Forget five-star hotels.
AAA recently announced its annual Five Diamond Award list, which consists of 121 hotels in North America that are the definition of luxury and service. Only the top 0.4% of the more than 27,000 AAA inspected and approved hotels across North America are given this distinction.
With the right loyalty program, you might be able to book a night by redeeming points instead of paying premium rates. Marriott Rewards members can use their points for stays at the St. Regis luxury hotels, five of which are on AAA’s Five Diamond list. Stays at the St. Regis in Mexico City, a new addition to the list this year, start at 50,000 points per night.
» Learn More: How to score luxury travel for less
Some independent hotels like Hotel Emma are part of the I Prefer Hotel Rewards program, which is free to join and lets guests earn and redeem points at more than 650 hotels worldwide.
If you can’t book the hotel you want as part of your rewards program, check out the hotel’s website for special promotions. It might be able to get you more perks for the regular price, like free breakfast or parking. Another option is to check out the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection.
Anyone with a Visa Signature card is eligible to book on the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection website. Cardholders receive perks like the best available rate guarantee, free room upgrade and breakfast, complimentary in-room Wi-Fi and a $25 food or beverage credit.
Here are the newcomers to the list in 2019:
1. Baccarat Hotel New York
As more non-hospitality companies enter the hotel business, the 250-year-old French glass company Baccarat rises above with its lavish space in Midtown. The Baccarat Hotel New York opened with much fanfare in 2015, and the Baccarat crystal chandeliers did not disappoint. AAA gave high praise for the grandiose design, the lively restaurant and bar and the engaging service.
2. Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
This resort on the beautiful Riviera Maya coast blends the best of its unique resources. The architecture is a mix of Asian and Mexican influences, and it’s seamlessly integrated with the natural tropical landscape. Some cool perks include units with steam rooms and an interactive Mayan dinner.
3. Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver, Canada
If you want bells and whistles in your hotel room, this luxury Vancouver hotel is the place to stay. The rooms have incredible views and guests can control the lights, drapes and TV with the click of a button.
4. Hotel Emma, San Antonio, Texas
One AAA inspector described this brewhouse-turned-luxury-hotel “as much a museum as it is a hotel.” Reclaimed items from the 1894 Pearl’s Brewery were crafted into furnishings for the space, including enormous ammonia compressors used as cushiony private love chairs and tanks and tank legs used in the décor. Guests at Hotel Emma are also treated to luxurious robes, slippers and linens.
5. Montage Los Cabos, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
It seems like you could stay forever in this resort’s impressive infinity-edge pools that seem to continue out to the ocean. Other water features include bathrooms with both indoor and outdoor showers. When Montage Los Cabos guests are ready for the big blue, a secluded beach is right outside.
6. NIZUC Resort & Spa, Cancun, Mexico
On the opposite coast of Mexico lies another beautiful beachfront resort. The decor is Mayan-inspired and there’s live music at least three nights a week. Vacationers can choose between two beaches at the NIZUC resort, one with crashing waves and another with low surf that’s good for families.
7. Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Rosewood San Miguel de Allende is a colonial-style hacienda. The guest rooms feature a fireplace and a terrace. Guests can also hang out in the gardens, pools and the rooftop tapas bar.
8. The Dominick Hotel, New York
This SoHo hotel is decidedly modern. AAA inspectors were impressed by the swanky Italian furnishings, impressive artworks and marble bathrooms.
9. The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston
No expense was spared on the amenities at this Houston hotel. If the fine quality bed linens, robes, slippers and bath products don’t make guests feel pampered, the deep soaking tub and TV in the bathroom will. Guestrooms also feature technology like an in-room computer tablet, electronically operated window curtains and ambient lighting.
10. The St. Regis Mexico City
The St. Regis collection is known for high-end properties and this Mexico City location is no exception. The view is stunning, the rooms are spacious and there’s even a butler assigned to each room.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Premium travel rewards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
7 guaranteed ways to find cheap hotel rooms
NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards
Which award-winning hotels gives you the best value?