Central Okinawa Main Island
Island hop by car, encounter Ryukyu heritage, and discover the local produce of Uruma
A scenic drive around Uruma will take you over coastal shallows to the secluded beaches of the Yokatsu Islands. Discover the history and ancient fortifications of Katsuren-jo Castle on the Katsuren Peninsula before taking a detour to some of Uruma’s lesser-known attractions. Take a jungle cruise or venture into subterranean caverns before eating your fill of top-quality local fare.
- Hop between islands on a scenic drive along the “Kaichu-doro Drive”
- Explore Ryukyu-era history at the Katsuren-jo Site
- Buy fresh, local food at Urumarché, a farmers’ market and food court
Uruma encompasses the central eastern coast of Okinawa’s main island, the Katsuren Peninsula, and the Yokatsu Islands. Uruma formed from a collection of farm villages, and agriculture is still the main industry in the area.
Scenic drives and island snapshots
Island hopping around the Yokatsu Islands could not be easier. Take a scenic drive along the 5-kilometer-long Kaichu-doro Drive, a sea road extending out over turquoise-blue waters from the Katsuren Peninsula to the islands of Henza, Hamahiga, Miyagi, and Ikei. Stop off as you journey along the Kaichu-doro Drive to visit the “Marine History of Museum” and learn about the area’s seafaring heritage, sample seafood and other tasty Okinawan treats, or take in the views.
Henza is the first of the islands you reach from the peninsula. The small island is home to a quaint fishing port. From here, visitors can drive south to Hamahiga Island to visit the peaceful Shirumichu Shrine. Or continue north, past Miyagi Island to Ikei Island, which boasts some of the best beaches in the area.
The remaining Yokatsu Islands are Yabuchi, Ukibara, Minamiukibara and Tsuken islands. Yabuchi Island is close to the mainland and connected by a bridge, while uninhabited Ukibara and Minamiukibara Island are popular stop-offs for snorkeling boat tours. Tsuken Island is famed for the quality of its carrots thanks to the island’s mineral-rich soil. Tsuken Island can be reached in just 15 minutes by high-speed boat.
A Ryukyuan stronghold
The remnants of the impressive ramparts of Katsuren-jo Castle sit atop an isolated steep hill on the Katsuren Peninsula. The former castle was once an important strategic fortress for Amawari, a peasant-turned-lord who held out against the king of the Ryukyu Kingdom (1429–1879) for decades, before falling foul of his own expansionist ambitions. Gazing out over the unobstructed 360-degree view of the city and sea from the castle site, you can appreciate how formidable the castle must have been.
Bios no Oka is a subtropical forest area with a variety of attractions. It is a veritable botanical garden, filled with orchids and other plants native to Okinawa. Jump aboard a jungle cruise boat to learn about the area’s flora and fauna.
Cave Okinawa, in the north of Uruma, is the largest limestone cave complex in central Okinawa. Guide yourself along the elevated walkways through colorfully illuminated and centuries-old stalactite formations.
When hungry, call in at Urumarche, a one-stop-shop for local Uruma produce. Buy fresh seafood, meat, vegetables, and flowers from the stalls, or head to one of the restaurants in the food court to enjoy a meal made from the farm-fresh produce for sale.
Where to stay
There is a good range of hotels and guesthouses in the area to suit different budgets. The options on the Yokatsu Islands are generally more expensive resort-style hotels and vacation rentals (especially on the coastline). Some areas around the ports also have guesthouse options.
Getting to Uruma
Uruma is accessible by car and bus. Rental cars can be arranged at Naha Airport, and the journey can take around 45 minutes. A bus from Naha Airport to Uruma takes around two hours.