Five Natural Wonders of Okinawa
Okinawa is renowned as Japan's tropical paradise, with miles of unspoiled beaches, coastlines, and stunning remote islands. But the Kingdom of the Ryukyus is so much more than just postcard-perfect stretches of sand. There are all kinds of natural wonders waiting to be discovered, from underground caves, ancient stone forests that strangely resemble animals, waterfalls, and sacred sites. Read more to find out about the top five natural wonders of Okinawa
Descend deep underground to walk through a 300,000-year-old limestone cave that formed naturally upon a coral reef. Hundreds of thousands of illuminated stalactites and stalagmites create dramatic scenery, with areas such as 'The Bell of the Rising Dragon', the 'Blue Fountain', and the 'Ceiling of Spears'. After visiting the caves, stop off to have a coffee at the unique Cave Cafe at the Valley of Gangala, right next door.
When it comes to nature worship, it doesn't get more 'natural' than a sacred site built in an ancient forest, with absolutely no man-made structures. Worship areas were created in caves and built into the rocks. This power spot was managed by high priestesses, and even the Ryukyu King had to change into women's clothes to visit. Walk quietly through the dense forests and pass through two giant stones that have fallen upon each other to create a tunnel, and on the other side you can see Kudaka Jima, island of the gods.
The most northern tip of Okinawa’s main island, Cape Hedo reveals stunning scenery, towering limestone cliffs, and pristine corals in an emerald sea below. The cape has a footpath that visitors can walk, and on a good day you can see all the way to Kagoshima prefecture. It's a pretty long drive up to the north, so be sure to combine your trip with the next attraction on the list.
Dai Seki Rin Zan
Lizards, camels, cats, crocodiles and even aliens are just some of the animal-like structures found inside the Dai Seki Rin Zan National Park. The name, 大石林山, literally translates to Big Stone Woods Mountain, but this is not nearly a good enough description for a 200 million year old limestone forest carved away solely by the forces of rain. Three different trails reveal Ocean Views, Wonders of the Rocks, and a Subtropical Forest with giant gajumaru (banyan) trees, the biggest in Japan, where playful forest spirits called 'Kijimuna' live. Do all three paths to get the best experience.
Located in the wild, northern Kunigami region, Hiji Otaki is the highest waterfall in Okinawa. The path through a national park takes about 40 minutes, with beautiful virgin forests, rushing rivers, and a scenic suspension bridge. If you walk quietly you may see some of the unique wildlife which calls these forests homes, such as the elusive Yanbaru Kuina bird. Swimming is not allowed in the falls but it is certainly a natural sight to be enjoyed.