Starwood Options in Rio De Janeiro

The number one place to visit in 2013 is Rio De Janeiro, Brazil according to the New York Times. However, the number one place to visit in 2013 is not a hotbed of Starwood activity. While it will be the host of the next Olympics and World Cup, other hotels have a much stronger presence in this market.

With only two hotels in this large market, if you want to stay at a Starwood property, you are quite limited in your selection. Fortunately (or unfortunately) if you are using points, they are both Category 5 properties that will cost you the same 12,000-16,000 points per night. One must be warned, both properties are not close to all of Rio De Janieiro’s attractions and events.


The first option is the Sheraton Barra Hotel & Suites, and while it appears to be generous to Platinum members, it appears to be a little far from the traditional Brazilian atmosphere. From the local attractions, it is much more situated for the corporate/business traveller than the tourist looking to soak up some sun and culture. Also, there have been some complaints about the local traffic during the week in the peak rush hours (complaints not seen with the Sheraton Rio).


The second option (and the better Starwood property) is the Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort. Key word here is beach. This property offers a (almost) private beach and provides the luxury that one would expect from a Brazilian resort. While not Thai level of service, the scene is quite beautiful.

The private beach provides amazing views from many of the hotel’s rooms. Lately the rooms have shown some age, but if one wishes to stay in a Starwood property for their beach getaway, this is the place to reserve.

According to Platinum members, this hotel can be generous with suite upgrades and is not as stingy as Starwood’s American brethren. Many say the club lounge at this location is one of the best in the system.


For a great non-Starwood option (albeit quite expensive), a traveller should check out the Copacabana Palace Hotel. I will let this single image do the talking:

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 8.17.11 PM

General Rio Tips

1. If you are traveling here, you must plan ahead and be ready to spend money. It now costs $160 for the entry visa. However, if you plan to visit Brazil a lot, it isn’t a terrible deal as it is valid for 10 years.

2. Don’t forget, the language is Portuguese – not Spanish- and you should know enough of it to get around as not everybody knows English.

3. Rio businesses are tourist friendly and credit card acceptance (especially Visa/Mastercard) is widespread – even more so than some parts of America.

4. The timezone is UTC -3, or in layman terms, three hours ahead of the EST.

5. The weather patterns are:

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 8.39.21 PM

Top 3 Attractions to Visit

1. Cristo Redentor (Statue of Christ the Redeemer)

2. Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar)

3. Copacabana Beach

Starwood Hotels in the 46 Places to Go in 2013

The New York Times recently released a list of places to visit in 2013. Over the next few weeks, we will be analyzing the Starwood options in each of these places and providing tips about the local hotel market.


Here is the list of places to see in 2013 according to the New York Times:

1. Rio De Janiero
2. Marseille
3. Nicaragua
4. Accra, Ghana
5. Bhutan
6. Amsterdam
7. Houston
8. Rossland, BC
9. New Delhi
10. Istanbul
11. Singapore
12. Montenegro
13. White Salmon River, Wash
14. Hvar, Croatia
15. Mongolia
16. Big Island, Hawaii
17. Philippines
18. Vernazza, Italy
19. The Kimberley, Australia
20. Ningxia, China
21. The Adirondacks, NY
22. Oslo, Norway
23. Constantia, SA
24. Lithuania
25. Burgos, Spain
26. Lens, France
27. Changbaishan, China
28. Porto, Portugal
29. Puerto Rico
30. Koh Phangan, Thailand
31. Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka
32. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
33. Bangkok
34. The Jeseniky, Czech Republic
35. Waiheke, New Zealand
36. Yucatan, Mexico
37. Charlevoix, Quebec
38. Pecs, Hungary
39. Republic of Congo
40. Ireland
41. Getaria, Spain
42. Mergui Islands, Myanmar
43. The Falkland Islands
44. Washington, D.C.
45. Casablanca, Morocco
46. Paris


How I Became a SPG Platinum Member for $500 (ok, it was really $533.52)



I’ve been a Starwood SPG Gold Member for a while thanks to my American Express Platinum Card. For years, I’ve obtained the occasional upgrade and bonus points but never felt the urge to obtain SPG Platinum status.

That all changed when I booked the trip of a lifetime using United frequent flyer miles. My trip would span multiple continents and have me making stops in Germany, Lithuania, Italy, and Thailand. Thailand in particular is known for being generous to SPG Platinum members. With dreams of suite upgrades and being treated like royalty (grandiose I know), I formed my plan of attack.

On January 21, 2013, I will have met my goal.



Step 1: Contact Starwood Platinum Liaison to Check Terms of Platinum Challenge

First, I contacted the Starwood Platinum Liaison to get up-to-the-date terms of its Platinum Challenge ( I was quickly contacted by a Platinum Liaison, and his response is presented below (before attempting a challenge, contact Starwood for current terms if they have changed):

Thank you for your interest in our Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Platinum membership level. We are pleased to offer you an opportunity to reach that level sooner through our Platinum status challenge.

The Status Challenge allows SPG to provide you the opportunity to accelerate your ability to earn Platinum status by meeting eligible night requirements within a specific time frame. You must post 18 eligible nights within three consecutive months. Please keep the following in mind:

You may only register for one status challenge per month. For example, if you registered for a status challenge this month, but you realize you prefer a different set of three months to challenge, you must contact us next month to be re-registered for another month.

You may select the three consecutive months you prefer from the ones listed below, including retroactively counting nights already stayed for the first two months of the three month window. Once you are enrolled in the challenge, a confirmation letter will be automatically sent to the email address listed on your account.

Eligible nights are only paid nights in an eligible paid stay with Starpoint eligible room revenue which posts to your account. Although this offer assists you with reaching an elite level, SPG Award nights do not count toward this offer, as this offer is a promotion.

Once the challenge is met (18 nights within the three month period) it takes 7 to 10 days from the date the 18th night is posted before the Platinum Status upgrade will be automatically applied to your account. You will be contacted at the email address listed on your account when you have completed the challenge.

You cannot be registered for a Platinum Status Challenge after successfully meeting a prior status challenge. Members who have been Platinum in the past are not eligible to enroll in the status challenge.

Through the end of November, you may select one of the following three consecutive month combinations:

October 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012

November 1, 2012 to January 31, 2013

December 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013

Please note that you are not registered in the platinum status challenge until we receive your reply. If you would like to participate please provide which time frame you would like to enroll in so we can document your account accordingly.


Step 2: Isolate Your Target Hotel

Now that I knew my requirements for Starwood Platinum, I had to target which hotel would be getting my business. Of course, that meant completing a search on the Starwood website for all Category 1 and Category 2 properties within 50 miles of my zip code.

After an hour of searching, my target was discovered. An unidentified Category 2 Hotel (to protect the innocent) was offering an astounding $26.00 per night rate over a certain period. It even included breakfast for two people in the rate. I quickly snagged two stays because the rate was only active over certain day ranges. Period 1 would accumulate 14 nights (from 01/01-01/15), and Period 2 would accumulate 4 nights (from 01/17-01/21).

The total cost for my Platinum Challenge would be an astounding $533.52. Moreover, it would set me on the right path to accumulate 50 Nights during 2013 so that I could get my 10 guaranteed suite night upgrades for 2013-14.

With my nights booked, I contacted the Starwood Platinum Liaison and confirmed my time period for the challenge.

Here’s the confirmation email:




Step 3: Checking In

On January 1, I checked into my hotel room and fortunately was upgraded to a suite based on my SPG Gold status.

When I entered my room, I quickly grab my Make a Green Choice placard and placed it on my door. With “going green” I would be netting an additional 250 points per night (except for the final night) in lieu of getting housekeeping.

Once I complete my 18 nights, I will be a Starwood Platinum Member for approximately $500. Moreover, when you check the points that I accumulate, even more value is accumulated.






Stay 1

Stay 2









Checkin Points




Going Green Points




$ Points (Gold, SPG AMEX)




SPG Powerup Points Earned




Room Cost








Total Cost




Total Points




Cost Per Point





*Additional Note: These points are going to be extremely valuable when I go to Thailand. I had already planned to stay at the Royal Orchid Sheraton where rooms go for $149 a night (plus taxes) on the two nights I plan to stay. At this property, I can get two weekend nights for 6,000 points. This is great value at $.05 cost per point. Also, this property is known for treating SPG Platinum Members quite well and many have been upgraded to Executive Suites which run $265 a night. If upgraded with my new status, this would result in an amazing $.083 cost per point.




1. Before selecting your challenge period, scour every possible hotel in your area over a wide variety of days. This little bit of work on Starwood’s website can lead to amazing value. A little bit of my time allowed me to get status for about $500. With the perks I expect on my trip, my new status will more than offset this expense (especially in Thailand).

2. Your main target should be Category 1 and Category 2 properties because they are usually the lowest cost properties in the Starwood system. However, you might make the occasional increase to check Category 3 properties as I have seen some value in this segment.

3. The cost is further reduced if you include the two nights I will get at the Royal Orchid Sheraton in Bangkok. These two nights would cost me $298 to purchase. If you offset this value, I effectively have obtained Platinum status for a mere $235.52.


How It Could Have Been Better

You may have noticed the SPG Powerup Points in my above chart. Unfortunately, only my second stay qualified for this promotion.

Had the rates been available for all of my dates (had I been able to change them into the promotion period), I would have been able to obtain 16,000 additional Starwood Points. Sadly, this was not an option. But, I’ve got nothing to complain about because I just earned Platinum status for $500.