5 Recommended Spots to Drive Around on Okinawa’s Main Island
Trains are not easily available in Okinawa, so we recommend renting a car to move around and enjoy driving under the beautiful blue sky of the islands. In this article you will find a selection of recommended spots that you should definitely visit in the main island of Okinawa.
1. Nirai Kanai Bridge
The Nirai Kanai Bridge in Nanjo, in the southern area of the main island of Okinawa, is about a 40 minute drive from downtown Naha on National Route 331. It offers a spectacular view. While it is known as the Nirai Kanai Bridge, it is actually a combination of two bridges: the Nirai Bridge and the Kanai Bridge. On days of fine weather, visitors may be able to get a view of Kudakajima Island surfacing on the Pacific Ocean as it extends towards the horizon line. In the Okinawan dialect, the words "nirai kanai" mean both "far away beyond the eastern sea" and "the other world that exists at the bottom of the sea and the earth" The image of the cobalt blue colored sea as it extends over the distance matches these words perfectly, and it is indeed a mesmerizing view. It is not safe to stop the car on top of the bridge, so if you would like to take your time to enjoy the view, you should head to the observatory deck on top of the tunnel. After crossing the bridge, you will find a parking lot. This is the perfect place to spend some special time with friends, family, or your partner. And don't forget to visit Sefa Utaki as well - this is the most sacred place of Okinawa and it is located very close to the bridge!
2. Kaichu Doro (Marine Road)
This is one of the best driving courses in the mid-Eastern coast of the main island of Okinawa and it's located about an hour away from downtown Naha. This land route runs for a total of 4.7 km and it connects the Yokatsu Peninsula on the northern coast with Hamahiga Island, Henza Island, Miyagi Island, and Ikei Island while offering a view of the Kin Bay on both sides. During low tide, a lot of mudflats form in the area, so if you want to enjoy a view of the beautiful sea, it is a good idea to go when the tide is high. The road features 2 lanes on each side from which you can enjoy the vast and magnificent views, but be careful not to get carried away and speed up too much.
It is a good idea to drop by the Umi no Eki Ayahashi-kan ocean station halfway along the way for a meal or to buy some souvenirs.
Time goes by slowly in all these isolated islands, which makes them the perfect place to visit if you are looking to relax.
3. Japan National Route 58
National Route 58 crosses the main island of Okinawa from south to north. Familiarly known as "Gopachi", this is one of the main roads of the island. It starts on Meiji Bridge, located within Naha, and it continues up to Hedomisaki on the northernmost tip of the island. The road offers a variety of views along the way that include the city area of Naha, the US military base, the resort hotel area of Onna, and the precipitous cliffs on the northern coastline.
Among all these, we especially recommend the Onna area located along the coastline and the northern area on the other side of Shioya Bridge. The Onna area offers resort-like beaches of white sand and deep blue sea, whereas in the northern area you can enjoy a view of the abrupt precipices on the coastline as you drive. We recommend visiting the Mihama Town Resort American Village that's on the way and which is, together with Kokusaidori, a staple sightseeing spot of Okinawa. Enjoy shopping and indulge in delicious food here.
This is a driving course that we especially recommend to those who have time to spare and would like to spend a more active trip.
*The picture shows the Mihama Town Resort American Village.
4. Warumi Bridge
Warumi Bridge is a 315 meter long bridge that connects the peninsula to Yagaji Island that's about an hour and a half away from downtown Naha.
The tideland of Yagaji Island is a government-designated wildlife refuge where vibrant mangrove trees grow. From above the bridge, you can command a view of the beautiful and full of nature Warumi Strait, the bay, the Hanejinai sea, and the Kori Bridge connecting to Korijima Island in the distance. There is a free observatory deck at the foot of the bridge, so it is best to go there to enjoy the view. Right next to it, you will find a cozy drive-in called Hashi no Eki Rikarika Warumi, where you can enjoy a meal if you are feeling hungry.
The Churaumi Aquarium, where you can see whale sharks swimming in a large water tank, is located at just about a 30 minute drive from here. This is a must-visit staple of sightseeing in Okinawa.
5. Kori Bridge
Kori Bridge is a relatively new bridge that opened in 2005 and that runs for a total length of 2 km to connect Kori island and Yagaji Island. It is located a little bit far from downtown Naha, about an hour and a half drive, but the view here is so beautiful that it has become a very popular spot. The emerald blue sea at both sides of the bridge is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Okinawa. A visit to this place, which seemingly envelopes you in the deep blue of both the sea and the sky at the same time, will definitely make for the memory of a lifetime.
Do not forget to visit Kori Island as well, since it still offers some virgin nature. The island features beaches with highly transparent water, and in the summer you may be able to see sea turtles coming inland to lay their eggs.
If you want to enjoy driving around in Okinawa, this is a place that you should not miss.
Okinawa is full of places that you can drive about as you indulge in the view of the blue sky and the beautiful ocean. Rent a car and head out to make the most out of your trip!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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