4-Day Okinawa Japan Road Trip Guide: A complete itinerary to experience the best of Naha Island
Updated: Jul 18, 2020
Want to experience the best Japan has to offer in a laid back tropical island setting? That's exactly what you'll get from a visit to Okinawa. From delicious local cuisine and rich cultural history to cliffside coastlines surrounded by the clearest of blue waters. Experience the best of Okinawa in 4 days with our complete road trip itinerary guide with maps.
This post contains some affiliate hotel links, if you click through and book via these links we will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Getting to Naha, Okinawa from Singapore:
One of the reasons we added Okinawa to our travel list is that it is only a direct flight away from Singapore. Within 5 hours we reached Naha airport thanks to Jetstar Asia.
Renting a Car: Getting around Naha, the main island of Okinawa:
As there are many stunning coastal drives along Naha, we highly recommend renting a car to make the most of the visit. Outside the airport, are stands of shuttles offering to take passengers on the 10-minute drive to the nearest car rental company. We rented our car via Budget, pre-booked on Expedia. We recommend a good internet connection to be able to use Google Maps as well (as our GPS was mostly in Japanese).
The best time to visit Okinawa:
We visited during Late January and were treated to 20-25c weather, clear skies and limited crowds. We originally booked to visit in August the previous year, however, delayed our trip due to typhoons.
Where to stay in Naha:
We opted for a stay at the Harbourview hotel in Naha City, which included valet parking for a small daily rate. This location was an easy drive for most of our day trips and a short walk to restaurants in the evening. There are many accommodation options across Naha island though and with a car all are easily accessible which can be seen here.
Find the best hotel deals in Naha, Okinawa:
Our Complete 4 Day Road Trip Itinerary around Okinawa:
Day 1 Route: Naha - Cape Manzamo - Cape Maeda - Cape Zanpa - America Village - Naha
The sun warmed our backs as the light breeze swept across the calm ocean on a 25c clear day. We wandered past tropical green trees as we approached the famous Manzamo coastline, tour groups were in toe with this site drawing a crowd. We waited for a clearing between groups to get our perfect view of the elephant-shaped rock pushing out into the clear turquoise waters below.
Izakaya Lunch Stop - Cape Manzamo
We turned south along the stunning coastal drive for a further 20 mins towards Cape Maeda. Just 5 minutes past Manzamo, along the coastal highway, we stopped at a small Japanese house converted into an Izakaya restaurant (See stop 2 on our map). Here we sat on tatami mats and floor level and had our first taste of Okinawa’s famous Sea Grape and Soba. We wouldn’t have spend more than $30 for this feast.
Upon arrival at Cape Maeda, the car park was filled with Diving and Snorkeling groups, this spot is famous for swimming in the blue cave. It’s possible to book a tour on the spot. We opted to walk along the rocky cliffs and take in the view, free from other tourists.
Continuing south, our next stop was Cape Zanpa lighthouse. For a $4 entry fee and 130m climb be treated to some spectacular aerial views of the Okinawa coastline. The views of the water below offered more shades of blue than we could count.
Here we stopped to try another famous Okinawan delicacy - Blue Seals local sweet potato purple ice cream. It was creamy and delicious.
The American Village:
Our final stop south on the way back to Naha was the American Village. Filled with souvenir shops, restaurants and vintage American memorabilia.
Evening in Naha City - Kokusai Dori
After reaching Naha City we walked 10 minutes from our hotel down to the bustling street of Kokusai Dori. A popular tourist strip, filled with restaurants. Here, we got our first taste of the Okinawa brewed Orion Beer, a must-try during your visit.
Day 2 Route: Naha - Kouri Island - Churaumi Aquarium - Naha Makishi Market
Experience 50 shades of blue driving across Japan's second-longest bridge connecting to a remote island. Driving to this island was a sight in itself not to be missed. Upon arrival, we stopped via the coast to walk along the water and take it all in. We spent the full morning at Kouri, here are our highlights:
Stop for lunch at the Kouri Shrimp food truck:
We loved the ocean views over a low-cost Japanese-Hawaiian fusion lunch of garlic shrimp, beef, rice and seaweed fries.
Take a buggy tour to the top of the Ocean Tower:
We next jumped on a cute buggy tour taking us to the views at the top of the Ocean Tower. On the way down we stopped to taste the soft pumpkin cookies made on-site, of which we brought several boxes home, these were the perfect souvenir!
From Kouri island, we headed south to Chuarium Aquarium, located again along a stunning coastline of clear blue waters. The highlight here was the large tank of manta's whale sharks.
Naha City Makishi Markets:
After a long day, we headed back to Naha to end the night with a shop and dinner around Naha City's Makishi Markets.
Day 3 Route: Naha - Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters - Umikaji Terrace - A&W - Okinawa World & Gyokusen-do Cave - Valley of Gangala - Naha
The Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters (WW2 Museum & tunnels) - Tomigusuku:
Just 15 minutes from our hotel was the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters from World War Two. We experienced the war history walking through meters of underground tunnels once critical in the battle for Okinawa.
Umikaji Terrace & the Hammock Cafe:
Also located in Naha City is the coastal area of Umikaji terrace, filled with waterfront restaurants. Here we stopped for a morning coffee at the Instagrammable Hammock Cafe.
Lunch at A&W:
Seemingly the most famous fast food restaurant in Okinawa is A&W. We made a lunch stop to try the juicy burgers and fries.
Okinawa World and Gyokusen-do Cave:
We spent our afternoon at Okinawa World. The highlight here was the 2km Gyokusen-do cave developed hundreds of thousands of years ago and taking more than 20 minutes to walk through. We also enjoyed some local culture here, watching a traditional drumming and dance show, as well as visiting some pineapple plantations.
Valley of Gangala:
Directly across the road from Okinawa World is the Valley of Gangala, a lush green valley of a once collapsed limestone cave. Walking tours are available hourly through the area, which can only be accessed as part of a tour. We managed to catch the last English tour of the day departing at 4 pm.
Day 4 Route: Exploring Naha City's Surrounds - Shurijo Castle - Tsuboya Pottery Village - Fukushuen Park - Dinner in an old Japanese Residence
Our first stop of the day was exploring the remnants of this world heritage castle and grounds while enjoying a view over Naha city.
Tsuboya Pottery Village:
We then shopped for some locally-made souvenirs at Tsuboya Pottery Village. We Took time to wander the cute streets & stop for the local Bukubuku tea, made from rice (Andrew also made a new friend).
Our last stop of the day was wandering the traditional gardens of Fukushuen Park.
Dinner at Komiya Shokudo Japanese Residence:
Finally we enjoyed dinner in a traditional Japanese house for under $30 for 2 people.
We hope you enjoyed our weekend travel guide to the Okinawa, Japan.
We also share our top 10 must try local foods in Okinawa here.
For more blog posts on weekend getaways and travel itineraries check out the destinations section of our blog.
Follow us @littlesherpatravels