South African Wine Country on Marriott points: Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

As Greg pointed out when introducing me, I am currently on a round-the-world trip — after all, we collect these miles and points with the intent to use them. I think Greg hit the nail on the head when he said that hoarding and cherry picking is the way to go.  I hoard various currencies and then look to maximize the value of my points through strategic redemption.

I started this trip in South Africa, where I discovered a decent redemption opportunity in South African wine country: Protea Hotels.

Protea is an African chain that bills itself as a luxury brand, though in reality I’d say it consists of mostly mid-tier (3- and 4-star) hotels. For points collectors, the key is that this chain is owned by Marriott. The Protea group also includes a couple of other brands, namely African Pride and Protea Hotels Fire & Ice. The good news is that I believe all of them participate in Marriott Rewards, meaning that one can both earn and redeem points at these locations. While private guest houses and B&B’s are widely available and can be a very economical option in South Africa, the comfortable reliability of foreign chains is mostly absent outside of Cape Town and Johannesburg.

With yesterday’s news of Marriott category updates, I noted some interesting changes in South Africa:

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

As you can see, quite a number of Protea properties are dropping from Category 2 to Category 1, meaning that they will be available for just 7500 points per night. If you are converting from Starwood, that’s just 2500 Starpoints per night — representing quite a value in comparison to cash rates at many of these properties.

Being in the heart of South African wine country, the Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa seemed like a great option for exploring a bit of the wine region.  The hotel is located right in the center of town, close to cute shops and restaurants. Revenue rates at the hotel were starting from 2,842 rand (~$210 at the time), which seemed like a great way to maximize the value of Marriott points:
South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

Unfortunately, this hotel is on the list of properties increasing in category next month. On March 7th, this will become a Category 2 hotel, costing 10,000 points per night — still a strong value compared to revenue rates — but until then, it can be booked for just 7500 points per night as far out as the schedule allows.

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

Of course, before arriving, we weren’t quite sure what to expect from the Protea Hotel Dorpshuis & Spa. While I remembered reading that Protea hotels could be a good value, I hadn’t yet stayed at one. With private accommodations abundant in the $100-$200 range (and some even cheaper), I wondered if this hotel was worth anywhere near the asking price.  If it was, this seemed like a way to get great value out of my points.  After all, based on Frequent Miler’s reasonable redemption values, 7500 Marriott points is worth ~$51.  Getting a $210 room for those points seems like a steal. But was it?

The website looked pretty nice:

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa
However, when we arrived and saw the pool, we were a bit concerned that it might not be quite as pristine as the pictures….or any deeper than a birdbath:

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

Our room was up a few steps and around the corner from the pool. As we approached the door, the entrance had us curious. What could be behind curtain #31?  Deal or no deal?

South African Wine Country Stellenbosch Protea Hotel Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

As a Gold member (thanks to my Amex Business Platinum, which provides Starwood Gold status that can be matched over to Marriott Gold as one of the many sweet opportunities that have resulted from the merger), I was apparently upgraded to a “Deluxe” room, without proactively asking for any type of upgrade:

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

As you can see, this was a 2-level room consisting of a bedroom and bathroom upstairs with a living room and full bathroom downstairs as well. While the bathrooms weren’t spectacular, the room was spacious, comfortable, and clean.  It far exceeded my expectations considering the cheap points price.

Breakfast was included in the room rate (not a Gold benefit at Protea hotels) and there was a decent spread.  It included breads, yogurt, juices, and fruit in addition to some sliced meats and self-serve cheeses:

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

In the end, our only regret was that we didn’t plan more than 1 night here.  Even with the change to Category 2, the Protea Hotel Dorpshuis & Spa is a strong value at 10,000 Marriott Rewards points or ~3333 Starpoints. If you have the chance to book it for 7500 Marriott points before March 7th, it’s a fantastic value and a great place to spend a few days in a gorgeous part of South Africa.

We visited several Stellenbosch wineries on a previous trip and discovered that South African wine country is absolutely beautiful.  I found many of the wineries in the area around Stellenbosch just as impressive as those in Napa/Sonoma, Bordeaux, etc. On this trip, we stumbled into the Ernie Els winery (figuratively, not literally) and found it to be on par :-):

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & SpaSouth African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

Pro tip: If you’re going to try your hand at chipping it in, watch out for that first row of lily pads. They can be tricky.  And tee up before the tasting.  On second thought, tee up after the tasting, but make sure someone is taking video:

Speaking of tasting, prices were quite reasonable at about $3 or $4.50 and the tasting fees were waived when buying a bottle of wine (which started at around $5).

South African Wine Country Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa

All in all, this came out to be a pretty big win and made me curious about other Protea locations.  I ended up staying in several over the course of about two weeks in South Africa and next week I look forward to sharing some photos from my last Protea stay during this particular trip to South Africa.

The current Megabonus promotion means that with about $300 in paid stays (combined with 5x earned by paying with the Marriott Rewards credit card), I’ll earn more than enough points for another free night at one of these Category 1 Protea hotels — and I just might consider booking a stay toward the end of Marriott’s schedule in the hopes of making my way back.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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17 Comments on "South African Wine Country on Marriott points: Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa"

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Larry D
Guest

Hi Nick:
Interesting trip that’s not written about a lot. Are you going to do reviews of each part of your trip? If not, maybe you can give us a summary, like what cities you flew in and out of, which hotels along the way, what airlines, and any other point sweet spots. I look forward to reading your blog-articles.

sil
Guest

Are you sure breakfast is included for everyone and not just those with Gold or higher status?
On booking.com, you need to pay $15 USD per breakfast?
I booked 2 nights for total of 15k marriott points as I will be there in August . Nowhere does it state breakfast included.

sil
Guest

I forgot to add that the breakfast and dinner included you are referring to is the Marriot Member PAID rate and not a redemption rate for 7500 points.
This is misleading information.

sil
Guest

Thanks Nick for your response.
We (2 of us) will be heading to South Africa in mid July for Kruger Park, Garden Route and Capetown.
We have 10 days from Port Elizabeth to Stellenbosch. Did you travel along the Garden Route?
Any recommendation for points /paid stays and where to overnight would be greatly appreciated.
Protea hotels seem cheap enough to just pay for the stay. We are thinking of 3 nights at Krynshna and 2 or 3 nights in Port Elizabeth. We don’t know where else would be a good place to stay.
Suggestions?

iahphx
Guest

I’m glad you discovered South Africa. I’ve been practically everywhere, and I think South Africa right now makes for the best vacation in the world. Stellenbosch is a great wine region and unlike, say, California, the wineries and their excellent restaurants are very affordable. Next time, extend your experience by driving the Little Karoo to Port Elizabeth.

That said, I’m not a huge fan of Protea hotels. Obviously, on points, they represent good value. But most Protea hotels aren’t as nice as the one you profile. And they don’t generally include breakfast (and, as you note, you don’t get it on a reward stay, even with gold elite status).

The main reason I don’t stay in them is that the alternatives are almost always better. South Africa has excellent b&b’s (small inns, guest houses, etc.) and they’re cheap. Most also participate with the int’l booking sites, so you can usually further discount their rates (cheaptickets is always reliable for this). So you can often get an atmospheric small inn (I never go below 4 1/2 stars on tripadvisor) for less than $60 with a great breakfast thrown in. At those prices, who needs a chain hotel room?

I will note that Protea does seem to upgrade Marriott Golds to nicer rooms. So it sometimes works out better than the alternatives. But I think most folks reading this blog will do better on most stays by booking away from Protea (unless you have so many points that you have nothing else to do with them).

DavidB
Guest

You’ve revealed one of the best kept secrets in South Africa. Stayed here and also had the two level room, as did each of the others in my film crew. (This was before the Marriott takeover, but I was a Gold elite in the Protea frequent stay Prokard program, now modified and called Explorer.) Charming and great location…you can walk into the main part of the city where there are some great little restaurants at all price levels.

Stvr
Guest

Great post!!!

TJ
Guest

I just stayed at the Protea Hotel Stellenbosch (it’s up on the hill). The rooms are often excellent at the Protea’s. Breakfast is indeed no published benefits for Gold (even Platinum!) but most hotels give it anyways. The quality is terrible though. Internet is a complete fail too.

Bring your own Internet and food for Protea but enjoy the pretty buildings and awesome beds. Stellenbosch has tons of wineries and prices are indeed just a fraction of Napa wineries. The secret is out though and the area swarms with European tourists.

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[…] I reviewed the Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa outside of Capetown, South Africa (pictured above).  That hotels is moving from Category 1 (7,500 […]

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[…] I posted several mini-reviews of parts and pieces of my trip — talking about hotels like the Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa, the Protea Hotel Kruger Gate, and the JW Marriott Phu Quoc. Several readers asked about how I had […]

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[…] trip. I’ve written about some of the good-value hotels along the way — like the Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshius & Spa, the Protea Hotel Kruger Gate, and the JW Marriott Phu Quoc. A few weeks ago, I wrote about booking […]

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[…] are among the best I’ve seen for these properties. For example, I previously wrote about the Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa in the heart of South African wine country (outside of Cape Town). As a Gold member, I was […]