, and location.
best category 5 Marriott chain hotel Paris France. Only found 2 and would like insight
[…] in the time since, award availability has been nearly nil (as noted by Greg in his post about the Top 5 Cat 5 Marriotts in the world). However, that has changed: as reported by Ramzi in our Frequent Miler Insiders Facebook […]
[…] previously posted the best places to use your 7 night travel package certificates: Top 5 Cat 5 Marriotts in the World (even if you read this before, check it out again since I’ve added a 6th property to the top […]
I stayed at the Roomers in Baden-Baden and it was incredible. Beautiful modern rooms, amazing breakfast spread (with free unlimited bloody mary’s or mimosas), rooftop pool and bar, access to sauna, across the street from world renowned opera house, amazing service. Perfect use for my 7-night cat5 cert. I was worried I would be bored with so much time in a small German town, but the black forest area is amazing and there is a lot to do and indulge in.
That’s great to hear. Thanks for the mini-review
Now sure or the Category level, but I stayed at the AC hotel in Madrid a few years back, and possibly Milan too. They brand Seems to go for a very cool kind of young businessman type vibe; the rooms are very modern with see-through showers a lot of black but very comfortable and a nice look. I found the staff to be very helpful and friendly, spoke English. They had a great breakfast and were pretty centrally located. I like the chain quite a bit.
Thanks Patrick. AC Hotel Carlton Madrid is a category 5. I’ll add it to the honorable mentions.
For those with flexible schedules, at the JW Phu Quoc Vietnam I’m seeing almost everyday in November and December 2017 available, but not a single day in 2018. This might mean that they’ll release award space as it gets closer or that they changed how they list their rooms in 2018. Not sure which.
People get so caught up in categories. Its silly. I plan my vacations based on where I want to go, not based on how cool my hotel supposedly is. When I’m searching for flights and nights destinations my number 1 concern is: will I enjoy this destination for 7 days (or 5). That might mean I stay in a cat 3 or cat 4 instead of a 5. I promise I’ll enjoy my trip more than the person who planned their trip around which hotel to stay at.
100% agree about the JW Marriott Phu Quoc — we stayed there back in March and holy moly what a beautiful property. And the free breakfast for golds — never before have I had such a good hotel breakfast spread — I still dream of it. Making passion fruit creme brulee with the decades-experienced pastry chef from Switzerland (their pastries — OMG) and Vietnamese cooking classes were some highlights. And the staff and the kids club! Seriously, I could rave on and on about it. It has spoiled my kids rotten — they now compare all hotels to that one!
A few more I would add to the list:
The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center
Marriott’s Villas at Doral
And I’d probably take the JW Marriott Quito off the list — was there a few days ago and was pretty meh…
I’m LifeTime Platinum with Marriott, and have never heard of the 7 night cert. how do you get one???
And, the best value Marriott Travel Package results in a certificate for up to 7 nights in a category 1-5 hotel (see: 12 things you need to know about Marriott Travel Packages).
The link is in the original article.
[…] morning, Greg wrote about the Top 5 Category 5 Marriotts in the world, where you take advantage of a 7-night Marriott Travel package or a Category 1-5 free night from […]
Not a single day for Phu Quoc anymore. Used to be really good, should have booked then.
Great list, but I think for 30,000 point I should upgrade to Cat6. Would you please do a list for Cat6 too?
I’ll put it on the to-do list but it might be a while!
Can the annual free night certs be upgraded with points as well?
Not that I know of unfortunately.
I used my 7 night cert in Costa Rica at the Marriott in San Jose, if your gold or platinum they have generous breakfast and dinner. Unfortunately I believe this is a Cat 6 now.
Any suggestions about a Marriott in Prague
Aren’t the majority of Marriott hotels in North America? I don’t even see a hotel in the US in major cities that are not airport hotels.
I forgot that I had 7-night certificate and instead used 5k Hyatt points for our stay in Cincinnati. I do plan a 7 night stay in Maui but there are no <=5 cat hotels. Not sure where else I can use this cert within US.
@Sam – you can use additional Marriott points to upgrade the cert to a higher category at a hotel you actually want to visit. I just did this with mine and spent 90k points to upgrade to a Category 8 cert to use in Kauai. It’s 30k extra points for each additional category over 5.
Cool! Can this be done only over the phone? Or is it somehow adjusted at the hotel lobby? Any charges if I cancel the reservation due to trip changes?
Yep it has to be done over the phone. Just call Marriott Rewards and tell them you want to upgrade your existing 7 night certificate to a higher category cert and they’ll walk you through it. Then you’ll also have to call them back once you actually want to use the certificate as it seems you can make the 7 night reservation online, but then have to call to attach the certificate. No charges for cancellation as long as your certificate hasn’t expired (although if it’s close to expiring, just call Marriott Rewards and they can extend it for you – mine was set to expire in December and they were able to extend it to next October for me).
Too bad you can’t upgrade the free night cert
We stayed at the Marriott in
Cape Town located in crystal city. Beautiful hotel with great breakfast spread. 25 minutes away from all the tourist attractions. It was more business guests staying at the hotel. We were in Cape Town for 4 nights so we decided to stay in a different area.
Any chance you can do one for US hotels or maybe it’s been done already…pretty please!
if googling, will find some notable hotel in TX, CA & FL
Yes that’s a great idea. I don’t think I’ll find any worth staying a week but for individual free nights there are some good options
Renaissance Bangkok with roof-top pool & spa among the best shopping area, is Cat5.
Ahhh shoot! Forgot about Bangkok! I have stayed at the Marriott Sukhumvit twice and it is one of my favourite Marriotts! Beautiful hotel with awesome service. And it’s a Cat 5. Not really convenient for a short trip to use a cert, but a great hotel for sure!
I loved that Renaissance, too! And I believe Greg stayed there, also. I imagine that didn’t make the list because room rates can be pretty reasonable (very often under the $150/nt threshold).
Renaissance Bangkok has a high floor pool (I believe on the 23rd floor) but not actually on the roof. Have stayed here at least 30 nights and, IMO, it’s the best Marriott property in Bangkok: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kalboz/6712551537/
The newish Marriott Marquis Queens Park, on the other hand, is one of the best hotels I have stayed at and it is category 5: http://www.flyertalk.com/hotel-reviews/r-flawless-stay-1798
Thanks for sharing this. The Marquis Queens Park looks amazing! Nick is correct that I left many great properties off the list (including all the Bangkok options) because their daily rates tend to be under $150. Maybe I should have set a lower threshold…
I stayed at the Marriott Marquis in Bangkok last July and concur that it is amazing. The breakfast buffet in the restaurant is the best I’ve had anywhere. The breakfast in the restaurant is not free for gold members (only the lounge breakfast), but they do give you a discount.
More photos of this Marriott Marquis Queens Parkamazing property can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kalboz/sets/72157678534338996
None of those sound very appealing to me. I find the Cat 5 certs almost worthless for that reason. Not a great benefit for keeping the card. We keep it and use it though because my husband is trying to make lifetime Gold.
I agree. I’ve searched for category 5 hotels in the US and have found very few that seem appealing to me. It doesn’t seem worth keeping the card for the free night. The free night (category 1-4) with the Hyatt credit card has many more appealing options.
I’ve been eyeballing the Marriott in Lisbon. Has anyone stayed there?
I almost did last month. A lot of the reviews I read noted how it was kind of in the middle of nowhere, not so close to the touristy attractions. That being the case, I opted to use up some Club Carlson points and stay at the Radisson Blu instead….which is a little farther away from everything than the Marriott :-). Fortunately, Uber is surprisingly cheap in Lisbon, so I’d try that Marriott without hesitation. On the other hand, my sister stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and said it was the nicest HI Express she’s ever seen…the pictures looked pretty cool and she had a balcony…..so there are plenty of options :-). Hopefully another reader has stayed at the Marriott and can chime in with more info.
Have stayed there and it was a definite meh!
We stayed at the Renaissance Sao Paolo during the World Cup in 2014 and it was great. One of the best lounge spreads I’ve seen, and our room was big and nicely appointed. Location was solid as well as it’s in one of the only “safe” areas in SP. Granted 3+ years ago isn’t exactly “recent” so it may have gone downhill since then, but we had a great stay there!