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When most people think of Japan, they think of the big metropolitan areas: Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. And while they are all worthwhile cities to visit, Okinawa is perhaps Japan’s hidden gem. As the country’s southernmost prefecture, it basks in a subtropical climate that makes it a favorite getaway for Japan’s more northern neighbors. With amazing coral reefs, white-sand beaches and lush jungle ecosystems, a trip to Okinawa is ideal for adventures like snorkeling, scuba diving and hiking, as well as leisurely days on the beach.
- Salute the Sun.
Wake up and make your way down to The Lobby Lounge for a morning yoga session overlooking the ocean. It’s the perfect peaceful start to the day.
- Under the Sea.
With only one day to explore Okinawa, it may be difficult to fit a snorkeling expedition into your schedule, but if you still want to explore sea life, visit Busena Marine Park, an underwater observatory tower that offers 360-degree views of the surrounding coral reef. If you have time, take the 20-minute ride on its glass-bottom boat and peer down to watch tropical fish swim by.
- What Remains.
Until 1609, Okinawa was a separate country from Japan and called the Ryukyu Kingdom. The island has five castles, but the remains of Nakijin Castle are unique in that it’s set among lush forests. Take the short, scenic walk up to this UNESCO World Heritage site and learn more about its history at the culture center.
- Bridge to Paradise.
Drive over the 1.2-mile bridge — one of the longest open-road bridges in Japan — to Kouri Island for lunch at L Lota. Chef Akasaka serves up fresh, imaginative dishes with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, especially from the northern part of the island. With 180-degree panoramic views of the ocean, it’s a great place to relax, have a glass of wine and enjoy a scenic, delicious meal.
- To the Beach!
On the north side of the island, there’s Tokei Beach, whose shallow waters are so clear, you may be able to spot fish swimming right from the sand. Just east of Tokei is Tiinu Beach; walk down the path to the water and you’ll be greeted with the sight of its popular heart-shaped rock. Time it right and this spot is also the perfect place to watch the sunset.
- A Cooking Show.
Head back to The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa, where you can choose from one of its fine eateries for dinner. For a taste of local cuisine, try Gusuku and feast on Okinawan-style short ribs and noodle dishes. Or if you want a little entertainment while you dine, try KISE, where the teppanyaki chefs will cook your dinner right in front of you.
- Have a Nightcap.
Close out your day with a drink at The Bar at the hotel. Opt for the signature cocktail, the KISE Mojito: Awamori mixed with Cointreau, dark rum, brown sugar, fresh lime and mint leaves.