When you hear the name “Japan,” the first places that come to mind are probably Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka.
But if that’s the case then you’d better add Okinawa to your list – right now!
Often referred to as the “Hawaii” of Japan, Okinawa is known for its warm weather, and beautiful, white sand beaches. It’s a popular spot for locals to get some R’n’R, but more and more tourists are adding this spot to their bucket lists.
Need a little more convincing? Here’s why Okinawa is a must-see, and how you can make it a truly memorable stay.
Once in Okinawa, be sure to visit Cape Manzamo. This beautiful and natural rock formation shows off the mesmerizing blue water of the East China Sea, and serves up some of the most breathtaking coastal views you’ll see anywhere in the world. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk around the cliff and fully take in the picturesque scene.
If you went on holiday and didn’t post it on Instagram, did you even go on holiday at all? If Insta-worthy backdrops are high on your holiday agenda then you’re going to love Okinawa.
Visit the Valley of Gangala and take part in one of their walking tours that takes you through the magical forests and limestone caves of Okinawa. Sip on some famous Okinawa Coffee in the Cave Cafe while you wait for your tour to start. You’ll be offered a translator and a canteen full of jasmine tea before you set off on the walk.
While in Japan, be sure to take advantage of the Japan Airlines Explorer Pass. It’s exclusive to foreign visitors and gives discounted fares for domestic flights, which all have free WiFi, within the country. With it you can check out some incredible locations like Taketomi Island, Iriomote Island, or Ishigaki.
Got an Explorer Pass? Then add this awesome archipelago to your itinerary.
With a population of just 350 people, it’s a 10 minute ferry ride from one of the larger islands, Ishigaki, and a must see on your trip to Okinawa. From picturesque streets to jaw-dropping beaches, Taketomi Island offers a timeless snapshot of traditional Japanese life.
Hop on one of their water buffalo cart tours and enjoy the beautiful island streets. If you’re lucky, your tour guide will treat you to a performance of a traditional Japanese song!
Once that tour is complete, rent bikes and explore the island on your own. Ride over to Star Beach and be sure to get down on the ground to sort through the sand and look for small, star-shaped sand.
Fun Fact: there are no cars on the island and only one-storey buildings. This small, quaint island is a beautiful escape from the fast-paced world we’re so accustomed to.
Another option for Explorer Pass holders is Iriomote Island, home to the beautiful Mangrove Forest, which is a necessary stop while exploring the various islands in the region. Take a 20 minute boat ride through the Jungle River and take in the beauty of the Mangrove trees. At the end of the river, trek up the mountain to get a spectacular view of Mariyudu Waterfall.
Once you finish that, rent some kayaks to explore the smaller rivers in the forest. This excursion can only be described as magical and looks like a scene out of a movie.
Okinawan people are known to be one of the longest living populations in the world. One of the things they chalk their longevity up to is the local cuisine, and after one bite you’ll see why.
Pork is an essential ingredient found within Okinawa Cuisine so be sure to try Aguu Pork, which comes from a pig that is native to Okinawa, and carries less fat that your typical swine.
Another must-try in Okinawan cuisine is peanut tofu, or jimami, another dish that is unique to this region of Japan.
Finally, if you’re looking for something to wash down the great grub then check out some Okinawa Vodka, known as Awamori. Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, have a sip on some Habu Sake, also known as Okinawa Snake Wine or Habushu. This Sake is made with a venomous snake called Habu, a breed of snakes related to rattlesnakes.
Plan a stop in Naha City on your trip to Okinawa, and be sure to stay at the Hotel JAL CITY Naha. When you step outside the front doors, you’ll find yourself in the heart of the city and on the famous, and beautiful, Kokusai Street. This international street stretches over a kilometre in length and is filled with tons of restaurants and shops.
If you really want to make the most of any trip to Okinawa then get into the vacation spirit the second you set foot on the plane.
Japan Airlines, which was named one of TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Airlines in the World in 2017, offers a direct flight from Vancouver to Tokyo every day, and whether you’re flying first, business, or economy class, you’re sure to be treated like royalty, thanks to their Omotenashi (“Japanese hospitality”) service.
If you want to treat yourself one final time before you get ready to fly home, enjoy Japan Airlines’ beautiful and relaxing Business Class Sakura Lounge at Narita Airport, where you can sit back, sip on wine, and watch planes from all over the world arrive in Tokyo.
Disclaimer: Travel, accommodation, and meals were made possible by Japan Airlines. All thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the author.