What to do in Okinawa

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What to do in Okinawa
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Tags: beachescastlesdestinationsgourmethistoricalsitesokinawashopping

If you have been planning to visit Okinawa in Japan, you should know that this beautiful tropical island is one of the best places to explore for anyone who wants to see a unique tropical side of Japan.

Okinawa Island is actually located very close to Taiwan, and the fastest way to connect here for Southeast Asians is through Taipei. Alternatively, there are also other airports you can connect which are Shanghai, Tokyo and even Hong Kong.

This list narrows down some of the amazing things that you can do when you visit here, and the list is in no order. Generally, it is created for Malaysians and Southeast Asians who simply love popular attractions, shopping and eating.

The amazing Okinawa aquarium. Photo by Jon Rawlinson on Flickr. CC By-SA 2.0.

Visit the Churaumi Aquarium

Once known as the worlds largest aquarium, the Churaumi Aquarium is not to be missed when you are in Okinawa. Over 700 species of marine life is seen in this massive undersea aquarium where you can even see whale sharks, manta rays and many other unique sea fish.

The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is also located on the western part of the island where you can find many other things to do around here. There is a Sea Turtle Hall, Dolphin Theater, Emerald Beach, Kaiyohaku Park, Okinawa Village and the Okinawa Botanical Garden, all within the aquarium area. So you can easily spend a full day around this area.

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Address: 424 Ishikawa, Motobu-chō, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa-ken 905-0206, Japan

Tel: +81 980-48-3748

Hours: Daily 8.30 AM to 7.00 PM

Website: https://churaumi.okinawa/

Okinawa offering an amazing undersea world. Photo by Tetsuji0105 on Flickr. CC By-SA 2.0.

 Go Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Without fail, this is probably in the top three things to do in Okinawa as the northern tropical climate is perfect and not too hot. Okinawa has been one of the bucket list places for scuba divers, and for beach lovers, snorkeling around the many beaches here will definitely impress anyone, namely for the rich marine life.

Generally, for leisure divers, there are numerous dive locations found all of the main Okinawa Island. The four main locations are Gorilla Chop, Cape Maeda, Sunabe and Odo Seaside. Some of these places offer beautiful snorkeling experiences as well.

For those who want something unique, try the Marine Walk which is a different way to experience the undersea world, with a special spaceman helmet that lets you breath underwater while walking.

Snorkeling in Okinawa. Photo by CoolOkinawa.

One of the recommended places just our of Okinawa main island is Kerama Island, which is a two hour ferry and drive journey. If you visit between December and March, you can also do whale watching around Kerama Island.

For serious scuba divers, you need to fly to the Ishigaki airport in the Yaeyama district, which is a one hour flight from Okinawa. Here, Ishigaki Island is the place to dive during the summer period as this is when the Manta Rays can be spotted. Manta City and Manta Scramble are two of the most famous dive sites where you can spot them from April to November.

Locations: https://www.visitokinawa.jp/attractions/diving-and-snorkeling/diving-spots

Pottery Street in Okinawa. Photo by Ted McGrath on Flickr. CC By-SA 2.0.

Explore Tsuboya Yachimun Street

For those who love street shopping, Tsuboya Yachimun Street in Naha is the place to visit. This place holds a lot of Okinawa’s traditional pottery history, combined with a lifestyle shopping experience and is also called Pottery Street. The streets here are cobble stone streets, which give the entire place beautiful character.

Walking along these streets takes you back in time, and you will chance upon many antique stores, bakeries, cafes, restaurants and even the odd shops. Tsuboya Yachimun Street is more suitable for those who appreciate old world style, combined with a little history.

Tsuboya Yachimun Street

Address: 1 Chome-16 Tsuboya, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 902-0065

Hours: Standard business hours

Website: http://www.tsuboya-yachimundori.com/

Sign and Ferris Wheel of the American Village. Photo by Wikimedia. CC By-SA 4.0.

Visit the Mihama American Village

 Probably one of the most famous parts of Okinawa is no other than the Mihama American Village. Here, you can find anything related to the American culture, be it clothes, food and lifestyle, it is all fou8nd throughout this fascinating village.

Most visitors come here to experience what the strong American culture, mainly due to the presence of the American military base in Okinawa. Home away from home, this is the go to place for Americans working in Okinawa.

One of the eye catching landmarks here is a giant Ferris Wheel that can be seen from far, and the famous Okinawa Sunset Beach, which is just a short walk from here.

Visit the Mihama American Village

Address: Address: 15-69 Mihama, 北谷町 Nakagami District, Okinawa Prefecture 904-0115

Hours: Day till Night

An Izakaya along Sakaemachi Arcade. Photo by OnTheRun. CC By-SA 2.0.

Sakaemachi Arcade

 One of the more local markets is called the Sakaemachi Arcade, which is a covered street that caters to mainly the local Okinawa people. Over here, you can catch a glimpse of daily Okinawa life with people shopping for groceries and fresh produce in this slightly run down market, which is far from comparison if you think of Shinsaibashi or Dotonbori in Osaka.

Exploring deeper into this arcade shopping street, you will chance upon various local restaurants, cafes, coffee joins and even small bars. Again, this place is not on your tourist map, but it shares the true lifestyle of the local people of Okinawa.

Most locals like to come here after 6.00 PM, and hence it is probably the best time for anyone to visit and see the original lifestyle of the locals. Remember, this is a very local place.

 Sakaemachi Arcade

Address: 381 安里 Naha, Okinawa Prefecture 902-0067

Hours: 24 hours

The vibrant Kokusai Dori street in Okinawa. Photo by Daniel Ramirez on Flickr. CC By-SA 2.0.

Kokusai Dori Shopping Street

 For any first timer to Okinawa, this is the most popular tourist street on the island. Think of Shibuya or Shinjuku in Tokyo, this is Okinawa’s equivalent. Here, you can find just about anything related to tourist, from food to souvenirs, it is all found along Kokusai Dori.

For the city and shopping lover, this is the best place to explore as you will find shopping malls, a duty free emporium, loads of restaurants, bars and cafes, and your odd gift shops. The locals say that exploring off the main commercial roads are the best thing to so around here.

Kokusai Dori Shopping Street

Address: 3丁目-2-10 Makishi, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 900-0013, Japan

Hours: All day and night

Phone: +81 98-863-2755

An ancient ship at the Shuri Castle Park. Photo by David Pursehouse on Flickr. CC By-SA 2.0.

Shuri Castle Park Area

 A more historical and cultural part of Okinawa is the Shuri Castle Park area where you can find the only castle in Okinawa, well what’s left of it. This was once the core area of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom, and a mighty Shurijo Castle once stood dominant on the island.

Nowadays, this place is a preserved historical site for Okinawa and offers various historical architecture. You can find temples, ruins, a royal mausoleum, tea room and beautiful landscape gardens. A small entrance fee is applicable, and prepare to spend around two or three hours walking around here.

The Shuri Castle Park is just a 15 minute walk from the Gibo monorail station, and from Naha city, it takes about 35 minutes one way here.

Shuri Castle Park Area

Address: 1 Chome-2 Shurikinjocho, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 903-0815

Hours: 8.00 AM – 8.30 PM

Tel: +81 98-886-2020

Website: http://oki-park.jp/

Reverse view of the Gangala Cave entrance. Photo by Okinawa Soba on Flickr. CC By-SA 2.0.

Valley of Gangala

For the nature and Eco tourism lovers, the Gangala Valley in Okinawa is not to be missed. This is a lust tropical forest which is highly preserved by the government and is also known as a historical site. You can expect some beautiful nature landscapes here, with huge trees that at hundreds of years old, but the main star is of course the cave system here.

Just at the cave entrance, there is a very popular place called Cave Cafe which serves great coffee, and also a good place to just relax. To explore this area, you must take a standard tour (¥2200) from the park counter here. Special tours in English cost ¥3000 per person.

Valley of Gangala

Address: Japan, 〒901-1400 Okinawa Prefecture, Nanjo

Hours: 9.00 AM-6.00 PM

Tel: +81 98-948-4192

Website: http://www.gangala.com/

Entrance to the Gangala Cave. Photo by LadyOus on Flickr. CC By-SA 2.0.

The above are just some of the attractions that should not be missed when you visit Okinawa. Of course ,there are much more to see and do around these beautiful islands, but for this article, I have narrowed down some of the most popular in Okinawa.


 

David Hogan Jr
David Hogan Jr
A multiple award-winning travel writer, blogger and social media enthusiast. He has been traveling to Japan since 1990 and all over the world for his work. His work has been featured on CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Lonely Planet and many other publications. David writes at: http://malaysia-asia.my and is on social media platforms as @MalaysiaAsia

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