Okinawa (沖縄) is one of the Japanese Prefecture comprising more than 150 islands in the East China Sea between Taiwan and Japan’s mainland. It is also the largest island. If you are the sun, sand and sea sort of person, you will bound to love this place!
I have heard a lot about Okinawa especially on the part “Okinawa is Japan but not exactly Japanese”.
How interesting right?
Typically, travellers will spend about 4 to 6 days visiting this island depending on the planned itinerary. I have planned to cover every nooks & corners of the island so I catered up to 8 days for this trip.
This trip is significant for me to step through as this is one of the 47 Prefectures of Japan.
Being a year end trip, 8 days seems kinda short 😂 so, I decided to extend 3 more days in Taipei City while enroute on my way home.
With this in mind, I decided to fly via China Airlines on open jaw with the first leg direct to Naha with 2 hours of transit time at Tao Yuan International Airport. Second leg will be stopping over at Taipei City before home return on the final leg.
In Okinawa, it is highly recommended to do a self-drive so that you can cover more tourist attraction spots instead of using public transportation which can be challenging.
I made prior car rental reservation using Times Car Rental and now I am all set to go!
As usual, pampering myself with a good meal at TGM Lounge prior to departure.
Time to depart for my first leg to transit in Taipei.
Arriving into Tao Yuan International at the scheduled time after 4 hours.
After clearing transit immigration, proceeded straight to Plaza Premium Lounge to chill out before the next leg flight to Okinawa.
Enjoying round 2 of great food at the lounge prior to boarding. I really like the hot food selection at Plaza Premium Lounge. Food quality is consistent throughout their lounges in the various airport.
Here we go again. Looking forward to start my Okinawa adventure.
Finally, arrived into Naha Airport. After the standard ritual of clearing immigration and baggage collection, headed off to the Naha Airport Station for the monorail ride to Hotel Ocean (Kokusai-dori) which is near to Makishi Station.
In Okinawa, the only rail line providing rail transportation in this prefecture is the Okinawa Urban Monorail.
You just need to follow the monorail directional signs to the station.
It will probably take you less than 10 mins to reach the Airport Station.
From Naha Airport Station, it only takes about 16 mins to reach Makishi Station and costs about ¥300 per pax.
I will be spending my first night at Hotel Ocean (Kokusai-dori)
which is about 3 mins walk from Makishi Station.
This hotel is super family friendly. They even go to the extent to provide free diapers for child. 😯
Room size is spacious for 4 people and comes with 5 single beds. 👍
Interestingly, this hotel also provides complimentary Okinawan noodles after 9pm (limited to 50 bowls per night) for hotel guests in addition to the complimentary coffee, tea & sake at the hotel lobby area which is available 24 x 7.
I love the texture of the Okinawan noodle. It’s springy-ly tasty similar to our yellow flat noodle used in Hokkien noodle but has a nice chewy texture.
After checking in, took a leisure stroll along Kokusai Street in search of Ichiran Ramen.
Found what I am supposed to find. 😊
My all time favourite preference whenever I am in Ichiran.
A great bowl of ramen as always. Simply loving it.
Can anyone tell me what this means? By the way, you will only get to see this after slurping up the soup in the bowl. 😉
Continue strolling the streets of Kokusai before ending a long day.
Day 2, waking up to a cool wet morning. This morning, we will be departing Naha city to travel up north of the island.
Before checkout, proceeded to search for a nice breakfast place. Came across this shop outlet specializes in beef bowl which is opposite Saion Square.
This place reminds me of Sukiya and food quality is champion too. Simple Okinawan dishes.
As usual, the noodles texture never fails me and their tofu soup is really power though looks nothing much to shout about. Again, looks are definitely deceiving! 😀
After a good tummy recharge, proceeded to pick up my rental car from Times Car Rental at Saion Square, conveniently located near to Hotel Ocean.
Got myself a Toyota Sienta for the next 6 days of self driving trip.
Headed off to the first attraction, Cape Hedo, the island’s northernmost tip, offering spectacular views of the cliffy coast.
Magnificient views of the coastline.
Hopping off next to Yanbaru National Park. It is located in and around the forested region of Yanbaru at the northern end of Okinawa Island.
More scenic views of the National Park.
Had a quick bite at the 2F Café of the Observatory thereafter.
Great food with great scenery. What more can I ask?
Visited Daisekirinzan (大石林山) next.
There is a museum with an exhibition hall which offers free admission to visitors to learn more about rocks formation.
For those who are more adventurous, you may consider to do a paid leisure walking trail to enjoy the nature of the forest and you will get to see many rocks formation along the trail as well.
As for me, I decided to give it a rain check this time round as I will be doing a more intense one at the next attraction. 😊
Fourth attraction of the day, Hiji Falls.
It is a National Park and a popular tourist destination on Okinawa island. Hiji Falls is located in the northern part of the island as well.
You can access the trail to Hiji Falls from the campsite. The last entrance timing will be at 3pm.
Entrance fees are required to access this walking trail.
From the campsite, it will take you about 1.5km (approximately 40 mins) to reach Hiji Falls. There are lots of steep steps to climb in order to get to see this magnificient Falls.
You will get to catch sight of the various scenic views along the trail route.
This is the long awaited Hiji Falls after a good workout.
Final attraction for the day, Heart Rock at Kouri Island.
A photogenic coral rock formation in the shape of a heart.
Unfortunately, it was experiencing high tide during this visit. Else, you will be able to walk up close and personal to the heart rock.
Time to head over to Okinawa Marriott Resort & Spa for my next 3 nights abode.
Loved the big and spacious room layout of this hotel.
Thereafter, went for dinner at Columbin nearby the hotel.
This restaurant offers a broad range of tastes from Italian, Okinawan, Japanese and American.
Another eventful day to bring Day 2 to an end.
Day 3, waking up to a beautiful sea view from my hotel room balcony.
This is what life should be about! I am glad I will be able to wake up with such great views at least for the next 2 mornings. 😀
We will be covering a couple of attractions for today.
Before that, starting off the day with a power breakfast at A&W in Nago City.
It has been a long time since I last had A&W. Indeed a satisfying meal starter 👍. I miss having their coney dog especially on Coney Tuesday where it is always having one for one offer.
For those in my era, you will know what I mean! 😉
Time to embark on the 1st attraction, Cape Manzamo.
Cape Manzamo is a scenic rock formation on Okinawa Island, located in Onna Village, the largest resort area on the western part of the main island.
From afar, it looks like a big “okay” sign.
More scenic views taken from Cape Manzamo.
Followed by Cape Maeda next.
Cape Maeda is a busy seaside destination best known for panoramic water views as well as scuba diving & snorkeling activities.
While enroute to the 3rd attraction, Cape Zanpa Lighthouse, I spotted a rare find, Joyfull Restaurant.
So far, I can only find this chain in Kyushu and there is no price in guessing what happens next……😮
Yay, I have to make a pit stop here for refuelling. 😋😋😋
Awesome meal without a doubt. Good quality food at decent pricing. 👍👍👍
Continuing with my journey to Cape Zanpa Lighthouse after a good charged-up.
Cape Zanpa is located on the westernmost point of the main island of Okinawa.
It offers a beautiful coastline and is one of the most beautiful locations to witness the sun setting into the East China Sea.Look at the strong waves hitting the coastline. This mother nature scene is so amazingly beautiful.
Here you will get to see a 30m beautiful tall white lighthouse standing on the tip of the cape as well. You may pay a fee to climb up to the top of the lighthouse for a great opportunity to capture a view of the lifetime.
Made a visit to the Zakimi Castle Ruins next.
This castle is included as one of the UNESCO World Heritage designated Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Zakimi Castle Ruins are located on a hill in central Okinawa Honto and only the stone walls remain which visitors can ascend for good views over the ruins.
So much on sightseeing, time to do some local snacks shopping at Okasigoten Onna.
You can simply indulge yourself with delicate and delicious Okinawan local produced sweets especially their Beni-imo sweet potato products.
After a fun time snacking on the sample sweets, headed over to AEON Mall at Nago City for more shopping spree.
Snacking at Sanuki Udon Hanamaru. I loved their cold udon and it is a must each time I spotted this joint. Strictly no compromise!
Well, it has been another long and fun-filled day. What other way to end a great night than to have a cheap and good sushi dinner at Hamazushi.
When you are at the restaurant, you will be greeted immediately by the robot server to ask if you are a walk-in diner or you have made prior reservation for dining.
Afterwhich, a ticket will be generated by the robot server with a table number and all you need is to go to the assigned table for your meal.
Our accomplishment…..Oishi (おいいし). 👍👍👍
Time flies, we are already into Day 4 of our trip. We will be spending our final day in Nago city before heading back to Naha city tomorrow.
Enjoying a great breakfast at Café Restaurant Gusto while on the way to Nago Pineapple Park, our first attraction for today.
Tastefully prepared. Oishi!
Continuing our journey to Nago Pineapple Park. Pineapples have been cultivated on Okinawa as an agricultural product.
Nago Pineapple Park is a theme park full of pineapples, tropical fruits and bright plants.
Before embarking into the park, you are required to purchase a park ticket at the ticket counter.
Thereafter, you will be enjoying a leisure guided tour of the Pineapple Park on the Pineapple Train.
You will get to know more about pineapples’ fact. An educational visit and will be great for family.
After a quick tour, you will be transferred to an automatic cart to bring you around the park garden.
Enjoying the garden’s beauty while relaxing on board cart.
Afterwhich, you may go on the Dinosaur Adventure Tour on foot.
Learning about the various types of dinosaurs through the adventure tour.
More history on the era of dinosaurs for those who thirst for more knowledge.
Savouring sweet pineapple at the café. Followed by wine, drinks and snack tasting at the gift shop. I must say they are extremely generous with their tasting portion. 👍
There will be a Pineapple Train to train you back to the ticket counter after you step out of the gift shop.
Swing over to Okinawa Fruits Land to check it out since it is right beside Nago Pineapple Park. As the activity does not really entice me to pay for the entrance fees, I decided to give this visit a miss.
Having said that, I was drawn to the Tropical Fruits Café and thought I should just check it out.
Ordered their Fruits Board comprising of seasonal fruits item. Woo….the fruits are damn juicy and sweet. 😋😋😋
Proceeded over to Ufuya for lunch. This restaurant is highly recommended. They are known for their Ryukyu (琉球) cuisine especially their Agu Pork dishes.
Diners get to enjoy the relaxing moment in an old private house of Ryukyu settlement.
This restaurant is always seen to be packed with diners. For lunch, please be expected to wait up to 20 mins even on off peak hours. If you decide to come for dinner, you are strongly recommended to make prior reservation at Ufuya’s reservation to avoid disappointment and they only serve course meal for dinners.
Champion Agu Pork. おいいし 👍
After a good meal, went over to SakuraのMori Forest Park Mount Yaedake.
This park is large with vending machines, restrooms, picnic pavilions and plenty of playground equipment for children.
You will spot the sculpture of the Uechi Kanbun Praising Monument at the end of the park.
This park is extremely popular amongst locals and tourists for Sakura viewing and hence the name.
Coming up next, Nakijin Castle Ruins.
Nakijin Castle Ruins are located on the northern Okinawa Honto and is also included as one of the UNESCO World Heritage designated Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Nakijin Castle was built in the late 1200s and stands in an area of low population density with lush forests that bestow the ruins with a unique atmosphere.
This is a paid attraction and it costs ¥400 for adults and ¥300 for child.
The admission ticket will also include an admission to the Nakijin Village History and Culture Centre.
The museum show cases information on the Nakijin-jo site as well as the history and culture of Nakijin Village. It also features displays of pottery and other artifacts unearthed at the Nakijin-jo site.
Overall, it has been a fun-filled Day 4 and we have covered what we set out to do.
One for the road meal at A&W before calling it a night.
Day 5, time to depart Central Okinawa and head back to Naha City after spending the past 3 days exploring the northern and western area of the island.
We will cover some other attractions while enroute back to Naha City.
Starting with Mihama American Village. This is a large entertainment complex located in central Okinawa Honto.
The Mihama American Village resembles a big American outdoor shopping mall with lots of shops, restaurants, cafés and a large parking lot.
The most recognizable feature of the American Village is the large Ferris Wheel.
All their shops & establishments features the American theme feel from fashion shops selling American brand clothing and restaurants specializing in hot dogs and hamburgers.
Speaking on that, how can I give them a miss….
Launch my attack on a hearty breakfast at Sunny’s Café without much hesitation.
I was drawn in by their hog dog and thick sliced bacon burger. Oh mine, you cannot really imagine how good they are!!! Not forgetting the bread gratin with garlic & mushroom over white sauce that blew me off too.
Subsequently, while moving from the various depot building, I was distracted by the smell of the food from はやてまるand saw one of the patron having his fried rice and it just looks so tempting that I had to pull over for a quickie. 😀
Don’t you think this is inviting?
Proceeded to Café Yu Yuu San for my lunch. This café is quite off the beaten path on the side of the road near to Okinawa World. I read that it is one of the must visit place for meals if have the chance to do.
So, here I am. This small eatery café is comfortably cozy and gives one the homely feel.
Importantly, it serves delicious food. Highly recommended to try if you happen to be here too. 👍
With a happy belly, headed off next to Okinawa World.
Okinawa World is a touristy theme park about Okinawan culture. You get to experience the traditional Ryukyu village with workshops introducing the various traditional Okinawan crafts such as weaving, dyeing, paper making, pottery, sugar cane processing, glass blowing and making of music instruments.
You will also be able to explore Gyokusendo, a stunningly beautiful natural limestone cave grown on coral reef and at the same time enjoy a heroic Eisa dance performance.
Gyokusendo cave is the longest trail of the many caves in the south of Okinawa Island and is also the second longest cave in the entire country.
Start of Gyokusendo cave trail.
The formation of the limestones is by far the nicest that I have seen so far.
Final attraction of the day, Cape Chinen Park.
Situated at Cape Chinen, the easternmost point of Nanjo City, this park offers spectacular views over Kudaka Island, one of the most sacred sites in Okinawa. This place is also the best spot to watch the first sunrise.
Driving back down to Naha City for my check-in to Daiwa Roynet Hotel Naha Kokusaidori.
This will be my final abode for the last 3 nights in Okinawa. Daiwa Roynet Hotel Naha Kokusaidori is conveniently located right across the link bridge from Makishi Station.
This is one of my favourite hotel chain in Japan. Room size is decent usually between 16 to 18 sqm.
After check-in, went off for my long awaited Teppanyaki dinner at Sam’s Sailor Inn.
The interior of the restaurant is exactly the same feel as though you were on board the vessel. Each table has its individual chef’s workstation designated to cook your meal.
I love the phrase on the chopstick’s cover that I couldn’t help but snap as it just took the words right out of my mouth. 😯
Chef preparation for the mealChef at work
Savouring our delicious meal specially prepared right in our eyes 😋
Meal finale, volcano garlic fried rice
Certainly a great way to end another great night.
Day 6, retail therapy day at Ashibinna, Okinawa Outlet Mall. Time to generate their economy. 💸💸💸💸💸
Powering up with a heavy breakfast at Bikkuri Donkey at the outlet mall. This is one of those joint that I love too.
As usual, the food quality never fails me. Their hamburg is juicily delicious. Pizza is champion and grilled squid is damn power too.
The shopping spree commences….😀😀😀
Right across the outlet mall, there is another large shopping mall, Toyosaki Life Style Centre Tomiton.
You will find variety of clothing store, 100 yen stores, grocery stores and restaurant in this shopping centre. Importantly, this place is mainly for their locals.
Catching up on a quick bite at 红虎饺子房 for refuelling before round 2 of shopping.
Awesome gyoza meal and I love their fried rice especially. Really champion. Die die also must try type. 😋😋😋👍👍👍
Settled for a traditional Okinawan cuisine meal at Chineman Izakaya right across Daiwa Roynet Hotel before calling it a night.
Vinegar seaweed as appetizer. 真的很开胃. Very refreshing.
Okinawa Sea Grapes. A type of seaweed that is salty in nature and best dipped with vinegar before consumption. Another Okinawan appetizer.
Okinawan-style Stewed Pork (known as Rafute), my personal favourite for this trip. Their pork belly is super tender and melts in your mouth type of quality pork. Rafute is also rumoured to prolong human life if taken in moderation. 😊
Okinawa Tempura Combo (Salt Taste) comprising of White Fish, Seaweed and Bitter Melon. Pretty unique dish compared to the traditional tempura dish that we are used to.
Okinawa Fried Salted Noodles. The dried version of the noodle is as springy as the soup version.
Bitter Melon Champloo. Bittergourd stir-fried with egg, tofu and spam. Truly Okinawan dish.
Grilled Yanbaru Chicken with Yuzu Citrus Pepper. The grill is so perfect that it gives the chicken a wow taste.
The food quality is without a doubt and certainly authentically delicious. 👍👍👍😋😋😋
Day 7, 2nd last day in Okinawa. We will be covering the Southern part of the island for today before wrapping up our trip.
First stop, visited Ou Island. Ou is a small island in the south of Okinawa Island.
Interestingly, this place has only 2km of perimeter and it will only take about 5 mins to drive round the island.
Enjoying a scenic drive round the island.
Chanced upon another Joyfull Restaurant while on my way to Roadside Station Itoman.
Couldn’t help but to step in for a breakkie.
Roadside Station Itoman consists of 3 facilities.
Itoman Farmer Market that sells locally produced vegetables, fruits and marine products.
Itoman City Market selling souvenirs and local products centre.
Lastly, Itoman Fish Market where you can enjoy fresh seafood direct from the sea.
Oh mine, the sashimi is super fresh and value for money….😋👍
How could anyone resist this?
With a satisfying meal, headed next to Okinawa Peace Memorial Park which is located near the southern tip of the island. This park allows people to mourn for those who perished during the war in the Battle of Okinawa.
Within the park, there is a Peace Memorial Museum where historic lessons of the Battle of Okinawa can be passed on to future generations.
In this park, you will also see a lot of memorial monuments donated by each of the Japan’s 46 other prefectures.
Other monuments in the park include the Cornerstone of Peace,
a collection of large stone plates with the names of all fallen soldiers and civilians, including Koreans, Taiwanese, Americans and Britons.
Also “Peace Hill” Monument as well.
This park is exceptionally scenic as it is surrounded by beautiful sea views too.
Beside the park, there is a huge playground where you will see adults and children having fun with the playground equipment. Likewise, we had our family fun time by letting our hairs down at the playground too.
Next up visited Shuri Castle, another UNESCO Heritage Site.
Unfortunately, the magnificient main gate was closed to visitors after it was thoroughly damaged on 31 Oct 2019 by fire. It was indeed a pity that a nice place has been razed to the ground and now it is undergoing reconstruction works which will probably take years for completion. ☹
Now, you may only visit other gates in the vicinity and enjoy breathtaking views from the top of the castle.
After Shuri Castle visit, proceeded for my car return before exploring Kokusai Street on foot.
Visited First Makishi Public Market, a famous tourist spot. It is also known as Okinawa’s kitchen.
You may purchase the fresh seafood from the market and it will be cooked for you on the spot. Similar to the Itoman Fish Market.
Located next to it will be Heiwa Dori, a covered shopping arcade featuring many gift shops and vendors selling local wares and local produced product. This covered arcade is popular with locals and bargain hunters alike.
What other way than to end our final night in Okinawa with a good dinner at Han’s Steak House before calling it a night.
Their grilled lobster is succulently delicious with the melted cheese.
Tenderloin Steak Fillet is super tender with the medium rare redness when cut.
Chicken Steak is equally champion too with the meat tenderness and comes with a slight charred taste.
Day 8, time to bid farewell to Okinawa for Taiwan.
Catching up on an early breakfast at McDonald prior to check out.
Trying out one of their seasonal item, Beef Demi Cheese Gracoro. It is interesting to note that all other burger pricing are cheaper back home with the exception of Filet-o-Fish burger. 🤔🤷♂️
After check out, walk over to Makishi Station via a covered link bridge from Daiwa Roynet Hotel for the monorail to Naha Airport to depart for my Round 2 Taiwan trip.
Goodbye Okinawa for now. I am sure I will be back again sometime soon and see you soon Taiwan!
Overall, it has been a great 8 days 7 nights trip in Okinawa. We have covered almost what we have set out to do though I hope more can be done if not because of the driving condition. Only thing to note, driving in Okinawa is easy but challenging as most of the roads are single lane roads. So, traffic is bound to be slow coupled with the low speed limit of 30km to 60km. Situation worsens in the city area as it is perpetually congested. For a 10km journey in the city, it can even takes up to an hour or so during peak jam hours. 😂😂😄
Do you know?
Shisa is an imaginery animal created from the lion as a model. It was brought into Okinawa from the Ancient Orient through China. The Shisa came down to Okinawa in the 15th Century and it has been established as a guardian animal that brings in good fortune and wards off evil spirits.
This Shisa (right in front of Makishi Station) is 3.4 metre high and is the largest figure in ceramics. It is believe that this pottery Shisa will bring miraculous prosperity to the downtown Naha.
To answer to the start of the phrase….“Okinawa is Japan but not exactly Japanese”
In summary, there are a couple of visual disconnect sighted. From the cuisine, it is skewed towards Southern Chinese than Japanese. Here you see a lot of palm trees lining on the street and that gives one a feel of Hawaii. Lastly, you will spot Okinawans wearing floral printed shirts especially along Kokusai Street.
Safe arrival to Tao Yuan International Airport after 1 hr 20 mins. We do not have any specific planned itinerary for this Taiwan trip other than extending the next 3 nights to lengthen the trip for shopping & fooding at the usual suspect places while enroute back home. 😊
After immigration clearance and baggage claim, proceeded straight to the Airport MRT Station to board an express train to Taipei Main Station which takes about 36 mins. If you happen to take a local all stop train, it will take you about 50 mins of travelling time.
In Taipei, I always make it a point to stay over at Caesar Park Hotel Taipei
which is located directly opposite Taipei Main Station.
Best part, this hotel is directly connected to Exit M6 of the MRT Station.
Got myself a family room for the next 3 nights. Room size is decent with a good sense of space.
Immediately upon checking in, commence on my 1st food trail at Taiyo Tomato Ramen (太阳蕃茄面) at B1 of Caesar Mall. This is one of my must eat place whenever I stay in Caesar Park Hotel.
Their tomato sauce based soup and curry is really champion. You need to experience it for yourself than to hear from me. 😉
2nd food trail at Ximending (西門盯) for fried chicken.
J&G Fried Chicken, this joint is perpetually seen with snaking queue. You can’t miss this shop as it is right in front of Exit 6 of Ximending Station.
Just a couple of stores away, there is another chicken joint, 娘娘鸡排 selling Fried Chicken Steak. Oh mine, their chicken meat is so juicy and tender. Another must eat item as well.
3rd food trail, snacking local snacks at Shilin Night Market.
Steak cubes – goes extremely well with pink rock salt. 原汁原味.
Sugared ring donut & 双胞胎 (butterfly). The dough is chewy-ly good.
Scholar’s cake (状元糕) – sweet tooth lovers will bound to like this item!
Fried milk – something unique, taste like milk cheese to me.
Enjoying traditional local Taiwanese food at B1 Food Court, 忠誠號蚵仔煎.
4th food trail, enjoying dim sum at Tim Ho Wan.
Somehow, the food quality is much better here compared to back home. So, I always make it a point to dine here since it is located right beside the hotel.
5th food trail, Tiger Sugar Bubble Tea. There are so many bubble tea outlet in Taiwan. Best part, there is always one outlet near you!
Trying out their Signature #1 option. Guess you will not go wrong with bubble tea in Taiwan just like you will never go wrong with ramen in Japan. 😄😄😄
6th food trail, Haidilao Hotpot (海底捞火锅) at ATT 4 Fun. Nice to have hotpot on a cool weather.
7th food trail, Luke’s Lobster at Breeze Nan Shan. This is a new mall next to ATT 4 Fun.
8th food trail, enjoying another round of lobster at Lobster.Foods located at Vie Show Cinema Building.
Live lobster which will be cooked later for my dinner….. 😋😋😋
Chef’s Lobster, lobster with baked cheese topping
Lobster & Linguine With Cream
Grilled USDA Filet Mignon 8oz
An awesomely lobsterilious meal. So happy and fortunate to be able to have a couple of lobster meals on this trip of ours. 😋😋😋 Truly life enjoyment. 👍👍👍
8th food trail, savouring freshly made buns and wonton at 三味香桃源街.