In December it starts to get colder in Tokyo, and you wish you could be at a warmer place. Luckily, you can easily travel to Okinawa! While everybody else shivers in Tokyo, you can enjoy an island vacation at around 17 to 20 degrees Celsius.
But as a tourist without an international driving permit, you cannot rent a car to explore the island. Taxis are too expensive. However, I figured out how to get around the main island of Okinawa by bus for three days. And I’ll share that knowledge with you!
Day #1 Travel to Okinawa
Flight to Okinawa
There are several airlines flying from Tokyo to Okinawa for low prices, like Vanilla Air or Jetstar. I chose a flight with Jetstar from Narita to Naha Airport. On this Thursday morning I took the Keisei Expressway Bus from Tokyo Station to Narita Airport for ¥1000 (it would have been ¥900 if I had made reservation before). After taking off at 9:50 a.m., the plane landed at Naha airport about 3 hours later.
At the airport, I went to the Tourist Information Center to buy a 3-day bus pass (which include a 1 day Monorail ticket for ¥5500). You can go by monorail directly from the airport to Shuri Castle, which was the royal court and administrative center of the Ryukyu Kingdom. And don’t worry about your luggage–Shuri Station has plenty of lockers where you can leave your bags. Okinawa Shurijo Castle Park is only a few minutes’ walk from the station. You can enter the Castle Park for free. The entrance for the main hall is ¥820, but with your monorail ticket you can get a discount and pay only ¥660.
3-day Bus Ticket: ¥5500 or ¥5000 (excluding Monorail)
Shurijo Castle Main Hall: ¥820/¥660
Tamaudun and Kinjo-cho Stone-Paved Path
Very close to Shurijo Castle Park you can easily access Tamaudun and Kinjo-cho Stone-Paved Path. Tamaudun is one of the three royal mausoleums of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The entrance fee to Tamaudun (including its small museum) is ¥300.
The Kinjo-cho Stone-Paved Path is an ancient limestone path that used to connect Shuri Castle to the southwestern part of the city during the Sho Dynasty. The whole path is 300 meters long and is mostly uphill, so I recommend wearing good walking shoes.
To go to your hotel or hostel, take the monorail back to Asahibashi Station (located next to Naha Bus Terminal). from there you can take many different buses.
Kinjo-cho Stone-paved Path: free
Day #2 Travel to Okinawa
The second day of my travel to Okinawa started at 8 a.m. when I took Bus #20/120 bound for Nago Bus Terminal to Kina Station. From this station, it is a 30-minute walk to get to Zakimi Castle. There are also direct bus connections to Zakimi Castle (#29), but there are only a few buses every day–you can take the lines #20/120 about three times every hour. Zakimi Castle and Okinawa’s other castles were named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in November 2000, and they are definitely worth seeing.
Zakimi Castle: free
Bus: #20/120 bound for Nago Bus Terminal to Kina station
As soon as you are finished at Zakimi Castle, you can take the same line to Ryukyu Mura Station to visit Ryukyu Village. Ryukyu Mura is a small theme park about traditional Okinawan culture in the form of a village from the times of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The entrance fee is ¥1200.
Ryukyu Mura: ¥1200
Bus: #20/120 bound for Nago Bus Terminal to Ryukyu Mura station
At about 11:30 a.m. I went to Cape Manzamo on the same bus line to Onnason Yakuba Mae Station, which takes about 20 minutes. After you get off the bus, walk 700 meters to the Cape Manzamo scenic rock formation.
Cape Manzamo: free
Bus: #20/120 bound for Nago Bus Terminal to Onnason Yakuba Mae station
Nakijin Castle Ruins
In order to get to the Nakijin Castle Ruins, you must take the bus to Nago Bus Terminal. Here, you will change to bus #65 or #66 to Nakijingusuku Iriguchi. The Nakijin Castle Ruins are located on the Motobu Peninsula of northern Okinawa Honto and are among the UNESCO World Heritage designated Castles of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The way back to Naha Station from the north of Okinawa takes some time, so make sure to have something to eat with you!
Your bus pass you can take the buses #20/120 and#77 back to Naha Station. The closer you get to Naha, the more busy traffic becomes, and the longer you will need to allow for to get back. A faster way back (but not included in your bus pass) are the Yanbaru Express Bus (via Google Translate) or #111 from Nago Station.
Nakijin Castle Ruins: ¥400
Bus: #20/120 bound for Nago Bus Terminal to Nago Bus Terminal, #65/66 to Nakijingusuku iriguchi
Alternative Tourist Spots on the Way
– Okinawa Convention Center: #20/120 Convention Center Mae
– Mihama American Village: #20/120 Gun Byoin Mae
– Yomitan Pottery Village: #20/120 Kina station
– Okashigoten-onna: #20/120 Seragaki
– Busena Marine Park: #20/120 Busena Resort Mae
– Bankoku Shinryokan: #20/120 Busena Resort Mae
– Orion Happy Park: #20/120 Nangusuku Iriguchi
– Ocean Expo Park and Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium: #65/66, #70 Kinenkoen-mae
Day #3 Travel to Okinawa
Peace Memorial Park
In order to get to the Peace Memorial Park, take bus #89 from the Naha Bus Terminal to the Itoman Bus Terminal. There, change buses to #82 bound for Gyokusendo. The Peace Memorial Park is located in the southern part of the island, where the final battle of Okinawa took place during the Second World War. Walking around the Park is free, but you need to pay an entrance fee if you want to enter the Peace Memorial Hall or the Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum.
Peace Memorial Park: free
Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum: ¥300
Peace Memorial Hall: ¥450
Bus: e.g. #89 bound for Itoman Bus Terminal and #82 bound for Gyokusendo to Heiwa Kinendo Iriguchi or #83 bound for Gyokusendo and #82 bound for Itoman Bus Terminal to Heiwa Kinendo Iriguchi
Odo Beach/ John Man Beach
I wanted to go to a beach at least once in Okinawa. So after strolling around Peace Memorial Park, I decided to go to the nearby Odo Beach/ John Man Beach, a 30-minute walk away. Surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and calm, crystal-clear water, Odo Beach is great for snorkeling adventures. This beach has white grit, and because of many rocks bathing sandals are a must.
Odo Beach/John Man Beach: free
Bus: #82 Seimei Byoin Mae
Take bus #82 to Gyokusendo Mae and you can enter Japan’s second longest stalactite cave at Okinawa World. However, in order to enter the cave you also need to buy a ticket for the Kingdom Village. You can return directly to Naha Bus Terminal via bus #83.
Kingdom Village: ¥620
Kingdom Village and Cave: ¥1240
Habu Museum: ¥620
Bus: #82 from Itoman Bus Terminal or #83 from Naha to Gyokusendo Mae
Alternative Tourist Spots on this route
Day #4 Travel to Okinawa
Return to Naha Airport
Since your 3-day bus pass is not valid anymore, you should use the Expressway buses #111 or Yanbaru Express instead of the local buses in order to return to the airport. I recommend these expressway buses because you are less likely to be late for your flight due to traffic jams. If you want to risk it, you can also try buses #113, #120 or #95 to get back to the airport.
There are also other famous places to see in Okinawa than the ones I suggested, but these are usually difficult to reach by bus. The most beautiful beaches can be found on neighboring islands, but these are too far away to visit on a weekend trip. If you are not interested in doing sightseeing, Okinawa is also famous for going diving and snorkeling. But whatever you want to do, a trip to Okinawa is definitely worth it!