Why the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa is one of the best values in North America
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
A few years ago, my family began a new tradition.
After persuading everyone for several years, we finally began ditching the freezing temperatures and blowing snow of my hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan, just a couple days after Christmas for warmer climes over the New Year holiday.
None of these trips would have been possible without points. Take a look at practically any high-end hotel in a popular sunshine destination over New Year's Eve, and you're staring at nightly room rates upwards of $1,000. My family requires two rooms (we've tried the entire family in one and ... it didn't end well), so paying cash for a stay during one of the most popular vacation times of the year is simply out of the question.
Enter: hotel points.
Each time we've taken our annual end-of-year trip, we've been able to stay at hotels, such as The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, The Ritz-Carlton Aruba and the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, that would otherwise have been out of reach -- especially over the holidays. We just had to pay out of pocket for the food and beverages consumed on property. Thanks to my parents' long-time loyalty to the Marriott brand, and putting their small business spend on Marriott credit cards, they're able to earn enough Marriott Bonvoy points for at least one "free" vacation per year.
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Value in Mexico
This past holiday season, we headed to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to enjoy almost a week of relaxation, sunshine, nachos and, of course, margaritas. We had a great vacation (my parents are already itching to go back next year). We all felt relaxed, recharged and ready to take on the new year. However, one thing that stood out -- for me at least -- was the outstanding value we got at the hotel we picked: the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa.
Before booking my family at this hotel, I knew it had been around for a few years already but had mostly garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews from travelers. I know that's never a surefire way of evaluating a hotel, but things seemed to be going pretty well at the JW in Cabo. The skeptic in me wasn't willing to accept the internet's word as gospel. After all, I was able to book rooms (before Marriott's peak- and off-peak pricing went into effect) for 50,000 points per night, per room. And, taking advantage of Bonvoy's fifth-night free perk on award stays, we were able to book two rooms for five nights each -- over the New Year's holiday -- for 400,000 points all-in, plus the mandatory $30 per day, per room "service charge," which feels like a clever way of saying "resort fee." Still, this $30 fee is much more reasonable than the close-to-$100 fees we've been seeing pop up at top resorts all over the place.
Considering the cash rate for a base room was a little over $800 per night on the dates we were there, we got a tremendous return using Marriott points on this stay -- outlaying about $3,200 worth of points according to TPG's current valuations instead of paying over $8,000 on accommodations alone.
The JW Marriott Los Cabos is a Category 6 property. Off-peak dates price out at 40,000 points, standard dates are 50,000 points and peak nights are 60,000 points. But, look for PointSavers award availability. I just checked availability for tonight and a PointSavers rate of 45,000 points -- during what you would expect to be peak season -- is available.
You could use a 85,000-point free-night certificate that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card at this property. Alternatively, if you're looking to top off your Marriott account for a redemption such as this, consider signing up for the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card, which is offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, or the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, which is offering a limited-time bonus of 100,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
5-star property, 4-star cost
Already feeling triumphant about the great redemption, things got even better once we arrived. The JW Los Cabos is located in the upscale Puerto Los Cabos development, which is about a half-hour drive from Los Cabos International Airport (SJD), and about 40 minutes from the main town of Cabo San Lucas, where many of the popular restaurants and bars are located.
The somewhat removed location meant the property was tranquil, and it blended in beautifully with its desert and beach surroundings, with a soaring open-air lobby that provided unobstructed views straight out to the ocean, cascading swimming and decorative pools seemingly everywhere you looked and gorgeous desert plants throughout the entire property.
The pools alone honestly merit a post of their own, but I'll do my best to keep the gushing to a minimum. On one side of the resort, there's a series of six tiered pools that start at the lobby level and cascade down to just in front of the beach. Immediately adjacent to these pools is the main family pool -- a long rectangle with an infinity edge overlooking the ocean.
On the other side of the resort lies the dedicated adults-only pool, which is a similar shape but larger than the family pool thanks to the inclusion of a swim-up bar -- the first one I've ever experienced in a hotel! Let me tell you, the novelty doesn't wear off in five days.
The spa brought this drop-dead gorgeous look to the next level. As our reservations were booked under my dad's Titanium account, both of our rooms were given access to the spa's facilities without booking a treatment. If you wanted an even more tranquil experience, this was the place to do it, with the long, thin spa pool extending seemingly right into the ocean. Even if you weren't there for a treatment, this was a perfect place to bring a book and totally get away from it all.
It wasn't just the property's grounds and facilities that were five-star, either. The base room we booked was spacious, featured high ceilings, was beautifully appointed and featured a large balcony with ocean views.
The bathroom was huge, with double vanities and a separate soaking tub and shower. Overall, the room felt higher-quality to me than the ones we'd had at The Ritz-Carltons in both Key Biscayne and Aruba.
The on-property food and drink were superb and reasonably priced.
For example, a spicy margarita on the rocks by the pool cost $14 at the JW Los Cabos, cheaper than many bars and restaurants in New York City, and a steal compared to the $21 we shelled out for a glass of wine at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua in Maui on another trip a few years earlier. These prices are mostly in line with other top resorts in the area, like The Cape, A Thompson Hotel and Solaz, a Luxury Collection Hotel.
Finally, the service we experienced at the resort was top-notch. Each day at the pool, staff would greet us by name and already have towels waiting on the same four chairs we'd picked on the first day of the trip. They even got to know our drink orders, so once it was an appropriate time (11 a.m. -- this was vacation, after all), they'd ask my mom if she was ready for a glass of rosé and if I was ready for my spicy margarita.
Especially taking into consideration the time of year during that we visited this resort, I feel like we got a tremendous deal for our 50,000 points per night at the JW Los Cabos. Even with Marriott's peak- and off-peak pricing, I wouldn't hesitate to return to this resort at the peak rate of 60,000 points per night -- and I'd be over the moon if I could find availability at the off-peak rate of 40,000 per night.
I'm not in charge of assigning star ratings to hotels, but if I was, The JW Marriott Los Cabos would earn five. The staff was delightful and clearly proud of their resort in a stunning part of Mexico. We enjoyed the food and drink we sampled immensely and the property itself is uniquely gorgeous. Even though we were staying as Titanium members, anyone can enjoy this property for all it offers. We weren't given an upgraded room due to the property being full, but despite that, I still can't help but think that this property is one of the best deals in Marriott's portfolio in North America.
All photos by the author unless where otherwise noted.