Okinawa in Japan has everything that Hawaii offers and more. From beautiful beaches to magical marvels and fabulous food to cultural charms, Okinawa island has all the makings of a perfect vacation destination. Say ‘Ohayo’ instead of ‘Aloha’ for your next Hawaiian holiday. Cheaper and closer to home, your kids and elders in the family will thank you for it.
Okinawa is easily accessible by flight from major cities like Tokyo, Osaka or Hokkaido on any of Japan’s domestic airlines. Traveling around the island by public transport is convenient, but renting a car to cruise around Okinawa gives you the pleasure of exploring the island at your own time. Move over Hawaii, ShopBack has compiled all the compelling reasons to visit Okinawa.
Wonderful Weather All Year
Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, the weather in Okinawa stays pleasant all year round. Temperatures in Spring range from 25 to 30 degrees celsius, and winter weather is around 15 to 20 degrees celsius. Summer and Autumn brings forth sunny skies and a little tropical rain. Without any dramatic weather changes, Okinawa’s warm climate is perfect for the little tots and seniors traveling with you during the holidays.
Churaumi Aquarium Ocean Adventures
Fans of Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, take heed! Nemo, Dory, Hank the septopus, Bailey the beluga whale and the rest of the sea creatures cast are right here at Churaumi Aquarium. Home to ocean wonders, Churaumi Aquarium is a much treasured attraction in Okinawa and one of the world’s largest aquariums.
Aptly named Churaumi where ‘Chura’ means beautiful and ‘umi’ means the sea in Okinawa dialect, the aquarium is located within the Ocean Expo Park in Okinawa. Kids are guaranteed to have a shark-tastic time as the aquarium has a total of 77 tanks on 4 well-designed levels with a mind-boggling array of sea creatures.
From hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, jelly fishes to barracudas, there is an ocean discovery for everyone. Not to missed is their massive touch pool where everyone can have a feel of the starfish, sea cucumbers, plants and brave fish who have no fear of curious fingers.
The main tank named Kuroshio Sea is 35m long, 27m wide and 10m deep is the biggest attraction with kids coming face to fin with the underwater creatures they love. Famed for having the most number of whale sharks in captivity and 80 species of coral, Churaumi is a magical marvel that’s popular with tourists and local alike.
WIth so many fish around, adults will start pondering on what fish tastes great on a sashimi platter. The restaurant on the 4th level is the perfect place to grab a bite, rest tired feet and let the fish swim up to meet you.
Then, head outdoors to enjoy the picturesque gardens of Ocean Park Expo. The fun continues with spectacular shows by dolphins and whale sharks at the open air lagoon. Be prepared to get splashed as you watch the show. Around the lagoon are the dolphins, sea turtles, penguins and manatee exhibits.
To end the day, step into the Okinawa Museum, Oceanic Culture Museum, Tropical Dreams Centre and historic village to learn more about pre-historic sea creatures. Both educational and entertaining, check out their website for booking tickets online plus discounts for juniors and seniors.
Address: Churaumi Aquarium, 424 Ishikawa, Motobu, Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture, 905-0206, Japan.
Best Beaches For A Sun Tan
Calling all surfers and beach lovers, Okinawa has about 150 beaches to enjoy the best of the sea, sun, sand and surf. Amongst the best are Emerald Beach located close to Churaumi Aquarium. It’s perfect for a day out on sandy white beaches and sparkling blue waters. Selected as one of Japan’s top 100 beaches, Emerald Beach also welcomes sea turtles who come to the beach and lay their eggs every April to October each year.
Next would be Naminoue Beach located at the heart of Naha, the capital city of Japan. The only beach in the city, it’s famous among the locals seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of life. The calming waters are great for sunrise and sunset swims. The rocky crevices and sandy beach are wonderful for kids to explore and build sand castles.
Around the beach is a nature park and little provision shops for beach goers to get snacks. Best of all is the shrine on the hilltop of Naminoue Beach. Visitors can climb up and seek blessings for the day as well as enjoy splendid views of the city from atop.
World Famous Ice Cream
Move aside Haagen Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s and Baskin Robbins. Okinawa has its own Blue Seal ice cream, made exclusively in Okinawa and only available on the island. This delicious dessert is not exported overseas, so the trade secret recipe stays in Okinawa.
What’s so special about Blue Seal ice cream is the variety of flavours made from ingredients on the island. All time favourite flavours are Ube made of Okinawa purple yams, Shiiguasa Sherbet made of 100% Okinawan shikwasa fruit, Ryukyu Royal Milk Tea made of Okinawa black tea with cream and many more. One slurp and you’ll be back for more!
Kokusai Street Food Fiesta
Street food galore all around the world cannot compare to food fiesta on Kokusai Street. Located right in central Naha, Kokusai Street is lined with restaurants, cafe, bars playing Okinawa music, souvenir shops, boutiques and department stores.
Easily accessible by monorail at Kencho-mae and Miebashi stations, this street is a shopping and food haven. What’s most exciting about Kokusai Street is the little hole-in-the-wall taverns that cook glorious food right in front of you.
Just select your meat, fish or seafood and the chef prepares your meal with gusto. DIners sit on overturned crates or stools at makeshift tables but the ambience all around is riveting as people throng the street for the best culinary adventures.
Michelin Star Ramen
Ramen-holics will tell you that Michelin Star Ramen restaurants are in Tokyo. However if you’re not ready to queue from dawn, eat fast and exit pronto, then head to Okinawa for ramen that’s almost Michelin star status.
Go where the locals go and they go to Sumanume restaurant in Kokuba, Naha, where a little cottage located in a quiet neighbourhood serves great tasting ramen. Visitors are seated on the floor and dine on tree trunk-like tables that overlook a lush garden.
Their signature dish is the home-made noodle rich in wheat flour served in rich park bone soup. Simplicity at its best but the gastronomical experience is truly memorable.
Address: Sumanume, 40-1 Kokuba, Naha 902-0075, Okinawa Prefecture
Snack Attack in Okinawa
When the ramen craving is satiated, it’s time to try the many Okinawan delights in the many snack shops all over the city. From local sweets and home-made mochi to seaweed wrapped onigiri and candy-licious snacks, there’s plenty to choose from and even take home as souvenirs. Pretty pouches of candy, green tea KitKat and local cookies make the perfect gifts for friends.
River Romance by the City
Within the city of Naha flows the Kokuba river which passes many of the hotels in town. Should you be staying up high, you’ll enjoy the views of the river and city beyond. The Kokuba river is so easily accessible to everyone in the city. It is an ideal venue for romantic riverside walks in the evenings or early morning jogs for a spot of exercise.
Harley Davidson Biker Fantasies
Harley Davidson aficionados can live their fantasies in Okinawa. The island is home to a US military base and with their presence comes the love for this American brand of bikes.
The Harley Davidson store in Okinawa has one of the widest range of bikes and merchandise in Asia. From biker jackets to fashionable wear and apparel for kids, Harley fans now know where to get their gear and look good in it. Strike a pose and take a photo on every single bike in store. If you’re really interested in owning one, a test ride can be arranged.
Bait and Tackle Fishing
For many who love fishing, Okinawa is one of the preferred destinations for fishing. With a plethora of fish in the sea, fishing tours can be easily arranged on local fishing charters with a fishing guide for an adventurous time on blue waters.
It’s also a favorite place to get all your branded fishing gear including rods, bait, tackle, hook, line and sinker at affordable prices. Shopping for them itself is an adventure and getting the best price is guaranteed.
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Featured Image: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com + artemisphoto / Shutterstock.com
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