Super Aesthetic Adventures in Okinawa and Miyako

Okinawa in a bottle as it appears in Non Non Biyori.

With the end of sakura season in central Japan, it’s time to start thinking about plans for one of the craziest holidays of the year—Golden Week. Though I’ve taken a number of 3 day trips this year, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve created a multi-day itinerary. In fact, the last time I’ve an extended trip was in January 2020 to Taiwan. I’ve decided that this month I’m going to beat the Golden Week rush and take a 5 day trip to Okinawa focusing on Naha and Miyakojima since a number of attractions have been added since my last trip in 2016.

The dates I have chosen are 4/23 – 4/27 which should give me enough time to see everything I want. My planned itinerary (so far) is listed below:

Tokyo → Naha → Miyako → Naha ↺ Tokyo

My itinerary in 2016 was similar but replaced Miyako with Ishigaki. Both islands are worth seeing from what I’ve heard and while my last trip was focused on sightseeing, this trip is more focused on photography. There will be plenty of relaxation and adventure as well of course!

Though Japan is currently between emergency states and still not open for international travel, a large number of companies are forced to close during this holiday and inevitably people will be traveling domestically. Roundtrip flights to Okinawa from Tokyo usually cost between 16000 – 23000 yen depending on which airline you choose, but I found a reasonably priced fight with Jetstar for the average of 20000 yen and purchased it because I want to arrive there early in the morning. Even if certain places have curfews or restrictions, I will make the most of what I can enjoy.

Day 1: Relaxing at Naha’s Sanrio Resort

I will be departing from Narita Airport at 8:10am and arriving to Naha Airport at 11:05am.

On my first trip to Okinawa in 2016, I mostly stayed in budget hostels so I could use my money for bus tours to see the highlights of the main island. This time since I have more money saved up and wanted to try nicer facilities, I fortunately found the perfect place to spend my first night in Naha. When Hotel Okinawa with Sanrio Characters opened just a few years ago, it was spread all over my timeline and I knew that I was destined to stay here eventually. This hotel has rooms with 66 individual designs of Sanrio so picking my favorite series was difficult, but I decided on the My Melody themed double just because I love the bright pink colors in the artwork. These rooms cost roughly 11000 yen a night and have a nice location so I think the experience will be worth it! You can definitely find slightly cheaper facilities around Naha, but they won’t be as aesthetic as this. Expect a lot of photos of this place from me!

After I get checked in, I plan on checking out Ti-da Beach Parlor for some high tier smoothies then checking out the surrounding beaches. I will also walk down the main street for old times’ sake and see if Epica is still going all night. I intend for this day to be chill but I’m open to whatever comes my way!

Day 2: Dessert Museum at Stem Resort

Another amazing attraction that got added to Naha after my first trip was the Stem Resort theme park with an extremely photogenic dessert museum. Like Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo that I just visited last month, the museum is very cute and has a number of photo opportunities. Though I am mostly coming here for the sake of photography, I am looking forward to enjoying the inflatables and dinosaur museum if I have time afterwards. Also the rooftop bar doesn’t sound like a bad idea either. The admission fee seems to vary from 1800 – 3000 yen depending on what attractions you want to see so that is actually quite cheap to enjoy a resort of this caliber.

After I finish shooting here, I plan on heading back to my hotel at Hotel Aqua City and enjoying some fine wine. This resort is cheaper than the Sanrio one and has an amazing pool. I will need to rest up because the next day I am flying to Miyako!

Day 3: Getting Acquainted with Miyako Island

I will depart from Naha Airport at 9:40am and arrive at Miyako Airport at 10:30am. A one way flight costs approximately 8000 yen but is overall worth it. Ishigaki (which I previously visited) and Miyako are the most popular islands to visit aside from the main one so I’m looking forward to comparing my experiences of the two.

On my first day I will mostly be getting acquainted with the island and taking it easy, but the places I want to see the most are Miyako Shrine, Kamamamine Park, and bike to Ibaru Island which is extremely rural but has some scenic points. There are a few bars and restaurants I have in mind too if they’re open. I’ve heard Miyako is much smaller than Ishigaki and has less things to do, but the beach game is still strong and I want to go somewhere that I’ve never been before. Regardless I am looking forward to getting away from the city and getting to know this little beach town!

I chose to stay at Hotel Locus for 2 nights just because it is located right on the beach and also has a beautiful pool. It is around the same price as the Aqua City Hotel in Naha so it’s affordable. I plan on renting a bike and also using taxis if needed to get around but overall most of the things I want to see are near my accommodation so it should be convenient.

Day 4: Snorkeling with Turtles & Cave Exploration

Since I still haven’t been able to travel to the Philippines and snorkel with turtles in Cebu like I originally planned last year, I decided to try it in Miyako! I found a good tour on Klook that includes the turtle experience with the exploration of a pumpkin-shaped limestone cave and figured that was right up my alley so I immediately booked it. I am beyond stoked to try underwater photography with equipment I bought last year for my GoPro but haven’t been able to use yet! This tour will take me around the Kerama Islands and has a lot of activity so it seems like a great deal. There are also kayaking and boat tours available, but I have already done that stuff in other countries already and am going for the more unique experiences. This tour lasts for around 6 hours so I know I will be exhausted by the end of the day, but it will be a blast!

Day 5: Final Day of Enjoying the Beach & Heading Home

On my final day I just want to go swimming at Sunayama Beach and explore any last place that I haven’t had time to see yet. I have to catch two planes to get back to Tokyo, but I will leave Miyako at 4pm and reach Tokyo at 10pm. I have a layover at Naha Airport so I can do souvenir shopping and photo editing while I wait. Though it seems like a long while, I am sure the time will go fast. Overall I love tropical weather so just the warm atmosphere is enough to make me happy. It’s been almost a year since I last had a beach vacation in Miyazaki, so I am more than ready for this trip! It’s going to be another one for the books. Please look forward to my upcoming Okinawa article series!

Escaping to Thailand for Golden Week

I had a very fulfilling trip to Thailand over NYE traveling to Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Samui, and Chiang Mai, but unfortunately due to a severe storm my pink dolphin and James Bond Island trips were cancelled.  Not wanting to accept defeat, I immediately scheduled my next trip there over Golden Week.  This year Golden Week lasts a consecutive 10 days, so both overseas airline tickets and domestic travel costs within Japan are heavily inflated, being even more expensive than the average New Year’s prices.  Even though it was quite costly, I bit the bullet and booked my flight.  This time I am determined to do what I couldn’t do last time, and more!

My planned itinerary (so far) is listed below:

Narita Airport (international flight is around 2pm on the 26th) → Bangkok → Phuket → Phi Phi Islands → Koh Lanta (and surrounding islands) → Phuket → James Bond Island →  Phuket → Koh Samui → Koh Tao → Koh Phangan (for Blackmoon Culture party) → Krabi → Bangkok ↺ Tokyo (on January 7th).

April 26th: Phuket

I will be leaving Tokyo a day before Golden Week starts and arriving in Phuket at 10:00pm.  This time is not ideal, but was the cheapest flight I could find.  I booked this flight in February, and already most of the discount airlines leaving from Japan were fully booked.  This time I am staying at a guesthouse in southeast Phuket near Rassada Pier since I will be sailing a lot.  I do not have many plans besides maybe getting some mango sticky rice because tomorrow I will be getting up early for a sightseeing adventure!

April 27th: Phi Phi Islands

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Image from https://www.trazy.com/

The Phi Phi Islands are a popular destination among many Thailand travelers due to their beautiful beaches and nature, and are a destination I feel I most definitely see.  This was a tour that I was supposed to go on last trip, but it got cancelled due to the weather.  I booked this tour through a private company with good reviews called Phuket Sail Tour and will be traveling around via speedboat.  The advantage to this is hopefully I will avoid the crowds, as the people who run this tour are Thailand natives that manage their own company.  I look forward to exploring Viking Cave, swimming in Maya Bay, and seeing the monkeys on Monkey Beach (even though I recently saw some in Hakodate).

April 28th: Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta is a beautiful island in Krabi with rich emerald waters and scenic beach huts. My friend who teaches English in Thailand posted pictures of her vacation there, and I’ve been longing to go ever since!  I had a great stay in Koh Samui in my rainbow beach hut in January, but I am looking to stay somewhere more remote.  I will be taking a ferry from Rassada Pier in Phuket which I booked through 12go, and arriving there early in the morning.

From there, I plan on exercising a rescue dog on the beach from Lanta Animal Welfare to support their foundation and also meet a cute animal.  If I have time, I want to venture to Mu Ko Lanta National Park to do some sightseeing, and then return to Lanta Secret Beach near my accommodation, Pinky Bungalow Resort.  Pinky Bungalow!  What a name!

April 29th: Koh Lanta Island Tour

On my 2nd day in Koh Lanta, I will be snorkeling at Koh Ngai, seeing the glistening Emerald Cave at Koh Mook, swimming and sunbathing at Koh Kradan, and seeing tropical fish at Koh Chuck!  That sure is a lot of “Kohs” (which means “island”)!

I booked my tour through Easy Day Thailand.  I do not know a lot about them, but the tours in Koh Lanta are limited so I hope to make the most out of my situation no matter how it goes (it should go well).

April 30th: James Bond Island Sunset Tour

I will be taking the first ferry back to Phuket from Koh Lanta, then having Phuket Sail Tours (which I booked for Phi Phi too) pick me up at Rassada Pier.  This was another tour I was supposed to do last time, and I have high expectations for it!  If you look through most trip itineraries for this island, you will see that most boats leave early in the morning to go here.  The tour that I booked specifically says it leaves in the afternoon to avoid crowds, and I am looking forward to getting that picture perfect Instagram-worthy sunset photo!

If I’m going to be a tourist, I’m doing it right!

May 1st: Tango Beach Resort at Koh Samui

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Image from http://tangosamui.com/

I definitely splurged a bit here, but the price is still reasonable at $50 per night.  I will be staying at Tango Beach Resort on Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui!  This is the party beach and I plan on spending the entire day there.  Last time I stayed at the budget New Hut Bungalows which were actually very nice and cost approximately $10 per night, but this time I am looking for more luxury!  I am hoping the rain holds off on this day, or else I will just focus on writing.

May 2nd: Koh Tao Island Tour

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Image from lillagreen.at

Koh Tao is one place I haven’t been where everyone tells me I need to go!  I debated about staying overnight here, but again I prefer the accommodations and convenience of staying in Samui since you can reach other places easier.  That is why I opted to take the one day speedboat tour here so I could see all of the island’s main points.

I am most interested in climbing to the famous viewpoint in Koh Nangyuan and taking pictures of the beautiful waters crashing below.  I am also looking forward to snorkeling in Mango Bay!  I will be snorkeling a lot during this trip, so I hope I don’t get tired of it!

May 3rd: Pink Dolphin Tour + Blackmoon Culture Party

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Image Credit: International Packages (I will hopefully have my own original images soon)!

This is the main reason I’m going back to Thailand.  I’ve never told anyone this, but I think about meeting these pink dolphins almost every day. I was supposed to see them, but the great storm of Phuket last month cancelled my trip.  This time however, the weather should hopefully be on my side.  Or else I am postponing other things on this trip until I see them!

This will be an insane day, because immediately after the tour I am having my bus drop me off at Na Thon Koh Pier where I will be sailing to Koh Phangan for the Blackmoon Culture Party!  I had a very memorable time at the Fullmoon Party I went to during the 2019 Countdown.  I made friends from all over the world, and the kind folks at Wild & Wandering Backpackers Hostel let me store my luggage there for a great price.  I definitely plan on paying them a visit this time around!

Unlike some articles on the internet say, these parties are safe and I did not witness any drug-taking there.  The fire rope definitely exists, and partying with hundreds of people on the beach is a crazy experience, but ]the majority of people there were kind and respectful.  I’d say this is definitely a beach worth partying on!

After the party ends, I will be taking the first ferry back to Krabi at 7am!

May 4th-5th: Krabi

During my last two days in Thailand, I am meeting up with my old friend from college in Krabi!  I did not plan much other then drinking on the beach with her and hiking to the Tiger Cave Temple!  I feel like there is no better way to end my trip then spending it this way and reflecting on my trip over gorgeous views and farewell drinks on the beach.  I am super excited to write all about my experiences (I still have many to write about from the last trip)!

I will be flying back to Tokyo at 5:30am, which again is not ideal, but is the cheapest price I could find for Golden Week.  I will likely be sunburnt and exhausted when I get back, but the relaxing moments I have in between will make it worth it!  I am excited for yet another exciting trip in Thailand!