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 students, 300 yen for elementary school students, and free for pre-schoolers. Included in the price of your ticket is an automated buggy ride from the carpark up to the tower. Here, you'll listen to some information (in your preferred language) about Kouri Island and the tower. The ride also goes through a little man-made garden, with mini-waterfalls, giving you a splendid view of the Kourio Bridge too!
Honestly, after seeing the view at Kouri Shrimps, you may just want to skip the Kouri Ocean Tower as it is rather similar. The only difference is that for families with children, you’ll have a lot more to do here!
Kouri Ocean Tower
538 Kouri, Nakijin, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa 905-0406, Japan
Mapcode: 485 693 424
Opening hours: Daily, 9.00am to 6.00pm
7. Kouri Island - Heart Rocks
One of the more compelling reason to head to Kouri Island was to see these two hearts in the Okinawa Waters, created after several years of erosion by the waves.
But what many don’t tell you about getting there isn’t that it is seriously quite a trek! Since we initially thought we could simply drive straight to the bridge and take a short path over, it wasn’t there the case! Without proper shoes, we trek through narrow paths, between long grass, and climbed down rocks to get there...
This is definitely not the activity for the faint-hearted!
After the somewhat treacherous trek, we finally arrived at the beach area. Here, the waters are calm and you’ll really get to see the heart rocks up close. The only downside is that even with the trek, there were quite a number of travellers climbing up the rock, trying to take as many photographs as they can so as to fully make use of all their effort to get there!
Nonetheless, it is still a worthy stop on your road trip as you’ll get to experience something different you won’t get in the city!
Kouri Island Heart Rock
Kouri, 今帰仁村 国頭郡 沖縄県 905-0406, Japan
8. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Head quickly over to the Churaumi Aquarium to see the whale sharks and manta rays. Do be warned though that this venue is possibly the most crowded of all attractions in Okinawa. You may then wish to get your tickets beforehand online and collect it at Naha Airport.
Alternatively, you may just want to grab a Main Island Enjoy Pass Okinawa to save on the entrance tickets for various attractions in Okinawa. This pass is definitely recommended for families as it includes not just the Aquarium, but the Okinawa World, Pineapple Park, Okinawa Fruits Lands and more!
Right after the entrance to the aquarium, you’ll be greeted to a touch pool where you’ll get to touch the various star fish under the supervision of the aquarium staff.
Thereafter, walk through the various tanks to see colourful fishes, coral reefs, and other aquatic species!
When you are there, be sure to stay for the Whale Shark Feeding! It is a wonder to see them gulping down their food while appearing to be “standing” in the waters! There are two feeding times for the whale sharks daily at 3.00pm and at 5.00pm. Take that into consideration when you plan your visit! For those who are looking at going in the morning, you could also watch the manta rays feeding at 9.30am.
We watched the the 5.00pm feeding and then rushed out of the Churaumi Aquarium and to the Okichan Theatre, where the dolphin show is held at 5.30pm. Entrance to the Okichan Theatre is free so it is definitely a must-see.
After the aquarium and if you still have some energy left, walk around the Ocean Expo Park and towards the clear emerald waters!
Ocean Expo Park and Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
424 Ishikawa, Motobu, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa 905-0206, Japan
Mapcode: 553 075 797*77
9. Try Blue Seal Ice Cream
If you’re feeling slightly peckish, head to the Cafe near the carpark to grab a snack or try the famed Blue Seal Ice Cream!
Blue Seal Ice Cream has an interesting history. Initially created to boost the morale of American troops in Okinawa, they are now found all over the island. You’ll find them in convenience stores, in cafes, or some as a stand-alone gelato bar.
We’ve tried them all and found that the one that we had at the cafe near the aquarium tasted the best! It was creamy, milky, had a slight bit of gelato-like stickiness... Ah... From then on, we made it a point to have at least one scoop every day.
Our favourite flavour is the Okinawan Salt Biscuit. It tastes almost like salted caramel with little bits of cookies. Other noteworthy flavours are the Beni-imo (Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato), Mint, and Pistachio.
Blue Seal Ice Cream (several outlets in Okinawa)
We first tried the one at Cafe カフェ ティーダ near Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Japan, 〒905-0206 Okinawa, Kunigami-gun, Motobu, Ishikawa, 424 海水族館敷地内 沖縄美ら
10. Feast at A&W!
Even though there's now an A&W opened in Singapore, you may still wish to place this in your itinerary. A&W in Okinawa is just like the ones in America, where they feature a drive-thru concept plus a little diner. Sitting at the diner-style seats really brought us back to the United States!
Even though it is slightly further away from our accommodation at the aquarium, the drive was worth it! The food was amazing; we had their burger and hotdogs, not forgetting the famed root beer float!
A&W (several outlets in Okinawa)
1703-8 Umusa, Nago, Okinawa 905-0006, Japan
Stay: Mr. Kinjo in Motobu
We were extremely tired after everything and was so glad to head to Mr. Kinjo in Motobu. The location of the property was great since it had a Aeon supermarket nearby where we could head to grab groceries. It is also located by the coast, giving you a beachfront accommodation minus the restrictive prices!
We paid slightly under 3,500 yen (about $45 sgd) for a double room that was clean, with a mini-kitchenette, washing machine, bathtub, and even a balcony. Some rooms had a balcony facing the ocean which was splendid! Do note that the price is during the off-peak season so expect a hike during the peak summer and autumn season!
The only downside to this is that it is simple so no other facilities are within the accommodation except vending machines at the bottom. So if you're looking for swimming pools, breakfast, or any form of room service, none of them are provided. Also, we had to hold our nostrils when we enter and exit at the ground floor of the lift lobby as it was located close to the rubbish chute. This doesn't affect the smell of our rooms so that was fine.
Parking at Mr.Kinjo is not free either, we had to pay an additional 1,000 yen for overnight parking. After factoring that into the cost of our stay, we would still recommend this fuss-free hotel / hostel chain.
For those who have a lot more budget, go for the oceanfront resorts located in Motobu like Hotel Orion Motobu Resort and Spa which lies close to the Okinawa Ocean Expo Park and the Emerald Beach or Hotel Mahaina Wellness Resort on the other side of the Expo Park.
Mr.Kinjo in Motobu
Japan, 〒905-0212 Okinawa, Kunigami-gun, Motobu, Ōhama, 872番地5
Reserve your stay at Mr. Kinjo in Motobu on Booking.com
Day 2 -
Start your day early as there's lots to cover! First up is the most important meal of the day - breakfast!
11. Breakfast at Hotto Motto
Hotto Motto is a bento take-away chain and is opened early at 9.00am. Since we started our day early, not much is opened. We decided to try this chain since it was located close to our accommodation and we kept walking past it during our trip to Busan.
Prices at Hotto Motto was wallet-friendly but because they were a take-out chain, there weren't that many seats. Most consumers purchase bento as to-go or eat them in their cars parked outside. Because we were early, we managed to find a small table outside and had our meal there.
Hotto Motto (several outlets in Okinawa)
434-7 Tancha, 本部町 Motobu, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa 905-0213, Japan
12. Nago Theme Parks
There are a variety of “themed parks” in Nago that are worth visiting, especially for family with children. We recommend only going to just ONE as they are rather similar and you would likely be very bored should you visit them all. The theme parks in Okinawa aren't the amusement parks you are familiar with. Instead they are more of an attraction that is themed.
Nago Pineapple Park features Nago pineapples that are grown on the farm. You’ll take a tram ride and a cart ride to learn more about pineapples. The indoor garden trail also allows you to see several colourful flowers and plants. The best part is at the end where you’ll get to taste all kind of pineapple produce - from tarts to cakes, they have them all. The best is eating a freshly sliced pineapple on stick!
They used to offer customers fresh pineapple but when we were there they changed it to pineapple juice due to a shortage of pineapples!😞
Nago Pineapple Park
1195 Biimata, Nago, Okinawa 905-0005, Japan
Mapcode: 206 716 438*88
Okinawa Fruits Land is similar to the Pineapple Park but with a variety of fruits. For those who do not enjoy pineapple can consider going to the Fruits Land instead. Here, unlike the Pineapple Park you don't exactly get to see the fruits but will learn about them through quizzes and stories. There is also a little bird sanctuary where you get to feed the birds. Okinawa Fruits Land is located right next to the pineapple park and tickets are also included in the Enjoy Pass! So those who get the Enjoy Pass may just want to quickly pop in for a quick tour.
Okinawa Fruits Land
1220-71 Biimata, Nago, Okinawa 905-0005, Japan
Mapcode: 206 716 584*13
For the little boys, they will definitely look forward to the Dino Park where they will get to see various models of dinosaurs! Here, you'll walk through a "forest" and discover the various dinosaurs on the trail.
１０２４−１ Nakayama, Nago, Okinawa 905-0004, Japan
13. Orion Happy Park
Orion Happy Park hosts free beer factory tour to allow you to learn how Orion Beer is made. To join the tour, you'll have to make a reservation online in advance. Otherwise, there would likely not be a slot for you (we tried!). The tour is conducted in Japanese only and includes 2 beers (yes, for free!) and some snacks. Children are welcome to join the tour too and instead of beer they would get a soft drink.
Should you not get a slot like us, feel free to still visit and take a look at the factory. You can walk through it on your own and read the information guide along the way.
Orion Happy Park
2-chōme-2-1 Agarie, Nago, Okinawa 905-0021, Japan
Mapcode: 206 598 867
14. Lunch at Ramen Danbo
After all that visiting, it would be around noon and you would be famished. We decided to have Japanese Ramen at Danbo after seeing long queues at the store when we first drove by.
When we there just before lunch and thankfully didn't have to queue to get our ramen. We chose the Original and the Spicy Ramen. Besides choosing the flavour of your ramen, you'll also get to customise a whole load of other stuff like how thick you want your broth to be, the thickness and doneness of the ramen.
We enjoyed Ramen Danbo very much because of its thick broth. We also like the miso-type broth more than that of Ichiran Ramen.
Ramen Danbo Nago Branch (several outlets)
5-chōme-10-３６ Agarie, Nago, Okinawa 905-0021, Japan
15. Busena Marine Park
Busena Marine Park is located within Busena Terrace Resort. When driving, don't miss the turn and turn straight into the resort. There will be a guarded entrance and you will just have to let the guard know that you're visiting the Marine Park, he will instruct you to the carpark for the park.
Parking for the Marine Park is quite a distance away from the pier and the tower but there will be a complimentary shuttle for customers who purchase the tickets. Charge for the Glass Bottom Boat and the Underwater Observatory is as follows but it is definitely more worth it to purchase both!
Underwater Observatory: 1,030 yen / 820 yen (students) / 520 yen (children)
Glass Bottom Boat: 1,560 yen / 1,250 yen (students) / 780 yen (children)
Combo: 2,100 yen / 1,670 yen (students) / 1,050 yen (children)
The Glass Bottom Boat experience was terrific. The glass and water was really clear such that you get to see the colourful coral and fishes. Here, the captain will take the boat out to the deeper part of the waters where there is an abundance of aquatic life and corals. We saw the nemo clown fish and starfishes that were in the ocean.
Children can also feed the fishes and see them quickly swim across the boat!