Okinawa - Experience Asia's very own Hawaii
Okinawa means “rope in the open sea”, a fairly apt description of this long stretch of islands (>150 islands) in the East China Sea between Japan and Taiwan, with total land area of 2,271km2. An island surrounded by beautiful ocean. It's known for its tropical climate, broad beaches and coral reefs, as well as World War II sites. Okinawa is a prominent Japanese resort area, blessed with a warm climate throughout the year. There are many beautiful, world-renowned beaches on Okinawa's islands. In 2017, Okinawa overtook Hawaii in terms of tourist numbers, according to the Okinawa Prefectural Government data released recently.
Here are the Top 10 reasons why people love Okinawa:
- The sea, beaches and sunsets are absolutely gorgeous!
- Sea life - one of the largest aquariums in the world - Churaumi Aquarium!
- Perfect climate - Okinawa is warm even during winter!
- Okinawa is peaceful and relaxed!
- Fun water sports - snorkelling, diving, parasailing, surfing, paddleboarding...
- Local food is on another level - super yummy & reasonable + eye-opening fish markets
- Okinawan is one of the longest-living people in the world
- The locals are friendly and laid-back
- Okinawa is nowhere as expensive as you think
- Has many beautiful nature areas, forests and waterfalls and ocean activities and many more…
Okinawa enters the peak of summer in July. The average temperature is 27oC-29°C/80.6oF-84.2°F, but goes up as high as 32°C/89.6°F. There's not much rain, so you'll be able to enjoy summer as if you were in a tropical island in the south. That's why there are many tourists in town at this time, and it can get crowded in some places. Prepare sunglasses, a great summer hat to keep you cool and also sunscreen to protect your skin and most importantly don’t’ forget to pack your beach wear before you hit the beach!
Trains are not easily available in Okinawa. There is monorail but it only goes around Naha city. The monorail (Yu Rail) travels through Naha City, starts at Naha Airport Station, and goes all the way to Shuri Station, the last stop, which is 13km in length and has a total of 15 stations; it travels to many sightseeing spots such as Kokusai Shopping Street. One-way monorail ticket price from the airport to Naha city (approx. 15 mins) is 260yen / USD2.30.
We would recommend renting a car (approx USD40 onwards per day, excl. insurance, for a 1,000 cc car, fuel charges: approx USD1.50/litre) to move around and enjoy driving under the beautiful blue sky of the islands. The main island extends approx.. 110km from North to South and 10km from East to West. Bear in mind of the speed limit which is between 30km/hr up to 80km/hr. So more often you are going to be driving at a slow pace and should not expect to get anywhere fast. Just relax and enjoy the beautiful blue sky and stunning beach coastal road.
Top 10 Must Visit Places in Okinawa
- Shuri Castle
In 1429-1879, Shuri Castle was the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom, served as the proud and dignified center of Ryukyu Kingdom and its politics, foreign affairs and culture, and invented the martial art - karate. Shuri Castle was designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2000. It only takes 10 mins walk from the Shuri monorail station.
Entrance Fee: 820 Yen / ~USD 7.40 per person
Operating hours: 8am – 8.30pm
Map code: 33161526*71
- Naha City
Naha is the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, associated with traditional ceramics like Shisa (lion-dog figures). Lined with shops, bars and restaurants, Kokusai-dori is Naha's main street. It is located just 5.7km away from the Naha Airport. Home to more than 300,000 people, Naha is the capital and largest city of Okinawa. Among the major attractions in Naha City are Kokusai Street, Shuri Castle and its vicinity, and the Shintoshin district with large shopping malls and a variety of restaurants.
- Senagajima Umikaji Terrace (little Greece)
Senagajima Umikaji Terrace is located on Senaga Island, the nearest island to Naha airport. Free shuttle bus is available from Akamine monorail station and Umikaji Hotel. This new tourist destination opened in the summer of 2015. It has over 30 shops, restaurants, cafes and boutiques, hot spring @ Umikaji Hotel and more under construction. The buildings, sidewalks and stairs are built in blue and white colours, modelled after a Greek village. Just chill and relax here and enjoy stunning sea views and watching the planes take off and land! If you are lucky, you can also see fighter jets taking off at Naha Airport!
Operating hours: 10am – 9pm
- American Village, Chatan
The American Village is a large entertainment complex located in central Okinawa, about 15km North of Naha. Many American military bases are located here. It resembles a big American outdoor shopping mall with lots of shops, restaurants, cafes and a large parking lot. The most recognisable feature of the American Village is the large Ferris Wheel. The Americana theme is found at many establishments, such as fashion shops selling American brand clothing or restaurants specialising in hot dogs and hamburgers. Just a few steps away along the waterfront is Sunset Beach. Facing westward, the beach is a good place to catch the sunset and is a popular spot for barbecues.
Map code: 33525598*63
- Manzamo Cape
In the 18th century, when Okinawa was still ruled by the Ryukyu Kingdom, the Ryukyu King visited this place, and he was shocked because this place is so flat and spacious! More than 10,000 people can sit on top of this cape and enjoy the sea views together, hence it was named Manzamo!
Manzamo Cape is a scenic rock formation on Okinawa Island. It is located near Onna Village. Cape Manzamo is one of the most popular places among both Japanese and international travellers who visit Okinawa Island. This area is famous for its limestone landscape and it is surrounded by many high-class resorts and restaurants. Just opposite to Cape Manzamo, you can find the famous ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort.
Map code: 206282850*43
- Busena Marine Park
The only underwater observatory tower in Okinawa island. It is located 170 meters away from the shore near Busena Cape. This underwater observatory tower allows you to view 360 degrees of coral reef with all the colorful coral fish swimming around. The natural under-water world can be seen from the windows 5 meters down in the water. Playful whale shaped glass bottom boat is also available and it will be a great experience for kids!
Map code: 206442076*60
Operating hours: 8.30am – 7.30pm
Underwater Observatory tower: Adult 1,030 yen / ~USD9.25; Children 520 yen / ~USD4.70
Glass bottom boat: Adult 1,540 yen / ~USD13.80; Children: 770 yen / ~USD7
Combination ticket: Adult 2,060 yen / ~USD18.50; Children: 1,030 yen / ~USD9.20
- Churaumi Aquarium Okinawa @ Ocean Export Park
Ocean Expo Park has many attractions including the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world – the home to whale sharks and manta rays, the Tropical Dream Center, the Native Okinawan Village & Omoro Arboretum, Emerald Beach, Okichan Dolphin Theatre , etc.
Operating hours: 8.30am-7pm
Tickets: Adult 1850 yen / ~USD16.60; Children below 6 is free
Map code: 553075797*77
- Cape Chinen
Cape Chinen, a well-known beauty spot in Okinawa located just a 40 to 50-minute drive from Naha airport. When exploring the southern part of the main island, this is an area that visitors will not want to miss. Chinen Cape Park is a quiet place located on a hill, perfect for relaxing and whiling away the time. From here, visitors can overlook the sea of the emerald green, and it is also a famous spot for watching the morning sunrise.
Map code: 232594503*30
9. Stunning Beaches
9a) Zanpa Beach
Near Onna Village, this is a beach famous for its sunset located by Zampamisaki. This beach is surrounded by the largest coral reef in the prefecture and because of this, the waves are calm, making it the perfect environment for small children to enjoy.
Map code: 1005656693*33
9b) Emerald Beach @ Ocean Expo Park
This beach’s cobalt blue ocean was given an AA ranking (the highest rank). This beach was chosen as one of the “Best Beach 100” of Japan by the Ministry of the Environment as a result of this beach’s exceptional beauty and safety.
Mape code: 553075797*77
9c) Sesoko Beach
This is an 800-meter-long natural sand beach with shallow, crystal-clear water, located on Sesoko Island - a small island connected to Okinawa’s main island by a bridge. About 500 meters offshore lies an expanse of beautiful coral reef, which is accessible on foot at low tide.
Mape code: 20682341*56
9d) Ikei Beach
Ikei Beach is situated on one of three islands, Ikei island, connected by the Mid-Sea Road from Uruma in Okinawa main island. As you pass the red Ikei bridge, you will see a beach with beautiful and transparent water. It is a popular beach among locals. In addition to various beach activities, you can also swim all year long, since wind and waves are calm.
Map code: 199794066*15
10. Beautiful Wedding Chapels
One of the most beautiful seas in the world, the crystal blue sky, white sandy beaches – Okinawa is the most popular resort wedding spot in Japan. With gentle sea breezes, passionate sunlight, and dazzling landscapes. More and more couples are having their wedding ceremonies on the beautiful southern island of Okinawa - the perfect environment for resort weddings and pre-wedding shooting. For example, it has lovely chapels with gorgeous ocean view, beautiful churches resembling castles, resort hotels with private beaches, and more for you to have the most romantic wedding. Here are the popular list of Chapels for weddings in Okinawa:
Arluis Suite Chapel
Capacity: 40 persons
Address: 3085-1 Aza-Yamada, Onna-son, Okinawa, Japan
(Approx. an hour drive from the Naha Airport)
Shirono Church @ Hotel Orion Motobu Resort & Spa
148-1, Bise, Motobu-Cho, Kunigami-Gun, Okinawa 905-0207, Japan
(Approx. 1.5 hour drive from the Naha Airport)
Aqua Grace Chapel
Capacity: 60 persons
Address: 675 Uza, Yomitan, Nakagami District, Okinawa , Japan
(Approx. an hour drive from the Naha Airport)
Tel: +81 098 921 6377
Address: 246-1 Aza Fuchaku Shirifukuchihara Onna-son, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa, Japan
(Approx. an hour drive from the Naha Airport)
Tel: +81 098-964-7000
Aqualuce Chapel @ ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach Resort
Capacity: 60 persons
Address: 2260 Serakaki, Onna-son, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa, Japan
Tel: +81 098-982-3422
(50minute drive from the Naha Airport)
Coralvita Chapel @ ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach Resort
Capacity: 40 persons
Address: 2260 Serakaki, Onna-son, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa, Japan
(50minute drive from the Naha Airport)
For other chapel list in Okinawa, visit https://www.visitokinawa.jp/wedding/okinawa-chapel-list
Top 10 Must Try Local Foods in Okinawa
Top 10 Shopping Places in Okinawa
- Kokusai Street
1.6-kilometer-long most famous shopping street, is lined with lots restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, boutiques, souvenir shops, etc. Only 3-minute walk from Kencho-mae monorail station. Adjacent shopping streets include: Tsuboya Yachimun Street (numerous cafés, pottery and craft shops); Sakurazaka Street (unique bars and traditional-style drinking shops); Ukishima Street (shops and eateries frequented by young trendies; Ichigin Street (nightlife spot with many izakaya and eateries).
- Ryobu Shopping Mall
Next to Kencho-Mae Monorial Station. The only big shopping mall in Kokusai area. This is a good department store where you can shop a variety of Japanese products. Must try the high-tea set and freshly baked breads and pastries @ Afternoon Tea on Level 2 and green tea set and udon noodles @ Seven-Leaf.
- Makishi Public Market
Known as Naha’s kitchen @ Kokusai Street. The Makishi Public Market is a home to many great shops, selling fresh vibrantly colored fish and seafood, pork belly, dried food, vegetables, etc. You can pick your favourite fish to be cooked at eateries on the second floor for an extra fee.
- T Galleria Okinawa Duty Free Shops
Next to Omoromachi monorail station. T Galleria by DFS offers an unique Okinawa duty free shopping experience amongst the widest variety of over 700 luxury brands.
- The Main Place Shopping Mall
5-min walks from Omoromachi station (behind T Galleria). Naha Main Place is one of the most popular malls in Naha. Many locals like to shop here because it has almost everything. Foreign tourists can also enjoy the tax-free shopping in most shops here.
- Okinawa Outlet Mall Ashibinaa
One of the must shopping destinations in Okinawa. There are more than 100 shops lined in the spacious premises. You can take the free shuttle bus from Naha Domestic Airport at arrival Hall exit 3. Bus no 95, fare: 250 yen per person, approx 30-min travelling time.
- Depot Island, Chatan (American Village)
Approximately 12 km to the north from Naha. Going north on Route 58, you will soon arrive at American Village in Chatan Town. Depot Island is adjacent to a beach with beautiful sunsets, sports facilities, and a sports park. It is an American style resort town where you can enjoy shopping, dining, watching movies, and watching performances at live entertainment clubs.
- AEON Naha Shopping Center
This is a relatively big shopping center in Okinawa. It's close to Naha Airport and directly connected to Oroku monorail station so it's very convenient. There are around 80 stores like the supermarket Aeon, Uniqlo, and Best Denki, so you'll be able to find everything from daily necessities to clothes and household appliances.
- Heiwa Street
Enjoy this place even on rainy days. This covered shopping arcade featuring many shops and vendors that sell local wares from local souvenirs, t-shirts, handicraft stores to local foods and unique snacks This arcade situated between Tsuboya Yachimun Street and Kokusai Street.
- Okashi Goten Onna
Okashi Goten was actually carefully constructed similarly to a temple. This place is a colorful, artful, and modern shop and there is a cafe, restaurant, and bakery here. It is a geat place to buy sourvenirs and enjoy freshly baked purple sweet potato tarts at the restaurant on level 2, overlooks the sea with a lovely view of the beach.
Highlights - Popular Souvenirs in Okinawa
Purple Sweet Potato
Okinawa’s most popular souvenirs. This purple sweet potato tart is one of the must-have souvenirs from Okinawa.
Yukishio Snow Sea Salt
It has been awarded a Guinness World Record for comprising the most varieties of minerals salt (18 kinds in total). Aside from cooking salt, their top products include sea salt toothpaste, soap, body scrub, sea salt beauty spa, facial cleanser, biscuits, etc.
Okinawa Handmade Blue Sea Glass Jewellery
The blue of Okinawa’s ocean and sky is reflected in the handcrafted pendants and bracelets and many more accessories.
Shisa is a traditional Ryukyuan cultural artefact and decoration derived from Chinese guardian lions, often seen in similar pairs, resembling a cross between a lion and a dog, from Okinawan mythology. In Okinawa, you can see a pair of shisa sitting at a gate, outside of an entrance, or sometimes on a roof. They are ever vigilant protectors of Okinawa.
Ryukyu glass is an art of glass that requires proficient skills to make and also symbolises Okinawan history. It come in various colours. Making your own piece of art of glass would be a great experience as there will be nothing the same as the one you will make in the world.
Kariyushi is a style of attire originating in Okinawa. Similar to an aloha shirt, they are mainly worn in summer. The shirts are printed, mostly short-sleeved, and collared. Kariyushi shirts may be worn as casual, informal wear, or even for work.
My Top 10 Beauty Kit for Summer Holiday in Okinawa
Before heading to Okinawa, remember to pack your summer’s essential kit to keep your skin healthy while you travel! Here are my ‘must-haves’ travel beauty kit that I can’t live without 🙂
1) Coola - Sunscreen for Face SPF30 Cucumber Matte Finish
Naturally shield and nourish skin everyday with this antioxidant-infused, mineral matte SPF 30 sunscreen. This light, natural cucumber scented formula gives skin an immediate line-smoothing finish, fights free radicals, helps calm skin and improves elasticity and retain moisture. This organic sunscreen is formulated for all skin types. Can use it as a primer. Price: US$36.00
2) Laneige BB Cushion Pore Control SPF50 PA+++
The texture of this Laneige BB Cushion is lightweight, and feels featherlight on skin, almost like nothing on the skin. It helps to keep your skin looks clean, matte and smooth all day long by keeping skin moisturised and controls excessive sebum while maintaining moisture. It gives a refreshing feel that lasts long hours, and provides great coverage for big pores. It evens out skin tone very naturally. Easy to use, not drying nor oily, high sunscreen protection, portable packaging, comes with a refill which makes it value for money, Wider shade selection for deeper skin tones. US$29.88
3) ILIA – Radiant Translucent Powder SPF20
ILIA’s Radiant Translucent Tinted Colour Powder adds natural SPF 20 protection with a hint of luminosity. Created with a blend of organic talc-free powders, oils and extracts of aloe, rosemary leaf, thyme, and hibiscus flower, the formulation does double duty in nourishing the skin while protecting from UVA and UVB rays. Ultra-fine pearl pigments leave a radiant finish that can easily be reapplied as needed throughout the day. Magic Sands compliments skin tones that are light to medium. Waikiki Run compliments skin tones that are medium to dark. US$34
4) Alima Pure - Natural Definition Brow Pencil
Natural Definition Brow Pencil is a smooth and easy to apply but does not turn greasy or waxy as the day wears on. Great pencil and it matches my brows perfectly. Blendable pencil for precise application suited for subtle enhancement to bold definition. It glides on smoothly, blends beautifully, and lasts all day! And it doesn't contain harmful chemicals!! US$18
5) Antonym Certified Organic Eyeshadow Palette
This long lasting, smooth formula is created with light accentuating pigments that enhance colours by providing added depth. The pigments are characterised by intensity, radiance and a silky texture, easy to blend, which ensure ultimate and supreme colour performance. Gluten Free. Rich in color, and it has a velvety finish. Easy to apply, the versatile formula blends evenly and can be applied for shading, highlighting and lining the eye. Ideal for the most sensitive skin. US$39.00
6) Vapour Beauty Mesmerize Eyeliner
Mesmerize Eyeliner glides on like a dream delivering a smooth precise line for a perfectly defined eye. You can also use the blending tool for a seductive, smoky eye. Finally, professional performance in an organic eyeliner.Mesmerize Eyeliner contains soothing Chamomile Flower. This eyeliner is designed to moisturize and nourish the eye area without the harsh chemicals and skin-aging adhesives found in most eye cosmetics. It glides on and stays on without skipping, dragging, or tugging the skin, beautifully bendable, contains none of the harsh adhesives in traditional eyeliners, moisturizing to delicate eye area, eye definition that's good for your eyes. Available in 2 colours (Black and Truffle). US$20
7) 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Ultra Lengthening Mascara
100% natural mascara lengthens, separates, thickens and glosses lashes with fruit pigments and cocoa. Lash conditioning Pro Vitamin B5, Vitamin E, Oat and Wheat protein conditions for healthier lashes. Gentle, all natural, good for you formula is suitable for everyone, even if you wear contacts or have sensitive eyes. Water and smudge resistant. For all. For those who desire a lengthening mascara that separates, thickens, and conditions lashes for a water and smudge resistant look. Gluten Free. US$26
8) Blusher - Summer Essential Face Palette
This limited-edition face palette with the perfect mix of warm, beachy shades that create an endless summer glow. Bring a fresh-faced look to your routine with soft, creamy textures that soften on contact and melt into skin. Complete with 2 Multi-Stick shades and 2 pearlescent Illuminator shades, combinations are endless and bring warmth to the skin with a natural lit from within glow. Shades clockwise: All Of Me, Cosmic Dancer, Dreamer, Summertime. US$42
9) ILIA Tinted Lip Conditioner SPF15
It offers natural sun protection and a host of organic botanicals. The colour may appear bold at first glance but is sheer and subtle when applied. A perfect complement to this season's fresh-faced look and will suit most skin tones. US$28 (available in 6 colours)
10) Suntegriy – Body Sunscreen SPF30
This mineral sunscreen will not only shield your skin from damaging UV rays but moisturize, heal and soothe without any residue or chalkiness. The best we've found so far! It's non-greasy and contains 20% non-nano, uncoated zinc-oxide for therapeutic broad-spectrum protection against the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays. This sunscreen formula is easy to apply, loaded with antioxidants for healthy protection all year round and has a light uplifting citrus scent. US$36
Recommended Skin Rescue Kit
Mageline Magic Beauty Brightening Mask (10pcs)
Deep replenishment of moisture and collagen, brighten skin tone, dilutes acne marks, promotes smooth and silky skin. Its unique cooling sensation - effectively calms and relieves sun damaged skin. It helps exfoliate, clear pores, dry blemishes, and reduce the appearance of redness. Ideal as an all-over mask to treat blemishes and congestion. Repairs skin and suitable for after sun care, sensitive, problematic skin - acnes, whiteheads & blackheads. Suitable for all skin types.
Mageline Black Tea & Lavender Mask 200g
Black tea extract has high antioxidant that can help protect your cells from DNA damage. It helps defend skin against free radicals and smooth out wrinkles, and restore radiance to dull skin. Aloe vera extract is the perfect remedy for sunburned and sensitive skin, soothing and hydrating, has anti-inflammatory and cooling properties to reduce acne and infection, lighten blemishes and accelerate skin healing process. Natural lavender extract improves the circulation by adding oxygen to the skin cells, soothes the skin, has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that can fight the bacteria that cause acne and inflammation. It relieves itching and reduces the symptoms of eczema. It also decongests the irritated areas on the skin by adding moisture, thereby accelerating the healing process. Suitable for all skin types.
Babo Botanicals – After Sun Soothing Hydrating Aloe Gel
Super hydrating and non-sticky! Soothing, cooling and quick absorbing Aloe Vera Gel contains Green Tea, Witch Hazel, Arnica and Eucalyptus Oil. Smells fresh and leaves no tacky residue. Ultra-rich, hydrating botanicals leaves skin smooth for optimal after sun care. It feels so good on the skin! US$14.95
Benton – Aloe Soothing Mask Pack (10pcs)
This soothing, hydrating & nourishing, cooling and revitalising mask instantly nourishes, deeply hydrates, and actively soothes skin while fitting close to skin without irritation. Suitable for red and heated skin, dehydrated and dull skin. US$24.69