Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightAqua Hotels & Resorts officials took over day-to-day operations at the former Lotus at Diamondhead Hotel on July 18, bringing the management company’s Hawaii property total to 16.



“It’s easily one of the four or five most prominent, true boutique hotel assets in Hawaii,” Ben Rafter, Aqua’s president and CEO, said of the Lotus. “We’ve had our eye on it for years, because we think it represents the intimacy that we look for in a boutique hotel, especially an upscale one.”

Sold recently for $18.5 million to the Japanese investment group N2885, the 51-room property will now be called the Aqua Lotus Honolulu and is in the initial stages of a $2 million renovation to its guestrooms, restaurant and lobby. Rafter said he expects the work will be completed before year’s end.

“Given that structurally the rooms are quite sound and in very, very good condition for how long it’s been since the last renovation, we think that $20,000 or so per room will go a long way,” he added.

Waikiki-based Aqua Hotels & Resorts, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in August, became Hawaii’s first employee-owned hotel company in 2008. Aqua has been busy over the last year and a half, taking over management or securing marketing agreements with five properties on three islands.

“One thing I think people often don’t understand about more lifestyle or boutique properties is that we, as an executive team and as a company culture, we live these properties,” Rafter continued. “This is what you like to do, and I think that passion for what we’re doing is reflected in the properties.”

Aqua offers accommodations on all of Hawaii’s visitor-ready islands — including Molokai and Lanai — with one glaring exception: the Big Island. However, Rafter said his company is actively pursuing options there, as well.

“We’re definitely still looking for the right property there,” he said. “We certainly have more demand right now than supply on Maui and Kauai, as well, but the Big Island is probably No. 1 on our list just for the psychological impact. If we got the Big Island, we’d be the only company in many, many years that has properties we can offer on every island.”
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