Off the Beaten Path in Okinawa, Japan – An Awe Inspiring Place

by Stacey Sloughfy

Okinawa, Japan is comprised of several hundred islands and is the southernmost prefecture in the country.  The capital of Okinawa is Naha, which is located in the southern part of Okinawa Island, the largest of the islands.  When visiting Okinawa Island, you will most likely arrive at Naha Airport.  Upon arrival there are several things you must see and do to really experience the culture of this beautiful serene place.  A 1.5 hour drive north from Naha to Motobu Town away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city would be well worth your time.

Old house in Okinawa, Japan

A must do on your journey to Motobu Town is to try the local cuisine.  Okinawan soki soba noodles are a special dish unique to this part of Japan.  The noodles can be found at many local restaurants and are served hot in a soki soup broth (pork spare ribs) topped with pork meat and seaweed and they are simply delectable.  Okinawa is also home for Orion beer which is the 5th largest brewery in Japan.  An Orion beer would go along fantastic with the soki soba noodles.  And for dessert do not pass up the opportunity to try the locally made ice cream produced by Blue Seal which has been a staple since 1948.  This ice cream can be found at restaurants and convenience stores and is popular on the to do list of most tourists.

If sunbathing and frolicking in the ocean is your idea of fun, a day of relaxing at Emerald Beach near Motobu Town will be an amazing treat.  The water at this beach is clear and a brilliant cobalt blue color.  This coral sand beach is a public beach and there are areas for relaxing and playing.  The swimming area is protected by jellyfish nets and there are life guards on duty during peak season which is April through October.

After your visit to Emerald Beach you might select to stay at the Mahaina Wellness Resort.  This 4.5 start hotel is a short drive from the beach and is conveniently located to Ocean Expo Park, Churaumi Aquarium and the Fukugi Tree Path.  This hotel has many great amenities. There is a wonderful buffet style restaurant called Marsen which serves very traditional dishes to exotic dishes made from local ingredients.  The fresh locally grown pineapple is mouthwateringly delicious.  The hotel’s outdoor pool is open during summer months and the indoor pool is open year round.  The highlight at the hotel is hands down the Japanese hot bath house "hot springs" which contain mineral rich waters to cleanse and relax your body and soul.

Outdoor trek in a forest in Okinawa, Japan

Feeling refreshed after a night spent at the Mahaina Wellness Resort, a boat ride to Minna Island should be next on your itinerary.  The island is about 15 minutes away from the port in Motobu Town via high speed boat.  The fare is reasonable (Adult round trip 1680 yen/Child 840) and well worth your money.  Snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, sunbathing are just a few of many activities you can do once you arrive at the island.  The water is pristine, the sea life is beautiful and the white sandy beaches are pure and clean.  You can bring snacks and drinks or you can check out the local mom and pop food stands for good food reasonably priced.  The island is small but you can take a walk to the opposite side from the main beach and explore.  It truly will give you a sense of getting away from it all.  You can plan to stay for a couple of hours or all day.  The boats run back and forth from the port to the island from 08:30 - 17:00.

Another must do in this area is to take a bicycle ride on Fukugi Tree Road.  This road is really a hidden treasure.  It is a dirt path covered by overgrown Fukugi trees that form a canopy and are known by the locals as "fortune trees".  You can rent a bicycle for 200 yen and explore this peaceful area which is just a short distance from Emerald Beach.  The houses in this area are more traditional Japanese style and there are quaint little shops scattered about.  On your bicycle ride through the tree canopy you will feel as if you have been transported back in time.  Back to a more peaceful relaxed state of mind.

Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan

These are just a few of the highlights you can experience on your vacation to Okinawa, Japan.  With its subtropical temperatures you can spend weeks exploring this island and surrounding smaller islands year round. The people are hospitable.  The scenery is breathtaking.  And you will return home from your visit with a sense of peace and appreciation for having experienced such an awe inspiring place.