I'm mostly interested in seeing the sights - night life is unimportant. We will island hop via helicopter somewhat, as we want to take some tours regardless. My parents will be with us, so a no-door ride is unfortunately out of the question LOL!
I want to get in some rain forest, some big wave surfers, volcano, waterfall - everything I can while I'm there. I plan to be up and about every minute of daylight every day!
My buddy here at work is from Hawaii and still has a place there. He's given me lots of tips regarding some general spots, etc. - but as far as photography he's only knowledgeable with respect to underwater. His father's (still there) GF is an acclaimed reef photographer. Unfortunately I'm not yet scuba certified (may be by next spring though), nor do I have any underwater equipment, nor do I think I want to dedicate a day to reef photography, at least this trip.
First answer your questions:
- Nightlife is pretty much restricted to Oahu, the other 6 inhabited islands are very much "primitive" at night, with the exception of some luaus.
- island hopping in helicopter is gonna cost you $$$ and besides Maui-Molokai/Lanai, inter-island heli-trips are "custom orders" and some are even restricted by the government. Inter-island jet flights are cheap, some $30 per leg kamaina rates if you can prove some sort of residency there (thru your friend?). However, since you got only 1 week, I strongly advise you stay put on one island, max two. It's simply too much to see there. Oh, the only no-door chopper ride you can get is "Interisland" on Kauai.
- Best rain forest is on Kauai, Big Island second. Biggest waves are typically good between Kahului and Paia on Maui and the famous North Shore of Oahu.
- Active volcano is only available on Big Island, and whether you can see surface flow or ocean flow depends on your luck. But your chances are normally good.
- Waterfalls are everywhere. Only Lanai and Niihau are no good for this, but your probably won't even thinking about going there anyway.
- You can get some good pics by just snorkelling around. Take a small cam, such as the Canon's, they sell a good housing for <$200.
Here's my top picks for photography, not in any order of preference:
- Haleakala sunrise (Maui)
- Road to Hana (Maui)
- Volcano NP (Big Island)
- Mouna Kea (Big Island)
- Napli coast (Kauai)
- Waimea Canyon (Kauai)
- Hanalei Bay (Kauai)
- Waikiki Beach & Honolulu cityscape (Oahu)
- Pearl Harbor (Oahu)
There are tons more I wanted to list here for you. There are so many things there and it's hard to pick. The above is just what pops up instantly off my head when I think of an island.
The best thing you can do to prep a HI trip is to spend $60 and get all four books from www.wizardpub.com
(available in most bookstore chains). These are the most complete, accurate, and useful references I've ever seen on visiting Hawaii. They come in all color pages, detail maps, tons of pics, and won't miss a single spot for good photography recommendation. You'll find it's the best $60 you ever spend on anything Hawaiian ...
Any further questions let me know ...