Okinawa’s laidback beach atmosphere perfectly lends itself to café culture, and there’s no shortage of cute coffee shops and seaside eateries to chill out in on the island. Here are eight of the best.
Okinawa is Japan’s southernmost prefecture, a subtropical island paradise of sun, sand and surf. Its culture is distinct from that of mainland Japan thanks to its history as the independent Ryukyu Kingdom. You can see influence from China and other Asian countries across the islands, as well as America due to the presence of US military bases post WWII.
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This unique heritage extends to Okinawa’s food and drink scene, and the use of locally grown, seasonal ingredients is really popular. Add in the year-round warm weather, gorgeous beaches and ocean views, and you’ve got everything you need for a thriving café culture that’s a joy to explore. Here are Culture Trip’s top recommendations for cafés to visit on the main Okinawa island.
Located on the Sunabe seawall on the west coast of Okinawa island, Transit Café boasts a stunning view out over the East China Sea from its terrace. There’s both a lunch and dinner menu, as well as homemade cakes and desserts, but the drinks are what makes Transit really shine. It has a huge number of cocktails – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – to choose from, as well as fresh smoothies, juices, soft drinks, tea and coffee. They are all perfect for sipping on as you relax and watch the sun setting over the water. Prices are reasonable but the café is popular, so reservations are recommended.
A visit to a Blue Seal ice cream parlour is an absolute must on any trip to Okinawa. The brand was originally created for American soldiers stationed on the island – and its decor and red vinyl booths still scream vintage America – but its popularity has since spread across the whole country. They offer a huge array of flavours, from classics like chocolate and strawberry to local specialities such as Ryukyu Royal Milk Tea, Blue Wave, Beni-Imo (purple sweet potato) and Shiiquasa Sherbet (made from a local citrus fruit). You can also enjoy parfaits, sundaes, crepes and other ice cream-laden sweet treats, all at reasonable prices.
This bright and airy cafe is conveniently located in the heart of American Village, right next to the Ferris wheel. The menu is entirely vegan, with a range of burgers, pasta dishes, salad, curry and other meals available, plus desserts and drinks. It’s a bit on the pricy side given the size of the portions, but the staff are friendly and the service is good. Perched up on the second floor, the café’s sun-drenched terrace is a great spot to watch the world go by. The staff leave out bowls of food for the neighbourhood cats there, so if you’re lucky you might make a new friend!
Located about halfway up Okinawa island in the village of Onna, Kaiholo Cafe is a colourful Hawaiian-themed eatery with a laidback beach vibe. Pets are welcome here. But if you don’t have any, the café has two adorable dogs of its own that you can befriend – just don’t be tempted to feed them as they have allergies. The menu is breakfast-centric, with different flavours of sweet and savoury pancakes, waffles loaded with toppings, omelettes and sandwiches. There’s also tea and soft drinks, plus a variety of hot and cold coffees including mochas and caramel lattes.
Achingly trendy and extremely passionate about their products, Yamada Coffee Okinawa is a specialist coffee shop tucked away in a residential part of Ginowan. They take their beans seriously, sourcing them from a variety of different regions, and always with an emphasis on quality, season and unique flavours to reflect the area they’re from. As well as enjoying a freshly brewed coffee in house – in a mug designed by a local ceramics artist – you can also purchase beans to take home with you. Baked goods, parfaits and other light meals are available if you fancy some food with your cup of joe.
This café’s ideal spot atop a hill in Motobu, in the north of Okinawa, affords it panoramic views of the ocean and neighbouring islands. The menu – written on a paper fan – is simple, with just pizza and salad on offer, plus a range of tea, coffee, fresh juices and alcoholic drinks. The pizza is hot, chewy and loaded with gooey cheese, while the salad is a good value accompaniment. Kajinho is popular so you might have to wait to be seated, but try and get a table outside if possible to make the most of the location. The café’s proximity to the Ocean Expo Park and Churaumi Aquarium makes it a convenient choice if you’re doing some sightseeing in the area.
A vision of blue and white to match the surrounding scenery, Seaside Cafe Hanon is a delight to visit. They specialise in delicious, fluffy pancakes, with both sweet and savoury varieties available. Flavours include chocolate chip and cream cheese, with toppings ranging from berries and ice cream to eggs and sausages. You can choose to have either two, three or four pancakes depending on how hungry you are. There’s also an extensive drinks menu to accompany the pancakes, including coffee, tea, soft drinks and cocktails. As expected from the name, the café is right on the seafront, and the view from the terrace is idyllic.
This popular coffee shop has been operating in Minatogawa for around 30 years, and is easily recognisable thanks to its lime-green decor and cute toucan logo. The owner is a friendly, passionate and knowledgeable roaster, aiming to bring joy to people through delicious coffee. He also hopes to make the drinks more accessible to people by teaching them how to enjoy them at home as well as in his café. The shop gets its beans from all across the world, and it also creates its own original blends – if you find one you like, you can buy a bag of whole or ground beans to take home with you.
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