Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The Equus is an odd duck. Er, horse. Looking at its website, you might envision a secluded, sun-dappled ranch far from the Waikiki strip. It touts its "equestrian roots," "Ralph Lauren-inspired decor," and unique features like free polo tickets and guided beachfront horseback rides.
In reality, the 10-story, 67-room hotel is on a noisy commercial thoroughfare across the street from the water (but not the beach) in Waikiki -- but mostly blocked by a taller hotel. And it looks a bit like a parking garage from the outside and like a middle school (replete with cinderblock walls and industrial glass sliding doors) on the inside. The small pool is surrounded by tall buildings and parking lots so that it's perpetually in the shade.
But the hotel does have its special boutique charms. The small staff is warm and friendly. The horse theme was dreamt up by the longtime owner, a polo aficionado, and manifests itself in historic photographs of polo players and Hawaiian cowboys on the walls, and interesting equine-themed furniture in the lobby and in some rooms. The small lobby includes a lovely terrace with umbrellas and tables. All rooms have a palette of crisp whites, yellows, and reds with appropriately equestrian brown leather touches, but eight rooms feature a more tropical theme, allowing guests some diversity of choice.
Compared with other Aqua properties, including the Park Shore, The Palms, and Waikiki Wave, the ambience of the Equus feels a bit more staid and grown-up, perhaps owing to its smaller size and proximity to business areas. To be sure, it's cheaper than the Hawaii Prince across the street and the Aqua Palms around the corner, but it also has less to offer. Unless, of course, you're a horse enthusiast.
A small, friendly staff offers limited services. No official concierge, but the front-desk staff does its best to help guests out. A weekly manager's cocktail party puts everyone on a first-name basis.
The hotel staff is warm and friendly, but also just a step above skeleton. There is always at least one person at the front desk, but there is no official concierge (the front desk does a good job of offering ideas and information, however). There is also a weekly manager's cocktail party, which is held in the lobby.
Noisy, convenient for those with cars, and about a 10-minute walk to Waikiki beach, the convention center, and Hawaii's nicest shopping mall. Across from the water, but blocked by taller buildings.
The Equus is on busy Ala Moana Boulevard among Waikiki's high-rise hotels, motels, and condos. The location is semi-convenient to the beach, shopping, and the convention center, but the setting is less than picturesque. For guests with cars, the hotel's location on the western edge of Waikiki makes it a lot easier to get around the island without the traffic snarls of central Waikiki. Garage parking costs $18 a day.
The hotel is across the street from the Hawaii Prince Hotel and the Waikiki Marina. Waikiki Beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village is about three blocks and a 10-minute walk. The enormous Ala Moana Shopping Center is 5 to 10 minutes further down Ala Moana, and there is more beach swimming across from it at Ala Moana Beach Park.
The hotel is about a 15-minute cab ride from Honolulu International Airport.
Two beaches -- one action-packed, one quiet -- are each a 10-minute walk in opposite directions.
Though the water is right across the street at the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor, the two cloeset swimming beaches are each about 10 minutes away. The Equus is an equidistant walk from the Fort DeRussy section of Waikiki and Ala Moana Beach Park. The park is quiet, grassy, and doesn't allow vendors or concessions.
To get to Fort DeRussy Beach and the public lagoon at Hilton Hawaiian Village, guests must walk down and across hot, congested Ala Moana Boulevard.
Although the Fort DeRussy section of Waikiki Beach is far less crowded than its more famous neighbor to the southeast, Queen's Beach, it's still relatively packed with beachgoers, water-sports rental stands, and umbrellas. The water is shallow, warm, and calm, making Fort DeRussy a decent place to swim, especially for kids. But the ocean bottom is a bit rocky, so tread gingerly. Lifeguards monitor the beach throughout the day.
The hotel provides guests free towels, but you'll need to rent umbrellas, chairs, and water-sports equipment from one of the many stands that dot the beach.
Rooms are generally clean, comfortable and stylish, with dark wood accents, flat-screen TVs, and a sophisticated color palette. But for some guests this may not compensate for the industrial-looking, glass balcony doors, cinder-block balconies, and external hallways that give the place an institutional feel. The views, meanwhile, are lackluster.
About 59 of the rooms have what the hotel calls a "Ralph Lauren-inspired" decor, while eight others have colorful and tropical decor. Fabrics in soft shades of yellow and red complement dark wood antique furniture and equestrian-themed lamps and artwork.
Free polo tickets and discounted beachfront trail rides make the Equus unique, but the pool gets little sunlight, and there is no gym on site.
Features at the Equus are certainly a little off-beat. On-site, there's little more than a pool. But the hotel does provide free tickets to polo matches during the polo season (April to August). And guests receive a 30% discount off beachfront trail rides at the Hawaii Polo Club. The catch: Guests are responsible for getting themselves to the Polo Club on the North Shore (about a 45-minute car ride).
On its own, the pool is reasonably large and attractive. But zoom out a notch, and you realize it's completely surrounded by tall buildings and parking lots. Construction noise and traffic sounds drift in from every direction. And the water is quite cold, and the area is in perpetual shade. There aren't even any lounge chairs by the pool. Guests may lounge at the pool next-door (across another parking lot) at the Aqua Waikiki Marina condo.
For a fee, guests can get a pass to work out at the 24-Hour Fitness gym 10 minutes down the road at the Ala Moana Center. The hotel also has a partnership with nearby Spa Hawaii, which provides free transportation to guests.
A boutique hotel on a busy road, 10 minutes from the beach, with no on-site restaurant is less than ideal for kids. There are far more family-friendly places elsewhere in Waikiki.
With smallish, modern rooms and a location on a very busy street, the Equus isn't exactly the most kid-friendly place in Waikiki, or even along Ala Moana. Cribs are charged per day; rollaway beds are not available. Furthermore, the pool is small and cold, and the beach is about a 10-minute walk, across busy Ala Moana Boulevard. The lack of an on-site restaurant is also less than ideal, although family-friendly chains like Red Lobster and Outback Steakhouse are nearby.
On the plus side, the hotel does provide a nice, free continental breakfast buffet with assorted pastries, fruit, coffee and juice.
A hard-working maintenance and housekeeping staff keeps rooms and common areas pristine.
No restaurant on-site, but more than ten eating options within a block, and dozens more just steps beyond that.
The Equus does not have a restaurant on-site, but provides full breakfast at a nearby restaurant in some packages.
Many other restaurants are within walking distance, the closest being McDonald's and Starbucks half a block away. Red Lobster and Outback Steakhouse are across the street. And a number of inexpensive local dining options can be found in the small shopping center behind McDonald's, including the highly recommended (and cheap) Aloha Sushi. Margaritas Beach Bar on the same block serves delicious fish tacos.
The hotel's owner heartily recommends the Chart House Restaurant across the street in the marina, maintaining it has both "the best happy hour in town" (including live music and hula dancers) and "the best blackened Ahi in the state." Guests who stay in the Executive Suites earn a dining credit at the Chart House.
Member of Green Hotels Association since 1997
The Equus has been a member of the Green Hotels Association since 1997. According to the management, this requires regulation of water flow, use of eco-friendly cleaning materials, and recycling. The hotel also keeps air-conditioners in all unused rooms turned off.
This 67-room boutique along noisy Ala Moana Boulevard isn't much to look at. And though the ocean is across the street, views of it are mostly blocked by taller buildings. But the rooms are stylish; the small staff is friendly and accommodating; the beach, the business district, and shopping are all within walking distance; and the rates are reasonable.