Showing posts with label Things to do on Okinawa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Things to do on Okinawa. Show all posts

June 6, 2014

Taking a Ferry to Islands Around Okinawa

Venture out to the Islands Surrounding Okinawa

take a ferry on okinawa
Ferry to Zamami Island
While Okinawa is a beautiful island, and has many things to see and do, nearby islands also offer unique experiences and adventures. Tokashiki, Ie, Izena, and many more islands are just waiting to be explored and enjoyed.

These islands are just miles off the coast of Okinawa and can usually be reached in an hour or two by ferry. You can go for just a day trip, or turn it into a few days. Accommodations are usually available, but planning ahead is a good idea..

Each of the islands around Okinawa have unique cultural opportunities to experience ranging from foods to language. There are many beautiful sights to see, including some of the best beaches and snorkeling in the world. If you thought Okinawa had great snorkeling, try some of the less touched nearby islands.

What Islands to Visit Around Okinawa

ferry around okinawa
Ie Island
Almost all of the islands surrounding Okinawa are worth visiting. Some islands are more geared to expensive getaways, while others are much more rural. Do a little research on accommodations and information about the island you want to visit before you get there so you have a better idea of what to do.

But if you don't know what island to visit, here is some help for you:

Ie Island - One of the closest islands with just a short ferry ride from Motobu. There are a variety of things to do on this island including renting mopeds, climbing the iconic mountain in the center of the island, camping on the beach, and staying in fancy resorts. Here is some more information getting to Ie island.

Iheya Izena Island - Located a little north-west of Okinawa, these islands are fairly rural, and provide wonderful cultural and traditional experiences. Be sure to make reservations in advance if you plan to stay the night, although a day trip is also possible. Ferry leaves from Nakajin village, north of Nago, daily and takes about an hour.

Kerama Islands - Made up of Tokashiki, Zamami, Aka, and Geruma islands, this is one of the best places in the world for snorkeling and especially scuba diving. There are many tours that go from Okinawa out to the Kerama islands just for diving. The daily ferries leave from Naha port. Each of the islands offers some different opportunities, so look at what each offers, and plan your trip accordingly. 

ferry to islands around okinawa
View of the Ocean around Zamami Island
There are many more options for island adventures around Okinawa, but these are a good start. Information and resources can sometimes be hard to come by, but asking others about their island excursions can yield great information.

If you happen to want a more exclusive getaway, Ishigaki Island and Surrounding Islands can only be reached by a i hour plane flight from Naha, and present a wonderful weekend, or week long vacation.

To get to the islands around Okinawa, there are a variety of ferries that leave from ports around the island. Naha is the main port, but if you are traveling to islands north of Okinawa, the ports on Motobu and beyond are where you will need to go.

We hope this information will help inspire you to go beyond Okinawa, and enjoy some of the exciting adventures on the surrounding islands.

If you're looking for summer activities, look no further than our list of Things to do on Okinawa. You might also find our 7 Essential Words and Phrases useful.

Leave a comment if you have questions.

July 29, 2013

Guide to Hiking Hiji Falls in Okinawa

A Guide for Hiji Falls - Information and Tips

Anyone looking for an outdoor activity and the opportunity to explore the amazing Okinawa jungles and a beautiful waterfall will find hiking Hiji falls to be an activity to add to their list of things to do in Okinawa!

This guide is created by Okinawa Travel Guide Blog and will cover what Hiji Falls has to offer, what to bring, directions for how to get to Hiji Falls, plenty of pictures and much more.

About Hiji Falls and What to Expect

Hiji Falls okinawa
View of Rocks at the Bottom of Hiji
Hiji Falls is a well known waterfall and hiking trail located in northern Okinawa near Okuma resort. It offers a 1.5 kilometer hike from the base camp to the waterfall over a well maintained path that winds along the river.

While Okinawa offers a number of hiking trails for those willing to find them, Hiji Falls is a convenient and popular hiking locations with picturesque river and waterfall views. The path is only 1.5 km (3km round trip - about 1.8mi) long, but it does have a number of steep staircases that offer a moderate degree of difficulty, depending on your fitness level.

Due to northern Okinawa's mostly rural state, one can see a considerable amount of native wildlife and foliage on the hike, and it gives visitors a great chance to see the natural Okinawan jungle. The path crosses the river at one point on a suspension bridge, towering almost 20 meters/yards above the river, giving a great view of the tree tops.

One can expect Hiji falls to provide an adventurous hike with plenty of photo opportunities, as well as an enjoyable outdoor experience with no modern noises to distract you. It takes most people less than an hour to hike the 1.5 km to the falls, which are a great place to stop and take a break.

Initially the path from the main gate goes through a camping area, and past a dam, but it quickly turns into a dirt or wood path with heavy vegetation all around.

What to Bring When Hiking Hiji Falls

Hiking Hiji can easily be done in a few hours but there are a few suggestions one might want to bring to make the hike more enjoyable.

Directions to Hiji Falls
The tree top Suspension Bridge
  • Comfortable Hiking Shoes - The trail consists of dirt paths, dirt steps, wood paths and wood steps. So wear shoes that you are comfortable hiking in, such as running shoes or other closed-toed options.
  • Appropriate Clothing - Okinawa is usually hot and humid, so wear clothes that you can move around in, and will allow cooling. 
  • Water/Snacks - Bring plenty of water, and perhaps an energy bar or other snacks if you think you will need it.
  • Bug-spray/Sunscreen - While most of the path is in shade, sunscreen is still a good idea. Bug-spray might also be a good idea of the bugs will irritate you.
  • Yen for Entry Fee - The entry fee to Hiji Falls is 500 Yen per person, paid at the main gate area. You should probably have more yen for vending machines (or eating at CoCo's Curry afterwards!).
  • Camera - Lots of beautiful things to photograph, so don't forget your camera!
  • Other Items - Anything else you might need for a couple of hours hiking though in Okinawa.

Directions to Hiji Falls

Information about Hiji Falls
Water pouring down Hiji Falls
Getting to Hiji Falls is relatively easy. The easiest directions are:

Drive to Okuma Resort, but at the intersection of Hwy 58 and the road that takes you to Okuma, turn right (if you are coming from Okuma, you would go straight at the intersection). Follow the signs for Hiji Falls, it is about 2km to the parking lot at the entrance of the park.

If you don't know how to get to Okuma, it is also a relatively easy drive, taking less than 2 hours:

From Naha, or any of the exits along the expressway, you simply take the expressway to Nago, then follow Hwy 58 north for about 45 minutes. As you drive along the coast, you should see a peninsula jutting out with beautiful sandy beaches. As you get to the intersection with a Familymart, you should also see signs for Okuma Resort. Taking a left will lead you to the resorts, taking a right will take you to Hiji Falls. Here are driving directions from Google Maps.

If you have any questions, you can ask them in the comments below!

General Information - Cost/Hours

cost and hours for hiji falls
There are a lot of stairs to go up and down!
Hiji Falls Park Information:

Hours: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (Entry until 4:00 pm, in winter months 3:00 pm)
Closed during inclement weather

Cost: 500 Yen per person

The best times to visit Hiji Falls is usually in the spring or fall, when it is not too hot out. Hiji Fall is closed in inclement weather, and sometimes for Japanese holidays, so have a backup plan, like going to the beach.

We hope you found this useful, and are able to enjoy the hike to Hiji falls! If you have questions or thoughts, leave them below. Also be sure to share this with others who might enjoy it!

Looking for more on Okinawa? Consider some of our recent posts, such as Basic Words in the Okinawan Dialect or the all important Sushi Etiquette Guide.

May 28, 2013

FC Ryukyu Soccer Team on Okinawa

Catch  a Soccer Game on Okinawa!

FC Ryukyu
FC RYukyo okinawa soccer team
FC Ryukyu's Logo - Source

FC Ryukyu is Okinawa’s semi-pro soccer team. FC Ryukyu represents the Okinawa Prefecture throughout Japan in the Japan Football League (JFL) games.

Where do they play?
FC Ryukyu’s home games are played at the stadium at the Okinawa Athletic Park just south of the Mihama American Village Jusco shopping center, sharing parking lots with Chula-U spa facilities. See the FC Ryukyu website for more ticketing information and current schedule.

How to catch a game:
A great venue to explore, catch a FC Ryukyu game in the Mihama area on the weekend! Game tickets are just around $10-$15 (Y1000 – Y1500) and attendees can sit in the stands or pack a lunch from Family Mart to picnic (bento) on the grassy field around the inside of the stadium! The East China Sea can be seen behind the stadium, making the venue an attractive and casual one, great for groups of friends and families!

Get in the spirit!
FC Ryukyu soccer team okinawa
Japan Jersey
Come out in gear, or become a fan and grab your gear today! With jerseys, posters, accessories, towels, and stickers there’s gear for everyone! Come support the local team and make some noise! Learn a chant! FC Ryukyu has several chants to sing out during the game to cheer on your team! Join in the noise!

Use words like:  “Gan-ba-te” – ‘Good luck!’ (also, ‘try your best’) “I-kou-se” – ‘Go for it!’ and ‘Let’s go!’ “Ya-ta” – ‘Great!’ (shout this loudly with joy, especially for a goal)

To get even more supportive of FC Ryukyu, you can buy a soccer jersey or t-shirt for the team. Several shops in the local area sell FC Ryukyu clothing and items which make great gifts and unique memorabilia. You could also simply get a Japanese national soccer team jersey to support the country.

And after a warm game, grab a post-game meal at a nearby CoCo’s Curry, sushi-go-round or Family Mart!

Check out an FC Ryukyu game today!

Want more ideas for activities on Okinawa? View our Top 10 Things to Do in Okinawa post, or our Things to do In Okinawa page

May 23, 2013

Professional Photography on Okinawa

Exploring Photography on Okinawa

okinawa travel guide blogWith so much to offer in the way of natural beauty, Okinawa is the perfect place to grab some incredible personal/family photos from some of the very talented artists in Okinawa. From family groupings to individual portraits, these creative artists capture the beauty of both the subjects and the pretty island!

Professional photographs are an excellent idea for graduating seniors, maternity pictures, engagements and weddings, family portraits, personalized gifts, and farewell to island memories.

Two great on-island photographers are listed here:

Airin Owen:

okinawa photography and informatoinOther merchandise highlighting the beauty of Okinawa in photograph includes various postcards and books available in the base exchanges and locally, as well as online. These items showcase the iconic scenes of Okinawa, both the natural beauty of the oceans, beaches and floral, and the local beauty of the Okinawan people and festivals.

The books make excellent gifts for friends departing from Okinawa, family members who have not had the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of Okinawa, and personal mementos to keep the beauty of Okinawa alive.

Okinawa photography and informationWe hope you have many opportunities to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of Okinawa, and capturing the island through photograph is one of the best ways! 

Want to find some great places for snapping photos? Check out our Beach Reviews!

April 5, 2013

7 More Things to Do in Okinawa

Seven More Things to Do in Okinawa, Japan

In a previous post, we highlighted the Top 10 Things to Do in Okinawa and covered a wide range of fun activities including snorkeling, scuba diving, beaches, castles, aquariums and visiting other islands. So be sure to read that post if you haven't already.

But what we found out after listing the top 10, was there are still so many more fun things to do in Okinawa. So here are 7 more things to do in Okinawa to keep anyone happy and busy having fun!

1. Visit Ie Island - Take a trip off the island of Okinawa and enjoy a ferry ride to Ie island located just off the coast of the Motobu peninsula. Ferry rides leave and return throughout the day to a nearby port, and are not very expensive. Activities on Ie include climbing the small mountain in the center of the island, touring the island on mopeds, relaxing at the beach, camping, staying at a resort, visiting WWII memorials, and much more.

things to do in okinawa ride the ferris wheel american village
Ferris Wheel in American Village Shopping Area
2. Ride the Ferris Wheel - A must do activity that gives a great view of the shops, bases, and water in the area. This slow moving Ferris wheel located next to Jusco in American village, south of Kadena gate 1, is a relaxing ride perfect for the family. And with a ton of shops, restaurants and other tourist attractions surrounding this area, it makes for a great day trip.

3. Round One Sports and Arcade Center - If you are looking for entertainment, Round One is the place for you. It offers an incredible number of different activities ranging from sports to arcade games, chair massages to roller skating.This is a good article that gives more information about the location, and price for round one.

4. Okinawa Pottery Village - Take a tour of the factory and learn how lumps of clay turn into beautiful jars, pots and much more. Located north of Kadena Air Base, it is a unique cultural experience worth exploring.

5. Okinawa Outlet Mall Ashibinaa - if you are looking for serious shopping, this is the place. With typical American outlet stores like Adidas, Levi, and many more, you can enjoy a day browsing and shopping. The Ashibinaa Outlet Mall is located south of the Naha Airport. Get directions and a full list of stores at their official website.

things to do in Okinawa japan travel guide
Japan Travel Guide
6. Ikei Island Go Karts - For those looking for some thrills and fast action, check out the go kart circuit on Ikei island. Hidden away on this island just off the coast of Okinawa, but still accessible by bridge, is a full race track with performance oriented go karts. Grab more information about this go kart circuit, including a map of its location, at Okinawa Story. As another option, Okuma Resort also has a go kart track, although not at the same quality.

7. - Visit the Okinawa Children's Zoo - Truly an impressive zoo tucked away on Okinawa near Kadena Gate 2. It offers plenty of the typical zoo animals like zebra, monkeys, hippos, snakes, birds and tigers as well as several other great attractions for kids like the discovery museum, and a large pond. Admission prices are reasonable, and with its location in the middle of Okinawa, it is a convenient afternoon adventure. Get directions and further information at OkinawaHai.

Well, those are seven more things to do in Okinawa. So get out there are start enjoying and exploring this amazing island.

Still looking for more ideas? Visit our Beach Reviews Page or our Things to Do in Okinawa Page to find more information about Okinawa!

March 21, 2013

Top 10 Things to Do in Okinawa Japan - 2016

An Updated List of 10 Things to Do on the Island of Okinawa Japan in 2016

things to do on okinawa
The Ferris Wheel - Okinawa
Whether you love to get outside and enjoy the sights, or sit down and feast on the food, this list of things to do in Okinawa is sure to have something for everyone.

This list is put together to highlight some of the amazing activities and opportunities available on Okinawa for those who are visiting, or even living on the wonderful island. It is by no means conclusive or all encompassing, but it does contain some of the most popular, and well known attractions on Okinawa.

Got a favorite activity or attraction in Okinawa that isn't on this list? Mention it in the comments below.

Top 10 Things To Do in Okinawa

Here they are, starting with #10:

Peace Prayer Park on Okinawa
Peace Prayer Park on Okinawa
10. Visit Local WWII Historical Sites - such as Peace Prayer Park and the Japanese Underground HQ. These two locations, as well as many others scattered around the island, are a worthwhile stop and give a chance to remember the huge battle that took place on Okinawa during WWII. The Japanese Underground HQ is a fascinating place where visitors are allowed to walk the underground tunnels and rooms that served as Japan's military HQ on Okinawa during the battle. Both Peace Prayer Park and the Japanese Underground Museum are located at the southern end of Okinawa, near Naha city and provide unique and personal insights into the war.

9. Take Part in an Okinawan Festival - Including the Cherry Blossom Festival, Obon, Orion, Dragon Boat Races, And the Largest Tug-O-War in the world. Okinawan's love their festivals, and they are scattered throughout the year, and around the island. The Cherry Blossom Festival is held in the spring, when Japanese cherry trees bloom amazing pink blossoms. Travel north to Nago where you will easily spot the large pink mountain, called Nago Mountain, that is covered in Japanese Cherry Trees. It is a fun place to hike and enjoy the picturesque views as well as the festival activities in town. Be sure to look up more information on all the amazing festivals available in Okinawa.

Shuri Castle Okinawa
Shuri Castle - Outer Wall
8. Tour Shuri Castle and Other Japanese Castles dating back almost 1000 years! Shuri Castle, located in southern Okinawa, is a fully restored Okinawan castle built sometime around 1300. Nakagusuku Castle Ruins, another Okinawan castle, is conveniently located near the middle of Okinawa, close to Camp Foster, and Kadena AFB. While only the castle walls are standing, it presents an intriguing look at very advanced mortar-less stone building techniques. Both of these castles, and many more scattered around the island, have great views, rich history, and fun outdoor adventures.

7. Take Advantage of the Ocean Around Okinawa with Many Different Water Sports - Like the Ocean? Then Okinawa is the place for you with plenty of water activities including Scuba Diving trips, Jet Skiing, Wake Boarding, Para-sailing  Deep Sea Fishing, Sailing, Surfing, Spearfishing, and much, much more. There is really something for everyone on Okinawa when it comes to water activities. Three activities I enjoy on the island are Skimboarding, Spearfishing and Snorkeling.

6. Shop at the many Malls, Stores, Markets, and Streets around the island - Okinawa is a great place to get out and shop, not just to buy souvenirs  but to get out and experience some Japanese culture. With several older street shopping locations such as Kokusai Street (downtown Naha), Heiwadori (next to Kokusai street) and the meat market (located on Heiwadori) as well as Gate 2 Street and Park Avenue, there is plenty of old style, street market shopping to be had. And for those more interested in a modern shopping experiences, check out Jusco, other malls, and American Village, just south of Kadena AFB Gate 1. It is always fun to go shopping on Okinawa because of the unique and strange items that can be found, and purchased.

Hiji Falls okinawa waterfall - things to do in okinawa
Hiji Falls
5. Travel to Northern Okinawa and the Motobu Peninsula - Visit the Churaumi Aquarium, Hike Hiji Falls, Tour Cape Hedo and stay the night at Okuma while touring the north of Okinawa. The Aquarium, which is a major attraction on Okinawa and possibly one of the best in the world, is just one of the many adventures available to those who venture north. Okuma has both an American Military recreational facility and a Japanese resort and are each situated on fantastic beaches with lots of water activities. Don't let yourself be bound to the more populous southern part of Okinawa, take a trip north for a wonderful adventure.

4. Eat Authentic Japanese and Okinawan Food while on Okinawa - There is so much great food to be eaten on Okinawa, I could never list it all, but here are some you don't want to miss: Sushi (and sushi go-round restaurants), Okinawa Soba, Yakitori, Taco Rice, Yakisoba, Fried Rice, and this list could go on and on. The key, then, is to be bold and try as many different foods as possible, settling on your favorites. Many people are surprised when they try Okinawan food, and end up loving it.

3. Scuba Dive or Snorkel Okinawa's World Famous Coral Reefs and Surrounding Islands - Okinawa is one of the best places to get a scuba diving certification because of the low cost, and huge selection of dive sites. For those interested in staying near the surface of the water, take advantage of the clear ocean and snorkel at any one of the fantastic locations around the islands. The coral reef formations are beautiful to look at and the many different types of tropical fish are amazing. And if you want to Dive or Snorkel at one of the top five places in the world, just take a quick ferry ride to the Kerama Islands where the seascapes are unbelievable. One of my favorite experiences was swimming with a giant sea turtle on Zamami Island.

2. Eat at CoCo's Curry - Possibly the Best Restaurant in the World - While I have known a few people who didn't like CoCo's Curry, the vast majority of people I know loved it. What is CoCo's Curry? It's a restaurant chain in Japan (and spreading to America, slowly) that serves curry on rice, with a number of different toppings available. You get to choose how spicy the curry is, as well as how many grams of rice you want to eat. It is hard to say what makes CoCo's Curry so good, but it is one of those places you have to go and experience for yourself. Learn more about this place by checking out our Review of CoCo's Curry.

zamami island beach near okinawa
A Beautiful Secluded Beach
1. Go to the Beach - Okinawa has beaches everywhere and they tend to be a hub of activities, food and shopping that cannot be missed. There are several popular beaches near the middle of the island, including Tropical Beach, Sunset Beach, Araha Beach and Kadena Marina. These are great beaches to go to if you are looking to mingle with lots of other people. But if you want a more private beach, take a drive north and follow the coast of Okinawa. You will quickly find beach after beach with almost no one else around. Enjoying a beach all to yourself is very relaxing, and easy to find on Okinawa.

Bonus Activity - Go Ice Skating! Yes, even on tropical Okinawa, you can go Ice Skating at Southern Hill Sports World near Naha. This Indoor ice skating rink has plenty of public skate sessions with skate rentals. If you are looking for a unique activity  or are missing the cold of a snowy country, then enjoy a few hours of ice skating. Learn more about ice skating in Okinawa.

This top 10 things to do in Okinawa was put together to encourage everyone visiting, or living on Okinawa to get out and see more, do more and enjoy more of Okinawa.

Hope you found some new ideas for things to do, and be sure to post a comment with some of your favorites.

In case you're still looking for ideas, check out 7 More Things to Do in Okinawa!

February 28, 2013

Pictures from Okinawa - Beaches and Ocean

Amazing Pictures of Okinawa

Okinawa Beach
These are a collection of pictures from various places around Okinawa, mostly of the beach or ocean. There truly is plenty to do and see on Okinawa, it just takes an adventurous spirit.

Check out our Things to do on Okinawa page, if your looking for some ideas!

While there are beaches almost anywhere you look, some of the best beaches and coral formations are on the small island around Okinawa such as Zamami and Ikei.

Some of these islands you can drive across bridges to, while others require a ride on a ferry.

It is certainly worthwhile to explore the many beaches on Okinawa to discover some of the hidden gems the island has to offer.

Hope you enjoy these pictures, and that they offer inspiration to take an adventure of your own.

boat in calm water in japan
Fishing boat in the calm ocean near Kadena AFB
Coral formations off the coast of okinawa
Beautiful coral and blue ocean on Ikei Island
Zamami island ocean near okinawa
A view of the amazing water around Okinawa. This is at Zamami Island
Engrish sign
Engrish - When technically it is English, but it still doesn't make sense
dark blue water and green islands
Perfectly Blue Ocean off the coast of Okinawa
Kanji Okinawa in sand
Okinawa in Japanese Kanji Characters written in the sand
Looking for more on the beaches around Okinawa? View all posts related to Beaches on Okinawa

January 26, 2013

Vending Machines in Japan

Japanese Vending Machines are the Most Unique in the World

small japanese red coca cola machine
Small Coca-Cola Machine
Vending Machines have become more and more popular around the world for selling not just drinks, but almost anything. Japan is one of the world leaders in vending machine technology, and use. But I don't want to focus on all the different types of things you can find in Japanese vending machines or the flat screen TVs that are showing up in them, I just want to give an overview of the incredible variety of drinks available at nearly every street corner

Don't Be Afraid to Try Something Different from a Japanese Vending Machine

For the majority of Americans who visit Japan and Okinawa, the small kanji symbols mean next to nothing, let alone describe what is in a drink. So it would be easy to pick something like Coke, and never try any of the other drinks with odd bits of confusing English framed by possibly important Japanese words.

But some of my favorite drinks have been just that kind.

variety of japanese vending machines in a row

So when you see a long line of vending machines, don't be afraid to take a chance and try something that looks fun. The drinks in Japanese vending machines range from relatively normal Coke and Pepsi products to tea, coffee, and even health and energy drinks.

vending machines in japan with beer

And yes, Japan does sell Budweiser from a vending machine.

green japanese vending machines

 An example of the huge variety of drinks available. With so many options, it is often hard to pick which drink to try. But get out there and go for it, you might just find a new favorite refreshing beverage.

December 28, 2012

Things to Do in Okinawa in the Winter

In the Cold Winter Months, What Things are There to Do on Okinawa?

Let's begin by saying that 'winter' in Okinawa is most other places fall or spring. The temperature is usually around 50-60 F. It never gets below freezing, and the water is usually warmer than the air in the winter time.

But, what is there to do on a tropical island in the 'winter colder' months? Well, plenty actually!

The Ocean around Okinawa actually stays very mild, even in the winter

Visiting Historical Sites such as Japanese Castles

Okinawa is home to a huge number of very historical sites such as WWII bunkers and caves, Museums and  even Japanese Castles dating back to around the 12th century AD. 

These old Castles from the Samurai period of Japanese history offer impressive mortar-less architecture and beautiful views from the castle walls.

Shuri Castle on Okinawa
They are scattered across Okinawa, and one can often run across them while exploring the island. 

The most famous castle on Okinawa is Shuri Castle located in Naha at the southern end of Okinawa. While it is often very busy with tourists, it is a must visit. The castle has been completely restored to its original condition, unlike most of the other castles on Okinawa. 

There are many different tours available through a number of services on Okinawa which will guide you through any historical location you wish to visit. So get out and visit a historical location.

Restaurants on Okinawa

When the weather is cold out, nothing warms the body like a delicious bowl of Soba Noodles. Vaguely similar to a chicken noodle soup, Okinawa Soba is miles ahead. 

Often served with pork spare ribs or other slow cooked meats, it fills the body and soul with fantastic flavors and perfect noodles. Don't miss out on eating Okinawa Soba while on Okinawa!

One of the best Soba shops is located just inside the city of Nago, towards the north of Okinawa. For more information and directions, check out my post about Okinawa Soba

Best Shopping Places on Okinawa

There are plenty of places to shop on Okinawa. Jusco, Gate 2 and American Village are three that can be reached quickly from the Kadena area.

The Ferris Wheel at the American Village
Jusco provides a department store type feel with a Japanese twist of culture and clothing. It is a fun place to browse for entertainment, or even shop for useful items. These large stores are located throughout Okinawa, and can be spotted by their large signs.

Gate 2 Street, located directly out Kadena Air Base gate 2, has a number of clothing, souvenir, and miscellaneous shops. A full day of walking and shopping is just waiting for anyone willing to browse the back streets in the area. Just be sure to avoid shopping there at night, when it becomes more of a night club/bar scene.

American Village is located outside Kadena Gate 1, in the Sunabe Seawall area. This shopping area includes a Jusco, and probably another 100 or more small shops and restaurants scattered around the area. With plenty of shopping and small stores to explore, American Village is a place that can be visited over and over again.

Okinawa is an enjoyable and fun place to be, no matter the weather or season. Hopefully these things to do on Okinawa give you some ideas to enjoy Okinawa more.

November 29, 2012

Surfing on Okinawa

Things to do in Okinawa - Surfing

While most people think of Hawaii when they think of surfing, Okinawa has a large surf community and plenty of locations.

Whether you are an experienced surfer visiting or moving to Okinawa, or a beginner looking for something fun to do on Okinawa, surfing is a very enjoyable and rewarding activity.

sunabe seawall surfing okinawa

Want to Surf on Okinawa? Check out Sunabe Seawall

Sunabe Seawall is the most popular place to surf on Okinawa. What makes it so popular is that it regularly has good waves, and it is located in the middle of the island, right outside Kadena Gate 1. (it is also a fantastic place to watch the brilliant Okinawa sunsets.)

sunabe seawall waterIt has easy access to the water through steps and various intervals along the seawall and there is parking very close by.

The waves tend to be waist to head height on good days. But, when the ocean is calm, the waves will disappear.

It is important to not only check the tides, ocean currents and weather conditions, but also to actually go and watch the waves, and other surfers.

Surfing at sunabe seawall okinawaMost experienced surfers take plenty of time before going out to see how the waves are coming in, and if there are any currents to watch out for.

If you are new to Okinawa, it is also a great idea to talk with the local surfers, both Japanese and American, and ask them for any tips or information.

watching from the seawall okinawaFor those who are new to surfing, it is best to find a friend or make a friend, who has experience surfing and can teach the basics before trying to ride wave. There are several surf shops in the seawall area with surfboards for sale. These places are often a hangout for the experienced surfers, so stop in and ask about classes or lessons.

When Typhoons come close to Okinawa, the waves can become monsters, crashing into the shallow coral reef with tremendous power. So always look to see if there are other surfers around before going out. Better yet, always surf with a buddy.

A good saying on Okinawa about surfing is, if the locals aren't riding, then neither should you.

For more information on surfing Okinawa, or other things to do on Okinawa, leave a comment.

November 19, 2012

Okuma Resort and Beach

skimboarding Okuma Beach Okinawa
Okuma Beach Okinawa

Okuma - A Perfect Summer Vacation Destination

If you're looking for a summer vacation beach, look no further than Okuma Recreation Facility on the northern end of Okinawa.

Okuma provides military service members, retirees and dependents with a beautiful tropical island vacation resort on a small peninsula jetting out into the East China Sea.

The purpose of Okuma is to provide recreation and relaxation for the US military stationed on Okinawa.

Brief History of Okuma

Okuma resort comes from a very humble beginning when it was first envisioned in 1947. After a few years, and significant help from the local Okinawan Farmers, the resort was finished using mostly second hand construction materials.

More on the History of Okuma Here

Today, the Okuma Peninsula contains not only the Military Okuma Resort, but also a Japanese Okuma Resort.

Okuma Jet ski rental
Jet Ski Rental at Okuma

All the Activities You Could Want!

Okuma provides all the water and vacation related actives one could want. Here is a list of the water activities available at Okuma. Note, activities do change based on the season and availability of boats.

Water Activities:

  • Jet Ski
  • Wake Boarding
  • Water Skiing
  • Ski Tubing - 1, 2, 3 or 4 people at a time!
  • Banana Boat Ride
  • Paddle Boat
  • Glass Bottom Boat
  • Coral Connection Snorkel Trip
  • Scuba Diving Boat Trip
  • Kayaks
  • Skimboards
  • Snorkeling, Scuba gear rentals
For Prices, visit the Official Okuma Recreation Page

There are also plenty land activities for those who don't like the water, or want to try something different. Most activities have a small rental fee, but some are also free!

Sunset okuma beach okinawa
Sunset on Okuma Beach 
Land Activities:
  • Bikes
  • Buggy Bikes
  • Pedal Cars
  • Habu Links 9-hole Golf Course
  • Putt-Putt Golf Course
  • Go-Kart Race Track
  • Tennis Courts
  • DVD Movie and Video Game rentals
  • Kids Game Room with Air Hockey, Ping Pong, Board Games, and Video Games
  • Batting Cages
  • Basketball Court
  • Garden Maze
  • Volleyball Court
  • SurfSide Restaurant, Cafe, and Waverunner Lounge 

With this huge list of activities, a full week can blow by in no time! Other activities in the Area include hiking Hiji Falls, Traveling to Hedo Point, and exploring the tiny Okinawan villages in the area.

Accommodations at Okuma Resort

Okuma Offers three basic options for accommodations: Camping, Cabins and Suites.

There are plenty of camping places just a few steps away from the beach that have picnic tables, BBQ pits, and a Bathroom/shower building.

The Log Cabins offer Air Conditioning a refrigerator and three beds all tucked into a small log cabin. Parking, fire pit and picnic table are also just outside the cabin.

The Suites at Okuma are best for those planning to stay more than a quick weekend, and would prefer a relaxing environment. Complete with TV's, Queen size beds, bathroom/shower and all the furnishings of a regular hotel.

skimboarding okuma beach
A local Skimboarder at Okuma Beach

Okuma Beach - Perfect Sandy Beach!

Okuma boasts two beautiful beaches on each side of the peninsula. Each offers water activities, while the North Beach is best for swimming, and has a roped swimming area with lifeguards.

So whether you want a quick weekend taste of a tropical island resort, or are looking for a full week getaway, Okuma has almost anything one could want in a tropical vacation.

Got questions or thoughts? Leave them in the comments below.

Check out more Beach Reviews or other Things to do on Okinawa

October 31, 2012

The Best Sunsets and Sunrises

Sunset on Okinawa
Okinawa Sunset

Watching the Sun Set or Rise on Okinawa 

Okinawa is an island, and as such, it has a beautiful uninterrupted ocean view in every direction. So whether you love waking up early to see a sunrise, or setting out in the evening for the sunset, you won't be disappointed on Okinawa.

Best Places to Watch the Sunrise or Sunset

Okinawa offers plenty of locations to view the sunset or sunrise. On one occasion I simply pulled off to the side of the road on a drive a long the coast to snap a few pictures of a perfect sunset.

But there are two types of locations that offer the best sunrise and sunset viewing; Castles and Beaches.

Castles on Okinawa offer the highest vantage points for viewing a sunset or sunrise with some providing a view of both the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea.

For a sunrise, look up castles closer to the east side of the island. Some possibilities include Katsuran Castle and Nakagusuku Castle.

For watching the sunset, try a castle closer to the west side of the island.

Watching the Sunset or Sunrise at a Beach

Okinawa is lined with beaches, so one can simple chose which part of the island to view the sunset/sunrise from and drive a long the coast until a beach appears.

But for those who are interested in specific locations, here are a few possibilities.

For a sunrise, one great location is the Comprehensive park located near Kadena AFB and Camp Foster. This park not only has beautiful paths and scenery, it also has a nice beach with a good view of the sunrise.

One of the most well known beaches for viewing the sunset is called, very appropriately, Sunset Beach. It is located on HWY 58 near the Mihama Jusco.

Sunset Beach offers a perfect view of the sunset and many people like to sit and enjoy watching the sun slowly slide down the sky. This beach is also very close to plenty of after dark activities, including shopping and restaurants.

There are several other options for viewing the sunset on the beach. Araha Beach, Tropical Beach and the Kadena Marina each offer perfect locations for sunset viewing.

No matter where you choose to watch the sunset or sunrise, just be sure to do it, it is worth waking up for, or taking the time to do.

October 3, 2012

Okinawa Castles - Nakagusuku Castle

Nakagusuku castle ruins on okinawa
Nakagusuku Castle walls

Nakagusuku Castle Ruins

Nakagusuku castle is an Okinawan castle from the 14th century. 

It is a very advanced structure for the time period, made with cut limestone and perfectly fit together without the use of mortar or cement. 

Nakagusuku castle is one of many castles built by Okinawan lords in each of the major villages throughout Okinawa. 

Other castles on Okinawa include: Katsuren Castle, Nago Castle, and the fully restored, Shuri Castle in Naha.

Nakagusuku castle is located near the middle of the island in Nakagusuku village, a little south of Kadena Air Base. It is also very close to the Haunted Hotel.

view from nakagusuku castle ruins on okinawa
Nakagusuku Castle - View of surrounding area and ocean

Brief History of Nakagusuku Castle

Nakagusuku Castle Gate on Okinawa
Castle Gate
The castle was built sometime around 1350 AD by a Ryukyan Lord who made it his residence, based on artifacts found at the castle. 

During the next 200 years, several different lords occupied the castle and continued to build on it, adding several outer walls, and inner enclosures

In 1853, Commodore Perry visited Okinawa and conducted a survey of the castle, even making note of the advanced and durable design.

During the 1800's and early 1900's the castle is used for a city office and school grounds. In WWII, the city office is destroyed and the castle suffers some damages.

After the WWII, Nakagusuku castle is designated as a park, and between 1950 and 2000 various work has been done to restore the castle and improve the park surrounding it.

In 2006 Nakagusuku castle was selected as one of the 100 most famous Japanese Castles. 

Visiting Nakagusuku Castle

Nakagusuku castle well
Looking up from the castle well
Nakagusuku castle makes a fantastic afternoon adventure for almost anyone. Both kids and adults will find it impressive and fascinating. Walking around a structure that is hundreds of years older than anything in American History is a spellbinding experience.

The location of the castle more than 100 meters above sea level on top of a hill gives it breathtaking views of the surrounding villages and ocean. One can even see Katsuren Castle located several miles away on the Katsuren Peninsula.

The castle itself has several different enclosures, gates and walled off sections. Some sections of the walls are open for visitors to walk around on. But take note of any signs and follow their directions, because the castle is still in the midst of full restoration.

The bold architecture and beautiful views make for a fun photo opportunity for any kind of photographer.

Nakagusuku castle ruins castle wall
Section still in need of restoration
It is fascinating to explore every part of this sprawling castle visualizing what it must have been like hundreds of years ago. There are a number of informational stands scattered throughout the castle grounds which offer bits of information on certain areas.

Visiting Nakagusuku castle costs only 400 yen per person and this goes directly towards funding the restoration of the castle.

The castle is fairly large with lots of steps and rough ground so wear appropriate footwear.

Parking and vending machines are available at the entrance to the castle, which can be found using Google Maps - Nakagusuku Castle.

For more information about the history, directions or group prices, visit the Nakagusuku Castle Official Website