Five Great Places to Visit in Okinawa
We are those people who love to take road trips that allow us to explore new places. Sometimes we have a destination in mind, other times we don’t. Even with a destination, we may not make it there if the neat things we find along the way distract us. Okinawa has fed this love of ours with so many opportunities to discover an amazing culture of people, places and things. I thought it would be worthwhile to make a list of some of these places. They are not necessarily in any order of favoritism.
1. Kouwa Garden – This little gem seems hidden away even though it’s really not. It is a bonsai garden located between Kurashiki Dam and Southeast Botanical Garden (not far from Kadena Air Base gate 3). This facility is part of the Kouwa-kai group. It is free to walk around and enjoy the beautiful trees and flowers. Although we haven’t had the opportunity to watch, they also have Ryukyu dance/music shows. You just need to call and make a reservation since there doesn’t appear to be a set schedule (098) 974-9400). This place offers a small glimpse of traditional Okinawa that you don’t want to miss.
2. Ogimi Village – An Okinawan village known for it’s longevity, shiquasa citrus fruit (also spelled shikuwasa), and Bashofu cloth. There is so much tradition, culture and amazing nature here. Riding around the area, we came across the Mutabaru Observatory with the most beautiful view. We also saw lots of shiquasa trees. We didn’t have the opportunity to meet any of the residents associated with the village’s longevity or explore nature as we wanted, but we will go back. We did, however, eat lunch at a wonderful little café and our daughter received a special gift bag of shiquasa to bring home. They were delicious as expected. Follow 58 north, you’ll find the village past Nago.
3. Onna Village – Take 58 north towards Nago and you’ll pass straight through Onna. This spot has so much to offer in the way of restaurants, shops, and interesting neighborhoods to walk or drive through. Although it was a sleepy area some years back, it is now a tourism area due to the resorts there. The Moon Beach Resort has a wonderful beach worth checking out. Also located in Onna are Ryukyu Mura (recreated historical Ryukyu village), Manzamo(breathtaking scenic spot), and Kenmin no mori - Forest Park (park combining sports and nature).
4. Gala Aoiumi- Located in Yomitan, this is the place to be if you want to do pottery, make salt, blow glass, see castle ruins, or visit a coral farm. Don’t forget to have lunch or dinner at Ocean’s Pizza while there. It is worth it! Just around the corner from Gala is a fun go-cart track and Murasaki Mura (old movie set turned theme park), which offers more crafts.
5. Any New Road – Okay, this isn’t really a place, I know. But if you’re adventurous enough, you can find some of the neatest places just by taking a road you’ve never been on before. Then you just keep taking different roads as you explore. Getting “lost” will be worth the road trip as you immerse yourself into a different culture. Don’t worry, it’s an island so you will eventually find something familiar to get you back on track. And if you don’t, just use your trusty map app. If all else fails, ask a local.
So, go grab some travel mates and hit the road for your next trip. The springtime weather is nice so take advantage of it before it gets too hot to enjoy being outside. Oh, and don’t forget your camera, you’re going to need it.