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Top Rated Attractions in Okinawa

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Shurijo Castle Park

As the Ryuku nation's palace, Shurijo Castle was the economic, religious and administrative epicenter of the chain of islands now known as Okinawa. Once bound to pay tribute to China and Japan while also doing trade with Southeast Asia, the influences of all these cultures can be seen in the architecture, decor, and most of all the blazingly red walls of the castle. Since being built in the 1400s, Shurijo has served as a royal residence, a Japanese military base, and as a school. It is the only Okinawan castle to be completely restored to its 18th Century state after being bombed during World War II, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site easily accessed by monorail or bus. Traditional Ryukyuan dances are performed in the main courtyard three times daily. See the website for more details.

Busena Marine Park

At the Busena Marine Park on the southern outskirts of Nago City, tourists and locals alike can go underwater to explore the coral that thrives in the ocean, or board a glass-bottom boat to admire what lies beneath. The observatory looks like a tube perched off the coast of the island, and takes visitors down to the ocean floor for a panoramic view of Okinawa's marine life. Glass-bottom boats that go further out are on the beach.

Bios on the Hill

In Ishikawa near Uruma, visitors can walk through the fern-filled park, kayak, ride in a water buffalo cart, or go on a 25-minute jungle cruise, though tickets for the rides are not included in the entrance fee. The beautiful wild orchids growing in the park and the adjacent Bios on the Hill Garden Center, the largest orchid greenhouse in Japan, provide a perfect backdrop for a romantic outing as well. Wheelchairs and strollers can be rented at the front desk.

Ryukyu Mura

Take a peek at life as it would have been in Okinawa's celebrated past. The erstwhile kingdom of Ryukyu has intrigued many and this facility gives a fantastic chance to see what it was like. Formed in order to protect Okinawa's ethnic cultural heritage, Ryukyu Mura is a living village that exemplifies the history and traditions of ancient Okinawa. Visitors to the village have a lot on their hands from exploring the sterling structures and watching artisans at work, to partaking in the various festivals and events celebrated here.

Southeast Botanical Gardens & Okinawa Enchanted Forest

Perfect for a relaxing family outing, adults can walk around the gardens admiring the view while kids make crafts like kaleidoscopes and painted figurines to take home as a keepsake. The park as its own currency called the "slow," a product of the ivory-nut palm tree. 500 slows are given to adults upon entry, and more can be purchased at the rate of 1 slow per yen. Slows can be used to buy goods and food in the park.

Okinawa World

Cultural Kingdom, the Gyokusendo Caves and Habu Park comprise Okinawa World, where people can learn about traditional Ryukyuan arts and crafts in the reconstructed Ryukyu village, watch snakes slither in Habu Park, and then take a five-kilometer (3-mile) walk under the massive stalactites in Gyokusendo Caves, the largest cave in Okinawa. Visitors can choose to only enter specific exhibits for a lower ticket price. The park closes half an hour earlier from November to March.

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