Are you wanting a nice getaway, and looking for a perfect spot? Want to feel like you’ve gotten away but stay within Japan? Okinawa is the place to go! This article is your guide to springtime adventures on the mainland of Okinawa.

Above-Water Activities

Whale watching – The months of December to April are the months that humpback whales migrate to the waters of Okinawa. These months are the perfect time for whale watching since the whales come from the waters around Russia and Alaska to have their babies around Okinawa’s waters. A number of marine tour companies offer whale watching tours during the winter and spring months, so it’s a must-see experience!

Churaumi Aquarium – If you’re visiting mainland Okinawa, you won’t want to miss the Churaumi Aquarium known for the great whale shark and manta ray tank. Don’t miss the dolphin show and outdoor exhibits either. Spend time learning about Okinawa history at the Ocean Expo Park and wander the beautiful botanical garden.

Sidenote: “Chura” means “beautiful” in the Okinawa dialect, and this aquarium and the oceanview from the escalators and outdoor exhibits are truly beautiful sights.

Busena Marine Park – If you want a view of the sea but are not comfortable with diving or snorkeling, the Busena Marine Park Underwater Observatory is a great place to visit! There are even Glass Bottom Boat Rides where you can see the bottom of the sea while in the safety and comfort of a boat.

Little-known Gems around Mainland Okinawa

Banta Café at Hoshinoya Resort in Yomitan – Featured in TV shows like Love is Blind: Japan, this café (located in the Hoshinoya Resort Okinawa) has tatami mat seating as you gaze out at the water. Purchase a coffee or tea at Banta Café and experience the luxurious resort life by the sea.

Sunset along Onna Sunset Coast Road (Road 58) – Take a drive along Highway 58 for a glimpse of the sunset as you drive along the coastline! And while you’re at it, stop at the local favorite pitstop, Seaside Drive-in for a sandwich, clam chowder or fried chicken. Sit in your car while you enjoy the meal, or get out and sit by the water. This is a fun experience for couples or families!

Kouri Island – Kouri Island is located in the northern part of Okinawa. Drive across the 2-kilometer bridge and enjoy a view of the emerald blue ocean. On the island, check out the Heart Rock, a rock formation shaped like a rock! And, you won’t want to miss a good meal and drink at Gajumaru Rock while relaxing in a hammock.

Foods to Try

Okinawa soba (soki soba) – While in Okinawa, you’ll not want to miss the classic Okinawa ソーキそば soki soba, noodles with soki meat (pork spareribs). Okinawa soba is different from mainland soba and made with flour. Try this classic Okinawa dish, and you’ll be hooked! Also be sure to try the fried rice called ジューシー juicy that is sold at most Okinawa soba shops.

Taco rice – You might find it funny that taco rice is one of Okinawa’s famous dishes, but in fact it is! Try this classic Mexican-American-Okinawa fusion dish. Some restaurants offer special toppings like omelets, Okinawan soki and special sauces.

Shiikuwasa juice – Sometimes known as Okinawa lime, shiikuwasa is a citrus native to Okinawa and very refreshing on a hot day. Enjoy it as a juice or in various desserts.

Goya champuru – Ever tried bitter melon? This bitter gourd loses some of its bitterness when stir-fried with bacon and eggs, and sprinkled with bonito flakes. Be sure to head to a classic Okinawan izakaya to try this dish.

Sea grapes “Umi-budou” – 海ぶどう “Umi-budou”, or sea grapes, are a type of seaweed and special delicacy in Okinawa. They can be enjoyed as a side dish along with beer or with rice and sashimi. Enjoy sea grapes dipped in soy sauce and vinegar and experience a fresh taste of the sea as they pop in your mouth.

Blue Seal ice cream – When visiting Okinawa on warm days, ice cream is a much-craved treat! Blue Seal is Okinawa’s own ice cream chain, and even offers Okinawan flavors like the famous cookie chinsukou ちんすこう, 紅芋Okinawan sweet potato or “ube” purple yam.

Their slogan “Born in America, raised in Okinawa” actually has a rare history. Ice cream was a rare dessert after World War 2 that few could eat, and Blue Seal ice cream was only available to the US military for a time. In 1963, it was expanded to the general public and now local Okinawans embrace it as their own.

Phrases to Know

When you get to Okinawa, you may be greeted with a welcoming “Menso-re-!” めんそーれー!

Want to greet someone in the Okinawa dialect? Say “Haisai”, which means good day, good morning, or good afternoon. Women can say “haitai” which is more feminine and softer.