The AAA 5-Diamond Awards are, in most respects, the most exclusive listings out there for North American hotels and resorts. There’s a thorough vetting and inspection process the properties go through and a long checklist of amenities that need to be in place to qualify. Unlike a membership organization like Leading Hotels of the World, this is not a paid reservation system for hotels. The AAA inspectors are about as impartial as you can get.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “true 5-star hotel,” the person is generally referring how easy it is for a hotel to be classified as “5-star,” especially by the local tourism board or hotel association. For these 5-diamond awards, however, there are only four properties making the cut for all of Canada. There are only eight for all of the Caribbean, including just one in the popular Dominican Republic.
Mexico is a different story though, with several resorts in each major beach resort area and one in the capital city. We have detailed reviews of all them except one Secrets all-inclusive and two Grand Luxxe timeshare properties. We’re not sure why the latter are allowed to enter since they’re part of a fractional ownership scheme, but we did stay at the Riviera Maya property once and it was quite nice. (We never wrote about it though because they refused to give us any prices! Apparently they want to give you the hard sell before they will reveal that.)
Here’s who made the new AAA Five Diamond List for 2018 in Mexico
Cancun and Riviera Maya 5-Diamond Resorts
Le Blanc Spa Resort
Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya
Grand Luxxe Riviera Maya
Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun
Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita
Los Cabos 5-Diamond Resorts
Some of these are new, including one property that really is new (Grand Velas Los Cabos) and one that popped back on the list (Esperanza in Los Cabos). For existing hotels, they can drop off the list and then be added back when they make improvements. That’s what happened with the Four Seasons in Mexico City last year, when they included this note:
Recently renovated from top to bottom, the design of this AAA Five Diamond hotel is stylish and sophisticated throughout. The elegantly appointed guest rooms are chic and many overlook a beautifully landscaped courtyard. Spanish colonial-inspired rooms feature LCD flat-screen televisions, iPod docking station and mini-bars. Marble-covered bathrooms include a deep soaking tub and separate shower.
If you don’t see your favorite luxury resort on this list, keep in mind that inclusion is often a matter of “more is better” when it comes to amenities. Luxury properties like Royal Hideaway Playacar can be at a disadvantage compared to newer openings if you they don’t do massive renovations. They could be excluded for not having a separate shower and tub, for not having a phone in the bathroom, for not providing 24-hour room service. An intimate boutique hotel with superlative service is not going to make the cut. A huge convention hotel may though, as long as all the rooms meet the checklist requirements and there are plenty of good restaurants and bars. See more explanation at the AAA newsroom site.