Cookie-Cutter Colombia: A Review of the Marriott Medellín
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Colombia has long been high on my list of must-visit countries, so I planned a trip there earlier this year, when fares from New York (JFK) to Bogotá (BOG) and Cartagena (CTG) temporarily dipped to $105 one-way (I booked my return directly to Los Angeles in Avianca business class using miles).
I planned a few days in Cartagena first to unwind and ended my trip with three nights in Bogotá. In between, though, I decided to visit Medellín for two nights and needed to find a place to stay. That’s when I came across the Marriott Medellín.
Medellín is a major city, but there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to points hotels: IHG fields an InterContinental and a Holiday Inn Express, Hilton has a Hampton by Hilton, and there’s a Four Points by Sheraton under the Starwood banner. Based on room rates, location and the fact that the Marriott opened late last year, I decided to stay there.
For the nights I needed, standard rooms were going for $195 per night. The hotel is a Marriott Category 3 property where award nights cost 15,000 points each (or 5,000 Starpoints if you convert them from Starwood Preferred Guest to Marriott Rewards). This is subject to change, though, when the new, unified award chart is released.
At 1.3 cents per Marriott point or 3.9 cents per Starpoint, a points redemption would definitely have been worth it. But the paid rate wasn’t unreasonable, and I wanted to continue building up my points balance, so I decided to pay for my room instead.
As a Marriott Gold, I earned 12.5 points per dollar on my stay, and I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the bill.
Medellín has an interesting layout. The city center is in the heart of a valley, and both the tony suburbs and working-class areas a little farther out lie up and down the surrounding hillsides and in the valleys between.
Like many of the other nice hotels in town, the Marriott is situated in the Poblado area, a 15-minute walk to the metro and a 20-minute ride to the old city center. I did it the first morning of my stay in order to take a walking tour in town, and both the transport and walking portions were easy to navigate. Poblado is Medellín’s wealthiest neighborhood, so I found plenty of luxury apartments, shopping malls, banks and bars. There were also tons of restaurants around the area, many of which you could walk to.
I hit rush hour on my way in from the airport at 4:00pm, so the drive took nearly an hour and a half. However, on the way back in the early morning, it only took 40 minutes.
I arrived to the hotel around 5:30pm. There were armed guards and guard dogs at the front door. The guards took a look at my bags then waved me in through the door.
The reception desks are to the left, and I ended up having three agents help me since it wasn't very busy when I arrived. I was thanked for my loyalty — I have Marriott Gold status thanks to my Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status — and told that I’d been upgraded to a Concierge-level room, meaning I’d have lounge access. Based on rates at the time I’d booked, this was worth an extra $40 per night. My Gold status also entitled me to free breakfast daily either in the lounge or the main restaurant.
I asked for help making a dinner reservation that evening, which they did for me while I was on my way up to my room on the 12th — and top — floor of the hotel.
My room had windows that looked west, so there was a lot of sunlight in the afternoon. The windows also faced back toward the corridor to the elevator, so I kept my sheer blinds drawn so people could not see in.
The décor was nice, but if I were to quibble, I'd say that it looked very generic. I was happy to have a nice, standardized room where I could get work done and relax after sightseeing, but this felt like it could have been a Marriott room anywhere in the world and nothing about it spoke specifically to the destination.
The bed was dressed in white linens and had a cream-colored headboard and runner, while the wall behind it was made from a gray, sound-absorbing material. There were reading lights and nightstands on either side.
There were many outlets, both regular power outlets and USB ports, which was convenient for keeping everything charged. The chaise lounge had a bright pillow and a small side table in the corner near the window that I found ideal for working.
On the opposite side of the room was a glass-topped desk and red leather rolling chair, as well as the wall-mounted television and a luggage shelf.
The minibar was close to the front door and included a variety of snacks plus a Juan Valdez coffeemaker and supplies.
The bathroom was probably the nicest part of the room. The floors and countertop were white marble.
There was a single sink, which was a basin raised from the counter with a contemporary faucet.
It had a bathtub-shower combination.
The toiletries were Thann, which is a Thai brand, so it felt odd to see them in Colombia, but they were nice.
Wi-Fi was free for Marriott Rewards members who booked direct. Otherwise, it would have cost 9,600 COP (around $3.50 USD) per day. High-speed access was 16,000 COP ($5.75) per day, but free for me thanks to my Gold status.
My upgrade meant that I had access to the hotel’s M Club lounge on the 11th floor.
The lounge had a work desk with a computer up front, as well as a sofa and a flatscreen television tuned to CNN.
Farther back was a restaurant-style area with tables, chairs and banquettes.
There was a small breakfast buffet there, including fruit, cold cuts, pastries and a few hot items like eggs and bacon. I skipped it and had my free breakfast down in the restaurant instead. During the day, coffee, tea, snacks and cookies were available.
In the evening, the staff manned the bar and served drinks including simple cocktails and rather generous pours of wine from South America.
The hotel had a small but sunny pool with lounge chairs and a cabana at the end down on the fourth floor overlooking the neighborhood and the city.
It was mostly deserted except for a few guests and one family that came by for a quick swim.
Down on the third floor, the gym was bright and well-equipped with cardio equipment.
It also had weight machines.
A small spa was also down there. There was no menu to look at, but the attendants told me they only offered massages.
In terms of service, everyone I spoke to was friendly, polite and eager to please. The staff members in the lounge were cheerful, efficient and delighted to practice their (very good) English with me and a group of American businesspeople who basically took it over after their meeting one evening. Though they got about 40 people in at once, the three people on duty in the lounge handled everyone professionally and courteously, taking drink orders, making sure the buffet was constantly stocked and generally keeping the ambience in there casual and fun.
The front-desk staff were also great. They helped me pick where to go to dinner each night based on restaurants I had read about and wanted to try, then walked out the front door with me to make sure the taxi drivers knew exactly where I was going.
The one snafu was that they had not added the car service to the airport to my bill like they were supposed to, and asked me to pay in cash. When I asked them to charge it instead, they fixed the bill immediately. It only took an extra minute to complete checkout.
Food and Beverage
The hotel had three distinct restaurants. The largest one was called the Market, and was to the rear of the lobby. That was where I had breakfast both mornings, and the buffet was extensive.
There was a lovely selection of fresh fruit.
Lots of pastries and a few different egg dishes, hash browns, cheese arepas and crepe-like pancakes.
At other times of day, the menu appeared to be fairly standard, with a variety of salads, sandwiches, steak, pizzas and seafood pasta.
On the opposite side of the lobby was a small bar with an outdoor terrace, and another restaurant, Nau. Nau served sushi and other Japanese dishes and apparently offered live music some evenings. I didn’t eat there, either, preferring to go out in the evening to the nearby restaurants in Poblado.
Finally, in the corner of the lobby near the elevators was a café counter where they served coffee and pastries in the morning, though I skipped this, too, since my breakfast at the restaurant was free.
My stay at the new-ish Marriott Medellín was brief but pleasant. Not only was it a nice surprise to get upgraded to a club-level room and all the extra benefits it conferred, but the hotel itself felt fresh and new, the staff were on their game and the neighborhood was a nice base from which to explore the city. I would definitely stay there again — I just with the hotel sported a little more Colombian flair.