38 things to do and eat for 5D4N in Okinawa, Japan: A Self-Drive Road Trip Itinerary
Looking for an island getaway? Besides the ever-popular Bali, Phuket, and Krabi, the next best alternative is approximately five hours away from Singapore. The Okinawan islands are surrounded by the East China Sea and Pacific Ocean, boasting clear emerald blue waters all around, with a plethora of snorkelling and diving sites that are, as of yet, not as over-populated.
Managed to snag cheap tickets to Okinawa, Japan and wondering what to see, eat, and do? Here's our road trip itinerary on Okinawa that you can follow while planning your next trip! For those who don't intend to drive, read on as this post also provides what you can do on your next trip (even without driving)!
When is the best time to visit Okinawa?
Okinawa is a great destination all-year-round. In summer, you'll be greeted with the azure blue skies and lots of opportunities for water activities. As Okinawa is surrounded by the sea, the temperatures in the hottest summer months (August and September) rarely exceed 35 degrees celsius. In autumn, the weather is cool while still having the warm rays of the sun shining on you. Walk through the scenic beaches and various parks comfortably with a windbreaker. In winter, the temperatures also don't get overly cold with a comfortable average of 17 degree celsius. There won't be snow in winter, and should you be looking for winter wonderland, head up instead to Sapporo where you'll find the famed powder snow! Okinawa is also the place to catch the first cherry blossoms in Japan, with the first expected bloom to be sometime in late January.
That being said, travellers should note that they should expect heavy precipitation should they travel within the months of May to late June. Typhoon season is between August and September and there may be more flights delayed due to the weather conditions.
How to get to Okinawa, Japan?
Previously, there weren't any direct flights from Singapore to Okinawa and heading there requires a stopover. Now, Jetstar flies direct to Okinawa from Singapore and tickets are affordably priced. We got our last minute tickets for approximately $280 round trip but we've heard many others scored even cheaper tickets during the sales period.
How to get around Okinawa, Japan?
Be it via public transport, group bus tour, a private car charter, or a self-drive, Okinawa is accessible to all kinds of travellers. Should you be looking to go on diving or snorkelling trips, many tour companies do arrange for shuttle services from your hotel or a convenient pick up point in Naha itself.
For us, we preferred our own-time-own-target spontaneous travels and decided to drive ourselves around Okinawa. Since driving within the Okinawa main island is similar to driving in Singapore plus all the perks of fewer cars, more gracious drivers, and free parking outside Naha, Okinawa is a destination that is perfect for a road trip for the entire family.
We've previously covered extensively on whether you should drive in Okinawa, how driving is like, and how to go about renting a car in this blog post: Okinawa Self Drive Travel Guide.
38 things to do and eat for 5D4N in Okinawa, Japan
Now that you are all set, let's go on to the 5D4N itinerary for Okinawa, Japan!
Day 1 -
We flew Jetstar's red-eye flight an arrived in Okinawa at about 8am in the morning. Once you've touch down in Okinawa Naha Airport, head to grab your cars from either Luft Travel Car Rental, Toyota-Rent-a-Car, or Times Rental. We went with Times Rental as at the time of booking, they were the cheapest and there were more palatable car choices in the cheapest band.
At the Arrival Hall, there was no trouble looking for the Times Car Rental staff holding a placard. Even though we seriously just booked the car a day before our pickup, our names were quickly registered in the system and we then told to head over to take the shuttle bus outside the terminal. A yellow Times Car bus arrived quickly and brought us to the car rental company just minutes from the airport.
After all the various checks and administrative documents, we were off to go!
1. Breakfast at Sukiya
Before we head up north, we were famished after the flight and decided to make our first stop a food stop! We decided to head to the quintessential Japanese "fast food" chain, Sukiya. Sukiya serves quick Japanese dons, beef, pork, unagi, curry, and more. What's great are that many of the Sukiyas have a dedicated parking lot and are located right by the main roads.
What we did was to just key in Sukiya into our google maps and navigated ourselves to the nearest one! If you are a first timer to Japan, Sukiya should be in your list for a fuss-free and super affordable Japanese meal!
Multiple Outlets in Okinawa
2. Stock up your supplies at a nearby convenience store!
After filling your stomachs, you may also want to first stock up on snacks and beverages before going on the long drive. There are several Family Marts, Lawsons, and 7-11s throughout Okinawa and you can simply pop in (almost like a drive-thru) to get your items before carrying onto your journey.
These convenience stores also often have a restroom for customers to relieve themselves. How convenient! :)
3. Cape Hedo
Once that is all done, you are now extremely prepared for your road trip. We would usually advise the first stop to be the furthest destination should you be making one entire round. Cape Hedo is located all the way up in the northern region of Okinawa.
Here, you should take the Okinawa Expressway, pay the toll to shorten your travel time by half, avoid multiple traffic lights, and go on faster speeds at up to 80 km/h. How the toll system works is that when entering the toll road, you should head towards the General Toll Lanes (usually located on the left hand side of the entrances or exits, demarcated in GREEN) and grab a ticket from the automated ticket dispenser. Before exiting, again, you should drive towards either the left-most lane or the middle lane and pass the ticket to the tollbooth attendant. A fee would be shown on the screen to the right of your car and you should pay it by cash. Credit cards should be accepted as well but cash is king in Okinawa.
Upon reaching Cape Hedo, be prepared to walk a little to the northern-most point. Once there, you'll definitely see how the long drive is worth it! The waves crashing onto the shore and the azure blue waters, ahhhh...
Hedo, Kunigami, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-1421, Japan
Mapcode: 728 675 894
4. Kouri Island - Kourio Bridge
Thereafter, it'll be an hour drive back towards Nago on Highway 58 and to Kouri Island. You'll possibly have to first go onto Yagaji Island and then to the entrance of the Kourio Bridge. Before going onto the bridge, there's a little parking lot where you can stop to really see the beautiful bridge before driving on top of it!
Kouri, Nakijin, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0406, Japan
Mapcode: 485 601 893
5. Kouri Island - Kouri Shrimps
By then, your stomachs must be rumbling as it would be past lunch time! Head over to Kouri Shrimps for your lunch. Kouri Shrimp is a Hawaiian restaurant that serves marinated shrimps with rice. They started as a food truck selling takeaways at the beach. Now, they have a restaurant area with dedicated parking area. Parking for Kouri Shrimps is actually located a little further down from the restaurant. There will be a staff standing outside to direct you to their dedicated parking lot. Otherwise, follow the signs! The parking lot is located about a 2-minute walk away.
This little joint is by no means cheap as each meal costs upwards of 1000yen. To order, head all the way to the top counter. There are 4 choices - original (1000 yen), spicy (1200 yen), butter (1300 yen), and mix (1400 yen). You can also add on beef slices (500 yen) should you want more meat.
We tried the original one to save some moolahs and it was amazing! The shrimps were nicely fried and drenched in some kind of a garlic sauce. It has a slight tangy flavour which really brings out the freshness of the seafood. The rice, too, was light and fluffy and some of the shrimp sauce was also poured over the top.
Besides the shrimps, they also serve acai bowls and drinks. A good budget tip is to skip the drinks from the restaurant as there was a vending machine next to it! We didn't know and ordered the Sikwasa (Okinawa sparkling lime juice), paying around 350 yen for it! (Sigh!) The drink was good though, even though it was really a tad expensive for a little cup.
You can order the take-out and bring it along to the Kouri beach to eat or dine at the terrace in the restaurant. The view of the Kourio Bridge from the terrace was beautiful really, definitely worth the more pricey food!
４３６−１ Kouri, Nakijin, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa 905-0406, Japan
6. Kouri Island - Kouri Ocean Tower
The next attraction on Kouri Island is the Ocean Tower. Up here, you'll get a splendid view of the entire island plus the oceans. Do note for drivers that the path up are narrow and rocky, drive slowly so as to not miss any turns given by your navigation device.
Parking is available right below the ocean tower where you can also purchase your tickets. The ticket for adults cost 800 yen, 600 yen for high school student