Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Okinawa Getaway: Pineapples, Waterfalls, and Whale Sharks!

While we were in Okinawa, we set out from our awesome hotel at Okuma a few times to do some exploring.  Okinawa is such a beautiful island!!!  It's this crazy mix of Japan countryside and tropical trees and beaches.  It's really an incredible place, and the culture is rich and there is so much to do!

We had heard great things about the hike to Hiji Falls, so we went for it!  And it was super hot and muggy!  Haha!!  And there were about a million stairs on that hike!  The whole time we just kept telling ourselves that it was worth it just to see the beautiful surroundings and that it would be even more worth it once we got to the end and could jump in the water at the waterfall.  But . . . we got there and there were signs and chains all over preventing us from being able to get wet!  Boo!  We were a little disappointed, and super hot, but the waterfall was still a pretty sight!  

After resting for a minute at the waterfall, we started heading back, but alas!  Peter spotted a sign pointing to the river which said "Riverside Course".  We decided to check it out, hoping that it would be a little more exciting and easier (with less stairs) than the hike going up had been.  And it was!  It was awesome!  Luckily, we were all wearing flip flops so we were literally able to just walk in the river the whole way back.  The water was only ankle deep, shin deep at the deepest.  The kids loved splashing around, no one was sweating, and everyone was happy!  A total success--and totally worth it!  So, if you go to hike Hiji Falls, skip the regular path and keep on the lookout for the signs to the Riverside Course (and be sure to wear sandals, flip flops, or water shoes!).  I think going up, you can access that path were there's a small sign for the waterfront play area.  The hike ended up being a lot of fun, and something I totally recommend--but mostly for the fact that walking along the river was so much fun!


Another fun, and totally wacky, place we visited was the Nago Pineapple Park.  Whimsical and wacky.  And maybe a tourist trap???  But, still totally unique and fun!  The whole place is essentially a pineapple farm and the largest souvenir shop I've ever been to!  You pay a small fee to enter, and then hop into a pineapple golf cart where you're taken on a guided (in Japanese) tour through a bunch of pineapple fields.  

Then, you get out of the cart and go to a pineapple robot show!  Which was surprisingly cute, but very quirky.  Two little pineapple robots sang and danced and pretty much just cracked us up for about 10 minutes.  And, then . . . well that's it!  Haha!  There is a *free* sea shell museum near the end of the tour (super weird), but otherwise, you just continue on to the enormous omiyage (souvenir) store that sells everything from pineapple wines and juices, to pineapple cakes and chocolate, to pineapple stuffed toys and about a million other gifts and souvenirs.  And somehow we got sucked in to it all--we came home with pineapple chocolate, a stuffed pineapple, magnets, and a couple of Okinawan dragon stuffed animals!  

On our last day in Okinawa, we went to the Ocean Expo Park to visit the Churaumi Aquarium.  This aquarium was unbelievable.  The best aquarium I've ever been to, and it's all because of the gigantic tank with the THREE (!!!) whale sharks!  I seriously could have sat in front of that tank for hours.  It was just so mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.  


The rest of the aquarium was pretty remarkable as well, and outside there were dolphin, manatee, and sea turtle pools.  We had a great time seeing all the different types of sea life and exploring the property--the Ocean Expo Park is huge and beautiful.  It was a great day and end to our trip!

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