Okinawa is located south of mainland Japan, in fact closer to Taiwan than Japan itself. It does not have distinctive four seasons but a mild tropical climate throughout the year. Jetstar launched direct flights from Singapore to Naha since November 2017. It may not be the most comfortable in economy class but it saves both time and money! So here is what you need to do in Okinawa.
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Day 1: Naha
Plan your day one itinerary well because it can be decisive in whether if you should be get a day-pass for Yui-Rail. There is another option of single trip ride which is chargeable by the distance you travel on the monorail. If you are renting a car, most car rentals will pick you up from the arrival halls if their offices are not on-site. You do not need a car in Naha itself because you can get around easily using the Yui-Rail. Another consideration is that you have to pay for parking most of the time since you are in the city. Check out Direx Okinawa if you are looking for a sports car rental. My rental experience with them was very pleasant. It came with a premium pick-up and drop-off service in a limousine.
Visit Kokusai street (aka international street), it is where most shops and restaurants congregate. You will find plenty of locals around the area too. Drop by Makishi market for some Soki Soba (aka okinawan soba) and Kokusai street food market for Okinawa Yakisoba.
As you walk along the streets, you will see plenty of ice-cream stores. Don’t miss the soft serve ice-cream, especially the special purple sweet potato ones. Blue Seal is one good brand to try, but they are American-owned. Yukishio salt ice-cream is also awesome. You can try the Go-Karting experience in downtown Naha where you can dress up in different characters and have heads turning! They have it in various part of Japan such as Go-Karting Tokyo.
I recommend to stay in Airbnb apartments in Okinawa to experience the local experience. I spent my entire period with different hosts and they all exceeded my expectations. For privacy, choose the entire apartment instead of just a room. Spend the night in Naha.
Experience different Japanese desserts, you will be spoilt for choices!
Night scene at Kokusai Street
Day 2: Shuri Castle and Chatan
Arrange to collect the car and drive to Shuri castle. An alternative way to travel to Shuri castle is the monorail. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site and there are plenty of walking trails around the castle. You will spend about 1.5 – 3 hours there, depending on how fast u walk or if you are interested in the history of Okinawa.
View from Shuri Castle
Another Blue Seal Store
Continue onwards to Chatan where the American village is located at. Check out the Okinawa specialty at Taco Rice Cafe Kijimuna. There’s plenty of food at the village so go wild! The village looks like some parts of LA and San Francisco.
Spend the night in Nago.
Best Taco rice ever at Taco Rice Cafe Kijimuna
Day 3: Churaumi Aquarium
One of the best highlight of Okinawa is the Churaumi Aquarium. Definitely give it a visit if you are in Nago. Needless to explain, there are plenty of blogs talking about aquarium experiences.
The whale shark is one of the highlights of Churaumi Aquarium
Don’t miss the dolphin shows at specific timing
For an authentic meat feast in Nago, try their local pork and beef at a restaurant called ‘Manmi‘. The quality of food is excellent but you pay for the quality.
Spend another night in Nago.
Day 4: Nago and Cape Manzamo
We visited Okinawa in January which it is the start of the cherry blossom season. The blooming starts up north of Okinawa and works its way down the island. There are a couple of cherry blossom festivals in various towns, usually starting from the northern ones like Nago.
Typical Izakaya in Nago
Cherry blossom spotting at Nago Central Park
As you make your way back to Naha, visit the famous Cape Manzamo for some touristy shots. If you are looking for some outlet shopping, consider Ashibinaa Outlet Mall which is near to the airport. But personally, it was a disappointing shopping experience with its steep prices and availability of choices when compared to the American or European outlets.
Spend the night in Naha.
Sweet potato cheese tarts!
Day 5: Naha
This is the last day in Okinawa which is also ideal for some last-minute shopping. Consider some souvenir-shopping around Kokusai street. Do try their specialty sweet potato tarts called Beniimo. The supermarkets have a wide range of Japanese food of premium quality, especially their sushi!
Look at the wide range of sushi!
Indeed a foodie heaven
If you miss out the taco rice at Chatan, try the one in Naha at Tango Jango. My buddy, Taisho brought us to a super local Izakaya (Japanese bar) for the best Okinawan food throughout the whole trip.
Pig ear dish
Traditional Okinawan bitter gourd with eggs, a must-try!
Live Okinawan music by the owner and his son during the meal
If you have some time or another day to spare, check out the Okinawa Prefectural Museum. It covers an interesting history of Okinawa and a good portion of the day was spent in there. Shopping for souvenirs and local products can be done at a nearby mall called Naha Main Place. It is pretty good for cosmetics and pretty much everything you can think of buying from Okinawa!
Lastly, you can’t leave Okinawa without trying their steak! There is this superb restaurant called “En Okinawa” serving Okinawan best steaks (Motobu and Ishigaki).
This is a rough guide of my time in Okinawa, it is perfectly fine to move the activities around to suit your flight time and preferences. Hope it helps in some way!
Hi, really love your Okinawa post!
I would like to know more about the car rental website. As the website is in Japanese, how to you go about booking your rental?
Hi Vivian, thanks for taking time to read the post. You can drop them an email and they can book it for you over email!
Hi Bryan! What a great post! I would like to ask which dates were u there? Im thinking of going in March 2019! Any advise regarding going this period?
Also, how did u make payment for the car rental? Was the insurance expensive?
Btw, how much did u spend in total per pax? Hahahahahah
Looking forward to hearing from you!(:
Thanks for reading, we went in January which is the beginning of the cherry blossom season in Okinawa. March is generally going into spring and should have warmer temperature, but Okinawa is tropical so temperatures do not fluctuate much. Payment for the car rental can be done on the day you rent the car at DIREX, cash or credit. Our rental was a posh so we decided to take it just in case. 🙂
Thanks for the prompt reply!
Oh that’s cool! Do you rmb how much you spent in total for 2 pax over the 5 days?><
We spent about 2-2.3k in total for 2 pax. This is inclusive of flights ($550) + airbnb ($250) + expenses such as food, shopping etc ($1000+-) + posh rental ($340) + travel insurance ($40). Hope it helps in budgeting!
Thank you for sharing your experience in okinawa. Do you happen to remember the name of the local izakaya tgat your friend Taisho brought you to? Im keen to bring my family there. Were you there in early jan or late jan? Thanks!
Thanks for reading the post! I was there in late January!
The name of the restaurant is Tanuki. It is off the radar for tourists but you can refer to this link provided by my friend Taisho.
Hope it helps and have fun!
Hi can i ask what is there to shop for in okinawa?
You can check out the Okinawa Outlet Mall Ashibinna, plenty of designer brands to choose from!
Hi Bryan, may I know more detail about the rent car experience?
Thanks for reading the post. Refer to Facebook page for your queries.