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, in 2019 there are only five properties making the cut for all of Canada. There are only seven 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 two in the capital city. This year AAA added 10 new properties from North America and the Caribbean and 5 of those 10 were in Mexico. The new ones are Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, St. Regis Mexico City, Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Nizuc in Cancun, and Montage Los Cabos.
We have detailed reviews of all the 5-diamond properties in Mexico 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 it looks like they have opened up some units for booking through the Expedia brands. 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!)
Here’s who made the new AAA Five Diamond List for 2019 in Mexico
Cancun and Riviera Maya 5-Diamond Resorts
Le Blanc Spa Resort
Nizuc Resort and Spa Cancun
Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya
Grand Luxxe Riviera Maya
Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Banyan Tree Mayakoba
Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun
Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita
Los Cabos 5-Diamond Resorts
San Miguel de Allende
As mentioned in the beginning, five of these are new, including one property that really is new (Montage Los Cabos). For existing hotels, they can drop off the list and then be added back when they make improvements. Maybe that will happen with Banyan Tree Acapulco, which dropped off this time, though maybe that’s because they had to lower rates and standards with the drop-off in foreign tourism in Acapulco.
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, like Hotel Esencia in the Riviera Maya, 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.