Okinawa, Japan (Things to do and eat)

The main reason for our trip to Okinawa was to get some rest and relaxation.  We purposely planned it so that most of our time was spent on the beach relaxing and relax we did! It’s amazing how great it is to sometimes just take it easy and rest and recharge.

Okuma Beach

Our beach time was spent at Okuma Beach, this area has a few beach resorts, water activities and features white sand beaches.

At first glance, the beaches in Okinawa are much nicer than in Jeju, which we were super happy about. But at the end of the day, I’m still a spoiled Floridian and Okuma Beach still didn’t quite match up to the sugary sand I’m used to.  That being said, we still had a lot of fun, and for being so close to Seoul, I am not complaining. It’s definitely worth the quick hop over.

During our visit in May, the water, was a little bit chilly, but just commit and jump in and you’ll get used to the temp pretty quickly.

For those of you who love shells, the beach was full of them, so you can definitely enjoy looking for fun and different varieties

I had a lot of fun checking out the hermit crabs. I’ll admit that I probably spent an hour on my hands and knees taking pictures of hermit crabs with my macro lens.  They are so adorable! If you have kids, try to not let them torture the little guys too much, we saw some kids really making the crabbies sad.

We were also able to walk along the beach and checked out the JAL resort next door.  It was a pretty nice facility. The JAL resort has restaurants and lounges that looked pretty nice and were open to everyone, not just guests.  We didn’t get a chance to check them out, but the reviews were pretty good.

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Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Hours: October – February: 8:30 AM – 6:30 PM (Last admission: 5:30 PM), March – September: 8:30 AM  – 7:00 PM (Last admission: 6:00 PM), First Wednesday and Thursday of December (CLOSED).

Admission Fee: ¥1,850 (Adult), ¥1,230 (Student), ¥610 (Child), Free (Children under 6 ) – Don’t forget about the discounted tickets at FamilyMart and Lawsons for ¥1,660!

Phone number: 0980-48-3748

Parking: Free

In Okinawan dialect, “CHURA” expresses beauty and “UMI” means ocean, which I think is a pretty appropriate name for an aquarium.  Okinawa is definitely a great place for an aquarium since the Okinawan seas are home to a wide variety of sea life. Churaumi was the largest aquarium in the world, until it was surpassed by the Georgia Aquarium in 2005, but it is still well known for the large 7,500 m³ tank in the center of the aquarium that features their whale sharks.

Overall, we enjoyed walking through the 4 floors of the aquarium, and would recommend a visit.  If you have kids, they are certain to love it!

We didn’t get a chance to check out the other sites in the Ocean Expo area, but there is a Dolphin Lagoon (where you can learn more about dolphins and even feed them), Theater (where you can watch a whale and dolphin show), Arboretum, and more.


Nago Pineapple Park

Hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Admission Fee: ¥850 (Adult), ¥600 (Children 13 – 15), ¥450 (Children 12 or under), Free (Children under 6) – Cash ONLY

Phone number: 0980-53-3659

Parking: Free

If you drive to the park, your visit to the pineapple park starts off with a ride from the parking lot to the main building in the Pineapple tram. It will take you to the front gate where you can purchase your admission tickets.

Once you’re inside, you will be shown to a self driving pineapple cart and you’ll learn a little about pineapples and be drive through the pineapple field and the botanical garden.

When the ride is over, you will have the chance to walk through the garden and there are some photo ops, just follow the route.

The park ends with a visit to their shell museum, and then is the main reason to go, to do the food and drink tasting! You will get to try pineapple wine to pineapple snacks.  I’m sure that you will be sucked into buying at least something, I know I did. Note that you must spend over ¥5,000 to get tax free.

I personally recommend coming for the samples (you don’t even have to pay admission), but the park was cute, and for the small admission fee, it’s an amusing time.

Since we were too busy relaxing, we didn’t get to hit all of the sites in Okinawa, but next time we go, we  want to try and visit Orion Happy Park, where you can get a tour of the Plant, learn about Orion Beer, and of course sample the goods!  I also want to check out Katsuren Castle Ruin, which is known as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  We have also heard good things about the pretty easy hike to Hiji Waterfalls, near Okuma. I was surprised that there are a good variety of things to do in Okinawa. If you’ve been to any of these places on our list, or have other places that you loved in Okinawa to share, definitely let me know!


Restaurants

Here are a couple restaurants that we tried and enjoyed, I wouldn’t drive out of your way to eat there since there are so many delicious noms in Okinawa, but if you’re close by these places, definitely drop in.

Cafe Restaurant Gusto ガスト 沖縄高原店

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These restaurants are located all over Okinawa, but we stopped in one near Kadena AFB.  The funny thing is that when you walk in, you will think you’re in a Denny’s, it’s definitely does not feel Japanese.  The restaurant offers a wide variety of foods, and a ton of menus for you to peruse, but the food was pretty good and pricing is moderate.  Make sure to see what the daily special is, as that is a pretty good value. They also offer a drink bar for ¥215, which is kind of fun.


Kishimoto Honten きしもと食堂 本店

5 ToguchiKunigami-gun, Motobu-cho 905-0214, Okinawa Prefecture

Phone: 0980-47-2887

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After the aquarium and on our way back to Okuma, we were starving and we had heard about this restaurant that was well known for their Okinawan Soba noodles, similar to udon noodles. When we arrived around 2:15, there were approximately 4 groups in front of us, and we patiently waited in the drizzling rain.  Lucky for us, we did not wait too long, about 15 minutes, and we were admitted to the cozy little restaurant.  We were of course given the  tatami seating, which required us all to remove our shoes and for Scott to sit “indian style” to eat which is his favorite….

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The restaurant serves only 2 things, the noodle soup (in 2 sizes, small and medium) and a rice dish.  We soon found out that they had run out of the rice, and we each ordered a medium bowl.  The food came out really quickly, and it is noodles in a light broth topped with stewed pork, fish cakes, and scallions. I really liked the light broth and the noodles were nice and chewy.  It was definitely delicious and I’m glad we didn’t have to wait long to get our food.

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Afterwards, I stopped in next door at the Half Time Cafe and grabbed some ice cream, it was pretty good, and was nice to cool down a little after the soup.


Tokkuriya とっくり屋

272 KaganjiKunigami-gun, Kunigami-son, Okinawa Prefecture

Phone: 0980-41-5846

Hours of Operation: 6:00 PM – 12:00 AM (Last Order is 11:00 PM)

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Down the street from Okuma Beach, is this nice little local restaurant, offering a variety of dishes.  The restaurant has an English menu, which was a big bonus.  We ended up ordering quite a few different yakitori items (bacon wrapped asparagus, beef, chicken, etc), some fried shrimp and oysters, pan fried fish, and of course beer.  The winner of the night as the fried oysters, they came out piping hot and the flavor was just so good, we ended up getting 2 more orders, we couldn’t get enough! The whole meal was about $80 between the 4 of us and we were all super stuffed at the end.

Overall, we had a wonderful time in Okinawa, the people were friendly, the food was delicious and the weather was lovely (except for the little bit of rain we had).  I will definitely keep Okinawa on our radar for the next time we need a quick and easy beach escape!

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