Flights: Flew Qantas, had Qantas lounge membership which made a big difference in having a rest, shower and dinner before the 1930 flight. Flew A330 Airbus, night flight made it a bit long for people like me who cant sleep on planes. Arrived on time at 0900am and it was similar to being in Cairns or Townsville with outdoor airport. Had a shuttle take us to custom and baggage collection. Tip: remember to organize your Visa waiver beforehand from memory USD $11 online. We were fingerprinted and had full body scan and questioned, I think this is all norm for foreign visitors.
Day 1: booked airport transfer through Hawaii23 flat rate $23 taxi. I cannot say enough good things about these guys - we used them throughout our trip as we did not have a car. You can google them and put a request through to Mark. We did not have a phone so when we arrived we called them toll free number at a pay phone - this is all explained in your taxi booking.
We booked Air BnB accommodation so day 1 was checking in, buying groceries from Food Pantry on Kuhio avenue, getting lunch (Marakume udon), going to Hoku wireless and getting a US sim card (USD$29 for unlimited calls and texts and 2GB data - used an old phone and put new sim card in - highly recommend). We used the US phone for navigation and confirming all of our taxi transfers by text / phone call and wouldn't be able to get by without this
We also went to the Honolulu farmers markets and bought fresh produce and had dinner there, caught UBER there and took a bus home. Highly recommend both UBER and the bus (thebus.org)
Day 2: took a bus out to Diamond head and did the walk up for the views, absolutely spectacular. It was a hot day, recommend early morning, take plenty of water and good shoes. Also take your own snacks as there isn't much food options. Took a bus back to Chinatown ($5.50 all day pass) and walked around Downtown, checked out markets and Cindy's Lei shop. I bought a cheap $5 orchid lei which lasted me about a week.
Day 3: Hawaii 23 picked us up and took us out to Hanauma bay for snorkeling amongst coral reefs, was stunning. You definitely don't need to do a tour, it is easy to get to via bus or taxi and then $7.50 admission. Again we went early around 8am and the crowds were manageable. Unlike in Australia, coral reef is right at the beach and the water is shallow and calm so even inexperienced swimmers can see the tropical fish. In the afternoon we took a bus out to Ala Moana shopping centre which was massive, and full of expensive brands but still good to have a wander. Dinner was Cheesecake factory which was busy but you take a beeper and they let you know when the table is ready. Expect very big meals
Day 4: We booked a Northshore tour through www.northshorebus.com I would have to say this was a highlight for us. Although a bit pricey for Australian standards (USD$110) they pick you up from Waikiki designated hotels and drop you back, our driver Uncle Kevin was a person born and raised on the island so you are getting a local guide that is both informative and funny. The price includes 2 activities plus visit to Haleiwa town, Turtle beach, Waimea bay, Pipeline and Sunset beach. Activities include surfing, snorkeling, SUP, kayaking. We did a waterfall hike and were fortunate to spot 2 Green turtles when kayaking and also on the beach.
Day 5: We did Passport to Pearl Harbour which was booked through the recreation.gov website, was USD$72 and booked about 1 month in advance. This included entry to all 4 partner sites: USS Bowfin submarine museum, Battleship Missouri, Pacific Aviation Museum, USS Arizona narrated tour and the new PH virtual reality centre. Again you do not need to book a tour, it is very accessible on your own. Tip: concealed bags are not allowed - I took a clear plastic bag instead. We were there for 6 hours and even then ran out of time as there was so much to see
Day 6: Had breakfast at Duke's Waikiki for USD$18 which was average - not much variety as compared to back home but there was fresh omelette made to order. Took a shopping trip out to Waikele premium outlets, it was cheaper to book a bus trip out through Roberts Hawaii (USD$18 return) departing from Duke's statue. The shopping was phenomenal - ASICs, Adidas, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger .. with a lot of the discounts being 60% the list goes on.
Day 7: Took a $23 cab to airport and flew Hawaiian airlines to Maui - Kapalua airport. For those who do not like small planes I wouldn't recommend this option - we were in a small turbo prop plane which was fine but only bc we were lucky with the weather. We stayed at the Westin Nanea and as our room was not ready we took the hotel shuttle out to Lahaina and had lunch at Cool cat café (highly recommend) and walked up Front street, also saw the Wo Hing museum. Also walked up to Times supermarket and bought groceries as cheaper to cook our own than eat in resort
Day 8: Spent day at Kanapaali beach, rented deck chairs and spent day snorkeling outside of the resort. The snorkeling was spectacular and saw a green turtle - such a highlight. We took hotel shuttle out to Sheraton and walked up to Black Rock and did more snorkeling here, had a drink at Mai Tai bar
Day 9: Spent day at Outlets of Maui which is a lot quieter than Waikele and had most of the usual brands except there is a GAP store which had great kids clothes in particular.
Day 10: Did a 5 hour boat trip - excursion day charter catamaran for sailing, snorkeling, diving to Honolua bay with Hula Girl. Although water looked calm I took some seasick tablets beforehand and was thankful when sea got so rough that the water kept coming in and everyone had to go back inside. Highlight was seeing dolphins and more snorkeling in sheltered bay however I would recommend snorkeling was just as good off the beaches we visited. The staff were great though and the chef was fantastic
Day 11: Flight back to Honolulu, checked into Surfjack hotel for one last night, and walked to the free Hula show outside Dukes statue at 630pm and watched the sun set - highly recommend. Had dinner at Mahaina & suns - delicious food
Day 12: back home, slightly longer flight on the way back (10.5 hours) but the aircraft fit out was newer and I got to watch a bunch of new movies. Because of the time difference it was almost 9pm Hawaii time when we landed in Sydney so we stayed overnight at Rydges (at Arrivals international).
Things we missed out on: Kaliua beach, Jurassic tour Kualoa ranch, going out to see the lava on big island, Friday night fireworks at Hilton Hawaiian village. We were also unprepared for the rain and the wind particularly in the late afternoon so recommend umbrella/ jacket.
Thank you everyone who provided me with all your advice and tips it was greatly appreciated!