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okinawa pancake sign

The Tricky Guide to Okinawa: Feb 2017

One of the best things about living in Taipei is how easy it is to plan short trips to neighboring cities. In the past couple of years, I’ve visited Tokyo a bunch of times. Also Osaka, Seoul, Macau and Beijing.

But the most accessible getaway destination turns out to be Okinawa — without a doubt. The flight from Taipei’s Taoyuan airport to Okinawa’s Naha airport takes just 90 minutes on Peach Air or another LLC (low-cost carrier).

okinawa

Back in January I saw one-way flights on Peach for as low as 580NT. Yes, 580NT. That price was so insane that I started to hear a pesky voice in my head say on repeat, “Just go to Okinawa. Like, seriously”.

By the time I booked our trip for late February, return tickets on Peach were 4,000NT each. But then that voice was like, “Hey, that’s still not a bad price!” So off to Okinawa we went…

okinawa car rental

Okinawa was the first time we rented a car in Japan. We booked with Luft Rent-a-Car using this special discount through Peach Air. Our car was a cute Toyota Aqua hybrid that came with this bumper sticker identifying us as totally non-threatening foreign drivers…

Most people rent cars in Okinawa, but you’ll need to get your Taiwan driver’s license translated to Japanese first. You can do this for 100NT at the Taipei City Motor Vehicles Office. Or if you don’t have a Taiwan license, you’ll need an International Driver’s Permit.

okinawa design hotel

We stayed all three nights of our trip at the super budget Spice Motel — a retro American-style motel that destroyed all prejudices I had against “retro American-style motels”. It also turned out to be in a super convenient location. You can read about our stay at Spice Motel here.

Other popular options include the all-inclusive hotels and resorts, as well as beach houses and apartments on Airbnb. Here’s a nice listing I bookmarked. And here’s another one.

If you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, you’re welcome to use my refer-a-friend link for 1,000NT off your first stay.

okinawa design store

okinawa design store

There’s a lot of gorgeous scenery and fresh Okinawan air to take in, so these are the only shopping destinations I’d return to next time:

  • D&Department Okinawa is mandatory for all design and food-lovers. Upstairs there’s a cute cafe, but you’ll really want to spend most of your time poking around the kitchenware, stationery and pantry items for sale in the store section. (Shown below)
  • The huge AEON Rycom mall is a great hideout on rainy days, though your fellow shoppers are more likely to be fellow Taiwanese than locals, especially at the tax free counters. Heaps of food options there too.
  • If you have time before your flight out, head to Ashibinaa Outlets by the airport. You can browse Japanese retail brands like Beams, BC Stock and United Arrows. We went straight to ACE to buy a Japanese-made Proteca carry-on suitcase.

The most important tip of all: avoid the Mihama American Village. It was an annoying and senseless waste of time.

okinawa design store

okinawa mother coffee

For meals, we wanted to stick with things that aren’t available in Taipei or had a distinctly Japanese vibe. In Okinawa, that turned out to be more low-key and quaint than mind-blowingly delicious. Still, a few standouts were Mother Coffee, Hawaiian Pancake House and Kokusai Street Village.

okinawa kokusai

You can read about them all in this post: 5 Great Places to Eat in Okinawa

Something else we did was the free Orion Brewery tour which you can book online. The tour itself is in Japanese, but you get to see the beer manufacturing line in action which is pretty neat I’ll admit.

So would I go back to Okinawa? Yep, and pretty soon I hope. I love the laid-back island vibe, the mix of Japanese and American influences, plus the clean air and natural beauty. It feels a world away from Taipei, but lucky for us it’s only a couple of hours.

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