Northern Okinawa is beautiful. Dense jungle, rolling mountains, sandy-white beaches, and some of the prettiest towns and villages you’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing. It’s also home to more than a few quirky-cute tourist attractions. One such place is Nago Pineapple Park. It does exactly what it says on the tin, but read on to discover why it’s worth at least a sliver of your time.
Where is it?
A short drive from the centre of Nago, along highway 84. (See the map at the end of this article.) Nago is a large city in the North of the island. It’s fairly well known; a big tourist hub with a plethora of visitor-friendly attractions.
With daily opening times of 9.00am-6.00pm, different on national holidays, there’s plenty of time to visit. It’s open year round, making it an ideal rainy day (there’s plenty of them here!) activity, as most of it is inside. Admission is reasonable; 600 yen per adult, 300 yen per child (elementary school age; pre-school age are free). All fees include a pineapple cart ride too. There’s discounts available for large groups. Parking allows for 100 cars and 20 coaches. There are several sections within the park, including: the cart ride, tropical garden, seashell display, gift shop, and restaurant. It’s a good 3-4 hours worth of activity. If you aren’t staying in the North, however, I recommend adding it to other activities. It’s fun, really fun. If you have kids they’ll love it, but it isn’t quite a full day's worth. Why not take a drive along the coast as well and enjoy one of the many beautiful beaches?
What’s it like to visit?
Enjoyable! Like a lot of things in Japan, it’s had the kawaii makeover. Kawaii is a measure of cute, and Nago Pineapple Park has it in spades. Bright colours, adorable characters, and chirpy staff all add to its appeal. When you first drive up, you’ll see the entrance. It’s quite distinctive! Two large pineapple characters are on hand to meet and greet, you can even stand on a platform and take photos with them. Past this, you’ll see a couple of food vendors, and the ticket sales window. Pay the fee (if you can tear yourself away from the tempting-looking ice cream), and head straight for the first attraction: the pineapple carts.
This is located to the right, there are signs pointing in the correct direction. Take the first of three photos with a stationery cart and some more pineapple characters (during holidays, this is often themed, for example, at Christmas), before meeting a member of staff to join the ride. The carts are on little tracks, fully automated, so you (sadly) can’t drive them. There are four language options available to you: Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English. The staff usually know to set it to English, but of course you can request any language. There’s a built in speaker system that tells you all about the park and it’s history, it’s pretty interesting, though I did find it hard to hear what was being said at times. The ride is pretty smooth, and the carts are pineapple shaped, and comfy! Settle in and prepare to be amazed. The first part winds through a beautiful tropical garden. Keep your eyes peeled for mini pineapple characters spread throughout this part. If you have kids, this may be a great spotting game to play (or adults, I played it with my husband!).
Prepare for the second of three photos; you get lots of warning with signs, before heading out into the actual growing fields. Ever wondered how pineapples grew? It may shock you to discover that they grow out of bushes! I know! The growing fields have rows and rows of pineapples in them, they start off teeny tiny! I was greatly enraptured by the size of them, they were small enough to fit in my hand! All too soon it’s time to exit, but before this, cheese it up for the last photo. To exit, you have to run a souvenir gauntlet. You are able to buy copies of the photos from your ride in various forms. I did find these a little pricey, but since it’s probably something you’ll only do once (unless you really love pineapples), you might as well buy one. We did. It depicts the two of us in a pineapple shaped cart grinning like school kids. Beautiful.
Next, take a little breather from all that pineapple goodness to marvel at something you probably didn’t expect to see at a park dedicated to fruit: shells. They actually have a rather vast shell collection, all neatly arranged in cabinets. There are some beautiful specimens in there, one particular favourite was the perfect horseshoe crab. Horseshoe crabs are an ancient creature virtually unchanged from their prehistoric ancestors. Fascinating. Fed up of shells? Don’t worry, you’re about to be inundated with more pineapples! Yay! There’s a restaurant if you’re peckish, if not, carry on through a large hall. On the left is a display of empty wine bottles. That’ll make sense soon. On the right is an area behind glass used to process pineapples into other useful products, such as jam (conserve). Again, more on this soon.
At the end of this corridor is the start of the huge gift shop. First up, try some pineapple wine. That’s right. Pineapple. Wine. Hello! The drinking age in Japan is 20, so to enjoy you must be over this age and not the designated driver. (Japan has one of the strictest drink drive limits in the world, with a couple of samples of pineapple wine easily putting you over this. Not worth the risk.) There are so many varieties! I was designated driver the day I visited, however my husband informs me that it was great. You can sample several varieties, with staff on hand to give excellent product knowledge and offer advice on the best ones to choose.
Once you’ve had your fill of wine, the next part is food and drinks. Again, you can sample some of what’s on offer; cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolates, and juices. It’s incredible what you can do with a pineapple! I loved the chocolate and cakes, but there were also conserves, curry mixes, and cooking ingredients. It’s pretty impressive.
Following on from food and drinks, is beauty! Beauty!! Hand lotions, face masks, hair treatments, it goes on. There was a great range here, the charcoal products specifically looked really interesting. Linking this section to the general gift store is a small produce market. Grab meats, vegetables, spices, fruits, and actual pineapples. Their whole pineapples are huge! Get one the size of a human head for only 800 yen.
Pineapple beauty products
This final section is dedicated to pineapple-themed gifts. Fashion, toys, games, gifts, and Okinawa-themed goodies can all be found here. There’s also a huge sake display. You can’t sample it, but you can choose a variety with staff help to take home and enjoy. I liked the plush toy section. Grab a cuddly pineapple, or a manta ray, or any manner of weird and wonderful things. We came away with a mini pineapple of our own, that you can “grow” at home. Not edible, just decorative! Best 600 yen I’ve spent, and he now keeps watch over the house from our front garden. (I may or may not have drawn a face on his pot...) Past the bank of registers is the exit. There’s a last ditch attempt to ply you with gifts and food (they tempted us with cake, it worked) then you’re back into the outside world.
This is the end of your pineapple experience! Phew! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Meander back down to the car (grab an ice cream, go on, you’ve earned it!) and enjoy the rest of your day in Okinawa’s beautiful North!
Author's pet pineapple: Pedro!
Want more? Check out their website here: http://www.nagopineapplepark.com/english/info/index.html