We wanted to do one last vacation this year but had a smaller budget to do it. I started researching and found some great deals for Okinawa. We thought about an October trip but found that if we messed with dates a bit, we could save about $250 on airfare and $100 on hotels. The first week of November is technically off season.
We flew Jeju Air because it was the cheapest flight with a checked bag. It is a budget airline so the weight limit for checked bags is 15kg and your carry on weight limit is 10 kg. The customer service was great. They let us gate check the stroller. The leg room is not great. Clarissa and I were fine, but Tim was most comfortable by the window. His knees only had an inch or two from the seat in front of him. I think a tall person would have a problem. Also, you can ask for water but all other food and drinks on the flight, you need to pay for. You can bring your own food and drink though.
We originally booked a hotel in the middle of the island with an airport shuttle. When I went to confirm pick up I realized that if customs took a while we would miss said shuttle and have to wait 4 hours for the next one. Customs in Naha was super easy (less than 30 minutes from landing until we were ready to leave the airport) and we would have had time to spare to make our shuttle. But I wasn’t going to take that chance so we switched hotels to one in Central Naha that was $30 a night cheaper than the first.
Villa Izumizaki was a great place to stay. We were within 5 minutes walk of Asahibashi Station, Naha Bus Terminal, and Kokusai Street. It had a kitchenette with a sink, refrigerator, and microwave. There was a bathtub for Clarissa. The washer and dryer was wonderful! The beds were a little hard, but there was air conditioning, a balcony with a clothes line, and a couch in addition to the full size and twin bed.
I had read that public transportation wasn’t great on the island. But we didn’t want to mess with an international driver’s license or driving on the left side of the road when we didn’t know where anything was. Our hotel made it easy to access busses and monorail. The frustrating part about busses was the lack of updates. In Korea, many bus stops have a digital display where you can see what busses are coming soon and how far away they are. In Okinawa, there is a schedule that tells you what time each bus should arrive at the stop, but in our experience, busses can be 12 minutes late or 6 minutes early and you really have no way of knowing when the bus is coming exactly.
We tried a bus tour to get to a few locations on the same day. We knew we wanted to see Churumi Aquarium and Busena Underwater Observatory. It is hard to do both in the same day because they are both far from Naha and the same bus does not go to both so you have to go all the way to Naha to change busses. But we didn’t have enough time at either location to do everything we wanted to do. If I could do it over again, I would have gone on two separate days so that we could do everything we wanted to do.
Also, bring your bathing suit, even in the off season. Everything that I read said that November would require a wet suit to swim. The water was chilly, but would have been fine for swimming.
We brought yen for our trip because we wanted to stick to our budget. But most places took credit card. A few things only took yen though so you will want at least part of your budget in yen.
We were not impressed with the shopping at American Village, but the beach there was great.
Okinawa World was very commercial. Clarissa loved the Habu Museum (reptiles) and live show. I was finally able to wear a kimono. Clarissa and I both experienced our first cave. The Eisa Dance Show is more drums and folk lore than dancing. The traditional crafts village is really small and has a lot for sale.
Basically, we had some great family time so I am glad we went to Okinawa. But we don’t plan to live there or return on vacation.
If you would like to read about specific adventures on your trip, the links are included below: