Okinawa, Japan Dec. 03 Sun 4:20AM
Okinawa is a gorgeous island, the southernmost island of Japan. Filled with lush greenery, turquoise beaches, and wonderful, relaxed vibes, it is no surprise that Okinawa is making waves as the new go-to beach destination. But as amazing as their beaches are, some people aren't sure if they want to go all the way to Okinawa just to lounge on the beaches. After all, there are many beautiful beach destinations all over the world, some closer to home. But Okinawa isn't just about the beaches. There's a complex and long history that is alive and well in much of the culture you see today. There are many activities to do both in the waters and out of the waters. And there are many other beautiful landscapes and landmarks to explore and view. While some of these may not be new ideas to you, we hope at least some of them inspired new ideas and a new longing to go discover beautiful Okinawa. Here is our top ten list of things to do in Okinawa.
Stairwell in Okinawa
1. Go Scuba Diving
While many people plan scuba diving when visiting beach destinations, many people do not know that Okinawa is actually a great place to experience it. Not only is the wildlife unreal underwater in Okinawa, as the island is surrounded by coral reefs that make a home for hundreds of species, but Okinawa is also a great place for a safe, but exciting first dive. There are multiple dive spots in Okinawa, and there are also multiple scuba diving companies that will take you to those spots. Many of the companies offer training, as well as certification courses accompanied by a master diver. However, if you're not quite up for taking a certification course or going into the deep, open waters, Okinawa also offers something called "Discover Scuba Diving" that requires no certification. An instructor will provide some basic training and lessons on equipment, and will guide you to some shallow ocean waters for a taste of a dive experience.
Okinawa often makes people's top dive places, with many boasting that it was the best dive site they've ever been to! While that may be subjective, it's easy to see why Okinawa would make a person's "favorites list". The variety of different types of dive spots, the many beginner friendly sites, and the biodiverse and clearness of the sites themselves makes Okinawa a must for not only scuba divers, but those looking for some fun and adventurous things to do! However, if snorkeling is more your things, you can do that as well! Just take care not to step on or damage the coral reefs, and practice safe and responsible snorkeling!
Recommended Dive Sites:
Kerama Island - Cave Nita (Advanced)
Okinawa Main Island - Cape Maeda (Beginner)
Kouri Island - USS Shipwreck (Advanced)
Blue Cave Okinawa
2. Take a Bike Around
For some, it doesn't really occur to rent a bike to explore more unique spots on the islands of Okinawa. Although this may not be an option for some of the smaller islands of Okinawa, there are often bike rental shops to be found all over Okinawa. Taking a bicycle ride is a great way to unwind, relax, and see more of the sites that Okinawa has to offer. There are many routes recommended online by bicycling enthusiasts that you can explore, or you can just go where the wind takes you. Just make sure not to stumble into private property, and look up the rules of bicycling in Okinawa as rules may be different to your own.
3. Visit Himeyuri Peace Museum
Many people don't think to visit a museum when going to Okinawa, but Okinawa actually has a rather significant memorial and museum due to a tragic past. The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Park & Museum is placed in dedication to the people who lost their lives during the Battle of Okinawa. As important as the history behind the museum and memorial is, there is also another that is lesser known to foreign visitors. The Himeyuri Peace Museum remembers 210 high school girls and their teachers, many of them that lost their lives directly and indirectly by the atrocities of war, that were forced to work as nurses during the Battle of Okinawa. The museum also features some videos, but they are in Japanese so it may be hard to understand for non-Japanese speakers. For a somber but very real and important lesson of the history of Okinawa, this is a recommended place to visit.
4. Have a Food Scavenger Hunt
There are many types of food native to Okinawa and quite hard to find in other places in Japan. In fact, Okinawan food differs quite significantly from mainland Japan foods, and gathers influence from not only local ingredients, but also Chinese and American influences. Food tours are a great way to get a guided experience of local cuisine. We can plan one for you if you'd like to find the local spots and popular hot spot locations for food. However, if you don't feel so inclined to spend money on a tour on just Okinawan food or prefer to find some random hole-in-the-wall type places, a scavenger food hunt might be an exciting thing to try! Make a list or find a list of unique Okinawan food, and make a day out of finding these dishes and trying them! Try to go to different shops and restaurants including specialty stores, and don't get everything from one stop!
Here are some things to start looking for:
-Beni Imo Ice Cream (and other Beni Imo, purple sweet potato, treats!)
-Okinawan Salt Cookies
Happy Hunting everyone! It's more fun when you go into this not knowing much about the food or what it looks like or where to find them at all, however, it can get time-consuming.
Here's a little cheat sheet to some of the foods on the list, just so you know what to look for!
Okinawa Food Guide
A popular Okinawan gift
5. Go on a Nature Tour
It's no surprise that on an island as lush as Okinawa, it would be teeming with life with great biodiversity. For nature and wildlife lovers, Okinawa is the place in Japan to check out. There are many nature tours offered where you can go on an escorted tour around places in Okinawa. On these tours, you often can get a glimpse of the wildlife that lives there including birds, snakes, and more. There are more adventurous ones where you can do neat things like riverboat paddle-boarding and cliff-jumping. In addition, you can make stops at local conservation centers if they're open to the public. This is a great way to learn about the local wildlife! You can also go on a whale-watching boat ride if you prefer ocean life.
Urauchi River, Iriomote Island, Okinawa
6. See Daisekirinzan
The people that have been there can attest that Daisekirinzan is a place you do not want to miss out on during your Okinawa trip. Although not as commonly mentioned, Daisekirinzan is quite a beloved place to visit. Located in Northern Okinawa, for those that enjoy hiking and being out in nature, this is a great spot. You can see interesting rock formations as well as look out into a gorgeous canopy of green.
7. Try Your Hand at Traditional Pottery
Okinawa has many influenced from China as it was once part of the Ryukyu Kingdom, a tributary state of the Ming Dynasty. Their past is often evident in the historical structures of Okinawa including statues such as the Shisa statue. The Shisa statue is derived from the Chinese guardian lions but is a traditional Ryukyuan cultural artifact. As an activity experience, you can try your hand at making miniature versions of the Shisa statues. This might be a fun activity for artists and creative folk to try while also learning about the history and culture of Okinawa. Although not guaranteed that the people running these craft shops can speak English, the experience itself is an interesting one to check out.
8. Visit Busena Marine Park
Many people know about the famous aquarium, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium where you can see the large whale sharks, but not as many people know about the Busena Marine Park located on mainland Okinawa. The marine park is a bit different in that you get to view marine life in their natural environment, the ocean! The park is fashioned as an underwater observatory, where this is an enclosed staircase structure that leads underwater with windows so that you can look into the ocean similar to a submarine. Visitors to the park can also purchase tickets to go on a glass-bottom boat ride to further see more marine life!
9. Go on a Souvenir Hunt for Unique Okinawan Gifts
While shopping isn't usually the purpose of traveling, it's sometimes fun to find things unique to the region to take home as a memento or a gift to a loved one. In addition to that, it is quite fun to peruse grocery stores and shops in a foreign country, and exploring the different food items and items in general used in a different culture.
Some things to look out for as some fun and interesting souvenir ideas include:
-Snacks in flavors unique to Okinawa, such as Beni Imo flavor.
-Brown sugar candies
-Black Pearl Jewelry (for that special someone perhaps ;])
-Karate goods for the martial arts lover (Okinawa is the birthplace of Karate)
-Shikuwasa-flavored goods (a local citrus)
Okinawa American Village
10. Go on a Paragliding Adventure
Lastly, a fun and adrenaline pumping activity to do in Okinawa is paragliding. While many beach destinations offer parasailing, not all offer paragliding. Of course you will have an instructor with you that controls the fan and parachute, so all you need to do is enjoy the ride. Nothing beats looking over at the crystal waters with the wind in your hair! Of course for the ones a little less bold, but still adventurous, parasailing is an option in Okinawa too!
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