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Japan's southernmost prefecture, Okinawa is a tropical island paradise where crystal clear seas lap golden beaches. This natural beauty and warm climate make Okinawa a popular destination for Japanese travelers seeking a break from the city, and a wealth of attractions and activities have grown to cater for this tourism boom, including aquariums, dive centers, golf courses and more. But Okinawa's beauty is more than just skin-deep; visitors wanting to discover the island's rich history and culture have a wealth of options, including museums, castles, temples and shrines. All of which makes Okinawa an incredibly rewarding place to explore, and these islands could have even greater benefits: people living in Okinawa are reputed to live longer, on average, than any other place on Earth! Book now at one of Best Western’s hotels in Okinawa and discover all the wonders this unique destination has to offer.
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Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium became the world's largest aquarium when it opened in 2002, and while this record has now been broken, it remains one of the island's biggest attractions. A total of 77 tanks are on display, including the huge Kuroshio Sea Tank which rises two stories and contains oceanic giants such as manta rays and whale sharks. In fact this was the first aquarium in the world to successfully breed whale sharks. The tropical climate of Okinawa has also allowed the aquarium to cultivate its own coral in an open tank that harnesses natural sunlight and fresh ocean water. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium forms part of Ocean Expo Park, which is also home to the Oceanic Culture Museum.
A wonderful example of Okinawa's ancient heritage is Shuri Castle, which dates back to the late 1300s. Now part of the city of Naha, Shuri was the former capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom and so Shuri Castle was a hugely important royal residence and administrative center. The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, and the most recent major reconstruction project was undertaken in the 1990s to repair the damage suffered in World War II. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, as part of the "Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom" inscription which covers a string of historical sites around the island.
Nakijin Castle Ruins
Guests wanting to explore Okinawa's rich history should pay a visit to the Nakijin Castle Ruins, which date back to the 13th Century and offer a wonderful window to the islands’ distant past. Located on the Motobu Peninsula on Okinawa's main island, the fortress ruins are nestled on a hillside surrounded by lush jungle, overlooking the sea. They previously housed a vast complex of buildings, including royal residence, shrines and military garrisons, and now form part of the 'Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom' UNESCO World Heritage listing. The Nakijin Castle Ruins also features an excellent museum, entry to which is included in the admission fee.
Kouri-jima, Kouri Ocean Tower and Kouri Bridge
Located just off the west coast of Okinawa's main island lies Kouri-jima, a small island fringed by a series of stunning white sandy beaches and surrounded by idyllic turquoise seas. These natural assets alone make Kouri-jima an excellent spot for a day trip, but guests can also enjoy spectacular views of the entire island from the Kouri Ocean Tower - an 82-meter-high white tower that features 360-degree indoor observation areas, an outdoor “ocean deck” and a seashell museum. The journey to and from Kouri-jima is also worthwhile, as it takes drivers over the 2,000-meter-long Kouri Bridge via another island, Yagaji-jima.
Cape Chinen Park
Cape Chinen is the easternmost point of Nanjo, in the southern part of Okinawa's main island, and is famed for its spectacular sunrises, beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and star-filled skies. Perched on the cliff-top is Cape Chinen Park, a landscaped area that is accessible via a narrow pedestrian bridge. The park also overlooks Kudaka Island, which is one of the most sacred sites in Okinawa. These factors make Cape Chinen Park a must-visit stop on any trip to the southern part of the island. The park can also be combined with a visit to Sefa Utaki, the ancient UNESCO-listed shrine which is located nearby.
Nago Pineapple Park
Ever wanted to learn all about pineapples? Well now you can, at the Nago Pineapple Park. Located in the Nago area of Okinawa's main island, this theme park showcases the history of pineapple cultivation in Okinawa, which dates back about 100 years. Visitors can enjoy a ride through pineapple fields and tropical gardens, see how the fruit are harvested and canned, and of course, sample a wide range of pineapple-based snacks and beverages, including pineapple wine. Guests can also purchase pineapple produce at a gift shop. For those wanting to take a break from pineapples, a fossil and seashell museum located next door.
Things to do in Okinawa