Fodor's Expert Review The Equus Hotel
1696 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, Hawaii, 96815, USA See on Map
This small hotel has been completely renovated with a Hawaiian country/paniolo theme that pays tribute to Hawaii's polo-playing history. It fronts busy Ala Moana Boulevard, on the ewa (western) end of Waikiki, and is one block from both Ala Moana Center and Ala Moana Beach Park. All rooms are equipped with refrigerators and coffeemakers; some have balconies and partial ocean views. The hotel has a swimming pool and offers free Wi-Fi. The front desk staff are happy to assist with driving directions to the polo playing fields at Mokuleia and Waimanalo, where guests receive free tickets in season (April–September).
Consider staying here during the polo season, April through August, in order to take advantage of their sister property perk. The hotel is owned by the same family that owns Hawaii Polo Club on the North Shore and invites guests of the hotel to visit with complimentary tickets to the matches on Sundays, with a special table reserved for Equus guests.
Sticking with the paniolo/horse theme throughout, the rooms feel a bit more like a nice lodge than a boutique hotel. Though the decor might not be everyone’s style, each room is quite comfy, with mini fridges, pillow-top mattresses, free Wi-Fi, Keurig coffee makers, and air conditioning. Some rooms have a small lanai and some have wet bars.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The street noise can get a bit loud. If you are a light sleeper, ask for a room on the back side of the hotel and/or one that is on a higher floor.
Bathrooms are small to moderately sized, depending on the room, with marble vanities, large mirrors, and standing tiled showers.
The horse theme runs really strong from the second you walk through the doors. The lobby is covered in wood paneling, with some outdated furnishings and decor and lots and lots of paintings and photos of horses.
The dipping pool area is a bit small, but can be nice to relax in or around with a drink from the bar.
Grab a coffee and a bite at Da Hi Brew from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. A favorite among locals and guests, they offer a standard cafe menu, all served up with a smile and a lovely lounging area next to the hotel pool.
In the evening the cafe transforms into the Paniolo Bar (open from 2 to 10 p.m.), featuring an equestrian theme to the cocktail menu and decor (saddles for seats definitely makes for a cowboy theme), with many drinks featuring ingredients from local breweries and distilleries.
Waikiki and surrounding areas are easily reachable from the airport by cab or rideshare. There is plenty to do in these areas without ever leaving (walking, biking, taking the bus, or hailing a car), so a rental car is only necessary if you want to explore other parts of the island.
Venture outside of your ramen comfort zone at Agu Ramen (5-min drive) by adding their signature “hot mess”--a heavy dose of parmesan--to your bowl. No really, it works! Their offerings include classic ramen bowls, options for vegans and vegetarians, and a ridiculously unctuous curry that will have you thinking about it for days. They also have a great happy hour at their multiple locations that includes 50% off appetizers and draft beers.
Without exaggeration, you will likely have the best omelet of your life at The Original Pancake House (13-min drive). Fluffy, huge, and stuffed with some unique items, they’re nothing if not memorable – and so is the décor. This strip mall offering sees Europe meet the Pacific at this German-styled restaurant with Portland roots and Hawaiian favorites like Spam and eggs and macadamia nut pancakes on the menu. They also brew up a damn fine cup of coffee.
If you’re in the mood for a bit of Irish aloha, Irish Rose Saloon (4-min drive) has nightly live music and that great pub feel that you’re looking for. It’s a true favorite among locals and visitors.
Though MAC 24/7 (9-min drive) is definitely a great place to grab a meal, especially breakfast, it’s their cocktails that we really love. Last call is at 3:30 a.m., so you can enjoy a nightcap with your late-night pancakes before heading back to your hotel. Fruity cocktails like the Frozen Mo’o and Lava Lava Rocks fill that island cocktails craving. They also have a great reverse happy hour from midnight to 3 a.m. (except Friday and Saturday), as well as a regular daily happy hour from 2 to 5 p.m.
WHY WE LIKE IT
This smaller, family-run hotel may not be large and luxurious, or even that modern, but it’s quiet, comfortable, and the staff make it as warm as can be. Though there is a resort fee, at $18 it is one of the lowest in the market. We also appreciate that they were one of the first Waikiki hotels to “go green” with a variety of initiatives.