The conference takes place at the Hawaii Convention Center in Waikiki, so I imagine I'll see quite a bit of the beach. After the conference, I'll switch hotels. I'm versatile and adventurous - I'll take any suggestions.
How long should I stay? Which islands are the most interesting? Is it easy to hop from island to island, or should I just choose one island to explore? What are the not-to-be-missed attractions? Which hotels do you recommend? Where should I eat?
I'm a student, so my budget isn't particularly large. However, my airfare is free, and my food and lodging are paid for during the conference; I hope to see Waikiki's best offerings during those four nights. I hope to leave the Honolulu region after the conference, maybe head to the northern half of Oahu or take off to a different island.
I'm grateful for any help.
As far as attractions, you've got to visit the Dole Plantations and Polynesian Cultural Center. Those two attractions are pretty neat.
Lastly, I don't suggest taking off to another island. It is not impossible, but it is extremely difficult and time-consuming. You would most likely have to take a flight to another island early in the morning (anywhere from 4am-7am) and then would need to take a return flight early evening (anywhere from 6pm-10pm) if you don't want to pay extra for a hotel on another island.
People have done it, don't get me wrong, but I would suggest you just experience all that Oahu has to offer.
Any other questions?
Yes, the Hilton sounds amazing. It's out of my price range for the leisure part of my trip, but I'm not paying for the business portion... Looks like a great option.
Did you manage to catch any of the main tourist attractions, e.g., Pearl Harbour, hiking, snorkelling?
For snorkeling, the best and easiest place to get to without a car is Hanauma Bay, which is on the southeast side of Oahu. There's also the Dole Plantation on the center of the island and all of the great surfing on the North Shore, which are accessible by bus, but expend to spend a lot of time riding.
If you're willing to Island Hop (expect to spend over $200 in RT airfare to do so), I can only offer advice on the Big Island. We flew into Hilo, and stayed in a bed and breakfasts (some of the best deals on the islands for lodging) on both sides of the island. While on the east side (Hilo), we spent a lot of time in Volcanoes National Park. As a geologist, I could have spent weeks there, but in my opinion you need at least 2 days to truly appreciate the park. We also spend time on the west side (Kona), and went to some amazing snorkeling locations on a guided tour, walked around a coffee plantation, and toured some of the local missions. We also went on a tour up to the summit of Mauna Kea (the largest mountain in the world), and watched the sunset. If you're going to hop islands, I cannot recommend Big Island enough.
There is even one part where you can get on a bus and go to this aviation museum, and you pass right through the real area where military activity is going on (no pictures of video are aloud). You can go inside a submarine and I think walk on the USS Missouri by now (it was closed when I was there). Anyway, highly recommended.
I'm only 23. I think you have to be 25 to rent a car in the States, correct? If that's the case, I'll be busing it everywhere.
Think Robert could hook me up with a tour or quick interview?
Any other good hiking beyond Diamondhead?
I'm an idiot for not suggesting this before, but Aulani's a time share for crying out loud. (Disney cast members, please don't bother correcting me for using that forbidden term, okay?) Isn't there a sales office out there? Go in like you're interested in buying, then see what they show you.
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney California Adventure
Universal Studios Florida
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Hollywood