Booked a ticket to Okinawa already? If you are looking for things to do in Okinawa, you have come to the right place. In our recent trip, we covered all corners of Okinawa Main Island and will be sharing touristy attractions as well as those off the beaten path.
This post continues from Okinawa Itinerary Part 1 where I shared what we did from Day 1 to Day 4. In today’s post, you’ll see how much fun we had in Northern Okinawa from Day 5 onwards, where we made Nago city our base for the next few days.
DAY 5: EXPLORE NORTHERN TIP OF OKINAWA
Day 5 of our Okinawa Itinerary was dedicated to the northern tip of Okinawa. We enjoyed a quick breakfast of instant noodle and Japan coffee right in the comfort of our spacious apartment in Nago.
Our first destination was Cape Hedo, the northern-most cape in Okinawa. The 1.5 hours drive from Nago to Cape Hedo along the western coastal road was quite a sight. Over the initial stretch of the road, we took in scenic views of Kouri Bridge, Kouri Island and turquoise water that was layered with multi-tones of yellow. It was so charming and reminded me of Yin Yang Sea in Taiwan. I couldn’t stop snapping photos even though the car was moving at high speed.
TIP: Today’s itinerary requires a car. Anyway, self-driving is the best way to explore Okinawa. Take a look at this highly-raved car rental option.
Nearing the northern edge of Okinawa, the scenery metamorphosed into a rugged landscape of forested mountains, leafless trees and largely uninhabited land.
Must-read: 18 Things to know before visiting Okinawa
Arrived at Okinawa’s Northernmost Tip
Cape Hedo was such a beauty. In fact, it’s the second best cape I’ve seen in Okinawa and has everything from picturesque trails to lush green plants and rocky paths.
Most importantly, the water off Cape Hedo was stunning – it was so clear you could see what lied beneath. There were also various vantage points to take in the gorgeous view.
Pre-historic World in North Okinawa
Next up was Daisekirinzan, a place where avid nature-seekers and hikers would love to be in. I was surrounded by ancient stone formations and unique vegetation that made me feel like I’d stepped into dinosaur age. We completed the four connected trails in 1.5 hours.
TIP: The Main Island Okinawa Enjoy Pass gives you access to 12 popular attractions, including Daisekirinzan and Churaumi Aquarium. You can use it at a relaxing pace over 5 days. I find this pass to be of exceptional value and wish I’d seen it prior to making my trip. Highly-recommended!
A short drive away was an isolated giant bird tower, known as Okinawa Rail Observation Deck. It was eerily located near a cemetery. The tower with its cement walls and vertical window grill reminded me of an abandoned prison. It’s the last place I want to be in at night. :)
Family-Friendly Water Adventure
Enough touristy activities for the day. We made use of the last few hours of daylight to chase waterfall at Taa Taki Falls.
Getting to the waterfall required wading through a shallow river and some rope climbing. It took about 30 minutes to get to the first fall and another ten to see the second waterfall. For some reasons, we were the only Asians there. We believe the friendly westerners that we met at Taa Taki Falls are military folks (and family members) who are based in Okinawa.
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Taa Taki, a twin waterfall in north Okinawa is a popular spot among expats (military pp?). Though it requires 40 mins to hike there by way of river wading, it wasn't too difficult as rocks here aren't slippery. Swipe to see dancing girl. 💃 . . . #okinawa #Japan #waterfall #hiking #NicoleCravesJapan #nicoleCravesOkinawa
Sumptuous Steak Dinner in Okinawa
We ended the day with one of the best meals we’ve had in Okinawa. It was at Flipper Restaurant. Luckily we came early (before 6pm) as we saw a long queue forming soon after.
The 230g fillet minion that I ordered was done perfectly and was so tender and delicious. It cost ¥2200 and came with toast, salad and coffee/tea. I highly recommend this restaurant!
Our night was far more relaxing than our day as we idled in the comfortable and spacious Seven Residence Yabu Apartment, surfing net and chit chatting till 11pm.
When our stomach started growling at midnight, we were presented with ample food and shopping options. There were at least three 24-hour stores within 5km from where we stayed. Awesome! Off we drove to Mega Don Quijote and MaxValu.
Read Day 5 Travelogue:
- Day 5 (Part 1): 3 Must-Visit Attractions in North Okinawa
- Day 5 (Part 2): River Trekking at Ta-Taki Falls & Best Dinner in Okinawa
Map Location for Day 5 (North Okinawa Itinerary)
DAY 6: KOURI ISLAND, WATERFALL & MOUNTAIN IN NORTHERN OKINAWA
We started Day 6 with a breakfast picnic by トケイ浜 Beach at Kouri Island. You should come here if you want to experience non-touristy snorkeling. It requires no admission fee. Even parking behind this beach is also free, provided you are able to grab the limited lots.
Best DIY Snorkeling Spot in Okinawa
Tokei Hama Beach (トケイ浜) offered us the best snorkeling experience in Okinawa. Fishes here were abundant, friendly and appeared right off the beach. The corals were healthy and this probably explains the huge variety of fishes in different colors and sizes. Spotting starfishes and sea urchins were as easy as pie. As such, we were lured to snorkel here for close to two hours, much longer than what we’d intended to.
Our lunch at Shirasa Shokudo Restaurant restaurant (ウニどん) was equally memorable and satisfying. Imagine a bowl of rice topped with so much sea urchin it was one mouthful of creamy and fresh sea urchin after another (¥2500). Unfortunately, I had to gobble it up within 10 minutes because we were running late from our Day 6 Okinawa itinerary.
An Almost Unknown Waterfall in Okinawa
Hira Falls was an hour’s drive away. Remote, isolated and off the beaten path can aptly describe Hira Falls. We could change into our hiking gear right by the road without fear of being publicly exposed. There were no cars or human activities in sight. Tell you a secret, we also fed nature with the best fertilizer here. LOL! :)
To get into Hira Falls, we climbed over a road barricade marked by six red dots and descended into the rugged forest. What made this hike challenging were its’ unmarked trails, algae-covered rocks and extremely slippery river beds. We also had to mount over tall boulders and steer clear of wild insects and giant spider webs. It was a challenging trail by my standard because it requires a great degree of focus – one could easily get lost or slipped.
Getting to Hira Falls took 30 minutes (one-way). We gladly enjoyed the fruits of our labor by having Hira Falls all to ourselves. Yay!
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The 30 mins trail to Hira Falls was done by wading through river. As it's not a flat trail, there's a need to climb over algae-covered rocks. I would say the most challenging part is the slipperyness of the entire trail. Its not uncommon to slip. Another challenge is to not get lost. . The reward? The waterfall was solely ours (swipe to see how I adapted to very cold water. 🔊 😜 "啊! 好冷啊!"). . . . #Waterfall #Hiking #okinawa #Japan #Traveladventures #NicoleCravesJapan #NicoleCravesOkinawa
Don’t miss this 360° Mountain View in Nago City!!
The next item on our list was Fukugawa waterfall, but it was getting late. So we made a last minute swap and chose to climb Mount Katsuudake instead. It took 30 minutes to hike up to the summit via clearly-marked but steep trail.
The last few steps to the top were spine-chilling. I froze for a full minute or two, hanging by the edge of the cliff in an awkward climbing posture, unable to ascend or descend. It was the first time I was consumed by fear despite having climbed taller mountains including Mount Tongariro (New Zealand), Seoraksan (South Korea) and Mount Batur (Bali).
Thankfully, the view at the summit was worth the scare. It was a full 360 degrees view of Okinawa Nago City from a very tiny standing area. My heart was still pounding hard when stabilizing myself for the photo below.
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First time that I froze when hiking up a mountain…and it's not even considered a tall mountain. Why? Because the last 20 steps was a vertical climb up steep rocks and was by edge of mountain. A slip would mean bye bye. 😨 But the view was highly rewarding – one of the best mountain views thus far. I'll upload some video footage on IG story. . Photo taken at Mt Katsuudake in Okinawa . . . #okinawa #Japan #mountain #Hiking #traveladventure #NicoleCravesJapan #NicoleCravesOkinawa
Skip This Popular BBQ Restaurant in Okinawa
Unfortunately, we ended the day with a disappointing and expensive dinner. I do not recommend 焼肉乃我那覇 新館 Yakiniku BBQ Restaurant. The meat off the buffet counter was poor in quality. It’s not easy to have a bad meal in Japan, but this, unfortunately qualifies as one.
Did you know we had to queue 30 minutes to enter this popular restaurant? I believe it is a touristy restaurant because so many people were speaking Cantonese and Chinese. It was poor value because we couldn’t bring ourselves to eat much of those freeflow meat. Damage: ¥2700 (ladies) / ¥3240 (men).
To prepare for next day’s in-house breakfast, we dropped by MaxValu before making our way ‘home’. That was also the day when our Airbnb host informed us of a looming typhoon.
Read Day 6 Travelogue:
- Day 6 (Pt 1) – Kouri Island – Best Snorkeling Experience in Okinawa
- Day 6 (Pt 2) – A Challenging Hike to Hira Falls
- Day 6 (Pt 3) – Frozen with fear hiking Mount Katsuudake
Map Location for Day 6 (Nago Itinerary)
DAY 7: BISE WOODS, CHURAUMI AQUARIUM & ROMANTIC SUNSET VIEWING
Nearing the end of our Okinawa Trip, we took things easy and allowed ourselves to wake up naturally. The great thing about staying in a spacious apartment was how we preferred to have “in-house” breakfast. There’s no need to worry about makeup, dressing and hairdo.
Here’s me sipping tea in the garden, before stepping away to take a photo of my mug. Such a simple experience was gratifying because most Singaporeans don’t get to have their own personal garden. In the tiny island of ours, the only way for Singapore to hold 5.8 million people is to go vertical. Hence, most Singaporeans stay in high-rise buildings that come without gardens, backyards or garages.
We relaxed till 2pm before setting off for JA Farmers’ Market. The market had opened a new food court and we thought it would make a perfect place for lunch. To our dismay, the limited stalls at the cozy food court sold mainly desserts.
That’s okay. Getting food here isn’t a problem if we aren’t choosy. We strolled back into the market segment and bought a few bento sets, microwaved them and had it at the homely food court. This simple local lunch turned out to be pretty decent. Finally, I got to sample Okinawa Bittergourd. It was delicious!
A Great Day to Capture Instagram-Worthy Photos in Okinawa
Bise Woods was our first tourist attraction of the day. Simply put, Bise Woods is a residential area where all the back alleys are lined with Fukugi trees. We took a few quick photos and didn’t stay for long because there were too many hungry mosquitoes. Luckily, the few photos that we took turned out to be Instagram-worthy.
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All the alleys in Bise are lined with Fukugi Trees. It's a lovely place to stroll about, take some nice pic for instagram and feed the extremely hungry mosquitoes. . Bring along bug repellent and you'll be fine! 😉 .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #okinawa #Japan #nago #okinawajapan #沖縄 #NicoleCravesJapan #NicoleCravesOkinawa
Next up is the most touristy destination in Okinawa. Entering Okinawa Chuarumi Aquarium after 4pm helped shaved 30% off its admission price. This worked for us because we didn’t intend to spend time on other attractions around the vicinity.
TIP: You can book your Okinawa Aquarium admission ticket online at a cheaper rate. If you enter after 4pm, do remember to approach the ticket counter for a partial refund.
Another option is to get the Main Island Okinawa Enjoy Pass, especially if you would be visiting many attractions in Okinawa.
Actually, I’d on many occasions pondered if I should skip this touristy spot altogether. Luckily I didn’t as Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium was impressively set-up and in my humble opinion, succeeded in mimicking the underwater world. I find the experience entertaining and engaging.
After exiting the aquarium, we were gifted with an unexpectedly enchanting sunset. It was the prettiest sunset we’ve seen in a while and that set us quickly into a romantic mood.
If you want to impress your lover, add viewing sunset at Ocean Expo Park as one of your things to do in Okinawa.
We returned to Nago and drove past Hamazushi – a sushi-belt restaurant that seemed popular with locals. You’ll never go wrong following the locals. The sushi came in generous toppings and was value for money. Most plates were priced at ¥100 and the variety was great.
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One of the most enjoyable dining experiences in Okinawa. Hack care online reviews because many turned out to be fake. We followed the locals and entered this sushi conveyor belt restaurant. Most items at ¥100 and ingredients were stuffed right to the brim. Swipe to see more.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #okinawa #Japan #loves_okinawa #沖縄旅行 #visitJapan #ilovejapan #沖縄 #NicoleCravesJapan #NicoleCravesOkinawa
After dinner, we stopped by San A that consists of a department store, a supermarket and a ¥100 shop at the basement. That’s where I bought my second load of beauty items. I noted that many beauty items here were cheaper than those found at Don Quijote or Aeon. Do however note that only the beauty items are tax-free.
Read Day 7 Travelogue:
Map Location for Day 7 (Around Okinawa Aquarium)
DAY 8: KATSUREN CASTLE, AEON RYCOM & TYPHOON EXPERIENCE
This was the day we woke up the earliest in Okinawa, and it wasn’t by choice. The typhoon was predicted to hit Okinawa by noon. So, we had to check out early to make our way back to Naha before the typhoon struck. Our fate with Cape Manzamo was non-existent as typhoon cut short our time on Day 8 and we had to ditch our plan in visiting this cape. To help you recall, we’d missed this cape the first time on Day 3.
Katsuren Castle was the only attraction we managed to squeeze in along the way. It drizzled when we arrived at 9am, but the rain soon stopped allowing us to make our way up the UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you want to experience an authentic and semi-eroded castle, come to Katsuren Castle but remember to wear a proper footwear.
The view from the top was nice, but the strong wind and huge clouds didn’t make for good photography/videography.
Next, we stopped at Aeon Rycom hoping to satisfy our cravings for the beef bowl meal we had the other day at its food court. Alas, the food court and all the shops were closed, no thanks to the impending typhoon. Only Aeon Department Store and her supermarket were opened.
We made do with a Chirashi Bento which we bought from Aeon Supermarket and it turned out to be quite good. I also loaded up on beauty products and food souvenirs before setting off for our hotel in Naha.
Feeling the Effect of Typhoon in Okinawa
Shortly before reaching Naha, we saw Urasoe Castle in a distance and wanted to pop by to witness the actual scene of the movie “Hacksaw Ridge”. When we stopped at a petrol station to get our orientation, the stationary car started to vibrate due to the strong gust of wind.
Great! Someone up there must be warning us to stop all tourist activities immediately. I was so sad to miss Urasoe Castle because it was just right before my eyes. Sigh! As a responsible adult and tourist, the more sensible thing to do was to make our way to the safe haven of our hotel in Naha.
We drove straight to GRG Naha Higashimachi Hotel where I checked into the hotel while my travel partner continued his drive to OTS (Akamine Branch) to return the car. It was 3.30pm.
The weather seemed alright with no sign of typhoon except for momentary drizzle. Feeling bored, we walked to Kokusai Dori Street and continued shopping until typhoon finally arrived at around 7.30pm. You can read more about how we came face to face with Typhoon Prapiroon and what we did to keep ourselves updated on flight information.
Read Day 8 Travelogue:
- Day 8 (Pt 1) – Why Okinawa Katsuren Castle Ruins is worth a visit, even on a cloudy day
- Day 8 (Pt 2) – How Aeon Rycom & Naha City was like Hours before Typhoon hit Okinawa
- Coming face to face with a typhoon in Okinawa
Map Location for Day 8 (Nago-Naha Itinerary)
DAY 9: DEPARTING OKINAWA AMID AIRPORT CHAOS
We woke up to a simple buffet breakfast offered by GRG Hotel Naha Higashimachi, took a monorail to Naha Airport and immerse ourselves in airport chaos resulting from multiple flight delays.
It was a pain trying to figure out where to submit the duty-free tax forms in this chaos. A staff on duty told us to deposit the form after entering immigration. A box was placed near the gate for us to detach the forms from our passport and deposit them voluntarily.
I’m not sure if that’s the normal procedure or a contingency arrangement. Have you submitted duty-free form during non-chaotic time? Was it the same un-monitored process?
You can read more about the juicy airport happenings in this post – How Typhoon in Japan Disrupted my Travel Plan.
Map Location for Day 9 (Bye, Okinawa)
Update: Hey, I’ve just created a Free Printable Okinawa Itinerary that condenses what to see and do in Okinawa into two printable pages. This pdf copy offers one-click access to destination tips, locations and logistics info. Don’t forget to download it for free.
Family-Friendly Things to do in Okinawa
Not everyone enjoys adventures as much as we do. Hence, I’m sharing family-friendly things to do in Okinawa in the list below:
- Owl Adventure Park
- Okinawa World
- Big Slide in Tobaru Park
- Neo Park Okinawa
- Pineapple Park Okinawa
- Okinawa Fruits Land
- Kouri Ocean Tower
- Bios No Oka
If you’ll be visiting most of the attractions above, the Main Island Okinawa Enjoy Pass should present you with unbeatable savings. It covers the entrance fees of 12 popular attractions in Okinawa.
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(This post was first published on 20 Aug 2018)
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