Flew American Airlines which were surprisingly rather good with roomy seating for what they consider a short haul flight of 5hrs.
We'd booked transfers with Hawaii23 at a cost of $23 which we felt was very good - used them again for our return to the airport and would definitely recommend them.
Arrived at our hotel The Royal Hawaiian (review posted shortly) at about 1pm and although check in isn't normally til 3 our room was ready - we were greated with an orchid lei and a refreshing fruit juice - all very charming. We were in the tower on the 16th floor which gives the most fantastic views of the beach and ocean. Each room has a balcony and we spent most evenings sitting out there til quite late. The best surprise for us is the lack of mossies or other nasty bugs which meant we were able to leave the doors wide open at night and drift off to sleep listening to the waves...........bliss.
Although it's not the most luxurious hotel we've stayed in we were so pleased we picked it - location was perfect and for us it really was the best hotel on Waikiki beach - way, way too expensive, but we didn't regret one penny of it.
The hotel brekkie cost around $60 which is about £42 so really not cheap and tbh truly not special enough to warrant the cost.. We chose to walk along to Dukes most mornings and have the buffet costing a more reasonable $14.95 each - it's still on the beach so a good compromise.
It was quite a challenge finding good, but reasonably priced restaurants.
Dukes - the lunch buffet was great value at $13.95 and dinner was pretty basic stuff but okay for the price.
Moana Surfrider - had drinks and dinner under the Banyan tree. The service was very indifferent and the food was dreadful - the burgers were dry and chewy - very disappointing. We heard other people say the same about their food.
Shorebird - probably our fault we didn't research enough, but weren't expecting to have to cook our own meat. Not really my thing so my husband ended up with 2 burgers (the cheapest option) while I just ate from the 'salad' buffet which surprisingly included chilli and rice, much more my thing. Again poor service as although I said I'd rather not cook the waiter had a 'take it or leave it' attitude and didn't bother to say I could just have the buffet. Okay not a much cheaper option, but I'd have preferred not feeling I had to cook. Didn't find that out til afterwards!
Cheesecake Factory - this was our favourite. They did fab mahi mahi and I'm sure there were enough choices to please everybody - you could eat there for a month and have something different each night. I know it's a chain, but we don't have anything like it here in the UK and judging by how busy it is most tourists agree. The food is good, portions generous to say the least and the service is excellent.
Overall, we found restaurant service generally pretty indifferent which we and other visitors we spoke to put down to tipping being mandatory. It seemed to us that as it's a given you tip at least 15% there is really no incentive to give good service. Even Shorebird who make you cook your own meat presented the bill with a tip calculator telling us to leave either 18-20%. We're not mean, but really.........
We only did 2 trips. The first was a day at the Polynesian Cultural Centre. This was our favourite tour in both SF and Oahu. We booked the Ambassador Ali'i Luau package which we felt was a great option as we got a guide for the day. She was really good which enhanced the whole experience for us. We really enjoyed the Luau buffet meal and the Ha" Breath of LIfe show was fabulous. We've seen similar shows in Mexico and Oz, but this was by far our favourite. It was brilliantly done and we loved that it told a story.
The second was a Circle Island tour and we visited some of the famous beaches including where they filmed the scene with Burt Lancaster/Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity. We also visited the Hale Ka'a'awa Ranch where they've done a lot of filming in recent years - Jurasic Park, Lost, You, Me and Dupree, Pearl Harbour etc etc. Another good day.
We spent most of our time on the beach - where else indeed, after all that's what Waikiki is all about, well for us anyway. The sand was lovely and soft and the water was like getting into a warm bath.........absolute bliss. One of the best things about our hotel was being able to stroll down in the mornings and know we'd have a nice lounger under shade ready and waiting.
We spoke to lots people who spent precious days hitting the shopping malls and although I'm normally the most avid shopper it really seemed such a waste of beach time lol Besides that very little in Waikiki is cheaper than here in the UK! I'm sure we could have found stuff if we'd spent time looking, but when that beach beckons.........
We absolutely loved Waikiki. A truly fantastic destination and although it's very busy and full of tourists we really get why people call Oahu paradise.
A big thank you to everyone for all the advice on this forum.