10 Favorites on Okinawa

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


 Before we leave our home on this beautiful island in a few days, I wanted to share some of our favorite places to go and things to do. I've loved reading posts like this before moving to a new place and I'm hoping this will be helpful -- or atleast fun to read! -- for anyone coming to Okinawa.


1. Okinawa's Islands. There are hundreds of islands off Okinawa's coasts, but we both still agree that we have never seen islands more beautiful than the Keramas. You can take a 1-2 hour ferry ride from Naha to Zamami Island and spend the night, weekend, or even just a day. It's a remote island chain, so there aren't any fancy hotels. The best options available are camping on the beach or staying in a small room in a house or pension. We loved, loved loved Ishigaki Island! It's a short flight but feels like a world away. It's quiet, remote, has gorgeous beaches, the famed Kabira Bay, and a Club Med. We went for a long weekend in May/June when the weather was hot and sunny all day. You can also take a ferry to other small islands like Ie or even drive to Miyagi & Ikei Islands off the southeastern coast to explore beaches or find a beach to camp on.


2. Hike Tedake Falls. The trail is a stream or creek, depending on the time of year you go. We went during the hottest part of summer in August and it was refreshing to hike the water path and jump off rocks and small waterfalls on the way to the huge waterfall at the end.


3. Churaumi Aquarium, Emerald Beach and drive the West Coast. This is easily the best aquarium we've been to! The whale sharks are incredible, and you can grab an Orion beer on draft (my favorite beer in all the world!) and watch them swim past, spend a hot day on Emerald Beach, walk through the Tropical Dream Center and the rooms and rooms of Orchids during the first months of the year. Getting up there along the west coast is also our favorite drive on island!


4. Scuba certified and the whale shark dive.  Cam and I both agree that the most stunning places and sights on Okinawa are underwater. To be honest, I was nervous at first to get scuba certified, but as soon as we started the class, I fell in love. Every time we dove, we were in awe, and it was always a bonding experience together. Onna Point, Bolo Point, Horseshoe, and a boat dive we went on to the islands were some of the dive spots we enjoyed most. If you don't dive, you can't miss snorkeling into the blue cave at Cape Maeda! This is still my very favorite place on island. Cam and I had some awesome dates here.


6. Take a trip to see Kyoto in the Fall. It's absolutely stunning lit up in the Fall colors! This was our first trip together to mainland Japan and was the perfect introduction to traditional Japanese culture. We loved it. You can read posts on it here, here, hereand here


7. Travel throughout Asia and New Zealand! When we first found out we were moving to Okinawa, we thought it would be an easy jumping-off point to the rest of Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It's not. It turned out to be much more expensive and far to get off Okinawa, but absolutely worth it each time we did. We set aside money each month into our travel fund {which we still do!} and picked the places we badly wanted to see and planned for those. We traveled eight times (nine? I can't even remember now!) to mainland Japan, also to Hong Kong, Koh Samui, Thailand, Halong Bay & Hanoi,Vietnam, South Korea (Cam), and our favorite trip of all, New Zealand.


8. Food! Drink tea. Eat Sushi, Soba, Yakitori...  At our favorite restaurant, we've watched fresh fish delivered after being caught that day. You can taste the freshness in the sushi and sashimi. The only restaurants we haven't enjoyed eating at are ones in or near American Village, but that's just our preference. Most of our favorites have no English on the menu or on the restaurant itself, and we still don't know what some of them are actually called! It's a lot of fun to try out as many different places that you can. The more hidden they are off a side street, usually the better. I also love Cafe Doka Doka for the tea and coffee, but mostly for the gorgeous atmosphere and views overlooking Moon Bay. Also, dinner on the beach! Special and fancy, or just bring a picnic. There's also small fruit and veggie stands all on their own, often in residential neighborhoods. There's usually a small sign letting you know how much yen to leave. I usually find much cheaper prices there than at the JA Farmers Markets. Travel agencies on base also offer day trips to Naha for a traditional tea ceremony.


9. Matsuri: Cherry Blossom Festival, Flower Festivals & Cultural Festivals. Okinawa loves it's festivals! We loved getting to know more of this beautiful culture through the Obon, dragon boat races, cherry blossoms, Naha tug-of-war and most especially the flower festivals throughout the year.


10. Shuri Castle & Other Castle Ruins. The castle ruins around the island are interesting to visit, and beautiful when covered in cherry blossoms in January/February. We went to a sunrise service at Zakimi Castle ruins on Easter. When the weather cools down during the winter months, it's fun to bring coffee and walk through the Shuri Castle grounds at nighttime when it's all lit up.

Like anywhere, it's best to come to Okinawa with an open mind and heart :) It will likely be very different than what you're imagining. Buildings for the most part are all made out of concrete and aren't constructed to be atheistically pleasing, but to withstand typhoon season. The real beauty, we found, is enjoying Okinawa's stunning nature and warm, kind, welcoming, wonderful people.

If you live here or have lived here in the past, please share your favorites, and any links to your blog in the comments. Back to packing and cleaning...!


43 comments:

  1. *happy sigh* oh my ... absolute beauty! THANK YOU so much for sharing with us these things and sharing your beautiful pictures! I can't wait to go back and read (ok... re-read but that sounds stalkerish! hahaha) the posts that you mention here! I have been so blessed by the beauty that you have shared with us while you have lived in Japan! I pray that you are blessed abundantly during this season of transition sweet lady! I can't wait to learn and see the beauty of this new season! Thank you again for being willing to share such a beautiful part of the world with us!!
    :) Rebecca

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    1. Rebecca!!! Sweet as ever. Thank you so much!!!

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  2. What a great list!! I can't believe you're leaving in a couple of days! I remember finding your blog before making the big move to Okinawa and it's been a source of inspiration ever since. I hope you'll check out my little corner of the internet, www.inspirationsparks.com :) I'm so excited to continue reading all about your next adventures! Best of luck to your little family. XOXO

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    1. Aw thanks, Laura! I hope the rest of your time there is amazing. Thanks for sharing your blog too!

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  3. What a breathtakingly beautiful place you have been so blessed to call home these past few years! I love all of your stunning pictures and I can't wait to follow along on your next journey :) Best of luck!!!

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    1. Thank you, Brittany! It really is... and we are soo blessed to have gotten to live there.

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  4. This post is full of so much joy! I am so glad you had such a wonderful experience in Oki. I pray that I will be able to travel to that part of the world some day!

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    1. Thanks sweet Maureen. I hope so, too!!

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  5. Such an amazing post! I have loved following you and your beautiful family's journey in Okinawa. I will miss these posts, but so excited for what you have coming up!! Thank you so much for sharing! And I hope one day I am able to visit this gorgeous corner of the world :)

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    1. Thank you, Emily! Thank you for reading. I hope too that you're able to visit Japan one day!

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  6. I love love love this post. These pictures of you and your family (and the gorgeous places in Japan) are seriously amazing. I love reading about your adventures and can't wait to hear more about your new ones in CA (welcome back!).

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  7. Such great memories you guys have made -- and WILL MAKE in your next set of adventures!!!
    love love love,
    lanneybear

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    1. Can't wait to see you SOON!! Love you!

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  8. These photos are gorgeous & so heart warming! What a beautiful family you have and I just love how you've captured so many beautiful memories!! xoxo Amanda

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  9. what an amazing opportunity you guys had to live there! i'm pinning this to my travel board :) so excited to follow you guys on your next chapter! xx

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    1. Amen. SUCH an amazing gift! Thank you, Amanda!

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  10. I can't believe you're leaving! But I'm also excited to see how Cali then Croatia inspire you and all that good food ;) I can't wait to keep reading

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    1. Mmmm I am SO excited about the cooking and food :)
      Thank you!!

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  11. What an adventure your life is!!! I will miss the Okinawa pictures, but look forward to the next adventure!!!

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  12. Good luck with your move!!! I've so enjoyed following your adventures in Okinawa, and I hope you'll keep posting once you're settled in California and Croatia! It's all so inspiring.

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer! Yes, I am definitely going to keep blogging. The past two weeks have been crazy, but we're starting to get more settled :) Thank you again!

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  13. Thank you so much for posting this, we have recently arrived in Okinawa and are just beginning to discover all it has to offer!!

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    1. YAY! I hope you love it, Heather!

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  14. I visited Japan in Summer 2010 and fell in love! What an amazing culture, genuine people, and a place to visit unlike any other. I was on Honshu, but you are making Okinawa sound quite tempting to visit again! Thank you for your posts through the years about this wonderful place, I've loved reading along. Can't wait to hear about Croatia - you'll love it!

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    1. Thank you so much, Michelle. I could not agree more - especially about the people. I miss them already!!

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  15. Thank you for the additional ideas! Now I know we need to make a trip to Okinawa while we're here! I just started my blog but we've done a couple of things on Kyushu. We've got trips to Tokyo and Seoul already lined up and we're hoping to hit New Zealand before the tour is over! http://cherryblossomesandcheerios.blogspot.com

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    1. Ahhh you are going to LOVE NZ!! It is still to this day our favorite place we've ever gone to. Thank you for sharing your blog!

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  16. I think you forgot your most favorite part of Oki.. aka.. McKenzie.

    Just kidding. Kind of not. I miss you already.

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    1. Haha. Seriously. I miss you, love.

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  17. Amanda - thank you so much for sharing your life & travels with the world! I fell in love with Okinawa because of you and your blog posts and know without a doubt that ill make it there some day! Your posts about New Zealand put the location higher up on the "must travel to" list. I think i almost fell out of my chair at work when you posted that you & Cam are moving to Croatia. The guy i've been dating has been mentioning a trip there and i think it's absolutely stunning! Best of luck with the move and thank you....your blog is a favorite to read and something i look forward to!

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    1. Aw thank you SO MUCH!!!! I really appreciate that. We are so, so sosososos excited about Croatia. Made leaving Oki much easier.

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  18. Gorgeous photos! You've moved Okinawa up on my travel list!

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    1. Thank you!! It's a difficult place to travel to unless you know someone there, but mainland is very easy to navigate :)

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  19. What a beautiful place that you got to call home! Onto the next exciting adventure!

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    1. Woohoo!! So excited for it!

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  20. I am going to miss your wonderful Okinawa posts and running into you around the island. Hope all goes well these next few weeks with getting settled in Cali! (And btw, the Tropical Dream Center is at the top of my list too: LOVE that place :)

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    1. I am going to miss YOU! I hope the rest of your pregnancy is comfortable and happy for you. Loved getting to say goodbye at Torii though sorry I was crying, ha!

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  21. Thank you so much for writing this. I just received word that this is where we are being stationed and my initial reaction was that I wanted to throw up, most likely from being nervous. But this post calmed me down and I really appreciate that. It looks stunning and I'm actually finding myself more and more excited :)

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    1. Chelsea, I hope you LOVE it! It's an amazing place. If you start feeling nervous again or have questions, feel free to email me. The people are so lovely, the water is INCREDIBLE and we left with life-long friendships.

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  22. i will absolutely be making to it to okinawa... i'm not sure i've ever seen a more beautiful place

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