A weekend in Okinawa for Naha and the Aquarium

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
6
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
5
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
4
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
4
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
6
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
57 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Asia
country
Japan
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 300
Time of year visited
August
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
223rd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 70% SUMMARY RATING: Worth doing

Summary

Okinawa offers a very different style to the rest of Japan.  Yes you still have the politeness, cleanliness and things, well, just working.  But its all within the backdrop of semi-tropical trees and a culture quite different to that of mainland as the Okinawa island chain used to be the former Ryukyu Empire and only joined Japan in the 1870s

 

Not many places in the world have that developed vibe in the tropics, so it’s definitely worth a trip, especially if living in this part of the world and fancy a weekend away.  Worth also picking up a few of the local’s habits – Okinawans are some of the longest living people in the world!

highlights

#1 The world-class Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which has the world's largest aquarium tank, including Whale Sharks and Manta Rays.  Grounds are also well worth the visit

#2 Having a few of the Orion Beers - it may just be the setting, but they are surprisingly so much better than out the can!

#3 As you'd expect in Japan, the food is outstanding and the Okinawan cuisine offers an additional twist to the usual dishes

#4 Wandering around the slightly odd shopping arcade areas of central Naha. Touristy but worth it for the randomness

EXTRA - taking the 2 hour ferry for 2 days on the nearby island paradise of Zamami Jima. If you thought Okinawa was laid back, Zamami takes it to another level

Travel Tips

  • #1 Tip – make sure to make the trip up to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, which has the world’s largest aquarium tank, including Whale Sharks and Manta Rays.  The grounds around the aquarium are also beautiful, so its worth the 2 hour bus trip there

 

  • #2 Tip – try to give yourself 2 days for a trip over to the nearby Zamami Jima and Aka Jima.  They feel a world away from Naha, with white sand beaches, sea turtles and an extremely peaceful and underdeveloped atmosphere.  Definitely worth the 2 hour ferry trip – to the degree that I would actually recommend, if you only have a weekend, spending it in these islands.  For more details and tips on the trip, see this specific travel entry – Zamami Jima and Aka Jima, from Okinawa

 

  • #3 The food – as with so many things in Japan, the secret is often just to relax in the ever so softly done surroundings and focus on the wonderful food.  Naha is no exception, and has the extra benefit of having a different cuisine to the main islands.  Make sure to try the various pork dishes (Okinawan pork is prized across Japan), the widely available Okinawa-soba of thick udon noodles served in a pork broth and, slightly bizarrely, the horsemeat sushi (which they are also more than happy to let you blow torch!)

 

  • #4 Visit the Kokusai Food Street Village – right in the centre and slightly tucked away it is a series of very small restaurants (4-10 seats each) that are super cute and a good place to get started

 

  • #5 Make sure to try the freshly served Orion beer – my personal favourite!  Whilst the cans are exported around the world, the draft with the special foamy head is so much better and can be found just about everywhere in Okinawa.  Watch out for the Okinawan Sake though, it is seriously horrible stuff

 

  • #6 Nightlife – with the tourist vibe and the nearby US military bases, the nightlife in Naha is superb (I had one the heaviest nights of my life in Okinawa . . . woke up in Zamami Jima . . . can confirm its capabilities!).  Start your night off with some food in the many restaurants along Kokusai-dori (the main road in the centre of the city) and then make your way to the various bars around Wakasa Odori

 

  • #7 Accommodation – you want to stay somewhere on or near Kokusai-dori, just for ease of getting around both in Naha and to make trips to the aquarium / nearby islands.   We stayed at the Hotel Palm Royal, which although nothing special, was fine and had a good central location

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone