Even These 5-Star Hotels on TripAdvisor Can Get Crappy Reviews

by SharonKurheg

Trip Advisor’s main business goal is to make money as an online travel agency. However thanks to its age (just shy 23 years) and size (reviews on roughly 8 million establishments), it’s also often used as a way to comparison shop for hotels (granted, you have to make sure you interpret reviews the right way so they help your research – here’s how).

Like many companies with long histories, TripAdvisor has evolved over the years. In its earlier days, they used to list “America’s Dirtiest Hotels” each year (well, until they got sued for $10M. Meanwhile some of the places are STILL OPEN!). Nowadays they focus more on naming “the best” instead of “the worst,” which is probably a smart thing.

TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice awards began in 2004. They’re based on reviews and ratings collected over the previous 12 months (along with an additional editorial process) and are broken down into various categories, including beaches, destinations, restaurants, things to do, and hotels.

The most recent Top 25 Hotels in the world, according to TripAdvisor’s most recent Travelers’ Choice Awards for hotels, including beautiful places in Costa Rica, Brazil, Greece, Türkiye, Switzerland, the Maldives, Belize, Indonesia, and Spain, just to name a few. However every single one of them has several reviews that range from “what a crappy hotel” (1 out of 5) to “meh” (3 out of 5).

Here are some of “those” reviews for the Top 5:

Tulemar Bungalows & Villas
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, #1 of 48 hotels in Manuel Antonio
Based on 4,967 reviews:
Location: 4.9
Cleanliness: 4.9
Service: 4.9
Value: 4.7
Except from these people (caveat: of those who gave a rating of “1/5 “Terrible” ALL were from 2007 through 2013):
  • We stayed at the Garden House for 9 nights with another couple. We were shown all of the workings of the house except for the alarm system. We were told later that the alarm was not working. No amount of comfort is worth the angst that a robbery produces. In addition, we were sleeping just a few feet away during the robbery! Thankfully, we were not physically harmed. The police saw no sign of forced entry. iPhones, iPads and computers were stolen as were a TV and DVR. Neither Tulemar nor the house owner, Beverly, made any gesture of recompense. We have since discovered that others staying at the Garden house were also robbed but in their case were refunded the cost of their stay. For a community that is advertised as safe this is intolerable.
    Under no circumstances would we return. Others should be warned about Tulemar and specifically the Garden House. — Barbara L., March 2013
  • I read some of these glowing reviews and decided we would stay at Tulemar when we go to Manuel Antonio in 4 months. I talked to Julien and he told me which rooms were available for the four nights. He had to check on something and get back to me the next day. When he did, I decided to book what he offered and as soon as I tried, he then told me that the someone else had “just” booked that room. He offered me another room and when I called back the next morning, I spoke to Shay who said it was available so I emailed my credit card information. She then emailed me later to say that the room was actually already booked by someone else. She offered me to stay in one bungalow for one night, then switch for 2 days to Panorama, then switch back to a bungalow for the last night. Sorry, on my relaxing vacation with my family I was not going to switch rooms two times in 4 days. Then Dave emailed me to say “This is a very busy booking season…..there are six of us in Costa Rica that work with the inquiries and two in the US…..Julien and Shay were trying to find options for your dates……availability changes quickly and sometimes mistakes are made when checking the calendars.” He said the only option available was the two bedroom villa which sleeps 8 and costs $605/night instead of Panorama which was $255. So beware when trying to book a room. After trying to deal with this unprofessional place and then coming back and reading some of the poor reviews, I’m glad I’m not staying there. Hotel Parador and Arenas Del Mar come more highly recommended. — xoToTravel, March 2012
  • …The screens on the doors and windows were separating from their wood frames.
    Half of the overhead spot lights were burned out.
    There were two shower heads (no tub) one shower head had no water pressure and the other shower head was about to fall out of the wall.
    There was a big old red plunger next to the black toliet, I thought this was a particularly nice touch-Mot-NOT!
    A black toliet and sink really ugly and nasty. And the black toliet was not even bolted onto the floor.
    An old blue broom hanging off of the back of the bathroom door.
    Dust galour.
    The furniture on the deck was worn and old and the cane chairs would have pierced if you had sat on one.
    The mattresses were old and lumpy.
    The bedding the worst I have ever slept on anywhere. The pillows were smelly and the sheets as well. It’s hard to believe someone would even buy sheets this crummy. Hard to believe they even make sheets this awful.
    On our first night I did not even have a sheet on my bed, (there are two queens rather than one king) nope, just the mattress pad.
    We were supposed to stay 4 nights but after two we moved to the Buena Vista next door. What a big improvement over Tulemar Mot Not. I would have moved after the first night but BV had a wedding party in house and could not accomodate us right away.
    The condo’s at Tulemar have individual owners and each owner is responsible for the care of their particular unit. Shame on this owner for letting their property fall into such disrepair. Really, I could not get out of there fast enough. — stunner, May 2007
Hotel Colline de France
Gramado, Brazil, #1 of 114 hotels in Gramado
Based on 2,999 reviews:
Location: 4.9
Cleanliness: 5.0
Service: 5.0
Value: 4.9
Gotta say, of the 2,999 reviews, 2,993 rate this hotel as Excellent, and 6 rate it as Very Good. Good for them!
Ikos Aria
Kefalos, Greece, #1 of all 1 all-inclusives in Kefalos
Based on 1,928 reviews:
Location: 4.9
Cleanliness: 5.0
Service: 5.0
Value: 4.9
Except for these people, who gave it a “3/5 Average” review:
  • We returned home on Monday 9th May from our 10 Night stay at the Aria. Sadly the Aria did not live up to our expectations (after having stayed twice at the Ikos Olivia). Before my review I must mention how WINDY this island is and if we’d have known this beforehand we would not have gone (as due to a traumatic event in my early years I cannot cope with high winds any more and it was very very windy and the wind was especially cold in the evening).
    Most of the restaurants are open to the wind which spoilt the meals as we were so cold and although there are roof heaters in them these were not used, don’t know why. In all the restaurants we tried the waiting time to be served was way too long and again we found this unacceptable and only the Pizza in the Fresco was served hot, all the other servings were lukewarm at best (not good). So we spent most of our meal times in Flavours which was very, very good. The service was excellent, especially Anna who was brilliant, and although the food was good again it wasn’t very hot but we asked for these to be heated up in the microwave in their back kitchen and the staff had no problems doing this for us (as I like my food very hot). The staff are amazing and nothing in the resort is too much trouble for them (but they could NOT sort the problem of the very slow service in the restaurants even though we were told twice that they would by a Manager). We were not the only guests complaining about the service being very poor in the restaurants. Whilst there we met a lovely couple with two adorable very young children and they told us that they had stayed at this resort in 2019 and they found it exceptional then but they said how it had gone down hill this time. The hotel is situated in a beautiful spot and the grounds are amazing and very well kept and the groundsmen do an amazing job at keeping them immaculate. Just an advisory note though, if you visit the fabulous and interesting ruins which are located on the beach front towards the far end of the resort, be very careful if you have young children with you at the time as I was bitten by something, don’t know what by, but the bites (I had two puncture marks just above my ankle) were deep enough to have blood running down my foot and although I was not ill, my ankle and foot were really swollen for two days. Also we were supposed to have room service every day but we didn’t have any on a Saturday and late on the Sunday afternoon we had to ring reception to have our room cleaned that day…not good. Sorry but another gripe is that having paid just under £6000 for our holiday I don’t think we should have had to request (daily from reception) to have coffee, tea bags, sugar, cream pots topped up, surely this should be done every day without asking and we also had to request (again at reception) toilet rolls as they had run out and room service had not been for over a day and a half. The pools (although we don’t use them) looked amazing and families and children were catered for. The suite was amazing as was the complex. Sadly the wind and the other problems did spoil our holiday and we would definitely NOT visit this island again. We are due to stay in the Ikos Dassia (Corfu) in October this year, but due to our poor holiday experience this time, we have reduced the Dassia from 10 nights down to 7 nights…and I am really hoping that this island is not windy. — pamhardman80, May, 2022
  • Firstly I’d like to start with the good points. Staff and front of house were amazing. Had a problem with our suite and it’s was sorted out immediately thanks to Desponia. There wasn’t much to dislike about this hotel other than the amount of small children of a night. There were no adult areas (ie Piano Bar) to escape the amount of crying children. The restaurants also the same. Before everyone wants to hang me I’m definitely not anti children and yes my children were once that age, but respect comes from both sides. I also wouldn’t join the Ikos Aria FB website as you’ll only see positive plus comments… If you dare put a comment referring to children crying the you’ll be deleted as I was and not allowed to put a reply. — Betty-Ann W, October, 2019
  • We are big fans of the IKOS brand having stayed at other resorts in Greece over past years. They hold the reputation as the best 5 star all inclusive resorts in Europe.
    However we have just returned from Ikos Aria in Kos and have to say it was very disappointing. Its only been open 6 weeks, so many of their shortcomings will be rectified, but some can’t be. For example the hotel and bungalows look ugly and too much grey concrete. Bungalows are positioned in front of Flavours, Provence, Seasons and Kos restaurants blocking any sea views, Very few gardens and trees. The beach has no character or style. No beach bar only a drinks station to serve the beach beds. Pool bars are small and have uncomfortable chairs. Access steps to hotel have no handrails and can be slippy. My wife fell and hurt herself quite badly one morning. We stayed in a lovely hotel room. Beautiful furnishing and equipment. However the cleaning service was poor. 3 days it was after 5pm and one day missed and we had to ask for towels to shower for the evening. The glass patio doors and balcony were dirty and not cleaned. The mini bar replenishment was not daily and we had to call for items on a couple of occasions. The air conditioning was poor only dispensing cooling near the bathroom leaving the bedroom hot. It will be a nightmare in summer. We ate in each of the 7 restaurants and only Provence was up to standard. At Ouzo we waiting 50 minutes for a main course served cold. Each restaurant failed on food quality. The best was Flavours buffet.
    The staff and service was excellent, the best you will find in any 5 star hotel.
    However the biggest disappointment is the huge amount of uncontrolled children. screaming and crying in restaurants as late as 10pm and midnight in lobby bar. running, playing hide and seek through the bar. The hotel imposes no curfew on children in public areas at night. They run wild whist “30 something” parents drink in large groups. Very bad parenting.
    Ikos Aria can ( and will) fix many of these issues but this hotel is not their best. — Jimmywanderer, June 2019
Romance Istanbul Hotel
Istanbul, Turkiye, #2 of 2,551 hotels in Istanbul
Based on 3,284 reviews:
Location: 5.0
Cleanliness: 4.9
Service: 5.0
Value: 4.9
Except for these people (First one gave it a “2/5. Poor,” rest said it was “3/5, Average”)
  • (Translated from French) Didn’t like · The only positive thing is the location, everything else really nothing extraordinary, hotel too expensive, breakfast charged at 20 euros for 1 person, for this price you can eat like a king in the small restaurants around. Above all, do not look at the hotel bill on Booking, because during breakfast a hotel person almost begged me to put a good bill, she asks you for your laptop to do it herself, and that’s besides this note that attracted me to this hotel! — Alieva M, October 2022
  • We paid for an upgrade – supposedly the best room in the hotel. One of the features was a jacuzzi which didn’t work properly throughout our 4 night. Flooded badly and made bathroom unsafe, despite reassurances it had been fixed. After refusing the standard Turkish apology of a fruit platter and a bottle of wine, my partner – after much discussion – got a refund of half the premium he’d paid. He was disappointed as this was a surprise for me. If this was the best room , I wasn’t impressed. Ear plugs were available in the bathroom I guess for the noisy trams we could hear well into the night. The terrace was large but mixed weather meant limited use – not the hotel’s fault I know. Staff were friendly but just couldn’t fix the bathroom. Nice process for check-in and afternoon tea was a nice touch. Breakfast was unremarkable and the photos of choices on the hot menu bore no resemblance to reality. Disappointing. — j7jpc, September 2022
  • Although our taxi dropped us 100 mtrs short of the hotel as the road in front is one-way, the location is very good and taxis come up till behind the hotel if they are aware. I reached the hotel at the standard check-in time but was told that the room is not ready. Had to wait for around 45 minutes however the staff was very friendly and helpful.
    I loved the room decor and breakfast is below average for vegetarian folks. Our advance request for some vegetarian options was not arranged.
    Giving an average rating for these small issues. — ragzv, October 2019
Zermatt, Switzerland, #1 of 109 hotels in Zermatt
Based on 1,366 reviews:
Location: 4.9
Cleanliness: 5.0
Service: 4.9
Value: 4.6
Except for these people, who rated it as “2/5, Poor” (Note: they were written in 2012 and 2007, respectively):
  • Situated Perched under the mountain on the less glamourous matterhorn shy west Side of zermatt. This bizarre place with confused architecture mixes expensive touches with cheap Swiss office furniture in the lobby. Rooms are cold and soulless and very poor. mattress and bathroom from formula 1 hotel! best idiotic features are rooms with letters only but phones with numbers so how do you call and lifts that you can only reach by using a flight of industrial stairs. In short do not believe the hype and stay elsewhere. — effra
    (Note: 5 years later, in April 2012, the Managing Director of THE OMNIA replied to this person who was obviously not impressed with their stay)
  • I agree with much of what other people have written. The hotel is truly beautiful and the setting fantastic. Rooms, and especially beds are a dream. However, during our three night stay there were a number of niggles.
    Staff training overall is poor for a hotel that prices itself firmly in the 5 star category, although some individual members were exceptional, especially the night manager/receptionist who organized us a sandwich when we arrived after midnight when room-service ends.
    Specific issues included:
    Housekeeping coming into our suite unannounced during the mornings. No ‘do not disturb’ sign is provided for the door. Eventually, having got out of bed 6 times in the space of two hours to let staff know we were in the room trying to sleep, we had to go down to reception and get a door sign ourselves.
    Complimentary shampoo etc were not replenished during our stay. Room servicing was patchy. Dirty plates left from our room service sandwich the night before were ignored by the person who made up our room the next morning, and were eventually removed on request that evening.
    Arrival and departure both involved standing for 15 minutes on the street outside the hotel surrounded by luggage. On arrival the hotel’s own taxi was busy so I was told to take a public taxi and claim the fare back. Unfortunately public taxis are not allowed on the street where the hotel entrance is during the day. It took 3 phone-calls to the hotel before someone came down to help me carry my luggage from where the taxi deposited me. On the way home we were sent down to the taxi before it arrived which happened 15 minutes later. Fortunately we were not under pressure to make a train – it could have been a disaster.
    Breakfast choices are quite limited, and the supplements a bit cheeky when we were paying CHF800 per night for the room. Another gripe is that the staff pack up the buffet very promptly…and then vanish to have their own breakfast on the other side of the dining room. This means that if you come down near the end of the breakfast time there is no way to get another cup of coffee etc should you want to linger.
    The spa is fantastic, but not properly staffed in the evening so while we had it to ourselves for a heavenly afternoon, when we returned in the evening all the loungers were covered in used towels even though most of the people that had used them were long gone.
    This hotel has the potential to be truly amazing, but overall attention to detail needs to be improved.

So what can I say? Sure, some of the complaints are legit; if your room was burglarized (like this guy, who caught his burglar in the act), that’s an issue. But complaining about how windy a place was? The noises kids make in a kid-friendly resort? The price (they didn’t know how much it cost before they booked?)?  Except for the people whose room was robbed, I can’t take any of those complaints seriously – with just a little more research, they could have known that perhaps “that place” wasn’t a place for them.

But yeah – even those fancy 5-star places still get their share of complaints.

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1 comment

Jacob January 26, 2023 - 11:16 pm

OMG…TripAdvisor…How could you be so positive about them? They have totally ruined their website and destroyed their credibility. Look at their just released Top Hotels article. The two that were included are both average to mediocre no-name hotels. Bali has a ton of great hotels like the Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Aman, Raffles, Jumeirah, etc to name just a few and none of the best hotels made it on their list. If you do a simple search of Best hotels in Bali, the top 10 are nothing but mediocre hotels and none of the best hotels are in the top 10 list. The only speculation I have is that they paid to get a high ranking. In the past, TripAdvisor was fantastic, but now they won’t list the really good hotels at the top of the list. None of the hotel brands I listed above were even in the top 100!


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