These are the San Diego hotels that nabbed five-star ratings in 2020

Rancho Valencia, Fairmont Grand Del Mar and Aviara once again nab multiple five-star accolades


San Diego’s top luxury hotels have managed to hold onto their yearly five-star rankings from two of the lodging industry’s more prestigious travel organizations.

In the latest ratings released Thursday by the Forbes Travel Guide, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in Rancho Santa Fe, the Fairmont Grand Del Mar in Carmel Valley and the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad received the top five-star ratings. They were among just 19 five-star hotels in California.

Those three San Diego County hotels, plus The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, also were selected as five-diamond properties by AAA. There are only 17 hotels in California that secured this year’s five-diamond level.

Both Forbes and AAA maintain rigorous standards for their selection process and both rely on thorough, unannounced inspections.

In its announcement, Forbes highlighted the annual review process, noting that its “incognito” inspectors check into the hotels for a minimum of two nights and subsequently test up to 900 standards, “including whether a staff member greets them curbside within 30 seconds of arrival, whether clothing left around a room is folded neatly or draped and placed within immediate view after turn-down service, and whether the staff uniforms demonstrated exceptional design.”

Similarly, five-diamond designees from AAA undergo in-person inspections, followed by a review by a panel of experts. According to AAA, the upper echelon properties represent just 0.4 percent of the nearly 27,000 AAA-diamond establishments — both hotels and restaurants — across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

As in past overall rankings, Addison, located within the Grand Del Mar, was the only restaurant in San Diego County to receive a top ranking from both Forbes and AAA. Last year, Addison received a coveted Michelin star, the only restaurant in the county to earn such an accolade. Rancho Valencia and Grand Del Mar also have the distinction of nabbing five-star designations from Forbes for their spas.

The hotels that end up with the uppermost rankings typically train their staffs to go above and beyond normal expectations for treating guests, anticipating their needs well in advance of a special request.

Geoff Gray, the general manager of the Aviara resort, recalled a recent occasion where a family was celebrating their 5-year-old son’s birthday at the hotel. The staff knew the young boy was a big fan of “Toy Story,” so the pastry team created a custom birthday cake decorated with “Toy Story” characters, including his favorite, Woody.

“The cake was waiting for him when he checked in, along with brand new Woody toys for him,” Gray recalled. “Here and at all the five-star properties, they are creating those very personal moments and connections with guests. Luxury is personal, so we try to make people feel like they’re not just another guest in the midst of everything.”

The Aviara is currently undergoing a $50 million renovation to all its rooms, public spaces, meeting facilities, dining venues, and spa, which will be completed by the summer. The golf course will also get a redo, starting this fall.

Forbes also gave out four-star rankings for select properties, and just two San Diego County hotels made that list — The Lodge at Torrey Pines and the US Grant in downtown San Diego.

Within the AAA rankings, there were 23 San Diego County properties that received four diamonds.