Okinawa Travel Guide: Complete Diving and Self-Driving Itinerary
Okinawa is the place I hardly familiar with. Because when mentioning Japan tourism, Tokyo or Osaka is the common popular destination. But after Peach Air, Japan’s low-cost airline opened a direct flight from my home country (Bangkok, Thailand) to Okinawa at a low price (It’s seriously cheap and it’s even cheaper if you reserve a promotion ticket. A round trip costs less than 129 USD). I have to search up on the internet and see where Okinawa is in Japan right away. Then, search up on what attraction there’re offered? Until crying out, ‘oh, I get it’.
Okinawa is a paradise island with a Hawaiian vibe. It’s like a small resort town located between Japan and Taiwan. There are also plenty of attractions but the most famous one is the aquarium with whale sharks. Besides, there are beautiful-healthy corals you can dive and enjoying seascapes. When talking about diving, I’ve never pictured any places in Japan before. So, this time, I decided to give it a try. If any of you want to know how fun Okinawa is in a short summary. Hold it! I want you to read this travel guide review first, then make a decision whether you should visit or not. But I’ll give you a hint. I’ll undoubtedly go back there again LOL. ❤
Okinawa Itinerary: 4 days 3 nights
This trip to Okinawa was not that long. I only spent 4 days and 3 nights. With this short amount of time, it’s suitable for people who have a permanent job. You need only a 2-day vacation. It’s pretty easy, right? haha. To travel here and there on this trip, I rented a car because the public transportation in Okinawa Island is not as plenary and convenient as the main island of Japan. I drove up north and kept chasing down to the capital city, then decided to settle down there.
※ Day 1
Transportation: Rental Car / Driving
Accommodation at: Motobu
– Cape Hedo
※ Day 2
Transportation: Rental Car / Driving
Accommodation at: Naha
– Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
– Bise Fukugi Tree Road
– Mount Yaedake
– Cape Manzamo
※ Day 3
Transportation: Monorail in Naha
Accommodation at: Naha
– Shurijo Castle
– Kokusai Dori
※ Day 4
Transportation: Free shuttle service from a tour agency
Accommodation at: Naha
– Kerama Islands
Get to Know KLOOK
If you have no idea what KLOOK is, I’ll introduce it… KLOOK is an e-commerce website that sells various travel tickets, passes, and tours that are available in many countries, including Japan. From the tried-out trip in Taiwan, Hokkaido, most recently Fukuoka, and Okinawa for this travel review. I’d like to say, acquiring from KLOOK is very convenient because everything is done online. You don’t have to go to the store. More importantly, KLOOK is the most comprehensive trading travel activities and services booking platform in Asia. The website and mobile app are also provided customer support in many countries and languages.
What to buy for the Okinawa trip via KLOOK?
Traveling in Okinawa, there were 3 things I purchased from KLOOK which were;
(※) Rent a car, and able to pick up right away after getting off the airport
(※) Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium Admission Ticket
(※) Snorkeling Tour in Kerama Islands
※ it’s advisable to book in advance before traveling. The longer the better, especially for a car rental and a snorkeling tour.
if you buy a few days before the trip. The risk of not having a rental car is very high.
Step to buy tickets or tours from KLOOK
(1) Select the tickets or things you want to purchase on the KLOOK website, set the departure date, then click buy and make a credit card payment straight away.
(2) Wait for the KLOOK confirmation whether the date you book is available, especially for a car rental service and various tours. // Most of the admission tickets or train tickets are confirmed instantly.
(3) On the arrival day, just present the voucher in KLOOK mobile apps to staff. // Some agencies don’t check it at all, particularly the tour agency LOL.
Do I need to rent a car during the Okinawa trip?
Honestly, it depends on what you plan to do or where you want to go. Ask yourself if your trip is outside of Naha? If the answer is yes. Then, you need to rent a car because there is no public transport except for the Naha tram downtown. But if you plan to visit the isolated Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium which is positioned outside the Naha city. And you’re in no mood to drive or a car driving beginner, you can buy the express bus ticket along with the Aquarium ticket through KLOOK. It’s very simple. As for me, I chose to drive because there were so many places I wished to go, haha.
Okinawa | Day 1:
Getting off the plane then picking up a rental car first!
I think most people (especially, Thai travelers) choose Peach Airline flying directly to Okinawa like me. The airline is landed at the LCC Terminal for low-cost airlines only. Now, when you walk out from the terminal…
For those who rent a car from KLOOK, let take the Free Shuttle Bus to the stop no.11 at the Domestic Terminal. The staff will wait to pick you up and take you to the car rental store. When purchasing a voucher from the website, there is a box to fill your flight number. Don’t worry, they certainly come for you!
As for the others who book a car through other car rental companies, some of them have the counter inside the LCC Terminal, which you should ask the company first where the counter is and meet staff to get your car.
After the mission of getting your car is completed. This time, it’s really time to travel. The first attraction I’ll take you to is Cape Hedo where is so far-far away from Naha, the capital city located in the south of Okinawa Island. I planned to drive up to the northernmost point first which takes about 2-3 hours. Japan’s driving nature is the uninterrupted, sluggish, constant speed of 60 km./hr. I was indeed sleepy while driving LOL.
Yanbarukuina Observation Deck is the place I advise you to drop by first, then drive back to the popular viewpoint of Cape Hedo.
It cautions to drive up to Yanbarukuina Observation Deck because the driveway is a little climbing, the narrow single lane with a slope. Those who are not good at driving up the hill, stay focused. Or if you’re afraid, just skip it (but it’s a shame). The viewpoint building was modeled like a giant bird with the pathway equipped alongside.
Do you see the mountain tip over there? That’s Cape Hedo where we will head next.
After chilling out at the bird viewpoint building, the sky became overcast as it rained. So, I continued driving towards Cape Hedo which is at the northernmost point of Okinawa Island. You’ll see the stone pillar emerging in the middle of the sea. This reminds me of Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road in Australia. Hey! this one is an exceptional landscape. ❤
Aside from the monolith view and the seeable giant bird building view when you look back. There is also a wide rock garden with grass-covered all over, and the Monument in Commemoration the end of US occupation and return of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty.
Overall, I think Cape Hedo is a must-place to come because, for me, it’s considered the most beautiful place in Okinawa. Although it will waste a bit of time driving, it is also worth it.
Cape Hedo was the main attraction for driving north. Once I finished exploring there, it was getting late. According to my plan, I drove south to Motobu City to accommodate and prepare for the aquarium in the next morning. 🤭
※ People who intend to visit the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, please stay nearby for a night so that you don’t have to dead-tired driving distantly, also have plenty of time to visit here and there. Driving round trip to Naha, it takes a minimum of 5 hours. OFC, it’s not a wise choice!
Accommodation in Motobu
Seagull Village Guesthouse
Seagull Village Guesthouse is a 5-minute drive away to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. It’s a small-friendly guesthouse with a homey vibe. The owner is the husband-wife couple who still looks young (the husband is a handsome foreigner, and his wife is Japanese). I spoke to the owners, both kindly stated that they like Thailand (my country) to the point of staying over for a few months LOL.
※ Seagull Village Guesthouse is like a real home. The room is divided into bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and living room is a shared area. There are only a few rooms here. As far as I remember, it’s only 4-5 rooms.
Overall, it’s a good, comfortable bed, a bigger room than the Japanese Hotel. OFC, it’s home! While also providing full facilities, including a kitchen where you can easily cook. There is a shared refrigerator. And the bathroom amenities are given, you don’t need to bring anything at all (expect toothbrush, toothpaste). More importantly, there is a parking lot in the backyard. // The price I got from Expedia at the time is 51 USD / night. It’s very cheap. Squealing!
Okinawa | Day 2:
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
From the accommodation, it is a 5-minute drive to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. Actually, walking is fine too, but why do we have to waste our energy, we rent a car, right? So, we better keep the strength to travel because the schedule is very tight LOL.
※ Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is located in the Ocean Expo Park featured various activities. But the genuine highlight here is the aquarium, the next one is Okichan Theater which is a dolphin show. // The Ocean Expo Park has no entrance fee but the aquarium is required for ticket payment. As for Okichan Theater is free of charge. Hoo-ray!
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium highlight is inevitable 2 whale sharks swimming in a large tank. The aquarium stated that their Whale sharks are raised and bred successfully in the water tank. Also here is the first aquarium effectively bred manta rays, the largest stingray in the world. // Under this achievement, the aquarium has a guaranteed prize. I promise you’ll not regret coming here, haha.
Apart from the famed whale sharks and manta rays, there are lots of fish species to enjoy watching whether it be sharks, moray eels, and many more rare fishes such as; jellyfish and blooming colorful corals. The aquarium is enjoyment and worthwhile for touring.
After finishing traversing the aquarium, don’t go anywhere just yet. Because if you walk towards the aquarium front, there are turtle and Manatee ponds where you can go down to the basement to see them swim. You don’t have to pay for an entrance fee because it’s out of the aquarium area. YAY!
From the turtle pond spot, take a short walk until reaching Okichan Theater, a dolphin show. The performance takes approximately 20 mins, the showtimes are at 11 am / 1 pm / 2.30 pm / 4 pm. Please check your time cautiously.
The Dolphin show at Okichan Theater is very lively. The dolphins show physical abilities like jumping, making cute noise, and group singing. It’s funny, adorable and free of charge LOL.
Bise Fukugi Tree Road
When touring through the Ocean Expo Park was completed, with the desire of having lunch, it’s a coincidence I came across another tourist attraction. Which is the Bise Fukugi Tree Road, the road that grows Fukugi Tree along the way, and is a thoroughfare for the wagons drawn by buffalo. The wagon you can climb up to sit and relax. But somehow, I felt pity for a buffalo. 🤣
Well, there is only this. If you have no time, you can skip it. But if you’re free, it is a path you can stroll along to Bise-zaki cape. If you ask me, is the place pretty? I don’t know too. Risking your own luck then LOL. Practically, I wanted to explore but I didn’t have that much time.
Visiting Okinawa during the end of January till mid-February. Do you know there is a Sakura for us to catch sight as well? The most popular spots for viewing Sakura are at Mt. Yaedake which grows over 7,000 cherry blossom trees. It’s located in Motobu, not far from the Aquarium Churaumi Okinawa. Therefore, if you finish the aquarium in the morning. Let’s drive and stop by (recommended only for people who come during the cherry blossom season).
The Sakura here is not the same as those in Japan mainland. I think that the species here is the same as Taiwan. It is a tiny dark pink color that looks sweet and cute.
Sakura trees are sited along the road to Mt. Yaedake. If you want to take a picture, you may have to find a parking space on the roadside. There will be some spots allowed for parking. Don’t forget to bring a jacket. The wind is too strong, it’s very shivering.
Accomplished viewing the Sakura at Mt. Yaedake, later on, driving down the road and returning to Naha. On the way, there is Cape Manzamo, another famous destination in Okinawa I’d like you to stop by. I ensure this is a great spot!
Cape Manzamo is a scenic rock formation that extending out to the East China Sea. The name Manzamou (万座毛) means “a field for 10,000 people to sit”. The clearer explanation can be described as the area on the rock is truly wide that more than ten thousand people can fill in and sit together.
But whatever name it is. I must mention, it was windy out there! Freezing too! 🤧 // The view was breathtaking but I couldn’t bear with the wind. So, I rushed looking at the view, then got back to the car immediately LOL. // After Cape Manzamo was finished. I drove to Naha and checked-in at the hotel to take some good rest. That was it! The Okinawa second day completely ended. The schedule was a tight full-day trip. But don’t worry, the next day is relaxing, not much of a plan, hahaha.
Okinawa | Day 3:
Buy a 1-day pass for the monorail
For those who plan to use the monorail more than 5 times within 1 day, I recommend buying a 1-day pass directly at the monorail ticket machine for 800 yen. It will start counting 24 hours after purchasing. // The average of monorail ticket costs 150 yen per round. Calculate it wisely.
The first attraction of the day starting at Shurijo Castle, located at the terminal Yui Rail Monorail Line, Shuri Station in Naha. You’ll learn Okinawa history while visiting here. And I insist, you’ll definitely gain new knowledge and be more attentive in traveling here.
※ Brief history of Okinawa: In the past, Okinawa Island was a country or kingdom name Ryukyu with its own monarch. Later, the island was annexed by Japan in 1609 and completely clung as part of Japan in 1872. In World War II, Okinawa was placed under American rule and used as a military base. It became the Battle of Okinawa afterward. // More details, try searching up on the internet. It’s very interesting to read!
Shurijo Castle was built since the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was the king’s dwelling place after successfully consolidating the kingdom and became a political center, foreign diplomacy, art and culture in the era of the Ryukyu Kingdom. In which if you observe the architecture intensively, pattern art is more similar to Chinese than Japanese design. This is due to the kingdom’s location that makes it greatly influenced by China. So, the castle configuration is very identical to China.
From that time until now, Shurijo Castle was burned and destroyed 3 times. The heaviest damage was in World War II. It was burned until almost completely ruined, only the castle base and remainder were left. The place is now regarded as a World Heritage Site, the castle you see and open for tourists to visit is the rebuilt one on the original base, which causes the castle to look brand new.
※ Visiting Shurijo Castle costs an admission fee of 820 yen. Mainly walking around the castle and rooms. If you are interested in Okinawa historical, this should be fun. But if you’re not convinced about this stuff, and not feeling regret denied coming. You can skip it, haha.
The last place to visit for the day 3 trip is, Kokusai Dori. I’ll take you to chill out at Okinawa’s busiest shopping streets. Whoever wishes to buy souvenirs, shop for clothing brands, or grab something to eat. You can find everything from here. The place offers the most abundant item on Okinawa Island.
There are 3 monorail stations stop at Kokusai Dori which are; Makishi Station (the beginning of the road) / Miebashi Station (the middle of the road) / Prefectural Office Station (the end of the road). Choose as you like which on you want to get off. But my suggestion is to drop at Makishi Station and keep walking until reaching the destination at Prefectural Office Station.
There are things to eat all the way. But if any of you crave for Sashimi or fresh raw fish, you can go to the fish market. The access is easily noticed if you see the Penguin of Don Quijote store. There will be an alley positioned beside the store. Let’s walk in a bit, then turn right to find a small fish market that displays a fresh fish for sale. You can order, go up to the second floor, and let the staff cook for you. // The other recommended edible is sea grapes. It’s very cheap in Okinawa. Don’t miss this because, in other countries, it may be surprisingly expensive.
※※ The must-eat when visiting Okinawa (1) Rafute (Okinawan Braised Pork Belly) (2) Okinawa stir-fried bitter gourd (3) sea grapes (4) purple sweet potato (5) Orion Beer (6) Blue Seal Ice-cream
The list above is the edibles I want you to hunt and eat when you visit Okinawa. It’s advisable to order Rafute (Okinawan Braised Pork Belly) or any menu made from Okinawa pork, the pork here is extraordinary. The food texture is similar to a stewed pork knuckle. Very tasty! // As for the famed Okinawa bitter gourd, the vegetable is not bitter at all. If any eatery serves stir-fried bitter gourd. Let’s order them. // Next is a purple sweet potato, the famous snack here. I think buying it as a souvenir is a good idea. // Orion beer is a must! Because it is a local beer that has originated here. // Lastly, Blue Seal ice-cream (in our hometown, Thailand recognize this as the Foremost Brand product). But Blue Seal was originally from America which happened in Okinawa during World War II. It’s quality creamy and palatable!
Kokusai street also has a trendy clothing store well-known to the local teenager. But if anyone wants a unique style of fashion clothes and shoes. I recommend coming to Ukishima alley. It’s very dashing! // if you can’t find the place, type ‘Paul Smith’ on Google Map, it’s placed at the beginning of this chic destination.
The alley is provided you a Multi-brand store mixed with a local clothing store. The good shoe shop is UNDEFEATED. // While there are standalone shops such as; Stussy, Paul Smith, Comme des garçons as well. Who’s into this, I assure you’ll go broke. Fortunately, my money was saved because I didn’t have enough to spend. 🤣
Okinawa | Day 4:
This was my last day in Okinawa! The earlier 3 days had passed so fast. As for now, if you wish to complete traveling Okinawa like the local islanders. You must DIVE. The dive here means snorkeling, not scuba diving. I wasn’t brave enough and also was inexperienced in diving. I, therefore, started with basic as snorkeling first.
This time, I went snorkeling at Kerama Islands, which I bought a one-day tour with SEASIR via the KLOOK website. The price is better than the store itself. It’s more convenient too because you can book online without having to communicate in Japanese. Plus, there is a bus service to pick-up and drop off at the hotel. The staff will teach you basic diving and taking pictures for you. It’s good value and I’d like to recommend this a lot. (Seriously, it’s a must!)
※ See more details and buy from KLOOK website here >> klook.com/activity/280-island-snorkeling-okinawa/
After purchasing the tour from KLOOK, you have to wait for a confirmation email from SEASIR. If the tour agency is not instant, then contact KLOOK directly, they will catch up with the confirmation for you. It’s quite favorable. Now, when everything is confirmed. One day before you go diving, an email will be sent to you expressed the details of pick-up time at your hotel, afore heading to the pier.
※All you need to prepare is a swimming suit. The tour is included lunch, wet suit, windbreaker, towel, and all diving equipment. These are available for borrowing. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about the cold water, because it’s really cold LOL. But Kerama Islands can dive all year round. The provided wetsuit is very thick so when you jump down the water for a while, the chilling is disappeared. (I went around mid-February.)
The snorkeling program offers 3 dive sites in the Kerama Islands. It’s a join-group with the scuba diving program, all the 2 group members will get into the same boat, diving in the same spot. The only difference is the snorkeling group just goes around on the sea surface while the scuba diving group is, going deep down into the sea. The time I’d been there, they were only 4 people in the snorkeling group (including myself), and about 10 people for scuba diving. If I remember correctly, the group was very small like a private group. So, the tour guide could definitely take care of all members. Now, coming to the question; Do the staff speak English? Well, they can communicate but may not be very flexible. It’s understandable though.
※ Diving trip: the tour guide will hold a DSLR camera to take pictures of you as well. Don’t worry about not having any pictures uploading on social media. At the end of the trip, they will give you a link to download the whole set of the day trip pictures. The picture is skillfully taken and looks so nice. // Therefore, in this dive review, the shown picture will mix between my camera and the guide’s camera. The scenic seascapes or the deep underwater pictures are all from the guide’s camera, hahaha.
The First snorkeling spot: This spot is like a warm-up and lets you get used to the water. The underwater I’d seen through glasses had nothing much. The staffs allow you to swim to the cave then swim out. At that time, I was afraid, the diving trip would be fizzled out. The coral was not outstanding but after looking at the pictures from the main camera. The beautiful scenery was projected for the scuba diving group. It means you have to dive down into the cave, you can catch this amazing scenic. It just wowed! But come on, I was at the surface! 🤣
The second snorkeling spot: Astonishing! The coral here is beautiful and healthy. The sea is not that deep. I saw close-up corals and fish swimming around. The disappointment from the 1st spot was gone completely LOL.
The third snorkeling spot: This is the best! I saw 3 turtles swimming side by side. Gosh, just meeting the turtles was totally great and worth the experience. The coral was perfect too. I’m in love with this!
The guide caught the leech from under the sea and let us try to touch it as well. It was very soft and mushy. This was the second time I touched a leech, the first time I tried it at the aquarium, hahaha.
As I mentioned earlier, I went to 3 snorkeling spots. The first one was nothing much, feels like a place for warming-up. But the second and the third one is amazing. Plus, the highlight of the day was to see turtles swimming around. I was completely fulfilled. After finished from those 3 spots, the staff would send us to the shore. Then, drove us back to the hotel. To conclude, the tour is very nice. It, forsooth, makes Okinawa a perfect picture. It is plenary for both on land and underwater. Love-love ♥ // Yeah! This is my Okinawa trip, is it good? 😘
Accommodation in Okinawa
For accommodation in Okinawa, it’s suggested to see the plan where your destination is. How many days traveling outside Naha? What spot you want to sleep in and drive conveniently, not too exhausted. If based on the plan I have reviewed, there was the aquarium so I chose to stay overnight in Motobu to easily drive to the aquarium, and didn’t have to drive back and forth within a day. After that, I returned to Naha and stayed there until the end of the Okinawa trip.
※ The recommended Motobu accommodation, I would stay at Seagull Village Guesthouse (read the hotel review above) and as for Naha, I stayed at Hotel Hokke Club Naha Shintoshin which is very good. The latter hotel review can read more below. ♥️
Hotel Hokke Club Naha Shintoshin
I got to stay at Hotel Hokke Club Naha Shintoshin in downtown, located near the Monorail Omoromachi Station. The hotel is highly recommended for anyone who is looking for good accommodation in almost all aspects.
Hotel Hokke Club Naha Shintoshin has an excellent location near the monorail station. The hotel is surrounded by malls from both front and back sides. Yeah! // The room size is small according to the Japanese hotel standard. BBF is on full-service and the food tastes delicious as well. Imagine! They are offered Tonkatsu, Okinawa braised pork belly, Okinawa stir-fried bitter gourd, Blue Seal Ice-cream, and purple sweet potato. Famous foods that must be eaten in Okinawa, you don’t need to find it anywhere. All can be found here at the hotel buffet breakfast.
I slept in the Double Room with complete equipment and facilities. The room space may be a little small but for me, it’s no probs because I’m already familiar with Japan’s hotel room size. LOL. The price of a single room for 2 people I got an offer from Expedia is 89 USD / night. If the price is divided per person + having a good breakfast like this. I appreciate it so much, it’s not expensive at all.
ญี่ปุ่นเป็นประเทศไม่กี่ประเทศที่นี่รู้สึกว่า ไปกี่ครั้งก็ไม่น่าเบื่อ ไปแล้วไปอีกได้ตลอด และยังประเทศที่ตัวเองตั้งมิชชั่นว่า อยากจะเก็บให้หมดทั่วประเทศ ฮ่าา เอาเป็นว่า HASHCORNER นี่ก็มีรีวิวญี่ปุ่นให้อ่านและตามรอยเยอะพอสมควร ทั้งหมดนับแล้วประมาณ 29 เมืองแล้ว เยอะโคตร ใครที่มีแพลนไปเมืองไหนในญี่ปุ่นที่มีชื่อเมืองตามลิสด้านล่าง สามารถคลิกลิงค์อ่านต่อได้เล้ย
ภูมิภาคคันไซ (Kansai Region)
1. รีวิว โอซาก้า (Osaka)
2. รีวิว Universal Studios Japan (USJ)
3. รีวิว เกียวโต (Kyoto)
4. รีวิว นารา (Nara)
5. รีวิว โกเบ (Kobe)
6. รีวิว ฮิเมจิ (Himeji)
7. รีวิว อิเสะ-ชิมะ (Ise-Shima) กำลังเขียน .
8. รีวิว อิกะ อุเอโนะ (Iga Ueno) กำลังเขียน .
9. รีวิว อะซุกะ (Asuka) กำลังเขียน .
ภูมิภาคชูบุ (Chubu Region)
ภูมิภาคคิวชู (Kyushu Region)
13. รีวิว ฟุกุโอกะ-ดาไซฟุ (Fukuoka-Dazaifu)
14. รีวิว นางาซากิ (Nagasaki)
15. รีวิว ยูฟูอิน (Yufuin)
16. รีวิว คุมาโมโตะ (Kumamoto)
17. รีวิว ภูเขาไฟอะโสะ (Mount Aso)
18. รีวิว ทาคาชิโฮ (Takachiho)
ภูมิภาคโอกินาว่า (Okinawa Region)
ภูมิภาคฮอกไกโด (Hokkaido Region)
20. รีวิว ซัปโปโร (Sapporo)
21. รีวิว โอตารุ (Otaru)
22. รีวิว อาซาฮิกาวะ-บิเอะ (Asahikawa-Biei)
23. รีวิว อะบาชิริ-คุชิโระ (Abashiri-Kushiro)
24. รีวิว ฮาโกดาเตะ (Hakodate)
ภูมิภาคชูโกกุ (Chugoku Region)
25. รีวิว ฮิโรชิม่า (Hiroshima)
26. รีวิว เกาะมิยาจิม่า (Miyajima)
27. รีวิว โอคายาม่า-คุราชิกิ (Okayama-Kurashiki)