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Domestic air travel in Japan is often, contrary to many other countries, an absolute joy. Recently, I stepped into Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, checked into Japan Airlines (JAL) check-in terminals, and swished through security within minutes. As I strolled to my gate, I realized that Okinawa (沖縄), my destination, was only two hours away. 

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I have been to Okinawa on a number of occasions with my family but this was to be my first solo trip. Okinawa has always been a mystery to me. Japan’s southernmost area has its own atmosphere, pace of living, languages, and cuisine. Often compared to Hawaii, Okinawa is undeniably beautiful, has a subtropical climate and can feel, at times, otherworldly and outside of Japan in some way. 

A Subtropical Stay at the Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa

I’m in Okinawa to stay at the recently renovated Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa, a gorgeous location in Okinawa’s Nago area, about two hours north of Naha, Okinawa’s capital city. The hotel, which is designed in the shape of a ship and has a delicate pink hue that reflects the stunning Okinawan sunsets, sits at the entrance to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage-listed Yambaru National Park (やんばる国立公園). 

View of Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa with greenery landscape and ocean view

Atop a hill overlooking the East China Sea, Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa has recently completed renovation work on all its 288 rooms, which all have sea views and come replete with everything you expect from a leading hotel. Spacious rooms, Simmonds mattresses, charging points next to the bed (a small but crucial point that many Japanese hotels still overlook), a deep Japanese bath, rainforest shower, balcony, sofa, fridge and several other mod cons. 

spacious hotel room with two beds and an ocean view in Okinawa, Japan

Although, as you know, hotels cannot and should never solely be judged on their amenities and rooms. These are major components, of course, but there are so many other constituents that can make or break your stay at a resort. The Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa, then, really pulls out all the stops when it comes to comfort and elevates this location to new levels in terms of hospitality. 

A Little Bit of This and That

The sumptuous and atmospheric lobby area is decorated with plants endemic to Yambaru and reflects the hotel’s proximity to the forest. Also located in the lobby area is the idyllic Club Lounge, which acts as a secret getaway for visitors looking for snacks, light meals and an array of drinks. Nearby the Club Lounge, guests can fill up on amenities in the free amenities base named AKIN KRIN. In Okinawan, akin krin means ”this and that,” a savvy and insightful strategy for allowing guests to stock up on what they need for their stay, including board games and card games, which can be rented from the base.  

The hotel also has an indoor pool, the Garden Pool with stunning views of the nearby hillside, a sauna, restaurant, spa and gym, perfect for solo travelers, couples and families. 

Adventure Time with Exciting Yambaru Tours

You can enjoy various types of excursions from the hotel, from SUP tours to relaxing beach activities and invigorating forest walking tours. I opted for the buggy ride which is organized by Doki Doki Yambarunture Tours. Before embarking on the ride, we changed into suitable attire for riding through a muddy forest, and we were given a quick demonstration on how to operate the buggies. You don’t need a license to ride the buggies, although the terrain can be quite challenging. It’s an ideal activity for families and younger participants, and it’s a heap of fun as you climb and descend muddy backwaters on your buggy while hearing the laughs and shrieks from your fellow riders. I would highly recommend this experience.

woman in red dress on edge of big pool in the evening among candlelight, with blue cloud backdrop.

After the buggy ride, participants need much-needed sustenance. And for this, look no further than Yoshiko, an Okinawan noodle joint located directly across the street from Doki Doki Yambarunture tours. I choose the soki soba, an Okinawan specialty of thick soba noodles, a hearty broth, and delicious and tender short ribs. Coming in at about 800 yen or 5 USD, it’s an absolute steal.

How to Get to the Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa

The hotel is approximately two hours by limousine bus from Naha Airport or 70 minutes by car. 

Reflections on my Stay in Okinawa

So, what did I take away from my stay at Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa? Well, it’s a beautiful setting with everything you need for a relaxing break from the city. The staff are kind and attentive and the facilities and amenities really are second to none. However, Okinawa offers something else. It’s hard to pinpoint, but it’s a very different world from mainland Japan. A different atmosphere, a slower life with balmy weather and different terrain. Almost dream-like in its presentation, it allows you to drift, submerge and become someone else, even if it’s only temporary. 

Disclosure: This was a gifted experience.

Photos courtesy of Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa.

Paul McInnes

Paul McInnes

I'm the editor in chief of Voyapon. I previously worked as an editor and writer for publications including The Japan Times, Tokyo Weekender, Monocle, Metropolis, and Tokyo Art Beat.

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