Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Starwood Hotels: Category 5

It’s been a year and a half since my last post in the Best Starwood hotel redemption series. These posts take a long time to research and write, so I kind of half-assed the last one by not including any descriptive information about my picks and then decided to abandon the project until I had more time to devote to it. I’m happy to report that in addition to updated the previous four Starwood category picks (factoring in several category changes that occurred since the posts were published), I’ve decided to continue with the series, with now takes us to Category 5. 

Starwood requires 12,000 – 16,000 points per night at their Category 5 Hotels, which can be further reduced thanks to Starwood’s 5th Night Free benefit. Hotels in this category can be a real bargain, since their redemption rates are reasonable while paid rates can be high – that’s especially true at some of the St Regis properties that fall into this category. I made my picks based on redemption value, which means in some cases I had to exclude high-end hotels and resorts that either had low paid rates or limited participation in the Starwood program. Without further ado, here are my picks for the best Category 5 Starwood hotels:



West Coast

The US Grant, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego (San Diego, CA)

Best SPG Hotels Category 5 The US Grant Hotel
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: US Grant Hotel San Diego


  • TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence
  • TripAdvisor Green Leaders: Silver Level
  • 2015 AAA Four Diamond Award
  • 2015 Forbes Travel Guide Four Star Award

Accommodations: The best way to describe even the standard Superior rooms at the US Grant? Palatial. Sure, they’re small at 280 – 325 sqft, but the 9-foot ceilings, elegant furniture, and art give it a really opulent look. Redeeming 12,000 – 16,000 Starpoints per night at the US Grant can be an incredible deal, especially since room rates regularly range from $300 – $700 per night. 

Location: The US Grant Hotel’s location is really ideal for sightseeing. Just within walking distance you’ll find several theaters, the Davis-Horton House, the Maritime Museum, USS Midway, the New Children’s Museum, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Aerospace Museum, and lots more. And if you want to add an extra stamp to your passport, Mexico is just 17 miles away. 

Honorable mention:

East Coast

Element New York Times Square West (New York City, New York)

Best SPG Hotels Category 5 Element New York Times Square West Deluxe Room
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Element New York Times Square West


  • TripAdvisor Green Leaders: Silver Level
  • Global Business Travel Association: Project ICARUS Supplier Gold Medal

Accommodations: It’s tough to find a hotel in New York to redeem points for – you’re faced with either reasonable redemption rates for rundown hotels that offer cheap cash rates, or you can unload more valuable points than you’re comfortable with through programs like Hyatt Gold Passport and Marriott Rewards. Thankfully, Starwood offers some reasonable alternatives. Starwood has nearly a dozen Category 5 hotels in the city but I think the Element Hotels offers the best value.

At 12,000 – 16,000 points per night, the standard Deluxe room at the Element Hotel is a great place to stay. The room is just 315 – 335 sqft but features a king bed, a comfortable sofa, a desk, and fully equipped kitchen in a modern setting. In addition to this, all guests receive daily complimentary hot breakfast! No need to hack your way to elite status for a stay at this hotel. You not only get a nice, clean room with a kitchenette, but breakfast is taken care of.

Location: Some people may be put off by the hotel’s location near Times Square, but it can be a convenient base from which to see the rest of the city. Many sights and attractions are within walking distance or you easily accessible via public transportation (or Uber!). 

Honorable mention:


Royal Palm South Beach Miami, a Tribute Portfolio Resort (Miami Beach, FL)

Best SPG Hotels Category 5 Royal Palm South Beach Miami Deluxe Room
Best Category 5 SPG Hotel: Royal Palm South Beach Miami

Distinctions: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Accommodations: A standard award redemption at the Royal Pam South Beach gets you into a relatively small, 265-334 soft Deluxe room with a city view. The decor is modern, with sort of an Andaz vibe. If you’er a fan of Intelligent Nutrients bath products (never heard of the brand personally), you’ll be pleased to know the bathroom is stocked with these. 

Location: The Royal Pam South Beach has a very nice beachfront location on Collins Avenue, close to Ocean Drive. Lincoln Road Mall is located within walking distance and other attractions, including sports arenas, the Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Beach Golf Club, and various museums and tourist attractions are a quick Uber ride away. Miami International Airport is also easily accessible, located just 11 miles from the hotel. 

Honorable mention:


The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Best Category 5 SPG Hotels Gwen Hotel Chicago
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Gwen Hotel Chicago

Distinctions: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 

Accommodations: Standard rooms at the Gwen Hotel, formerly the Conrad Chicago, feature 375 sqft of space, an oversized shower in the bathroom and up to two windows for a spacious feel. The room is outfitted in earthy, neutral tones and comes equipped with a Bose Lifestyle audio system and a Keurig coffeemaker. 

Location: The Gwen Hotel has a great location in the landmark McGraw-Hill Building on the Magnificent Mile, an area famous for its shopping. If you’re not into shopping, you can still walk to a variety of tourist attractions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Navy Pier, Grant Park, and Oak Street Beach. If you’re hoping to catch a Bears game, Soldiers Field is less than three miles from the hotel. 

Honorable mention:


The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler (Whistler, BC)

Best Starwood Hotels Westin Resort & Spa Whistler
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Westin Resort & Spa Whistler


  • TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence
  • TripAdvisor GreenLeaders: Gold Level

Accommodations: A standard award at the Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler gets you into a Deluxe Studio Suite, which is a 400 sqft room with a full kitchen and sofa bed. These rooms are quiet airy, with some of them featuring faulted ceilings and a loft style layout.

Location: Whether you’re visiting during the summer of winter, the resort’s mountainside location allows access to a variety of activities. The Westin Whistler was voted the number one ski resort in North America and the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Honorable mention:


Hacienda Santa Rosa, a Luxury Collection Hotel (Santa Rosa, Mexico)

Best Category 5 SPG Hotels Hacienda Santa Rosa a Luxury Collection Hotel Superior Room
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Hacienda Santa Rosa – a Luxury Collection Hotel

Distinctions: N/A

Accommodations: Standard “Superior” rooms at the Hacienda Santa Rosa are 430 sqft, featuring antique furniture and high ceilings. The decor isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but definitely nice if you’re into a more rustic look.

Location: The Hacienda Santa Rosa is pretty isolated, which is ideal if you’re looking for a peaceful, quiet location. If you’re looking to venture outside of the hotel, you can head over to Oxkintox and see the Calcehtok Caves – both of which are just 10-13 miles away. You can also check out the ancient Mayan ruins Uxmal, located 45 miles from the hotel.

Honorable mention:


The Westin St. John Resort (St. John, Virgin Islands)

Best Starwood Hotel Category 5 Westin St. John Resort
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Westin St. John Resort

Distinctions: N/A

Accommodations: For 12,000 – 16,000 points per night, guests staying at the Westin St. John Resort get a Traditional Garden View room facing “the colorful tropical landscaping throughout the center of the resort.” Considering the resort has 47 acres of said tropical landscape, I imagine the views are pretty incredible. In fact, the photo of the Traditional Garden View Room on the hotel website depicts a room with a small patio overlooking a lagoon-style pool, so this could work out very nicely for some of you.

Location: White sand beaches and clear blue water are practically a trademark of the Caribbean and you’ll get plenty of that at the Westin St. John, with its 1,200 foot long white sand beach. If that ever gets boring, there are plenty of things to do in the nearby area. The resort is surrounded by Virgin Islands National Park, which is 1.3 mile trek away. There are plenty of vendors on site who will take you on a tour of the National Park or arrange water activities, if you really don’t want to leave the resort. Cruz Bay and two shopping centers are just a mile away. So whether you want to stay on site or explore the island, the location of this resort enables you to do both.

Honorable mention: The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa, St. Maarten


Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Valle Sagrado (Urubamba, Peru)

Best Starwood Category 5 Hotel Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa Room
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Tambo del Inka Resort


  • TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice 2016: #2 Top 25 Luxury Hotels in South America
    • GreenLeaders Platinum Level
    • #1 of 24 Hotels in Urubamba

Accommodations: Superior rooms at the Tamba del Inka are fairly spacious at 440 sqft and feature lovely garden or maintain views, which can be enjoyed from the attached balcony. The scenery at this resort is a huge selling point, so it’s nice that even standard rooms have a nice view. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill hotel, which is reflected in the room decor. Superior Rooms feature beautiful hardwood floors, a walk-in closet, and local decorative pieces to give the space an authentic, rustic feel.

Location: As its name suggests, the Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa is located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. While you can stay on-site spa and other amenities, you’ll really want to venture out and explore the area a bit. The resort is a great spot from which to explore interesting local attractions, including the town of Maras, the Chinchero District, the Moray Incan Ruins, and even Machu Piccu -all of which are located within a 25 mile radius of the resort. To get to the Tamba del Inka Resort, you can fly into Velasco Astete Airport (CUZ), which is just 40 miles away.

Honorable mention:


Northern Europe

The Westin Dublin (Dublin, Ireland)

Best Category 5 SPG Hotels Westin Dublin
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Westin Dublin

Distinctions: TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice 2016: #20 Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Ireland 

Accommodations: Booking the Westin Dublin on points gets you a Classic Room, which is pretty small at 248 – 323 sqft but features a luxurious marble bathroom and a view of the atrium. Is there anything more claustrophobic than an atrium view (or than maybe a room with no windows)? Anyway, smaller rooms are par for the course in Europe, but at least at this hotel they’re nicely furnished.

Location: If you want to explore Dublin, it’s tough to beat the location of the Westin. Some of the most popular historic sights are within walking distance of the hotel. In fact, Trinity College, which has one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, is just a stone’s throw away. Less than two miles from the hotel, you’ll find the National Art Gallery, the Gaiety Theatre, Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Writers Museum, Abbey Theatre, National History & Archeology Museum, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ha’penny Bridge, and Dublin Castle. This seems like the ideal place from which to go sightseeing and at 12,000 – 16,000 points per night (even less, if you factor in the 5th night free), it can be a real bargain during high season when rates go up to $400+ per night.

Honorable mention: 

Western Europe

Hotel Des Indes, a Luxury Collection Hotel, The Hague (The Hague, Netherlands)

Best Category 5 SPG Hotel Hotel Des Indes The Hague
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Hotel Des Indes


  • TripAdvisor #3 of 70 Hotels in The Hague
  • TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice 2016: #15 Top 25 Luxury Hotels in The Netherlands

Accommodations: Redeeming points at the Hotel Des Indes gets you into a Superior Room, which is one step above the standard Classic Rooms at this hotel. Superior Rooms offer city or patio views and for some reason the hotel website feels compelled to brag about photos of “celebrity guests” decorating the walls of these rooms. I don’t know about you, but outside of a roadside diner, I don’t find this concept appealing. In any case, the room has a nice canopy bed while the bathroom is decorated with red Portuguese tiles and two marble vanities. For more descriptions of each and every piece of furniture and light fixture in the room, see the hotel website (seriously, they describe every piece along with ways to use it). 

Location: The Hotel Des Indes was a former palace, built in 1858 and began operating as a hotel in 1881. The hotel was renovated completely in 2006 by French architect and interior designer Jacques Garcia. The location is very close to many tourist attractions and cultural institutions. The Escher Museum, Hague Historical Museum,  Binnenhof, Noordeinde Palace, and miniature park Madurodam are all within a 5 mile radius of this hotel. Several foreign embassies and corporate offices are also nearby. The airport is a 20-minute Uber ride away.

Honorable mention: 

Eastern Europe

The St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya (Moscow, Russia)

Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya


  • TripAdvisor #5 of 281 Hotels in Moscow
  • TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice 2016: #10 Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Russia

Accommodations: A standard free night redemption at the St. Regis Moscow Nikolskaya gets you a 320 – 500 sqft Superior Room with a sitting area and views of either the hotel patio or Maly Cherkassky Lane. As you’d expect for a St. Regis hotel in Russia, the decor is classic, with a bold color palette, plush furniture, and a white marble bathroom. Guess staying in the Superior Room also get access to a personal butler, so you can really live like Russian royalty (minus the shooting squad). Considering this hotel easily goes for $400+ per night, redeeming 12,000 – 16,000 Starwood points is a real bargain.

Location: The St. Regis Moscow is housed a historical building, with a central location that makes it easy to explore the city on foot. Notable attractions are within walking distance, like the Bolshoi Theater, the Kremlin, Red Square, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, and Lenin’s Mausoleum for those feel compelled to stare at the preserved corpse of a former communist leader, for God-knows-what-reason. The hotel’s location also provides access to lots of shopping, dining, and museums. Even business travelers will find the location convenient, as it’s close to several corporate offices, including Google, Chevron, Merrill Lynch, and Philip Morris.

Honorable mention: 

Southern Europe/Mediterranean

King George, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Athens (Athens, Greece)

Best Category 5 Starwood Hotels King George Hotel Athens
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: King George Hotel Athens


  • TripAdvisor #3 of 334 Hotels in Athens
  • TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 

Accommodations: While standard rooms at the King George Hotel are small at 258 – 300 sqft and have the (dreaded) views of the atrium, the room is nicely decorated in a classic style. Perhaps the most appealing part of the room (were the views a bit better)? The cozy window seat. Some of these rooms also include a sleeper sofa, which is convenient if you’re traveling with more than one additional person and need a second bed.

Location: The King George Hotel is a popular hotel for points and miles collectors and with good reason. Not only is this one of the few chain hotels in the city, it also has a terrific location with views of the Acropolis. Lots of great sights are located within a mile of the hotel, including the Parthenon, Ancient Agora, the Natural Archeological Museum, Royal Palace, National Gallery Theatre of Dionysos, and lots more.

Honorable mention:


Le Méridien Fisherman’s Cove (Mahe Island, Seychelles)

Best SPG Hotel Category 5 Le Méridien Fisherman’s Cove Seychelles
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Le Méridien Fisherman’s Cove


  • TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence
  • TripAdvisor #1 of 2 Hotels in Bel Ombre

Accommodations: The great thing about redeeming points for a standard room at Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove is that it still offers impressive views of the sea. These Superior Rooms are located in the main building of the resort and offer 377 sqft of space, plus a large terrace with a sunbed to enjoy those sea views from.

Location: The Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove is located on the north side of Mahe Island, right on Beau-Vallon Beach. The Seychelles are a renowned destination for diving and snorkeling, which the resort makes accessible with a nearby diving center. When exploring sea life or just relaxing on the beach gets dull, guests can head out to Victoria, the world’s smallest capital city, which is just a 20 minute ride away. 

Honorable mention: 

Middle East

The St. Regis Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi, UAE)

Best Category 5 SPG Hotels St. Regis Abu Dhabi
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: St. Regis Abu Dhabi


  • TripAdvisor #15 of 131 Hotels in Abu Dhabi
  • TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice 2016: #23 Top Hotels for Romance – United Arab Emirates

Accommodations: At 12,000 – 16,000 points per night (or less, if you factor in the 5th night free), the St. Regis Abu Dhabi can be a real bargain. Over the summer, you can get rates as low as $170 per night, at which rate some folks would argue, it would make more sense to hold onto your Starpoints and consider redeeming a flexible rewards currency like Barclay Arrival Miles. Guests can book a 484 sqft Superior Room located on the 33rd floor and up, with floor-to-ceiling windows. These rooms are decorated in typical St. Regis fashion, with plush furniture, crystal chandeliers, and a luxurious bathroom featuring a large bathtub, rain shower, and bidet. A small touch of the local culture is incorporated into these rooms to provide some authenticity, including traditional Bedouin weaving. 

Location: Whether you’re in town for business or sightseeing, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi  is located within five miles of tourist sights like the Heritage Village, Presidential Palace, various shopping malls as well as over a dozen foreign embassies. With reasonable taxi and Uber rides available, even the 14 mile ride to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque or the 10 mile trek to Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is easily accessible. 

Honorable mention:

Asia Pacific


Keraton at The Plaza, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Jakarta (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Best SPG Hotel Category 5 Keraton at The Plaza Jakarta
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Keraton at The Plaza Jakarta

Distinctions: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Accommodations: At 12,000 – 16,000 points per night, the Grand Deluxe Rooms at Keraton at the Plaza are a bargain. The size of these 657 – 689 sqft rooms is further accentuated by the vaulted ceilings and massive windows. The colorful decor is a nice change from what you see in most hotel rooms these days, and the addition of a seating area and desk makes this room more akin to a suite than a “standard” hotel room. Also, all guests at this hotel are eligible for butler service. This is by far one of the nicest hotel rooms you’ll get on points in this category. Additionally, it’s worth noting the hotel’s Your Own Time Benefit, which allows guests to check in as early as 7 AM and check out as late at 10 PM without incurring additional charges.

Location: The Keraton is located in Jakarta’s downtown business district. In the immediate area, you’ll find lots of shopping and dining venues, but venture out a few miles and you can visit half a dozen museums, the Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta Cathedral, and the Presidential National Palace.

Honorable mention:

South Pacific

The Old Clare Hotel, Chippendale, a Member of Design Hotels (Sydney, Australia)

Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Old Clare Hotel Sydney
Best Category 5 SPG Hotels: Old Clare Hotel Sydney

Distinctions: N/A

Accommodations: The Old Clare Hotel opened last year, occupying the historic Clare Hotel pub and Carlton & United Beweries Administration Building. The hotel fits well into this artsy neighborhood, with its unique, rustic decor. While the standard Connell room is small at 215 sqft, it certainly makes up for it in character. This is a small hotel with just 62 rooms and each one has a rustic look, thanks to the myriad of textures used to decorate the space. The high ceilings also help make the space seem larger, so the only other caveat is the bathroom. Some people won’t appreciate that the bathroom is basically a glass box in the corner of the room with a stained glass door separating the toilet, leaving the shower completely exposed.

Location: The location of the Old Clare Hotel is ideal if you want to enjoy all that the Chippendale neighborhood has to offer: Art galleries, fashion and design studios, restaurants, and bars. The area is also just 3 miles from The Rocks, where the Park Hyatt Sydney is located. This is a really nice, quaint little area worth strolling through, so if you’re headed towards the more touristy Darling Harbour or King Street for some shopping, you won’t mind the walk at all.

Honorable mention: 

That’s my round-up of the best Category 5 Starwood redemptions. What are some of your picks?

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  1. I stayed at the Westin St. John last year. We had a garden view, which was nice, but nothing spectacular. I found no reason to stay on the resort grounds all day as their beach is somewhat polluted. However, the grounds are beautiful and as there are few hotel options on St. John I felt this was a great redemption of points. The Westin has their own ferry, which is nice for taking a day trip to St. Thomas. The staff was very friendly and there’s a car rental agency on site. There is so much to see and do on the island that we spent very little time at the hotel itself.

    • Thanks for sharing, Scott! I’m the type that wants to stay at the resort and do nothing (different story when I stay at a hotel in a city), but it’s good to know the area offers lots to see/do.

  2. Great post! Can’t believe i haven’t seen this “Best Starwood Hotels” series. Glad I found it. From your experience, are SPG award nights available during a huge event? For example, if SPG points are still available in summer of 2018, do you think those Russian hotels you mentioned would be available during World Cup?

    • SPG claims they don’t have blackout dates or capacity controls on award nights – if a standard room is available, you can book it as a standard award. I think of all the hotel chains, SPG is good about honoring this.

  3. BionicBuk

    Many thanks. there are a few on here that look very intriguing.

  4. Great post, great research – well done, I know how long it takes to get the facts – and then they can change! There’s some great SPG properties on the list, some I can vouch for and some on the ‘must visit’ plan.

    However, I think whilst some seem terrific value of points, given local typical rates it’s a case of YMMV – take the St Regis AD for instance. Even at a low level, say 12k, that seems expensive at some of the cash prices I’ve seen for the hotel (likewise the Moscow SR also).

    One that I would definitely nail as a ‘must do’ is the Royal Palm, for the same reason – the cash costs can be so consistently high (often 400-500 dollars) that you get great value for cashing in Starpoints.

    Also looking at the St Clare for NY Eve – cash price is around 750 GBP 🙂

    Once again, terrific article!

    • Thanks! I tried to take paid rates into account as well, though I agree – in some cases, paid rates are way too low to justify an award redemption. I find that to be especially true in Dubai during the summer.

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