Bathtub with candles, champagne and fireplace, Rabbit Hill Inn, Vermont, USA

AAA's Diamond Rating is one of the few hotel appraisal systems that rely on physical on-site evaluations. (Getty Images)

On Jan. 31, AAA announced its annual lists of Four and Five Diamond hotels. A total of 134 properties in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean were added to the prestigious lists this year.

AAA's Diamond Rating is one of the few hotel appraisal systems that rely on physical on-site evaluations. The company's team of inspectors assesses each of the 27,000 eligible properties based on comfort, cleanliness, security and available services and amenities. Each hotel is then awarded a Diamond Rating between one and five, with five being the best.

[Read: Best Hotels in the USA.]

Of the more than 27,000 evaluated hotels, just 121 properties earned Five Diamond distinction for 2018. Eight of those properties are newcomers, including three hotels that received the Five Diamond award shortly after opening. Those hotels are The Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown in New York City, the Grand Velas Los Cabos in Los Cabos, Mexico, and the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in the Cayman Islands. The remaining five properties that earned Five Diamond distinction are Esperanza, An Auberge Resort, Grand Luxxe Riviera Maya, The Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue, The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas and Williamsburg Inn.

These new honorees join the ranks among plenty of prestigious hotels, but they have a ways to go before solidifying the long-standing success of the 12 properties that have earned Five Diamond status the past 25 years in a row. They range from smaller boutique hotels, such as The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, and The Inn at Little Washington in northern Virginia, to larger resorts that are part of big-name luxury brands, such as the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton. More impressive still is The Broadmoor's reign: The Colorado Springs, Colorado, property has been a Five Diamond Award recipient for 42 consecutive years.

"Attaining a Five Diamond Rating is an exceptional accomplishment that signifies meticulous attention to detail, creativity in enhancing comfort, outstanding service and memorable guest experiences," Michael Petrone, director of AAA Inspections & Diamond Ratings, said in a news release. According to AAA, Five Diamond hotels must now offer more than luxurious amenities and outstanding service to stand out from the competition. "And as more mid-scale and even budget properties are adding amenities for comfort and convenience, hotels that aim for a Five Diamond Rating must stay far ahead of the curve to differentiate themselves through advanced design concepts, highest quality furnishings and scrupulous attention to guests' expectations," Petrone said.

[Read: Best Hotels in Canada.]

While not as selective as the Five Diamond Award list, the Four Diamond list features hotels that are considered top properties. In 2018, 126 new hotels were added to the Four Diamond list, including traveler favorites such as Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford, California, The Watergate Hotel in Washington, District of Columbia, the Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui in Maui, Hawaii, The Viceroy Chicago in Chicago, the Kimpton Aertson Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, the Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen and the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, British Columbia. What's more, a handful of hotels, such as The Westin Milwaukee, The Tennessean Hotel in Knoxville and Hotel LeVeque, Autograph Collection in Columbus, Ohio, earned Four Diamond recognition in their first year of operation. A total of 1,676 properties earned Four Diamond distinction this year.

New York City once again boasts the highest number of Four and Five Diamond awards, with 69 hotels earning accolades in 2018. Chicago has the next-highest count of total Diamond awards with 42, and Boston claims the third-highest count with 30 total Diamond awards. State-wise, California is home to the most Four and Five Diamond awards: In total, 189 hotels were honored.

[Read: Best Hotels in Mexico.]

To learn more about the Diamond Ratings or to view all of the Four and Five Diamond award recipients, visit AAA's website. For information on the 2018 U.S. News & World Report Best Hotels rankings, which use AAA Four and Five Diamond awards as part of the scoring formula, check back when the lists are released on Feb. 6.


7 Pop-Up Hotels Worth Traveling For

Check out the latest wave of here-for-now hotels.

Black Tomato

(Courtesy of Black Tomato)

For some, choosing a hotel is a far less important aspect of vacation-planning than deciding where to travel. But in recent years, pop-up hotels have been jumping on the glamping trend and enticing travelers to retreat to unexpected spaces and settings. After all, pop-up hotels have the advantage of accommodating guests in places that traditional hotels can't, immersing visitors in festival locations, national parks and other unique locations. Plus, temporary pop-ups appeal to eco-conscious globetrotters searching for accommodations that leave minimal impact on the environment. So, if you're toying with the idea of staying in an atypical retreat, read on to discover fleeting and worthwhile pop-up hotels worth traveling for.

Icehotel

Icehotel

Icehotel

(Courtesy of Asaf Kliger/ICEHOTEL)

Sweden

Founded in 1989, Icehotel is a seasonally operated pop-up hotel in northern Sweden, created by hand-carving artisans each winter for visitors looking for a home base to watch the northern lights. You can also venture to Icehotel 365, which is operational year-round and offers the chance to enjoy cocktails at the hand-carved icebar. Both destinations are set against the backdrop of mountains by the Torne River, one of Sweden's largest and virtually untouched rivers.

Black Tomato

Black Tomato

Black Tomato

(Courtesy of Black Tomato)

Worldwide

Black Tomato, an upscale travel company, recently unveiled a new concept: Blink, a temporary high-end hotel pop-up available in remote, hard-to-reach locations. Hotels are customized according to your desired location, from yurts to tropical villas to canvas accommodations, and they are available everywhere – from safari locations in Africa to ski destinations in Switzerland. Whether you want to travel to sand dunes in Morocco or the Bolivian Andes, Black Tomato can offer luxurious accommodations to fit your needs.

Terra Glamping

Terra Glamping

Terra Glamping

(Courtesy of Terra Glamping)

New York and California

Terra Glamping was founded in 2016 by a couple who produced glamping events with their tour company, TerraVelo Tours. The couple wanted to create a four-star hotel experience in enchanting natural settings, where guests lounge and sleep in high-end, safari-style tents. With Terra Glamping, you can spend days hiking and biking, before returning to a hot shower with s'mores under the stars. Terra Glamping offers locations in Northern California looking over the Pacific Ocean and in New York City's Fort Tilden, a seasonal beachside pop-up in Queens, New York.

Zandhotel

Zandhotel

Zandhotel

(Courtesy of Zandhotel)

The Netherlands

The Zandhotel in the Netherlands consists of two pop-up accommodations constructed completely out of sand and reinforced walls. The temporary retreats feature traditional amenities, including running water, showers and comfortable beds. The Zandhotel is also decorated with elaborate sand sculptures and boasts medieval touches. Best of all for budget-minded guests, nightly rates are comparable to a bed-and-breakfast.

The Pop-Up Hotel

The Pop-Up Hotel

Glamping at night

(Getty Images)

The United Kingdom

The Pop-Up Hotel's name says it all. The retreat enables festivalgoers to have a prime location and elevated lodging in the great outdoors. The first outpost debuted at the Glastonbury Festival in 2011, the U.K.'s largest music festival. Accommodations include everything from yurts to bell tents to canvas tents to Airstreams to huts. However, for events on the festival circuit, expect the price tag to match the scope of the event. Still, if you're willing to splurge, you can rest assured that you won't be roughing it as you enjoy an upscale glamping experience.

Snoozebox

Snoozebox

Shore crane loading containers in freight ship

(Getty Images)

The United Kingdom

Snoozebox offers portable accommodations for major events such as the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland and the Summer Olympics in London. Snoozebox uniquely specializes in using shipping containers as their prime portable accommodation, with the perk of air-conditioned spaces. While Snoozebox typically provides accommodations for events and festivals, it's also used commercially for work events across Europe.

The Nomad Pop-Up Hotel

The Nomad Pop-Up Hotel

Traditional canvas bell tent in sun dappled secluded glade of a deciduous wood.

(Getty Images)

Portugal

The Nomad is a pop-up hotel based in Portugal set in hard-to-reach countryside and coastline locations. If you want to embrace the spirit of a nomad, the company will meet you with canvas bell tents to create pop-up accommodations in an inspiring natural setting. Stay for a week or a season – it's up to you. You can take your pick from a rustic, no-frills tent or a temporary tent outfitted with electricity. Plus, you can enjoy a pop-up food truck service.

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Tags: travel, hotels, vacations


Hannah Cheney is an Editor for the Travel section at U.S. News, where she manages the annual Best Hotels product. She also frequently writes travel articles, slideshows and destination guides. Prior to joining U.S. News in 2015, Hannah worked for the travel books department of National Geographic, and had articles published in Men’s Health, Boston Magazine and Washingtonian magazine. Hannah is originally from Boston, where she earned her master’s degree in writing and publishing from Emerson College, but has happily called Washington, D.C. home since 2012. Follow Hannah on Twitter or email her at hcheney@usnews.com.

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