For those of you who have heard of Okinawa, it conjures images of blue skies and pristine white sandy beaches. This is part of the story but depending on where one visits on the main island they may or may not find that dreamlike coastal oasis they had imagined prior to traveling. The middle of the island for example is made up by several cities or towns with the largest being Okinawa City and Ginowan City. Despite of stretching from the Sea inland, they are both very urbanized and as such wouldn't adhere to anyone's idea of a tropical paradise. They do have nice beaches,they just happen to be surrounded by ugly old buildings that need repainting and there are cars, lots of cars.
For some time Okinawa had been the destination of choice for people from mainland Japan who wanted to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and experience the feeling of being on a tropical island. The benefits of choosing Okinawa are obvious with the principal fact being the language, time zone and culture all being the same. No need to buy a new phrasebook or book an expensive and long haul flight. Leave Tokyo in the morning and you can be sipping cocktails by the beach in the afternoon.
The vast majority of visitors who have booked a short getaway by the beach will end up staying in one of the hotels located in Onna village. This is a fairly small and narrow area stretching about 26 kilometers between Nago to the north and the rural but large Yomitan village to the south. On leaving the airport most head straight up route 58, Okinawa's longest and most famous road. After the busy southern and central areas disappear in the rear view mirror, one passes through the relative tranquility of Yomitan before the beautiful turquoise waters appear on the left side of the road which can mean only one thing, you have entered Onna village.
The Renaissance Okinawa resort will be the first large hotel that comes into view as one heads north. This 4 star hotel has a fabulous beach and offers all types of outdoor summer activities. There is a dolphin pool next to the beach, sun loungers crowd the beach while the water is filled with families splashing around while further out windsurfers and banana boats race past. As with many hotels in Onna there are several brilliant restaurants. The lunch buffet at the Renaissance is top drawer and many people who are not staying at the hotel come at the weekend to sample the wonderful and varied cuisine on offer.
Once past the Renaissance one can't drive for too long without another resort hotel with a beautiful beach popping up into view. Next comes a number of more affordable but still beautiful hotels which include the Sun Marina, Moon Beach and the huge and popular Rizzan Sea Park Hotel. The Rizzan offers many facilities to keep the whole family entertained. There is a large indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a games centre with all sorts of slot machines and arcade games and numerous craft and design stalls where one can make traditional Shisa dogs or beautiful shell jewelry. My personal favorite is the spa which contains several hot baths reminiscent of the Onsens found in the mainland. The outside bath overlooking the beach is wonderful and very relaxing at night time when listening to the waves on the shore below. The Rizzan represents great value as dependent on season a family of four can rent a large room which an amazing view of the ocean, breakfast included all for between 10,000 and 13,000 Yen all in.
Sunrise in Renaissance Beach
Photo: aotaro on Flickr
Amongst these more budget orientated hotels is the relatively new Monterey hotel. Again a large hotel designed with a British colonial style in mind and of course with the beauty of the Okinawan ocean. Only four years old, this hotel's exterior and interior feels much fresher and cleaner than some it's slightly dated neighbors. However what never gets old is the stunning ocean and white sandy beaches and that is the common denominator that links all these great places together.
Onna really is fairly unique in Japan in that it offers many hotels of different styles and price ranges all of which don't really feel like Japan at all. If one was magically placed here without knowing what country they were in, one could easily be forgiven for thinking they were in Thailand or the Philippines or even maybe Hawaii. The staff are always friendly, the pace always slow, the food delicious and the views out of this world.
The last hotel at the end of the Onna stretch may technically be in Nago but it feels as if it's just an extension of Onna and this is the jewel in the crown, the Busena Terrace hotel. A whole piece could be written on the wonders of this hotel but let me state that it is just about perfect. This particular writer stayed here on his wedding night and I couldn't think of a more perfect place to be on a special occasion. Yes it costs, it costs a lot, but at the same time will provide everlasting memories of the incredible service, amazing views and the most delicious food. A once in a lifetime experience and as someone who has travelled extensively and stayed in many different hotels of all standards, none get close to the all round excellence of the Busena.
So next time you plan a trip to Okinawa and search beach hotels there is a very strong chance you may end up staying in this small stretch of coastline which offers so much, yet its name is relatively unknown. Well now you know the special place that Onna village holds within the tourism industry not just in Okinawa but also Japan.