It's neither easy nor entirely fair to review a hotel that is still in the process of renovation. It's even more difficult when the hotel is undergoing a re-branding as well. Such is the case with The Equus which was brought into the Aqua Hotels and Resorts family in late 2006 and which has undergone a $2 million renovation.
While The Equus still had some areas where attention was needed at the time of my stay in May 2007, the work that had been completed had a number of positive aspects that make The Equus a nice alternative to some of the better known Waikiki properties.
Introduction to Aqua Hotels and Resorts and The Equus
For those unfamiliar with the Aqua brand, it was formed in 2001 by hotelier Michael Paulin to manage and operate hotels and hotel-condominiums in Hawaii. In the short five years since the company's inception, it has grown and currently manages ten properties in Waikiki. Paulin is the recognized founding father of the "Condotel" resort concept in Hawaii. He is currently the senior lodging executive in Waikiki, actively involved in Hawaii's visitor industry for over 40 years.
The Equus is located at 1696 Ala Moana Boulevard across the street from the Hawaii Prince Hotel and within easy walking distance of the Ala Moana Center, Ala Moana Beach Park, the Hawaii Convention Center and Ft. Derussy Park. It is the smallest of the Aqua brand properties with just 68 guest rooms.
The Equus is owned by Mike Daily, a member of a long-time kamaaina family. Daily previously operated the hotel as the Hawaii Polo Inn. Daily is also president of the Hawaii Polo Club located on Oahu's North Shore.
As part of the $2 million renovation, all hotel guest rooms are being redesigned with a "fresh; Ralph Lauren meets upcountry Hawaii / paniolo look and feel."
In commenting on the re-branding and renovation of the property, Daily stated, "Aqua is the leader in bringing the boutique concept to Waikiki and that's exactly what we were looking for as we prepared to reintroduce our product to the marketplace.
Many Positives as a Result of Redesign
I was very impressed by the room redesign which included new bedding, in-room high-speed internet and WiFi, free local and toll-free telephone calls, coffee maker, large mini-refrigerator, flat screen TV and impressive bathroom with walk-in shower.
I also found the staff to be friendly and eager to be helpful. During my stay the hotel was encountering problems with their high-speed internet and the staff worked to have the problem fixed as quickly as possible with their vendor and kept me posted on the progress.
The location of the hotel, while not along the more popular Kalakaua Avenue part of Waikiki, was perfect for me since I was spending considerable time downtown as well as elsewhere on the island. With its location near the Ala Moana Center, you are able to avoid the heavier traffic along Kalakaua Avenue, Kuhio Avenue and Ala Wai Boulevard. The hotel is also just minutes from on ramps to the H1 freeway and the Pali and Likilike Highways.
Room rates at The Equus are amazingly affordable, around $120 per night at this writing with additional discounts and specials available. This is 1/3 to 1/4 of the rates found at some of the higher priced hotels in Waikiki.
Guests of The Equus are eligible for a 50% discount on a personalized trail ride which starts at the Hawaii Polo Club's Mokuleia Polo Field and wanders through the ironwood forests, naupaka shrubs and along the beach on Oahu's stunning North Shore.
Areas Still in Need of Work
There are a few areas where The Equus could still use some work and a few areas that are simply inconvenient and to which I am unaware of any easy solutions.
Unless you are fortunate enough to have arranged parking directly under the hotel, most parking is in the parking garage of the Aqua property directly behind The Equus. This makes for a long walk from your car to your room.
While the rooms have been wonderfully renovated, the common areas of the hotel are unimpressive and tired looking. The exterior hallways from the elevator to each room are painted concrete block. The front desk and small lobby area are somewhat dark and in need of sprucing up.
A number of the amenities listed in the Aqua guest book in each room have not yet been implemented at the hotel. One afternoon I rushed back from the North Shore to attend the manager's cocktail reception only to learn that there was no such thing at The Equus. I was advised that several similar items are still in the process of being introduced.
Of most concern, the hotel lobby is located on the second level. In order to reach the lobby you need to walk up a short flight of stairs from the sidewalk. This is a problem if you have several bags and do not want to leave a bag sitting on the sidewalk while you take the others up the steps. There is no bell service to help with your bags. The hotel is not accessible to those with disabilities.
The Bottom Line
Weighing the positives along with the negatives I would definitely recommend that you consider The Equus for your next stay on Oahu. It's not a resort hotel and does not pretend to be so. It is a reasonably priced, conveniently located property with great rooms and plenty of amenities. It does have some drawbacks which are more aesthetics or an inconvenience than a major deal stopper.
For a visitor who plans to spend most of his or her time elsewhere on Oahu and who wants a clean, secure room with modern amenities, The Equus is an excellent choice.
Note: This review was completed based on a stay in May 2007. The renovation of The Equus has since been completed and I am told that many of the issues I mentioned have been addressed.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary lodging for the purpose of reviewing The Equus. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.