When you feel the need to take a real vacation, look no further than Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture. It boasts a tropical climate and stunning seaside scenery that promises to refresh even the weariest of travelers. Wade through translucent tropical waters on a traditional carriage drawn by a water buffalo. Hear the sounds of the sanshin, a type of banjo unique to Okinawa, evoke a medley of cultural influences, from its days as the former Ryukyu Kingdom to its present incarnation as Japan’s southernmost prefecture. Whether it’s diving with tropical fish in the deep blue sea, watching a waterfall while dining on local delicacies in a historical restaurant, or exploring natural habitats housing protected forms of plant and animal life, the archipelago of Okinawa offers travelers a multitude of ways to relax and slow down while experiencing unique flora, fauna, food and fun. Take a step back from the cares of modern life and revel in the traditional warmth and beauty of Okinawa.
Okinawa Island is the largest of the 160 islands dotted throughout Okinawa Prefecture. With theme parks including historical sites from the era of the Ryukyu Kingdom, various structures, and an aquarium; picturesque beaches where you can enjoy marine sports; stunning scenery and more at places such as Cape Manzamo and Kouri Ohashi bridge; there are plenty of ways you can have a good time on this fascinating island. Here are some ideas to enjoy enchanting Okinawa Island to the fullest, starting off your tropical adventures by taking a plunge into the deep blue sea . A fantastical experience in Okinawa's Blue Cave allows you to dive right into the water and swim with colorful tropical fish, taking you to depths of delight that can’t be imagined until they are experienced up-close and in person.
Sea Lovers’ tours are guided in English and their tour guides are PADI-certified instructors in scuba diving and snorkeling. Their small-group tours ensure maximum comfort and safety, even for children and newcomers to underwater sports. A dedicated tour boat takes divers and snorkelers to diving locations for a 2-hour immersion in an underwater paradise.
What’s more, with a SD card that is sold in the Sea Lovers office, they will even photograph you and your companions as you frolic with the friendly fish and feel out the myriad of mysteries hidden in Okinawa’s undersea caves. Whenever it is available, be sure to take advantage of this free service to preserve your precious memories of an amazing tour.
For the experience of a lifetime with your friends or family, plunge into the pristine waters off the coast of Okinawa Island. You just might find yourself falling in love with the sea, too!
After engaging in activities like deep sea diving, you may feel a hunger that demands to be appeased. Why not satisfy your appetite for more than just food by going out for some authentic Okinawan cuisine?
A highly recommended option is to soak up the island vibes at Ufuya, something of an institution on Okinawa Island. This eatery is actually a collection of restored traditional Okinawan residences, the oldest of which dates back over a century to Japan’s Meiji era (1868-1912). Surrounding these charming dining rooms, which retain much of their nostalgic hand-made wooden appeal, is a lush Japanese garden featuring a waterfall. Take in its stunning scenery by strolling around or dining with your nearest and dearest in an open-window seat facing a burbling cascade. Its cadence adds an extra flavor to the delectable dishes you will be served at Ufuya, which are designed to satisfy any meat lover.
The hearty lunch menu features a rice bowl topped with locally raised Agu pork, as well as thick Okinawa soba noodles topped with meat, while the deluxe dinner courses range from Agu pork to wagyu beef, finely marbled into a perfect texture for shabu-shabu hot pot. Served with a variety of quintessential vegetables, such as mozuku vinegared seaweed and Okinawa’s iconic goya bitter melon, Ufuya’s meals promise to be a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. A meal in Okinawa is incomplete without at least one glass of awamori, a local spirit distilled primarily from long grain indica rice. If you have any room after your filling repast, exquisite handmade desserts are sure to please you, too.
Even if it’s your first time in Okinawa, you may feel a bit of nostalgia upon experiencing Ufuya. Take a step back into the history of the Ryukyu by dining on some of its delightful cuisine in charming wooden dining rooms covered in straw and red-tiled rooftops. A meal here is one you are sure to recall, long after your trip has become a treasured memory.
©The Terrace Hotels
When you have had your fill of exciting ocean adventures and scrumptious local cuisine, you may find that you want to spend more time on Okinawa Island. One recommended way to reward yourself is staying at the Uza Terrace Beach Club Villas, an oasis in paradise. Renowned for its romantic ambience and excellent location, the Uza Terrace Beach Club Villas invite you to pamper yourself in luxurious Okinawan style, however you like.
With so much more than just a bed to lay your weary head, these villas boast kitchenettes featuring a refrigerator and minibar for guests who wish to dine in. From casual cafes to fine dining, a variety of restaurant services on the premises cater to every diner’s desire or need.
A concierge is also on hand to assist with any questions you may have about nearby landmarks. If you would like to learn about the cultivation of local cuisine ingredients, you can book a tour with the hotel farm. For a reinvigorating experience, this world-class resort features spa treatments, yoga classes, a full-service gym and plentiful pools. Lounging by the pool is elevated to an art form here, with infinity pools facing the striking Okinawan sunset. On occasion, live music performances are also held, making your stay even more memorable. This resort’s wide variety of facilities and activities promise to entice every type of guest, from singles and couples to families and friends.
No matter how you choose to spend your time, a stay at the oceanside oasis of the Uza Terrace Beach Club Villas is one you are guaranteed to remember, for all the right reasons.
The next item on your itinerary is an unforgettable journey around the Yaeyama Islands.
This archipelago, full of natural and cultural discoveries awaiting you, is located on the southwest side of Okinawa Prefecture in the East China Sea. Each island has its own distinct characteristics, such as unspoiled landscapes lined with traditional houses, or jungles brimming with life where you can experience the vast wilderness of the tropics. The main island is Ishigaki, with flights available from Tokyo and Okinawa Island. Coming from Ishigaki Airport, it’s a short bus ride to the local port. After a 50-minute ferry ride to Ohara port on Iriomote Island, take a cruise to explore the untouched habitats of the Yaeyama Islands. Well-known as a key destination for outdoor enthusiasts, these islands promise to amaze nature-lovers.
On the Yaeyama Island tour, you and your traveling companions will explore the three islands of Iriomote, Yubu and Taketomi. This tour highlights what makes each one unique.
The first stop is Iriomote, the largest of the three islands. Covered in forests of mangrove trees, hidden rivers and waterfalls are waiting to be discovered. From Iriomote’s Ohara port, an exciting cruise takes you further inland on the Nakama River, which flows through a protected zone containing jungles and mangrove forests untouched by human hands. In the so-called Amazon of Japan, you will discover abundant species of animals, birds, reptiles, and insects. The Nakama River zone houses the biggest “looking glass” mangrove tree in Japan. In low tide, you may even be able to get off the boat to explore the area a little more on foot.
After the river cruise, travelers will move on to Mihara, where the islet of Yubu lies about 400 meters offshore. Wading through the shallow waters, water buffalo will gently draw you on an open carriage to Yubu. The entire island features a sub-tropical garden, which boasts over 100 tree types, including 10 species of a local palm, a shell house and a butterfly garden. Among the many flowers in bloom are 30 varieties of hibiscus, the ambassador of tropical flora.
Following a Japanese-style lunch at Yubu’s only restaurant, the tour transits to Taketomi, the third and final island. Taketomi is home to Kaiji Beach, where you’ll find star-shaped sand, and the immaculate white sands of Kondoi Beach. On Taketomi Island, coral sand roads lend a tropical charm to the village, which features traditional red-tiled-roofed houses. Island homes are topped with shiisa, small figurines in the shape of a lion dog, that are said to protect residents from evil spirits. Options for encircling the island include rental bicycles and water-buffalo drawn carriages. Riding on a glass-bottomed boat to observe undersea life is another way to enjoy this island. No matter how you do it, experience all the natural splendor and depth of culture that Taketomi Island has to offer.
Hirata Tourism is an established agency on Ishigaki Island, which offers a wide variety of options for any type of visitor. In addition to selecting from their popular courses, such as this day-trip, you can also tailor a tour to your personal interests. For an additional fee, you may request an English-speaking guide who can help deepen your appreciation of the local beauty and culture. With advance notice, they also accommodate changes to the drop-off schedule, so it is possible to go to your hotel on Taketomi Island after the tour ends.
Don’t miss this opportunity to explore all the flora and fauna that can only be seen here, as well as the inimitable cuisine and culture of the Yaeyama Islands of southwestern Okinawa.
©︎HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island - Hoshino Resorts Inc.
Your tour of Taketomi Island may entice you to spend more time here, and one option is staying at a resort hotel called HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island. In this tropical paradise virtually untouched by modern life, you can experience Taketomi Island in its purest form.
Designed to blend in with traditional Ryukyu architecture, all of the villas at this hotel are connected by pathways made of white coral sand. Thick stone walls, called gukku, and red-tile-roofed pavilions, topped with shiisa lion figurines, offer guests a welcome respite from the elements of the tropical climate. Taketomi Island offers visitors an opportunity to take a step back and slow down. From couples to families and even seniors, the villas are designed to accommodate all kinds of travelers in the utmost comfort and solitude.
Slip into the gentle rhythms of island life by slowly meandering through Taketomi Island. Try your hand at traditional craft experiences such as weaving, pottery, or even playing the sanshin, a stringed instrument that is synonymous with Okinawa’s unique musical culture. Every place on the island is a short taxi or bicycle ride away. Lose track of time as you swim on pristine sand beaches or view the vermillion sun sink into the translucent waters of the East China Sea.
No vacation would be complete without delectable dining, and HOSHINOYA Taketomi Island’s fusion of French techniques with Okinawan ingredients is sure to satisfy the most discerning diner. The dishes and bowls used to serve this exquisite cuisine are crafted by a master potter. The plating of these dishes, made with locally sourced ingredients whose full flavors are drawn out by traditional island herbs, is a feast for the eye as well as the palate.
No matter how much time you spend on Taketomi Island, your body and soul will always crave more. This destination lets travelers truly unwind in an authentic setting that respects the local culture and its traditions while preserving the surrounding natural environment.
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