Enjoy Rest and Relaxation in Southern Okinawa
Refresh both body and spirit with a relaxing getaway on the southern side of Okinawa’s main island
Okinawa’s warm subtropical climate and clear, azure waters have made the islands a popular marine sports destination. Still, Okinawa can also provide relaxation and tranquility for the body and soul.
Although beaches and palm trees might spring to mind, Okinawa also has 19 hot spring onsen facilities (as of March 2020). The majority are in the southern part of the main island. Many are within a stone’s throw of Naha Airport, which means you can enjoy convenient rest and relaxation.
About a 40-minute drive south from the airport, Apeman Spa Sashiki Hot Spring is on a hill in Nanjo, and offers sweeping views of Nakagusuku Bay. The onsen’s waters come from depths of up to 2119 meters below the surface, passing through layers of rock formed up to 54 million years ago. The spa was named Apeman because the water emerges from layers of rock formed when primitive, ape-like primates such as Ardipithecus ramidus roamed the area.
The biggest difference between the hot springs in Okinawa and mainland Japan is the attributes of the water. Okinawa’s springs have a high salinity and iron compounds that give the water a reddish-brown color. These water elements are said to help with cuts, burns, chronic diseases, skin diseases, frailty in children, and more. Saltwater on the skin can also reduce the evaporation of sweat for a moisturizing effect.
Furthermore, compounds in the water which contain elements such as iron, iodine, calcium, metasilicic acid, and nutritive salts are believed to be related to beautiful skin and an increase in bone density. The spring waters also have properties completely different from regular seawater, and are purportedly good for reducing fatigue and improving health.
It is well known that warm waters are effective for health and relaxation. When soaking in a hot spring bath, your body temperature rises, and capillaries near the skin dilate, improving blood flow. In turn, that is believed to raise metabolism and speed recovery from fatigue, while also relieving stiffness and pain. The end result is a renewed sense of tranquility and calm. Soaking in an onsen is the perfect way to achieve relaxation and renewal.
The panoramic views from the onsen baths enhance its soothing effects. With its hilltop location, Apeman Spa provides its guests with expansive views of Nakagusuku Bay and the Katsuren Peninsula. They can enjoy gazing at the sparkling blue ocean and lush green vegetation during the day, or view the twinkling stars and city lights at night.
Before or after a visit to one of the many cultural sights in southern Okinawa, stop by at the Apeman Spa to refresh and relax. The Apeman Spa is within the facility of the Wellness Resort Okinawa Vacation Center Yuinchi Hotel Nanjo. The facility can also arrange accommodation and massages at the spa resort.
In local legends, the southern tip of Okinawa, known as Nanjo, is where the Ryukyu Islands were created. In Nanjo, you will find Sefa Utaki, an ancient shrine that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is also Kudaka Island, known as the “Island of the Gods,” said to be the first island created by the Ryukyu god Amamikiyo. Cape Chinen, located a short drive from Sefa Utaki, looks out toward Kudaka Island, and is one of the most popular spots in Okinawa to view the sunrise. There, just before dawn, locals and visitors will gather to witness the sun rising.
Bathe in the light of the morning sun and gently wake your body with sunrise yoga. Rui Tamaki from Yoga Design Okinawa leads the program. As the sun rises over the Pacific Ocean, the sky transitions from ultramarine to orange, and the water surface sparkles. The dawn chorus of the birds begins as the trees rustle in the sea breeze. Take a moment and embrace the warmth of the sun as you lie on the grass. Feel your muscles and body awaken as you slowly stretch and focus your breathing. Take in the fresh morning air, the fragrance of the sea breeze, the warmth of the sun as you close your eyes, the feel of the green grass, and the wind against your skin—experience nature with all five senses. Take the time to let your body relax and awaken in paradise.
Gaze out over a lush garden towards the Pacific Ocean as you sip on a hibiscus infusion, at Yama no Chaya Rakusui, a hillside teahouse with holiday villas and a relaxation salon. The relaxation salon, Amamikiyo, is set within a beautiful garden. There, you can enjoy a foot bath with floating flowers and fruits such as shell ginger leaves, Japanese mugwort, and daisies collected from the garden, or a massage or other treatment. Time passes slowly as you listen to the chirps of wild birds and cicadas, as dappled light finds its way between the leaves. Warmed cowrie shells and locally produced shell ginger oils are used to loosen the mind and body.
The warmth of the therapist’s hands relaxes any tension in the body, while the natural setting of Amamikiyo soothes the mind and soul. The quiet forest slows the beating of your heart and calms the five senses. After a treatment, stroll the garden from where you can take in views of the ocean. Treat yourself to a well-deserved moment of refreshment and relaxation in southern Okinawa.
Last updated 2021/12/20
Text by Kei Itaya
Magazine editor, writer, newspaper journalist in Tokyo and NYC for more than 15 years. Return to her native place Okinawa in 2019.