Living in the Philippines, it’s hard not to fall in love with summer and beaches. It’s something that has become a constant in our lives. Heck! Foreigners who have been to the country and spent a mere 10 seconds on the sandy shores of Boracay or emerald waters in Coron can’t help but fall in love so easily.
With over 7,000 islands, we’re privileged to experience summer in the best landscapes and waters. And with that many islands, we have infinite choices over one lifetime.
But even if we have all these islands to explore, I can’t help but be an Ariel in Little Mermaid when I see photos of other beaches and islands everywhere else in the world, I often feel that … I want moreeeee!
Through movies and social media feeds, I’ve been drawn to the beaches and islands in
- Santa Monica,
- Zakynthos in Greece,
- Seychelles in Africa,
- Copacabana & Ipanema in Brazil,
- Bora-Bora in French Polynesia, & many more.
When I was 20 years old, I was given the opportunity to experience one of the best beaches I’ve ever experienced in my life so far – Whitehaven Beach in Whitsundays, Australia. To date, it’s still my favorite! Nothing to take away from Boracay and Palawan, but that’s just my preference.
I’m a summer & beach baby and I’m proud of it! I can be proud and marvel at both the islands of the Philippines and all the rest of the world can offer. To each our own, right?
In my social media timelines lately, a lot of people have shown interest in visiting Maldives. Well, I mean, who wouldn’t? The pictures are tantalizing! All those light blue waters for miles adjacent to luxury villas scream FLY TO MALDIVES RIGHT NOW! I haven’t been there but I would love to experience the destination someday!
But there’s a place that I recently explored that is underrated among Filipino travelers which could somehow fill the void of our Maldives dreams or probably the list of islands and beaches I indicated above.
It’s a destination we’ve probably heard of once or twice in passing or different contexts but it’s been right there…around, above, or under our noses.
And that destination is…OKINAWA!
You probably know Okinawa as a milk tea flavor or a place somewhere in Japan. When travelers think of Japan, summer or Okinawa isn’t really the priority. Tourists prefer to visit during the cherry blossom or winter season and explore sites like Kyoto, Tokyo, or Osaka.
Okinawa is relegated to just being another place in Japan and Filipinos probably assume that Oh! We already have so many islands in the Philippines to explore. Why should we go there?
Is Okinawa worth the trip? Let me share with you our experiences during our recent summer trip to Japan!
MAIN OKINAWA & ZAMAMI ISLANDS TRAVEL & BUDGET GUIDE
Here is the 4 day schedule during our stay in Okinawa & Kansai International Airport (KIX):
|DAY 1||DAY 2||DAY 3||DAY 4|
Jetstar Flight from Osaka (KIX) to Okinawa (Naha)
Meet-up with Easy Travel Japan Charter Service
Lunch at Café Curcuma ⋆
Cape Manzamo ⋆
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium ⋆
Mihama American Village
Hotel Aqua Citta Naha by WBF
Breakfast at Hotel Aqua Citta Naha by WBF ⋆
Lawson’s Convenience Store
Naha Tomari Port
Ferry from Naha to Zamami Island
Gahi Island ⋆
Lunch at Furuzamami Beach Hut
Furuzamami Beach ⋆
Ferry from Zamami Island to Naha
Kokusai Dori Street
Family Mart Convenience Store
Hotel Aqua Citta Naha by WBF
Breakfast at Hotel Aqua Citta Naha by WBF ⋆
Meet up with Easy Travel Japan Charter Service
Lunch at Posillipo ⋆
Jetstar Flight from Okinawa (Naha) to Osaka (KIX)
Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport
Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport
Sukiya at KIX ⋆
Jetstar Flight from Osaka (KIX) to Manila (NAIA)
⋆ Super Favorites!
Please note that this Okinawa trip was part of a whole recent summer trip to Japan.
For the first leg, we explored Kansai – OSAKA – KOBE – NARUTO, JAPAN: Thrilling Rides, Melt-in-your-Mouth Beef, Mesmerizing Whirlpools, & Many More!
OTHER TRIPS TO JAPAN
- Osaka – Kyoto – Nara
- Nagoya – Takayama – Shirakawago
- Niseko – Sapporo – Otaru
- Magome – Matsumoto – Toyama – Shirakawago – Takayama – Gujo – Kuwana – Nagoya
- Niseko – Sapporo – Asahikawa – Sounkyo – Biei – Furano – Lake Shikotsu
- Best Cherry Blossom Spots in & around Tokyo
JETSTAR FLIGHT TO NAHA
As of September 2018, there are no direct flights from the Philippines to Okinawa from any commercial airline. Last year, I read that a travel agency collaborated with a local airline and chartered a flight to Okinawa but this had to be purchased together with a fixed tour. As per checking, the flight and tour is no longer available.
For the past few years, I’ve also seen some social media posts from friends and travel bloggers who embarked on a Star Cruise (Super Star Virgo) that has a stop in Okinawa (Ishigaki). It’s a 6D/5N cruise that stops in Manila, Taiwan, & Okinawa.
If there was a direct flight, it would only take 2 hours to get from Manila to Okinawa. So close, right? And around 1.5 hours if you’re coming from Taipei!
My sister and I, at one point, kind of analyzed why there were no direct flights:
- To protect local tourism interests? Since both are already island destinations.
- Not enough demand? It’s an underrated destination. More Filipinos prefer to visit Osaka, Tokyo, and Kyoto.
For the meantime, if you’re really interested in visiting and experiencing Okinawa (& not into cruises/package trips), you have to take a connecting flight.
Jetstar Asia offers the best rates to Japan and convenient connecting flights from Manila or Clark, Philippines to Okinawa (Naha) VIA Tokyo (Narita), Osaka (KIX), or Nagoya (Chubu).
The airline offers daily flights to Okinawa from these airport hubs so it’s easy to connect or take a flight later on for your trip.
After our 4-day exploration of Kansai, my sister and I took the earliest flight to Naha from KIX on our 5th day in Japan. Since we stayed the night before at Hotel Nikko at KIX, we weren’t hassled to check-in.
After checking-out at the hotel, we headed straight to the Jetstar domestic counters. There was no line so check-in was a breeze. After arriving at our assigned gates on the 1st floor of KIX, we noticed that the aircon wasn’t on yet so we stayed for a better part of the waiting time at the 2nd floor.
Around 30 minutes before boarding time, we walked down to the first floor and waited just a few minutes before the attendants started to call for passengers of our flight. We rode a short shuttle ride to the tarmac where our plane was waiting.
Even though our check-in was a breeze, that KIX to Naha flight was full. It was filled with Japanese locals mostly dressed in summer outfits ready for a vacation.
From KIX, it took around 2 hours to get to Naha. Just like my experience with the connection from Nagoya or Tokyo to Hokkaido, 2 hours felt like nothing. It was breezy!
What I liked about the flight was the few minutes before the plane’s arrival on the runway when we were circling around the Okinawa islands. The islets with white sand and blue variety colored rings circling them were beautiful to stare at. It felt like I was landing in Hawaii or Bora-Bora-ish destinations.
After alighting the plane, we rode a quick shuttle to the airport terminal.
The arrival area at Naha was the first point where I felt that the environment started to feel oddly familiar. It was relatively small than most Japan airports I’ve been to and the tourists were a wee bit chaotic at the baggage claim.
After getting our luggage, we walked towards the sliding doors and started our adventure in Japan’s Hawaii, Okinawa!
Fly to Okinawa with Jetstar Asia!
Book your flights at www.jetstar.com! #Jetstar2Okinawa
If you often read travel related articles on Japan, they would indicate that the best time to visit the country is during the summer (June – Sept) mainly for the reason that it is off-peak season. If you want to avoid crowds or all kinds of traffic, this period is usually the best time to visit.
Summer in Japan isn’t really that alluring for me. Although my first time in the country was during the summer, I still prefer to visit during spring & winter months but when the opportunity came to visit again during said period, why not experience its most summery destination? And that’s when interest in Okinawa started.
Visiting Okinawa during the so called off-peak season for Japan is different as it becomes on-season for most locals and some westerners & Chinese.
If you’re up-to-date on news, you probably heard about the intense heat wave that occurred in Japan where fake food melted and death tolls rose. While in Okinawa, my sister and I did experience scorching heat…at the main island and even during our day trip to nearby islands.
The weather in Main Okinawa Island can be comparable to the heat in the Philippines where it is sometimes humid but also similar to the weather we recently experienced in Kansai where the wind complements the heat.
But during our island day trip, that’s when we felt clear cut & clean scorching heat! Sunscreen wasn’t enough to keep our skin from burning. At the end of the day, my sister and I got sunburns. I had it a bit worse because it stung every time I moved. It wasn’t excruciating, just uncomfortable. Good thing we brought Aloe Vera gel for relief!
Most of the tourist pamphlets we obtained in Okinawa advised that tourists should be wary of heat stroke as the sun is extremely strong during the summer citing that numerous individuals in the past were brought to clinics.
Here are some tips to help combat the summer heat in Okinawa:
- WEAR → Breezy clothes like summer dresses and tank tops & shorts, Sunglasses, Hats/Caps, Rash Guards when swimming
- DRINK lots of water!
- BRING → Coral safe sunscreens and put them 1 hour before going out, Cooling items like Aloe Vera relief gels, Portable fans, Umbrellas
EXPLORING MAIN OKINAWA ISLAND WITH EASY TRAVEL JAPAN (ETJ)
In this article, you’ll be reading a lot of ‘Okinawa’ and the term can mean a lot of things. It can be referred to as a region, a prefecture, an island, a sub-island, or even a city. So many! For reference or just to provide a bit of context, here’s a table that indicates how these Japan locations are classified and a few examples of its cities and towns & villages.
|Region||Major Islands||Sub-Islands||Cities||Towns & Villages|
|Kyushu – Okinawa||Okinawa||Ie-jima
During our recent trip to Japan, we visited the Okinawa region on one of its major islands and prefecture Okinawa and stayed mostly at Main Okinawa Island where we experienced some of its cities like Okinawa. It’s kind of an inception thing, right? HAHAHAHA! Aside from this, we also took a day trip to Zamami Island, a part of the Kerama Islands.
This Okinawa visit was part of a 2 trip journey. We spent 3 days & 2 nights in this region. Due to the limited time, we needed to cover more ground. Taking into account our flight arrival and departure in Okinawa, the best way to explore and experience as many tourist sites as possible, my sister and I opted to avail a chartered car during our 1st and 3rd days. This is where Easy Travel Japan comes in.
Easy Travel Japan (ETJ) provides what its name entails. EASY. TRAVEL. IN JAPAN. It is a private tour & transport agency that caters travel services to fit tourists’ needs. They have airport transfers, accommodations, tours, ticket sales, and many more.
From many years of traveling, I’ve had the chance to collaborate and interact with a lot of travel brands. I’ve dealt with what I felt was the best and worst and ETJ is definitely ONE OF THE BESTS!
From inquiries to arrival to duration to departure, ETJ was one of the most accommodating travel brands I had the chance of experiencing. And I’m always very grateful for amazing service!
Inquiries through emails and WhatsApp were so proactive! I felt like I was just conversing with a friend who really wanted me to have the best time of my life in Okinawa. ETJ goes beyond what is expected of them. At first, it was just all about the charter car but it extended up to the little details of the trip like reservations, tickets, and many others that is usually not expected or included in these kinds of services. But they were offered and they were definitely welcomed!
Easy Travel Japan operates travel services in Okinawa, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hokkaido.
Here are some of the car rental rates for Okinawa:
|Toyota Lexus/Alphard||2 – 4 people||2||¥11,000 (₱5,290)|
What do these rates include?
- Private car
- Private driver
- Personal tour or itinerary reference
- Proactive online customer service rep! ! ! ONE OF THE BESTS!
- Reservations (tickets, restaurants, etc)
- Airport pick-up/drop-off (if preferred)
- Parking, highway/toll fees (if any)
- Payment for tickets, food, etc
These rates are very expensive. But due to the limited time that we had and the amount of ground we wanted to cover, this was our most efficient option. The public tour buses that were more affordable weren’t in tune with our airport arrivals and departure.
Given that this is Japan, transportation, private transpo no less, will definitely be expensive AF. ETJ was one of the relatively more affordable travel brands that offered charter cars that had quality reviews. If you’re looking for convenience during your trip to Okinawa or other destinations in Japan, check out Easy Travel Japan!
For more information, visit easytraveljapan.com or inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org! Look for Jiang! Such a productive and proactive customer service rep! You can also contact ETJ via WhatsApp at +817054189988
If you’re not in a hurry & will stay longer in Okinawa, you can book bus tickets via KKday that stops more or less at the same tourist sites we visited!
For this write-up, I did not write our experiences chronologically or based on the itinerary table at the start of this article.
Welcome to Okinawa! Little Accident
After walking through the sliding doors at Naha Airport, we immediately saw our driver named Santa. ETJ (or Jiang) already informed me in advance the name of our driver and that he’d be waiting for us at the arrival area with my name.
The Hawaiian vibe was on as Santa was wearing a cliché flowery polo that I usually see in movies welcoming tourists. We talked for a bit while my sister was in the comfort room. He looked professional and very reserved. When my sister met us, he led us right outside to a nearby curb where the charter car was parked.
Outside that airport, the summery weather hit us at once. The oddly familiar feeling at the baggage claim was starting to seep in right then and there. It felt like we were back home. Santa was quick to comment at that point that it was always very hot in Okinawa.
Settling inside the car felt cozy. The quality of the car justifies what you paid for. It was so relaxing after an early morning flight. Santa then summarized our whole day trip and confirmed the tourist destinations we were to visit:
Café Curcuma for Lunch → Kouri Beach → Heart Rock → Okinawa Aquarium → American Village → Hotel Aqua Citta Naha by WBF
Before each destination, Santa provided us an ETA so we’d know how long the drive would be which gave us the opportunity to calculate our sleep or rest inside the car. HAHAHAHA! Calculate talaga? HAHAHAHA!
Our first stop was lunch at Café Curcuma which was 45 minutes away from the Naha airport according to Santa.
But we had a quick stop, a little accident! Welcome to Okinawa, indeed!
I wasn’t briefed on the whole incident but from my perspective, this is what happened. We were at a stop light and our car was a bit slanted on the right side of a 2 lane road. That right side (where our car was awkwardly positioned) had no cars in line while the left side was at a stand still because of the stop light. The road where our car was slanted had a bit of space on the right side leading to a highway that turns right. After a few minutes in that position, a car sped up on the right side which made our charter car jiggle a bit.
The damage was minor and just caught us by surprise. My sister was on that side of the car and there was no negative impact on her. I think the car was only scratched and moved by the speed and quick graze.
What really amazed me was everything that occurred after. There’s a reason why I love Japan and its culture! Santa went down and exchanged a few words with the car owner that grazed us. CALMLY! They brought out their phones and started calling people. No one was shouting at each other or placing blame. They were just assessing their cars and continued talking on their phones.
After a few minutes, Santa apologized and told us to just wait. The 2 cars parked at the side of the road so the traffic wouldn’t be bothered. After around 10 minutes, YES! 10 minutes! There was an ambulance that responded who talked it out with Santa and the other driver. He brought out his phone too and called someone. After 30 minutes, the police came and conversed with both drivers.
YES! 30 MINUTES LANG! A few minutes after that, another car and driver from ETJ was sent for us so that we could continue on with our itinerary. We left with the other ETJ driver and Santa stayed with the police and other car driver.
That was such a productive and refreshing little accident to be in! It was an opportunity to see what kind of reactions should be displayed in times of those kinds of situations. Japan is truly inspiring and empowering! At the end of our tour, Jiang messaged me on WhatsApp apologizing to us over what happened. No one was harmed and it was eye opening. Welcome to Okinawa!
The new ETJ driver didn’t say much on the way to the restaurant from the area of the accident.
For around 30 minutes, we passed highways until we started to ascend upon hillsides then a few dirt roads. The path resembled a Tagaytay or Batangas bound destination. The sun was out and about which made the view all too clear.
The driver dropped us off at the entrance and told us that when we finish, we should look for the car at the parking lot.
Café Curcuma is an Asian Herb restaurant situated on a mountain side with breathtaking views. I was interested in experiencing this place after reading about it on a TripZilla article and TripAdvisor reviews. Everyone seemed so enamored by its view and I’ve always had a soft spot for beautiful scenery. ALWAYS!
At the café’s compound, you’ll find a shop where they sell organic vegetables and herbal teas, a garden house where you’ll find displays of fossils and artwork, and pathways & gardens where you can walk around to take photos against the beautiful backdrop of the Kudaka & Komaka islands plus Tamata Rock.
My sister and I arrived at around 12:30 NN and luckily got the last of few tables available. Prior to our trip, ETJ did reserve us an 11:30 AM slot but the restaurant rules it out if we arrive after 12 NN. After that, it’s on a first-come first-serve basis already.
A few minutes after we settled in, customers started coming in and most of them had to sit outside. Although sitting outside and eating with the view was amazing, it was just TOO HOT! Besides, even though we were inside, the view was hard to miss. Its dark blue hues were too tempting to ignore even at a side glance.
My sister and I ordered the following:
- House Special: Thai Chicken with 3 different kinds of curry sauces
- Spring Rolls
- Pad Thai
Café Curcuma houses a virtuous chef from Thailand who prepares original Thai cuisines. After ordering, my sister and I took photos outside. Man! That view was magnificent! That was the real Welcome to Okinawa! moment.
Even though it was a Thursday and a bit far from the city, Café Curcuma was filled up! Even the outside seats were mostly occupied.
When our orders came in, my sister was most excited for the Pad Thai but she found it just okay.
What really surprised us was how much we loved the House Special! OH YEAH! Those curry sauces were BOMB! Those were the best curry sauces we’ve tried! The juiciness of the roasted chicken together with the BEST sauces and quality rice were gastronomic! It was so good! MUST TRY!
The spring rolls weren’t good. The fillings were a bit dry and the fried wrapping was gummy when it should have been crispy.
The total bill for the lunch was ¥3,960 (₱1,909).
I would definitely recommend that you visit this place in the late afternoon during sunset. I would have loved to experience that view outside with drinks just conversing with my sister or a friend. #WORTHIT!
If you have more time to explore Café Curcuma and the Nanjo area, you can look into visiting:
- Seifa Utaki Relics
- Chinen Castle Ruins
- Curcuma Forest
- Nirai Kanai Bridge
Café Curcuma is located at 1190 Chinen Aza Chinen, Nanjo, 901-1513, Okinawa Prefecture. It is around a 45 minute to 1 hour drive away from Naha Airport. It is open from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
For more information on this restaurant, visit http://www.nakazen.co.jp or inquire at 098-949-1189
Walking towards the car at the parking lot, we were surprised to find Santa waiting for us. He was back! He genuinely apologized for what happened and we went on our merry way.
An hour drive away from Café Curcuma, we arrived at Cape Manzamo.
Cape Manzamo is one of the most popular tourist sites in Okinawa. Most of the articles I’ve read mostly include a stop at this site. Alighting from the car, the scorching heat hit us right away. SOBRANG INIT! GRABE! Santa told us to follow the path of tourists to see the attraction.
The positive thing I could fathom under the heat of the moment (literally!) was that the sky was clear and the sun hit the waters so beautifully showcasing a luxury-like emerald view. Complimenting the view is the elephant-shaped like cliff its pretty emerald waters were thrashing on. Again, if we went during sunset or early morning, we would have stayed longer. But the heat was just too much to bear!
Tourists can walk far off into a roundabout in the area but my sister and I just took photos of the cape and retraced our steps back. Cape Manzamo was beautiful! This is a MUST STOP! The 50 shades of blue beneath the cliff were so tantalizing to stare at. It had Batanes-ish vibes!
At the parking area, there’s a restroom and souvenir stalls. That area made me feel like I was in a Philippine province – a touristy place with a pasalubong area.
The restroom was SO dirty! I don’t say this a lot about Japanese restrooms but in Okinawa, I did think this quite a few times. It’s really surprising if you’ve been to a lot of restrooms in Japan especially in Tokyo, Hokkaido, or Osaka.
After the cape, I requested to Santa that we pass by Manza Beach but the view from the parking lot was obscured. I just wanted to see this because it has one of the top luxury hotels on Main Okinawa Island – ANA InterContinental Manza Beach. The beautiful photos online piqued my curiosity.
In the Philippines, whenever I go on tours, the driver usually acts as the tour guide. But with Santa, he was very reserved. He only spoke when we asked questions or when he was saying an ETA or when we’ve arrived at a destination. We did avail a charter car with driver. Not a driver/tour guide. He wasn’t chatty. Others may prefer this but I’ve been so used to tour drivers and boat mans that provide a little history or some stories. That’s just my preference. But it’s important to note that the service only provides a driver, not a tour guide.
Kouri Island – Kouri Beach & Heart Rock
An hour from Cape Manzamo, our next stop was Kouri Island. I was most excited for this because it was the first beach we were going to experience in Okinawa! When I looked at photos and articles online, Kouri Island looked so nice in aerial photos. It is said to have the most beautiful seas in Okinawa.
When Santa parked, he pointed us towards the beach. When my sister and I stepped on the sand and had the view of the whole beach, we were…disappointed. It was just a normal public beach. Having been to amazing beaches in the Philippines, this was a let down. That wasn’t what we expected based from the photos online.
There were a lot of locals swimming there and a lot of staff selling water activity services. We also saw some locals enjoying a Jet Ski. Umbrellas and beach blankets were set-up by the shore and lot of families seemed to be enjoying. My sister excused herself to the bathroom while I tested the waters.
It was lukewarm which felt weird. The sand was uncomfortable to walk on too because of the corals. I walked towards the bridge to take photos at a high vantage point but the whole site was just okay. I walked towards the food stalls where I saw my sister sitting. I could tell that she didn’t like the site too.
We just ordered ice cream from the famous brand in Okinawa, Blue Seal. This was really good! I now understand why a lot of travel articles recommend this dessert. Throughout the trip, we saw a lot of Blue Seal stores! It was really tempting to buy and try all of the flavors but we only purchased it that one time at Kouri Beach.
While eating the ice cream, we noticed that the some of the Okinawa locals looked like Filipinos. Crazy, really! It felt like I was in the Philippines/Taiwan/Japan. All throughout the trip, we found resemblances from the 3 countries. Not too surprised as the geographical locations are close but yeah, it was still cool to witness such a mix of culture.
After Kouri Beach, we went to the famous beach with heart-shaped rocks. It was a 5 minute drive away. After Santa parked, we walked towards the beach. It was a 5 minute walk with slants and climbs.
At the end, there were no stairs so tourists had to navigate and be crafty with the rocks as steps. The Heart Rock beach wasn’t that special and the rocks were shaped like deformed hearts. The water quality was better there than Kouri Beach but overall, just okay.
Based on our experience & preference, I feel that Kouri Island should be skipped. It was not really what we expected. It wasn’t that bad but if you’re just staying for a short time in Okinawa, it was not worth it.
The beaches are better in the Philippines and we would have preferred to stay longer at Cape Manzamo or Café Curcuma.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
An hour & a half away from Kouri Island, we finally arrived at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium! We were really excited for this! I saw lots of photos of this online from Filipino writers and I really fell in love with the mesmerizing photos of the Kuroshio Sea display.
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, a staple in most Okinawa travel itineraries, lets you experience an exception and phenomenal journey into Okinawa’s beautiful seas. It is the first aquarium in the world to keep whale sharks with the aim of captive breeding.
We arrived after 4 PM so we paid a discounted rate of ¥1,290 (₱621) per person. For general admission, the rate is ¥1,850 (₱891) per person. The aquarium is open from 8:30 AM to 8:00 PM. You can purchase tickets upon arrival or via KKday for discounted tickets. Tickets for General Admission are the only tickets available online so if you arrive at 4 PM, the counters can return the discounted difference.
The aquarium was packed when we got there mostly comprising of local families with their kids probably taking them as an after-school entertainment.
The staff was all smiles and welcoming comparable to the ones you’ll find at USJ. They also spoke English well.
My sister and I first passed through the Journey into the Deep Sea exhibits. At once, it made us feel hypnotic like you just wanted to stare at the species all the day. It was so adorable observing the kids having fun too and being smitten by the fishies in the tank too! Although I felt like I was in a school field trip, it was refreshing to realize that these kinds of attractions still amaze me.
I really thought I’d be over it by now after being to Ocean Adventure in Subic, Zoos in HK/Singapore/Beijing/Hokkaido, Ocean Park in Manila, and many more. But the curious mind especially a grateful one just becomes interested in all things because there’s always something unique even though there’s familiarity.
We went with the wave and throngs of people to the exhibit we were undeniably most excited for, the Journey to the Kurushio Sea, one of the largest aquariums in the world.
The set-up was like a movie house where people were watching an IMAX film of the sea. This exhibit was packed because there was a feeding at 5:00 PM. Tourists took their place at the seats but we chose to mesh with most of the people at the bottom landing where we could watch the aquarium up close.
We stayed there for an hour! And it didn’t feel like it! That’s how cool and great it was! We just stared and took photos of the massive live screensaver in front of us.
After the feeding, tourists hurriedly went out of the exhibit but my sister and I found a seating area at a different angle of the aquarium and situated ourselves there. I think this was the Aqua Room. It was so tantalizing, mesmerizing, overwhelming, and hypnotic ALL AT ONCE. I really wanted to lie down there and stare at the 3D moving wallpaper of the sea. It was an amazing experience!
Here are all the attractions at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium:
- Journey into the Deep Sea – Deep Sea, Ocean Planetarium, Aqua Lab
- Journey to the Kuroshio Sea – Churaumi Theatre, Aqua Room, Shark Research Lab, Whale Shark & Manta Ray Corner, The Kuroshio Sea,
- Journey to the Coral Reef – The Sea of Tropical Fish, Coral Reef Gallery, Coral Reef World, Life in the ‘Inoh’, The Coral Sea, Freshwater Life
- Invitation to the Great Sea
- Nearby Attractions – Main Rest House Churaumi Plaza, Manatee Pool, Sea Turtle Pool, Dolphin Lagoon, Okichan Theatre, Inoh Restaurant, Ocean Blue Café, Blue Manta Shop
My sister and I only explored the aquarium but if you have more time, the aquarium is part of a bigger area called the Ocean Expo Park. Here are its attractions:
- Sunset Square
- Tropical Dream Center
- Tropical & Subtropical Arboretum
- Native Okinawa Village
- Oceanic Culture Museum
- Kids’ Adventure Land
- Haisai Plaza
- Emerald Beach
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is located at 424 Ishikawa, Motobu-cho, Kunigami-Gun, Okinawa.
From Naha, the drive is similar to traveling from Manila to Subic or Pampanga and would take around 2.5 hours.
For more information, visit churaumi.okinawa/en
Mihama American Village
After walking back from the Aquarium, my sister and I were starting to feel tired. Please do note that we had a flight from KIX that morning and we started to tour right away upon arrival.
Around 1.5 to 2 hours away from the aquarium, we made a quick stop at the Mihama American Village to buy take-out for dinner.
We explored for a bit and found a lot of western restaurants. We spotted a food stall that sold the famous Okinawa taco rice (SO GOOD! MUST BUY!) so we purchased that and an Avocado burger (NOT GOOD! YUCK!). We still had leftovers from our lunch at Café Curcuma so we only bought those 2 items.
Back at the car, Santa told us that it would take around an hour or more to reach our hotel so we just laid back and watched the view. From provincial structures, we were met with city lights. We were in Japan but it felt different. It felt a bit like home and more. We had an amazing day of new experiences and it was a grateful moment to internalize everything we have experienced so far.
It was dark when we arrived in front of the lobby of our hotel. We thanked Santa and he once again apologized for the little accident that occurred that morning.
The tour was great! The ride was smooth and we were able to cover our planned itinerary.
Posillipo Cucina Meridionale & Senagajima Island
On our 3rd and last day, we availed a charter car again from ETJ for 2 hours – a lunch stop at Posillipo and a drop-off at the Naha airport.
Santa picked us up at our hotel at around 10:30 AM. We drove for about 45 minutes before we reached the entrance to Senagajima Island. This island is described as a Greece-inspired complex of shops and restaurants. It is reminiscent of Santorini architecture amidst a background of emerald-hued seas.
We ate lunch at Posillipo Cucina Meriondionale. It is a fancier version if comparing it to Café Curcuma. The restaurant takes inspiration from Naples or South Italy with its breezy views. This place felt luxurious! We really loved it! Just like Café Curcuma, we would have loved to experience it during sunset. We wanted to eat outside but it rained continuously that morning so all the seats were wet.
The outside seating was definitely my favorite! I really wish I had the chance to experience it later in the day with booze. That would have been so relaxing and fun!
We chose to sit inside where we were facing the beautiful seas of Okinawa. It was euphoric. The interiors definitely made me feel like I was in Positano or Naples.
My sister and I ordered pasta, pizza, and drinks. And they were all so good! It was definitely worth the try! It had BGC vibes but with a cerulean setting. The total bill for the lunch was ¥4,800 (₱2,305).
It wasn’t as packed as Café Curcuma during lunch time which made the tranquility of it even better.
Posillipo is just 15 to 30 minutes away from Naha airport so this is a must try after your arrival or before your departure. MUST EXPERIENCE DURING SUNSET! Check photos online!
After lunch and exploring Senagajima Island a bit, Santa dropped us off at the airport. The drive around that island was beautiful. If you love sea views, make sure to take a detour to that site. Around the establishments, there are also parks and benches where you can hang out and take photos. Since it was a weekend, we saw a lot of locals and tourists doing that.
Posillipo is located at 174-5 Senaga, Tomigusuku, Okinawa Prefecture. It is open from 11:00AM to 10:30PM.
For more information, visit http://www.huge.co.jp
OUR STAY AT HOTEL AQUA CITTA NAHA BY WBF
During our Okinawa trip, we stayed at Hotel Aqua Citta Naha by WBF. The main reason we stayed at this hotel is because of its location to Naha Tomari Port which is just 2 blocks away.
This was ground zero for our day trip to the Kerama Islands during our 2nd day in Okinawa. Since we were taking the first ferry out, we didn’t want to be hassled by the location of our hotel to the port so we deemed it convenient to stay there.
Next factor was quality. The hotel opened last 2017 so everything was relatively new and the hotel reviews were pretty good. There were a few negative comments about the room space but I usually expect it as the normal hotel room size for Japan tends to be smaller than the usual.
After our day 1 tour with ETJ, we were excited to settle in to our hotel. Here is our review of Hotel Aqua Citta Naha by WBF.
Once we entered the lobby, there was a lot of luggage lined up. Guests were at the dining area helping themselves to the complimentary drinks the hotel was offering. During check-in, we were provided with visual maps in Japanese. The details were enumerated to us in English.
First thing we immediately noticed were the big modern artworks that were hanging on the interiors. Everything felt new and luxe!
When we entered our room, we found it very clean. There were 2 beds joined together and a sofa at the side.
This is what the aisle looks like. It is a bit narrow.
When our luggage was upright, it was at a point, cramped. But the room included a stand where we opened and settled our bigger luggage on and situated the smaller one on one half of the sofa. This allowed for more walking space inside the room.
Overall, the room was great! It was clean and comfortable. Even though we were just 2 guests, they provided 3 complimentary bottles of water per day.
One of our favorite features of Hotel Aqua Citta Naha was the POOL! SOBRANG GANDA! We didn’t get to experience it though because of our hectic schedule, rainy weather, and confusion/misunderstanding of opening hours. We wanted to experience both the Jacuzzi and pool but unfortunately, we were only able to take photos.
The breakfast buffet was GREAT!
The variety and food spread was delicious! My favorites were the charcoal-ed water and chocolate fondue! That was the CLEANEST WATER I have ever tasted! Better than the ILOHAS water bottle I always praise!
I think I had about more than 5 glasses of that charcoal-ed water during our stay at the hotel.
The dessert selection was drool-worthy but the fondue was GOLD. It was definitely quality chocolate!
I tried the Uni but it wasn’t fresh so I think my stomach felt woozy for a bit after that. But all else was great!
The pasta, salad, and sandwich stations had scrumptious options. The breakfast buffet was definitely worth it!
If you’re staying at Hotel Aqua Citta Naha by WBF, here are some things to note:
- The hotel is 2 blocks away Naha Tomari Port.
- It is a 30 minute walk away from Kokusai Dori. We went there during our last night and it was bustling! There were a lot of restaurants and shops. It was like a mini NY Time Square. The navigation from the hotel was easy. From the entrance, just take a right and walk up to the stop light, turn left to the long road and continue on until you see the crazy lights!
- It is a 10-15 minute walk away from Miebashi monorail station.
- The Pool & Jacuzzi area is open from 10:00 AM to 12:00 MD.
- Breakfast buffet starts at 7:00 AM.
- Complimentary juices and coffee are available 24/7 at the lobby.
- There is free wi-fi and a handy phone inside the rooms.
- There are 2 convenience stores nearby – Lawson’s at the Tomari Port (2 blocks away) and Family Mart (across the road).
We booked the hotel through Agoda and paid ₱10,888 per night for a Standard Twin Room. This rate includes breakfast for 2.
Hotel Aqua Citta Naha by WBF is located at 3-2-20 Maejima Naha Okinawa, Japan.
For more information, visit http://www.hotelwbf.com/aquacitta-naha or inquire at email@example.com
ZAMAMI (KERAMA) ISLANDS DAY TRIP☀
Being beach & summer babies, my sister and I were ecstatic for our 2nd day in Okinawa because this was our planned day trip to the Zamami islands, part of the Kerama islands.
If you’ll look up Kerama island day tours, you’ll probably see a lot of snorkeling tours. But from research, the period that we visited was high Jellyfish season so we opted to just stay at the beaches and as much as possible, stay away from deep waters.
There are so many islands in Okinawa to take a day trip to…but how did we end up with Zamami? When I looked up all the islands, Zamami was the best choice because it was near Naha and referred to as a beach destination. Its main island and surrounding islets had different beaches for us to explore in 1 day.
Queen Zamami High Speed Ferry
To maximize our day at Zamami island, the most efficient transportation from Naha is the Queen Zamami High Speed Ferry which leaves Naha Tomari Port at 9:00 AM and leaves Zamami Island at 5:20 PM.
Viewing the website, I found it difficult to reserve because it was mostly in Japanese and the navigation of the website wasn’t too friendly. Good thing that Easy Travel Japan (Jiang) offered to reserve for us!
We planned our day trip for June 29, 2018.
Jiang made a reservation for us last May 9, 2018. The website and tourist information available advises to book 2 weeks to a month in advance. We didn’t need to pay in advance. The reservation sufficed to guarantee our slots on the ferry.
At 8:15 AM, my sister and I walked from Hotel Aqua Citta to Tomari Port. There, we fell in line at the cashier and we were asked to fill out a form. We just wrote down our reservation number and ticked the Zamami Island, Queen Zamami, and 9:00 AM options.
Whilst in line, a local Japanese tourist conversed with us and recommended other nice beaches in Okinawa. He’s been to a lot of islands in the Philippines (more than me even!) and Japan so he confidently looked like he knew what was best!
At the cashier, we paid ¥5,970 (₱2,876) for a roundtrip ferry ticket per person. They also required a ¥100 (₱48) environmental cooperation tax fee each. After paying, she instructed us to walk around 5-7 minutes to the boarding area/dock of the ferry. We passed by a bridge in view of cargo ships and ferries around.
But before walking to the docking bay, my sister and I went to the Lawson’s convenience store inside the port terminal to buy snacks and drinks first. A lot of tourists were buying their food & drinks there as well.
At the boarding area, the staff just asked for our tickets and we entered the ferry. Minutes in to departure, the ferry was packed. Reservation really is a MUST! The tourists were mostly locals. Some brought tents, grills, and ice chests with them.
The summer vibe was definitely ON for the Japanese locals. My sister and I felt like we were on a ferry to Boracay.
Try to get to the ferry earlier as the seats are on a first-come first-served basis. The ferry ride was pretty smooth and it arrived on time. HONDA TALAGA! The second it docked is when the clock inside the ferry turned 9:50 AM. CRAZY JAPAN WITH ITS EFFICIENT DETAILS! HAHAHAHA!
At the Zamami Port, there was a long line of tourists outside the ferry probably heading to Aka Island (another Kerama Island near Zamami) or back to Naha port.
My sister and I disembarked and found ourselves in a basic port. There was a bathroom, shuttle bay, and tourist information center nearby. There were no restaurants at that port, just a few vending machines.
Our first stop was Gahi island, one of the uninhabited islands of Zamami, so we inquired at the tourist information center about getting there and he just told us to go outside and search for the small boats with Marine Taxi branded on them.
We immediately found one! Our boatman looked Filipino! When we told him we were from the Philippines, he actually said “I look like one, right?” HAHAHAHA! The marine taxi was a small speed boat. It services to Gahi, Agenashiku, and Amaro Islands.
Roundtrip rate costs ¥1,500 (₱723) per person. The boatman asked us to fill out a form where we indicated what island we wanted to visit and what time he should pick us up later on. We waited for a few more passengers and we were off to our first beach of the day!
For more information on the Marine Taxi at Zamami Island, contact 080-1766-6745 (Captain) or 098-987-2277 (Information Office).
From the Zamami Port, Gahi island is just a 5 minute boat ride away. ANG BILIS! HAHAHAHAHA!
When the marine taxi docked, we were so enamored by the water. SOBRANG GANDA! QUALITY BEACH & ISLAND WATER!
The hues of blues were very mesmerizing!
Gahi Island was my favorite. 80% of the sand on that uninhabited islet was as fine as Boracay but along the shores was built-up coral so it was a bit uncomfortable to walk on. But once seated and in the midst of the cool waters, everything was so beautiful!
I like island day trips. I’m in love with the balance of being able to experience an untouched island and civilization being just a stone’s throw away. This is what an escape from the hustle & bustle should be.
Lying down by the shore, feeling the waves of water continue to pass through my backside and hair felt satisfactory. Something so simple as the view and waves seemed so poetic to me. It provided a much needed high…the good kind of high, okay? HAHAHAHA! The sea makes me feel infinite…like I can succeed at anything…that I can conquer any fear that goes my way. I’m really grateful that me and my sister got to experience these beaches & islands.
I LOVE GAHI BEACH! The water quality was so PRISTINE! If you’ll just choose one among the small islands around Zamami, I recommend choosing GAHI!
The boatman picked us up at Gahi Island at around 11:45 AM.
At the Zamami port, we took a shuttle bus to Furuzamami Beach. The shuttle bus costs ¥300 (₱144) per way per person. The shuttle gets filled to the brim! Seats are full and people are cramped standing. Based on the schedule displayed, 2 shuttles operate the route per hour.
The bus to Furuzamami Beach took around 5 minutes passing through zigzag roads and up & down slopes.
There was nothing much to see outside the bus ride but nature. You can also choose to walk from the Zamami Port but locals estimate it to be a 20 minute walk plus you do have to consider the HEAT! We didn’t see any tourists take this walking option! HAHA!
Once we arrived at Furuzamami, we settled in first at the hut to eat lunch. It was a typical beach hut with snacks, easy lunch meals, and souvenirs. There were a few noticeable signs that encouraged tourists to use coral-safe sunscreens which the store was also selling.
It was really hot then and there! SOBRANG INIT! The sun was clear cut scorching which made us want to finish our food faster and head on over to the beach waters to cool off.
If Gahi Island was my favorite, Furuzamami Beach was my sister’s favorite. The emerald waters were divine and the quality of the water was so refreshing too! Amazing beach! I also loved the set-up of the docks. If you have read my past travel articles, you’d know that docks interest me a lot! HAHA!
Since it was VERY hot, it was painful walking on the sand. We couldn’t walk fast enough to the waters and cool-off our feet.
SUNSCREEN/BLOCK IS A MUST! SOBRANG INIT TALAGA! MUST! MUST ANG SUNBLOCK! Aloe Vera relief gels are a must too!
There are a lot of stalls around selling umbrellas, inflatables, etc..
My sister and I just sunbathed and enjoyed the beach for a few hours. When the heat was starting to take its toll, we decided to take the next available shuttle to another beach in the main island.
The shuttle was filled to the brim again and stopped at the Zamami port. We asked the driver to take us to Ama beach, the beach on the other side of Zamami island where there is said to be a lot of turtles, but the driver just said, “No Ama Beach! No Ama Beach!” Other tourists asked this too but he just repeated himself. After we paid, the bus left.
My sister and I then just decided to experience another small uninhabited island. So we went back to the marine taxi bay and saw the same boatman. We requested to visit Agenashiku island and paid the same rate again.
We stayed at Agenashiku island for our last few hours in Zamami. It was similar to Gahi but the sand was a bit browner. It was still stunning! The sand was the same where the inner areas were fine sand and built-up coral were by the shores.
My sister stayed by a cove or shade while I just sunbathe some more. This is why I had the worse sunburn of the two of us! The water was just too relaxing! I couldn’t leave it!
At around 4:45PM, the boatman picked us up and dropped us off at the Zamami port again.
We changed our clothes at the restroom and waited for the Queen Zamami ferry to arrive.
When it did, the line was long. We were at the end so my sister and I weren’t able to sit next to each other as the seats were almost full. The ride was a breeze and after a tiring day, the ride was relaxing.
I get dizzy easily but the ferry rides were smooth and did not give us any headaches at all.
DAY TRIP TIPS:
- BUY → pre-packed lunches, snacks, ICE, & a few bottles (I say a few because you’d prefer to buy cold ones there! TRUST ME!) of water at Lawson’s (Tomari Port) or any convenience store before your ferry ride to the Kerama Islands
- BRING → Sunblock/Suncreens (Put it during the ferry ride and every few hours during the day trip), Garbage bags to dispose of your trash! (Don’t leave anything on the uninhabited islands!), Aloe Vera relief gels, Waterproof bags for your electronics and valuables, Emergency medicine, Extra Clothes
- WEAR → Caps, Hats, Sunglasses, Rash Guards while swimming
- Rent an umbrella!
- Prepare change. The shuttle buses require exact coins!
If you’re interested in experiencing the islands & beaches of Zamami (Kerama), visit http://www.vill.zamami.okinawa.jp or zamamitouristinfo.wordpress.com #VisitOkinawa #BeOkinawa
OTHER OKINAWA ATTRACTIONS
Okinawa Main Island Tour Sites:
- Peace Park & War Memorials
- Shuri Castle
- Ryuku Castle Ruins
- Okinawa World
- Sunset Beach
Other Island Day Trips/Excursions from Naha:
- Kerama Islands – Aka Island (Nishibama Beach), Geruma Island, Fukaji Island, Zamami Islands, Tokashiki Island
- Zamami Islands – Gahi, Agenashiku, Amuro, Furuzamami, Ama
- Nagannu Deserted Island
We had the chance to talk to other locals and they recommended that these are must visit islands and beaches in Okinawa:
- Miyako – Yonaha Maehama Beach, Sunayama Beach (similar to Morong Beach in Batanes), Tomori Imugya Beach
- Ishigaki – Yaeyama Islands, Kabira Bay, Taketomi Island, Phantom Island
From Naha or Tokyo (Haneda), you need to take a flight to reach Miyako or Ishigaki islands. My sister and I really want to visit Miyako someday! I’m hopeful for a Manila – Miyako flight in the future! PLEASE TRAVEL UNIVERSE! HAHA! There are so many more beaches & islands to explore in Okinawa!
UPDATE (June 10, 2019): Jetstar Japan now flies from Tokyo (Narita) to Miyako (Shimojishima). Flights from Osaka (KIX) will launch on July 3, 2019. For more travel info on Miyakojima, check out this Miyako (Shimojishima) Japan Travel Guide.
Okinawa Activities to Try:
- Humpback Whale Watching (December to April)
- Kerama Deer Watching
- Sea Turtles Nesting Beaches (May to September)
- Ama Beach Camping
FOOD TRIP LIST: What & Where to Eat in Okinawa?
- Taco Rice from Kijimunaa at the American Village
- Charlie’s Tacos at Kokusai
- Sea Grapes
- La Toquee & Marumiya in Zamami Island
- Yukisio Salt Ice Cream
- Kokusai Dori – Blue Seal Ice Cream, A&W, Starbucks, Don Quijote, KOI Milk Tea
- Chinsuko Cookies
- Calbee Plus Sweet Potato Fries
- Kokusai Yatai Village – Ezomae Chokotto Sushi
- Sweet Potato Soft Serve
- Hayashiya Ice Cream
- Sora Terrace at Naha Airport
- Okinawa Soba Noodles
FLIGHT TO KIX & MANILA
Naha Airport & Jetstar Flight to KIX
When Santa dropped us off at the airport, it was a bit early for check-in so we waited for some minutes. The Jetstar counters opened exactly 2 hours before our flight. The vibe of the airport was similar to the New Chitose airport in Hokkaido but with lesser shops.
After check-in, my sister headed straight to the departure gates while I bought a few Okinawa souvenirs. Although some of the items could already be found at the KIX airport, I focused mainly on purchasing local products.
I tried the raved about sweet potato ice cream. It was creamy and just the right amount of sweetness but a bit pricey for an ice cream cone. I also bought pre-packed Okinawa noodles (Santa recommended this!) and the sweet potato tarts. When we tried this at home, everyone loved the noodles while everyone hated, myself included, the tarts. They were too crumbly and bland. Not worth the purchase!
When our flight was called, we boarded a shuttle that led us to our plane. The flight was smooth and I really loved the views a few seconds after take-off. The Okinawa islands and seas were mesmerizing to stare at!
Hotel Nikko & KIX
After 3 days in Okinawa, we were back again at KIX. Since there weren’t any available flights that same day from KIX to Manila, we stayed in Japan for one more night.
We checked-in at Hotel Nikko again. This time around, we were assigned to a North Wing room which was much better than our first stay. The toiletries smelled so good! It was from the brand La Mer by Japon. The sheets were better and cleaner. The room wasn’t as dusty and the view was still great. The bedroom and bathroom was spacious and clean too.
For this room, complimentary water was provided. We booked the room through Agoda and paid ₱9,504. Breakfast is not included for this rate.
Just like our previous stay, our night at Hotel Nikko from June 30 – July 1 was average and the convenience of being right beside the airport was still the best part of it.
If you’re interested in staying at Hotel Nikko during your KIX transit, visit http://www.nikkokix.com/en or inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org
For dinner during our last night in Japan, we decided to eat at KIX. We researched the best restaurants to try at KIX and found Sukiya, a restaurant known for its beef bowls and is open 24/7. I really commended my sister for finding this! Sukiya is A MUST TRY! It’s affordable and of quality! If you’re looking for a place to eat at KIX, try SUKIYA!
KIX & Jetstar Flight to Manila
We checked-in at KIX around 3 hours before our flight so we could allot time to eat lunch and shop. At the Jetstar counters, the flights for Manila displayed “Singapore (via Manila)”. The line was pretty long and it took us around 45 minutes to accomplish check-in and immigration.
The duty free shops after immigration and before the train transfer to the departure gate were CHAOS! ANG DAMING TAO! This wasn’t the case during my first time in Osaka. Make sure you buy all your gifts before the train transfer as the gift shop items at the departure gates are limited.
When we boarded the flight, my sister and I thanked each other for all the travel experiences we’ve had for the past week. We enumerated all our favorite moments and some sites that we wish to explore in the future hopefully with our mom and other sister.
The flight back was the culmination of a grateful week and a new milestone in our lives. It was unforgettable and we’re very grateful for all the opportunities that happened before, during, and after that summer trip.
- Prices of tickets, tours, etc.. may have changed from time of writing.
- Prices may vary depending on exchange rate. As of September 2018, ¥1 = ₱0.48
This is a sponsored write-up. My experiences with products & services may or may not be the same as yours. All opinions are inspired by my (and my sister’s) travel experiences & nothing else.