Okinawa can be a very satisfying place to visit using Space-A from Yokota. There are several fights per week to and from Kadena, you can do all of your sight seeing from Kadena or stay in one of the military owned cabins around the island, it remains warm and lovely as Yokota grows cold in the fall, and the clear blue water and white sand beaches are beautiful. We went in November and found ourselves back in shorts and flip flops as we settled into the most delightful beach vacation.
Kadena is a large Air Force base located centrally on the island. While we didn’t stay on this base long during our trip, we did enjoy their super large BX, a couple of restaurants recommended by a friend, and on the way out we stayed one night at the Shogun Lodge. Taxis are available on base, but to do very much on the island you’ll need to rent a car. If you take a taxi from the air terminal to check into the Shogun Lodge, hold onto the taxi while you get your room assignment. Our two room family unit with full kitchen was down the street from hotel reception. There are two restaurants we really enjoyed at Kadena. The first was the Tee House, located on top of the hill at the Golf Course. They have a large menu, great prices, club card discount, but the best part is the view. Sit outside and enjoy the view of Kadena’s two runways and the ocean. We especially enjoyed watching the fighter jets taking off and landing. We also really enjoyed Teppanyaki at Jack’s Place. Dinner was an entertaining affair where the chef cooked the food at our table. Dinner prep includes a little fire show which my kids totally enjoyed. They also have great prices, are kid friendly and take 10% off if you have a club card.
While there are several options for military cabins on the beach, we chose to stay at Okuma for the week. It takes a little over 1.5 hours to drive here from Kadena. We wanted to spend a lot of time just relaxing on the beach and we ended up staying right at Okuma for five full days with plenty to do. Okuma is located on a small peninsula and has several beaches, many lodging options, a restaurant with great pizza, and a wide range of water activities and rentals. During our stay we went snorkeling, jet skiing, on a glass bottom boat ride, rented bikes and family buggies, played miniature golf, had a camp fire as we watched the sun set over the ocean and spent a great deal of time building sand castles and collecting shells on the white sand beaches. All of the lodging at Okuma is situated right on the beach, so no matter where you stay, you can roll out of bed and onto the sand every morning. We stayed in the Suite Plus units on the North beach. The buildings are older but comfortable. With two queen beds in the bedroom and a very comfortable fold out bed in the living room, we had plenty of space for our family of four. There is a picnic table out front and a small charcoal grill. While the off season price is posted at $70/night; if you stay off season all week the price drops significantly during the weekdays; plus they take an extra 10% off if you have a club card. The Turtles Nest Beach houses are more expensive than the suites, but are nicely situated on the South beach where you can watch the sunset over the water from the porch (photo). For couples, the AI beach cabin looks like a fun option. It may be small but it is far away from everyone else and comes with its own large private beach. While our unit didn’t come with a fire pit, the family campground located on the South beach wasn’t full and we were able to use one of the camp sites to build a camp fire. You can buy wood, charcoal, starters, smores ingredients and hot dogs all from the little store next to reception. The staff at Okuma is really amazing… we were treated so well the whole time we stayed here. It was a pleasure interacting with everyone. Also, because we stayed here off season in November, we had these huge beaches almost entirely to ourselves. It was incredible, so quiet and lovely. Okuma has its own facebook page; which can be fun to follow before you go.
While we didn’t leave Okuma often, we did a few tourist things. The most worthwhile was the Okinawa Churamu Aquarium located in Ocean Expo Park. The Aquarium was a lot of fun. We really enjoyed the opportunity to sit next to the glass at the restaurant next to the largest tank. Here you can have a beer and snacks while watching the whale sharks and giant sting rays swim by. But Ocean Park has lots of amazing free opportunities as well! The free dolphin show is worth seeing as well as the Sea Turtle exhibit. There is also a large “Kids Adventure Land” with climbing hammocks spread out over a huge area.
We did enjoy a few other touristy things including: Butterfly Park, Nago Pineapple Park and Fruits Land. The Butterfly Park is located very close to Ocean Expo Park. Pineapple Park and Fruits Land are located next to each other in the Nago area as well, closer to Route 58. You can find information about all of these places and about many more places to visit at the blog Okinawa Hai. Of these, we enjoyed Butterfly Park and Fruits Land the most while Pineapple Park felt more like a tourist trap to us.
I imagine it would be amazing to go to Okinawa any time of year. I understand through friends stationed there that it is often shorts weather through Thanksgiving; cherry blossom season in February; and really hot and muggy during the summer months. The ocean feels like bath water in the summer, but was warm enough for us to enjoy some swimming in November. – Sarah Straus, November 2013.