On Friday, AAA released its lists of Four- and Five-Diamond award-winning hotels.

With its team of inspectors, AAA has been evaluating hotels since 1976. The Diamond Rating is one of the few appraisal systems that rely on physical on-site inspections, and the only one that covers Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean in addition to the United States. Using the company's published guidelines, AAA inspectors score each hotel based on cleanliness, comfort, security, and available services and amenities. Each establishment is then assigned a Diamond Rating between one and five, five being the best.

For the 2012 Diamond Ratings, 31,000 establishments qualified. However, only 3.8 percent of those hotels and restaurants earned a Four-Diamond award, and an even smaller 0.3 percent received the elusive Five-Diamond Award.

This year, 1,491 hotels throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean made AAA's list of Four Diamond award recipients, 190 of which were new recipients. In comparison, only 126 hotels scored high enough to earn a Five Diamond award, nine of which were new recipients. And while an impressive 95 hotels have been able to hold onto their Four Diamonds for 25 years or more, only five properties have managed to do the same on the Five Diamond List.

Although Four- and Five-Diamond award winners are found throughout the United States, three states stand out with the largest number of rated hotels: California with 19 Five Diamonds and 178 Four Diamonds; Florida with 11 Five Diamonds and 131 Four Diamonds; and New York with eight Five Diamonds and 60 Four Diamonds. Although New York City, Las Vegas, and Atlanta can all boast the largest numbers of Five Diamond hotels, these major metropolitan areas are closely flanked in numbers by Scottsdale, Ariz., home to five of AAA's best hotels in the country.

To learn more about Diamond Ratings, visit the AAA website.

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