Cherry blossom (sakura) in Okinawa prefecture is a legend. When people think of visiting Okinawa islands, the first picture that comes into their mind is picture-perfect Blue Ocean and white sandy beaches. Don’t you think so? If you are beach aficionado, seriously you will find Okinawa be your paradise. Besides, visiting its most beautiful beaches, you can go on a hike to see sakura that blooms between late January and mid February. You should always remember that Okinawa has what it takes to make your trip unforgettable.

Cherry trees on the slopes of Mount Yaedake, Okinawa. Photo Credit: Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Spring arrives earlier in Okinawa Prefecture. The time of spring arrival is a bit earlier than mainland Japan. Officially it remains there for three months: March, April, and May. Since sakura bloom in late January, let say spring there unofficially begins around that time of the year.

So if you are planning to see earliest cherry blossom in Japan, visit Okinawa, and stop searching for other destinations please. Booking your flight and hotels is easy, but planning a trip to Okinawa would be a daunting task for you if it’s going to be your very first time visit to Okinawa. To make your trip enjoyable and hassle free, I introduce a suggested itinerary that suits for your early spring trip to Okinawa.

Day 1: Naha City

Naha Airport in Okinawa. Photo Credit: Kozo Tada at Flickr.

There are number of daily flights operated by airline companies such as Japan Airlines, Peach, ANA, Jetstar, Skymark, and Vanilla Air between Haneda Airport/Narita Airport (Tokyo) and Naha Airport (Okinawa). One way flight time between these two airports requires at least 3 hours. You should consider yourself flying to Okinawa in the early morning flight as you will have enough time in Naha for the day to see some attractions then.

Naha, the capital city of Okinawa prefecture is often regarded as the gateway to explore Okinawa Islands. It’s also a perfect place when you are looking for some awesome day trips around.

Shuri Castle in Naha. Photo Credit: Connie at Flickr.

If you arrive in Naha before the check in (hotel) time, yet you can leave your luggage in the hotel you are going to stay overnight. The best area for staying overnights in Naha is in Kokusaidori (International Road). The road is bustling as it highlights many hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and stores.

Start your very first trip to Okinawa by visiting Shuri Castle, the palace of the Ryuku Kingdom. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shuri Castle is one of the must-see places in Naha. Every visitor to Okinawa aims to visit this awe-inspiring landmark. It is believed that the castle was built in the late 1300s.

The architectural design of the castle is exceptionally mind-blowing. The current buildings you see in the castle complex have been reconstructed as the main castle was destroyed several times by wars and fires in the past.

Sakura at Yogi Park in Naha city. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Next you head to Yogi Park. This is where the Naha Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated every year. You will only visit the park if you are informed that the festival is underway. Take a walk in the park and marvel at the pink sakura blossoms. Please note usually, sakura at Yogi park takes time to bloom than the rest of the hanami spots in Okinawa. Even though if you don’t see sakura in the park, there is nothing to be disappointed of as you have other places to admire pink cherry blossoms.

Your next activity is to pay a visit to The Tsuboya Pottery Museum, and then take a walk along the Tsuboya Odori Pottery Street. You will have to walk for 12-15 minutes to reach the museum From Yogi Park.

If you are looking for a perfect place to have your dinner, please feel free to visit Yunangi. This is one of the best restaurants in the area, which is famed for trying Okinawa’s authentic cuisine. Before you have your dinner, you may want to spend some times doing shopping out there.

Stay overnight at Hotel Abest Naha Kokusaidori.

Day 2: Nago City

Cherry Blossoms at Nago Central Park. Photo Credit: Jayel Aheram at Flickr.

A day trip to Nago Central Park/Nago Castle Park!

Nago host Okinawa’s most popular cherry blossom festival known as Nago Sakura Matsuri. Held in the Nago Central Park between late January and early February every year, Nago cherry blossom festival seems to me blessed with abundance of pink sakura.

You can spend all day long here if you want to, as there are plenty of things to do and see. Viewing sakura is an exciting outdoor activity when they are in full glory. Besides, the park also features impressive walking trails to walk along including observation decks from where the breathtaking views of the East China Sea and Nago city can be enjoyed. Please note the trails are hilly as the park itself located on the hills, so you better visit the park wearing a pair of comfortable shoes and avoid heels.

This is not a peak time to see sakura at Nago central park, but still looks pretty. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Beautiful grassy playground with different sorts of playing equipments are presented for children to play on with lots of excitement. That’s one of the reasons why the Nago Central Park is a hugely popular weekend destination for locals. And when hanami arrives, everything there look pretty gorgeous with a list of live events such as dancing, costume parades, and taiko drum performances. In addition, you can also experience the ruins of the Nago castle.

You can also spot many food vendors at the venue offering visitors various kinds of traditional Japanese street foods to try. Never miss trying some dishes from the vendors.

Busena Marine Park and beach. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Nago central park can be reached from Naha by bus and car. What are the nearest destinations you can visit alongside this renowned sakura spot? When sakura are in full glory in the park, I think it’s hard to leave it as everything looks so appealing and locals there actually get to this site to spend a full day.

Do you want to enjoy the day like them or would like to see more places around? If you want to add a place to explore, then it would be Busena Marine Park. Experience its underwater observatory and glass bottom boat to see beautiful coral reef and tropical fishes.

Do you want to enjoy Okinawa’s early spring weather? Please take a walk on the beach located near the Busena Marine Park. You will delighted for sure! In addition, if you have time and not yet tired of sightseeing, I would like you to explore the area of Cape Manzamo. Enjoy the stunning ocean views from there.

Okinawa Soba noddles. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

I highly suggest you to stay a night in Nago city. So, make your hotel reservation at All Friends – a very lovely place to stay an overnight.  Please note that a stay in Nago makes your trip easier as you will be visiting some other notable attractions of Motobu town and Nakijin village.

Have your dinner at Miyazato Soba as it is considered one of the best restaurants to taste Okinawa soba on the island.

Stay Overnight: Guesthouse All Friends.

Day 3 – Motobu and Nakijin

Mt. Yaedake in the spring. Photo Credit: Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Wake up early and head to Mount Yaedake. This is where the Motobu Yaedake Sakura Festival takes place between late January and early February every year. It is home to thousands of kanhizakura trees and at night during the festival period they are lit up amazingly with lanterns and lights.

Viewing cherry blossom during the daylight hours is much more interesting and awe-inspiring than experiencing them at night. So, if you climb Mt. Yae in the early morning to see pink sakura, your time there would be full of adventure.

Kuroshio Tank at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Next you make your way to one of Japan’s most prestigious aquariums. In fact, Motobu town is famous for its aquarium named Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium (part of The Ocean Expo Park). No matter what time of year you visit Okinawa, a visit to this aquarium is a must. It’s full of exploration and discovery, especially when you have special interest in marine wildlife. Even though when you don’t think of it that way, still the aquarium has got so much to offer you.

Pay a visit to the Kuroshio Tank and see giant tiger and bull sharks. Besides, a variety of different species of marine life can be found here. This page shows you the areas that you must explore during your visit to Churaumi Aquarium.

Your final destination for today would Nakijin Castle Ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is obviously a bucket-list destination where tons of pink sakura can be spotted. While it’s considered a historic site in Okinawa, I sometimes believe that Nakijin Castle Ruins is a perfect place to enjoy hanami.

Kouri Bridge in Okianwa. Photo Credit: Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Your last stop of the day would be Kouri Island Bridge. This place is a perfect spot to see the sunset in Okinawa. In addition, the surrounding ocean view from the bridge is absolutely mind-boggling and you would like to spend few hours there marveling at the beautiful surroundings!

That’s it! This is how you would spend your days in Okinawa when cherry blossoms are in full bloom at those notable hanami spots.

In conclusion, if you want to know more about cherry blossom in Okinawa, then read this article here. Please note that the destinations you have been presented here can be reached from Naha city as well. In that care, you don’t need to make a hotel reservation in Nago city.

This suggested itinerary is especially crafted for the ones who intend to explore the island by rental cars. Please note there is a Okinawa Bus Pass for travelers who don’t want to drive, in fact the bus pass lets you to have unlimited bus ride within a specific period of time. Indeed this is a great way to travel around the island. Read this Okinawa travel guide before you arrival at Naha Airport.

Thanks for reading.