AAA Diamonds Are Your Key to Streamlined Travel Planning

Choose from thousands of designated hotels and restaurants - there's a perfect match for every occasion

AAA has been helping travelers make informed decisions about where to stay and dine since 1937. If a restaurant or hotel has been approved to be part of the AAA Diamond Program, it’s guaranteed to meet high standards for cleanliness, service and more—whether it’s a budget option or a bucket list-level splurge.

The first formal rating system for listings in the famous AAA TourBook guides started in 1963. In 1976, the program evolved into the AAA Diamond Rating System for hotels. Restaurants became part of the program in 1985.

Each year, AAA Inspectors visit thousands of hotels and restaurants, and new establishments are added to the AAA Diamond lineup. (Check out some of 2023’s AAA Five Diamond hotels, Five Diamond restaurants, Four Diamond hotels and Four Diamond restaurants.) But what exactly are the AAA Diamond ratings? Read on to learn how they work.

Infographic showing that a diamond does not equal a star

AAA Diamonds are not the same as stars.

Many star rating systems are based on user reviews and include unacceptable choices. In contrast, the AAA Diamond designation is only given to hotels and restaurants that have passed AAA’s rigorous inspection process.

AAA hotel and restaurant ratings are a promise that visitors will receive a clean, comfortable experience.

We really mean it’s clean with the Inspected Clean designation.

The Inspected Clean designation means inspectors have swabbed high-touch surfaces to test them for adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—an energy-carrying molecule found in all living cells, including food sources, human skin cells, bacteria, yeast, mold and biological material found in respiratory droplets.

ATP monitoring is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is used in food service, education and health care environments.

While the test doesn’t provide direct identification of viruses, such as the one that causes COVID-19, it does allow for confirmation of properly cleaned surfaces.

Inspectors test surfaces in a selection of guest rooms and bathroom locations, which may include guest room door handles, light switches, thermostat controls, desk or refrigerator handles, faucet and toilet handles, hair dryers and vanity surfaces.


Hands holding a clipboard, checking off items in a list, with a hotel in the background

Surprise! AAA Inspectors make unannounced in-person visits to hotels and restaurants.

In a typical year, AAA Inspectors visit thousands of hotels and restaurants across North America—and they do it incognito. It’s important that visits be unannounced so inspectors get the same experience that you get as a guest. Plus, you can get insight into what they saw—and liked best—when you read AAA Inspector observations and comments online.

Do AAA Five Diamond hotel ratings mean those hotels are the cleanest?

All hotels and restaurants in the AAA Diamond Program must meet consistent guidelines for cleanliness and condition before they can be included in the program. Once those basic standards are met, the property is awarded with the appropriate AAA Diamond designation based on the type of experience it provide —from just the basics to world-class luxury.

Not every hotel or top-rated restaurant that AAA inspects meets basic standards.

AAA Inspectors are choosy about where they visit, and nearly 2,000 establishments each year fail to meet AAA’s basic requirements for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality.

AAA Diamond designations for restaurants reflect the level
of service, not food reviews.

AAA Inspectors only give approval to restaurants that serve high-quality food. The difference in AAA Diamond designation refers to the type of restaurant being inspected—from quick-serve and casual to luxurious fine dining with extraordinary service.

What does the Best of Housekeeping designation mean?

The Best of Housekeeping designation only goes to hotels that score in the top 25% for cleanliness and condition. That includes having no guest complaints in the past 12 months and an excellent housekeeping score for two consecutive inspections.

You can find these properties by using the Best of Housekeeping filter when you search AAA Diamond hotels.

Pull quote with diamond icon at top that says: AAA Inspectors only give approval to restaurants that serve high- quality food. The difference in Diamond designation refers to the type of restaurant.

Understanding AAA Diamond designations

Here’s a checklist for quick reference:


  • Approved: Noteworthy by meeting the industry-leading standards of AAA inspections.
  • Three Diamonds: Comprehensive amenities, style and comfort level.
  • Four Diamonds: Upscale style and amenities with the right touch of service.
  • Five Diamonds: World-class luxury, amenities and indulgence for a special experience.


  • Approved: Noteworthy by meeting the industry-leading standards of AAA inspections.
  • Three Diamonds: Trendy food skillfully presented in a remarkable setting.
  • Four Diamonds: Distinctive fine dining, well-served amid upscale ambiance.
  • Five Diamonds: Leading-edge cuisine, ingredients and preparation, with extraordinary service and surroundings.

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