If you are thinking of where to go for your next holiday, why not consider Okinawa? It’s a charming island in southern Japan that rewards you daily with turquoise water, abundant marine life, yummy seafood and delicious meat. Most importantly, it’s a great place to load up on beauty products (oops, pardon me!).
Hope I’ve gotten you excited! To make travel planning easy for you, I’m sharing with you 11 tips that can help you choose the right hotel in Okinawa. Okinawa has unique hotel characteristics that’re different from other countries. So, reading these tips may help you save some money and get the best hotel that suits your traveling preference.
11 Tips to help you Choose the Right Hotel in Okinawa
1. Don’t assume parking comes free with hotel booking
Unlike other countries, free parking is not a given in Okinawa when you book a hotel. What’s worse is that such additional parking charges are not clearly indicated upfront during booking. Even if you’ve added a filter for “Car Park” facility when performing a search on hotel booking portal, please don’t assume that the generated hotel listings provide free parking. They are just telling you that these hotels have parking onsite.
How then do you know if a hotel offers free parking? It’s best to assume that they don’t unless they explicitly said parking is free. Here are other ways to verify:
- Read through the hotel description carefully. You may have to scroll right to the end of the listing. If they indicate Carpark (Charges Apply), then it is obviously not free. This appears a lot for hotel listings in Okinawa.
- Read hotel reviews. Many reviewers would indicate whether there are parking charges and how much it would cost. Use “Control+F” and type in “Park” to quickly search for such comments. Most of the reviews that I’ve read had expressed shock when they realized that parking was not included as part of the stay.
- Contact hotel or Airbnb owner. If you can’t find any info using the above methods, it’s best to get the answer directly from the horses’ mouth. “Hi there, is parking free at your hotel?”
Many hotels in populated areas such as Naha city do not come with free parking. The nearer it is to Yui Monorail, the higher the chance that it wouldn’t be free.
2. Non-smoking room is not a default
As with most places in Japan, smoking is allowed in many hotels. If you are sensitive to cigarette smell, book a room that clearly indicates it’s a non-smoking room.
If the hotel only provides a generic listing of the room, it is possible that the hotel may be a smoke-free property. Check the listing or contact the hotel to confirm.
3. Double Room may be short in supply if you book late
In Japan, it is not uncommon for couples to sleep separately. Hence, hotels in Okinawa may offer more twin rooms than hotels in other countries. Since most tourists prefer to snuggle together, double room may be in short supply during peak traveling season, and especially so if you book at the last minute.
4. Western Room or Japanese Room?
This is cultural – it is common for Japanese to sleep on the floor, cushioned with a Futon. A futon is like a super cushy and soft sleeping bag. If you prefer a real bed, do not opt for a Japanese Room.
If you need to request additional beds, please confirm with hotel or Airbnb if they are really giving you an extra bed or just a futon. By the way, you should experience sleeping in a futon. It’s actually quite comfortable and a memorable cultural experience.
5. Tiny Room is a standard
Rooms in Okinawa (especially in Naha City) are tiny. A room with 13 square meters is common. If you get 20 square meters, it’s considered spacious. If you prefer larger rooms, go for Airbnb. You can normally get larger units at a lower price.
Travel and Save: Get S$62 off your first Airbnb stay and experience
6. Don’t get impacted by Minpaku Ruling that affects Airbnb
This ruling that came into effect in June 2018 restricts the number of days an Airbnb host can rent out their property, and also imposes stricter regulations. We were impacted as our Airbnb host was forced to cancel our reservation just a few weeks before our trip.
Do take note of this ruling and confirm with Airbnb host if they meet this ruling requirement before committing.
7. Scan hotel surrounding for Cemeteries
Okinawa has a tragic past relating to World War II. 150,000 have perished on the island. I’m not sure if that explains the large number of cemeteries in Okinawa. Most of them seem to be concentrated between Naha and Ginowan.
While it may not be possible to avoid staying near one, I do not wish to stay directly beside a cemetery. When booking accommodations, scan the surrounding using google map. Do note that some cemeteries may not be marked on google map. We almost booked an apartment right next to a big unmarked cemetery. Luckily, we’d done a “street view” scanning.
8. Book Accommodations Early (I mean really early)
I booked my hotels 2.5 months ahead of my trip to Okinawa. And yet, many hotels and apartments of great value were fully booked. When my Airbnb host canceled my reservation two weeks before my trip, it was worse! I ended up having only two Airbnb options to choose from, and one was located beside a big cemetery.
With the new Minpaku ruling, you may expect even more challenges when booking Airbnb units in Okinawa. This may indirectly lead to higher demand for hotels. So, try to make hotel bookings as early as possible too.
By the way, we noticed hotel rates increased drastically the closer it was to our staying period. So, once again, please book early. Hope I’ve emphasized this enough.
9. Where to stay in Okinawa?
If you have a week or more in Okinawa, you can choose to spread out your days and base yourself in different parts of Okinawa. Perhaps, one in Naha or Chatan and another near Nago. I’d based myself in Naha and Nago and then back to Naha again on the last day to make it easier to get to the airport by monorail.
For those with a big budget, you can consider staying at luxurious beach-front accommodations dotted along the western coast of Okinawa (between Cape Maeda and Nago). Those with an even bigger budget can consider flying to nearby popular islands such as Ishigaki and Miyako.
In general, you can find castles dotted in all the places I’ve mentioned (yes, Okinawa has soooo many castles). If you are gonna stay for just a few days, it’s probably easier to base yourself at Naha since that’s the biggest city and its where the monorail operates in.
If you love snorkeling you can base yourself near Nago or Onna or stay in some offshore islands mentioned earlier. Of the three places I’ve snorkeled in (main island), Kouri Island offered the best experience.
Nature lovers can stay a few nights in Nago. There are many waterfalls, mountains and natural landscape in the region.
10. Self-drive to reduce Hotel Expenses
Public transport in Okinawa is rather limited. Most accommodations located near to Yui Rail (monorail in Okinawa) are small and priced at a premium. So, why not rent a car? Not only would driving provide convenience and bring you to attractions scattered around the island, you can also choose to stay at just about anywhere.
Staying in off-central accommodations tend to be cheaper. Units are likely to be larger too. The savings in accommodation can probably offset the cost of a car because car rental isn’t expensive in Okinawa, especially during the low season. You can view live car rental rates here.
11. Don’t apply too many hotel search filters
When shortlisting hotels in Okinawa, don’t add too many search filters such as “Gym” or “Pool” on hotel portals. You may end up with very limited and expensive options. Unlike other countries, many mid-range hotels in Okinawa do not have gyms or pools. Of course, if you are willing to splurge, that’s a different story.
Ready to book a hotel in Okinawa?
Do you feel the above tips have given you confidence in choosing a hotel in Okinawa? If you want bigger and cheaper accommodations, book Airbnb months ahead. You can get S$45 off your first Airbnb accommodation through this link.
If you prefer to stay in hotels in Okinawa Main Island, here are some recommendations based on my research (criteria: value for money). The three I’ve stayed in are marked with asterisks (***) and I enjoyed my stay at these properties.
Recommended Hotels in Naha (near public transport)
Recommended Hotels near Naha (if you drive)
Recommended Hotels in Chatan (near good amenities)
Recommended Hotels in Nago (near Churaumi Aquarium)
Recommended Luxurious Resorts with Ocean View
- Hotel Monterey Okinawa Spa and Resort
- ANA InterContinental Manza Beach
- Sheraton Okinawa Sunmarina Resort
The hotels listed above were not randomly obtained from the internet. They were plucked from my travel excel sheet after extensive research (for my own trip). It should help you zoom into hotels that are value for money.
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- Day 1 (Pt 1) – How to rent a car in Okinawa (Plus Visit Itoman Fish Market)
- Day 1 (Pt 2) – Okinawa History Lessons at Himeyuri Peace Museum, Former Japanese Navy HQ, Tsuboya Pottery and Kokusai Dori Streets
- Day 2 (Pt 1) – Explored Southern Okinawa & Visited The Best Cape in Okinawa
- Day 2 (Pt 2) – Gushikawa Castle, Cape Kyan, Giza Banta Cliff, Odo Beach, American Village and more
- Day 3 (Pt 1) – Top Things to do in West Okinawa
- Day 3 (Pt 2) – How to Snorkel at Cape Maeda and Blue Cave without joining a tour?
- Day 4 – Self-drive from Naha to Nago (Okinawa Outlet Mall & Orion Beer Tour)
- Day 5 (Pt 1) – 4 Must-Visit Attractions in North Okinawa
- Day 5 (Pt 2) – River Trekking at Ta-Taki Falls & Best Dinner in Okinawa
- Day 6 (Pt 1) – Kouri Island | Our Best Snorkeling Experience in Okinawa
- Day 6 (Pt 2) – A Challenging Hike to Hira Falls
- Day 6 (Pt 3) – Frozen with fear hiking up Mount Katsuudake
- Day 7 (Pt 1) – JA Farmers Market & Bise Fukugi Tree Road
- Day 7 (Pt 2) – Don’t skip Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium and Ocean Expo Park
- Day 7 (Pt 3) – Looking for a Good Sushi Restaurant in Okinawa? Check out Hamazushi in Nago City
- Day 8 (Pt 1) – Why Katsuren Castle is worth a visit
- Day 8 (Pt 2) – How Aeon Rycom & Naha City was like hours before typhoon
- How Japan Typhoon disrupted my travel plans
- 9 Days Okinawa Itinerary (Part 1)
- 9 Days Okinawa Itinerary (Part 2)