With its stunning selection of beaches, sumptuous dishes and intriguing history, a visit to Okinawa is always a treat. Sometimes, though, it is not just the location itself, but those extra little touches that make a trip special. That’s what the Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa in Nago and Hotel Nikko Alivila in Yomitan Village set out to provide.  

While exquisite service is something you get used to in Japan, these two hotels seem to go that extra mile for their guests to ensure they come back again and again. As well as the stunning ocean views, extensive pools and first-rate restaurants, there are also plenty of activities to do in and around the two resorts. Here’s a look back at some of the highlights during my recent four-day stay in Okinawa.  

The lounge at the Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa

A Warm Welcome 

My first evening at the Oriental began with a refreshing glass of Lanson’s champagne while checking in before heading to my room on the 15th floor to take in the amazing view overlooking the East China Sea. Dinner was a casual buffet at Qwachi, which means “feast” in Okinawan. And that’s exactly what it was. There was a great selection of Chinese, Japanese and Okinawan dishes, though it was the curry that stood out the most. 

What made the dining experience more memorable was a live sanshin — three-stringed instrument — performance in front of a dazzling sunset. Once dinner was done, it was time for a cocktail in the club lounge. Tomoaki Nakamura oversees the creation of the original concoctions, which include cacao pairing cocktails and mocktails as well as tropical ones. I went for an exotic and creative offering called A Gathering of Yambaru Forest, which combines two kinds of citrus fruit together with spices. Simply divine.  

The evening finished with a spa session. There are five types of baths at Oriental, including a powerful jet bath that stimulates tired muscles, an aroma bath that’s great for blood circulation, a vibra bath that heals daily fatigue, a cool bath that refreshes one’s skin and an outside bath that’s great for feeling the island’s breeze. There’s also a sauna with soothing lights and natural wood. Feeling completely relaxed, it was the perfect way to end the day.  

Doki Doki Yambarunture’s ATV experience

Nearby Activities

The second day began with a quick tour of the hotel. Boasting a 170-meter garden pool — one of the longest in Okinawa — in addition to a 24-hour gym, kids’ play area and a relaxing lounge, there’s plenty to keep guests occupied. While in Okinawa, though, you don’t want to spend your whole time in the hotel, especially as there’s so much to see and do nearby, including a pineapple park, the famous Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium and a place to observe mantas and sharks being fed.  

The latter part of my morning, though, was spent driving an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) through a subtropical forest as part of Doki Doki Yambarunture tours. With no license required and vehicles that are easy to maneuver, it’s a great activity for all the family. It’s also only a short drive away from Ufuya, an extremely popular restaurant that’s set inside a century-old Ryukyuan house. The Agu pork soba set is highly recommended here, though, it’s the setting — Ufuya’s surrounded by several kominka (old wooden traditional houses) — that sets this place apart.  

Another idyllic location is Nakayama Coffee Garden, where customers can harvest and roast their own coffee beans. Unfortunately, I only had time for the latter on this occasion. The resulting cup of Java tasted wonderful. I’d like to say that it was down to my roasting skills, but in reality, it was all about the quality of the ingredients. Despite being just outside the coffee belt, the Yambaru area really does produce some top-notch coffee beans.  

Poolside at the Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa

A Night Swim and Morning Yoga

Heading back to the hotel, it was nice to chill out in the lounge with a couple of drinks and some small savory dishes, but not too many as dinner was coming. The feast that night was at Jinanbou, an Okinawan cuisine restaurant specializing in local ingredients such as mozuku seaweed. I had the sea grape shabu-shabu, which was extremely satisfying. The evening finished with a swim and a strawberry daiquiri at the pool bar. The night pool’s open until 10pm from July 1 to October 31. 

The next morning started with some hammock yoga, while once again looking out on to the sea. Originating in New York, this activity has all the benefits of usual yoga, such as lowering one’s blood pressure and improving flexibility, plus other advantages like lengthening one’s muscles, which is particularly favorable for people with back pain. The session, which was all in English, finished with me being wrapped inside the hammock, which is supposed to provide a comforting feeling, like you are back in your mother’s womb. 

After a substantial breakfast at Qwachi, I then headed down to Kariyushi Beach, which is just a short walk from the resort. Visitors here can enjoy a variety of marine activities, including snorkeling, a thrilling coaster ride on a dragon boat and the chance to see tropical fish below a glass boat. There’s also a floating waterland for kids. I only had time for the dragon boat before heading back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool and wash as I prepared for my next destination.  


An Afternoon of Marine Activities

A 40-minute taxi ride from Oriental, Hotel Nikko Alivila is another magnificent accommodation with first-rate hospitality. It’s a Spanish colonial-style resort with stunning ocean views, a large pool and a homely atmosphere. The name derives from the Spanish words for relief (alivio) and country house (villa) and based on my first impression, it certainly looked like a great place to unwind. My first afternoon there, though, was anything but relaxing. After a tour of the resort, it was straight down to Nirai Beach for some marine activities.  

First up was some snorkeling. Surrounded by sparkling coral reefs and colorful tropical fish, it was arguably the highlight of the trip. The only problem was that there wasn’t much time as the schedule was so tight. Next up was some stand-up paddle boarding, better known as SUP. Late to the party, this was my first time trying it. A much easier alternative to surfing, it’s a relaxing way to explore the great outdoors, though it still took a while to get used to standing on the board.  

SUP was followed by a ride on an inflatable towing tube. Desperately trying to hold on to avoid being thrown into the water, it is a high-speed, adrenaline-filled adventure with lots of bumps along the way. Sea kayaking, which came next, was much slower, but at the same time, more demanding on the body. It’s an excellent cardiovascular exercise that gets the blood flowing. Also on the agenda for the afternoon was a ride on a glass bottom boat, but that was canceled due to tidal currents.  

Hotel Nikko Alivila

The Final Leg

Sadly, sunset sailing was canceled as well for the same reason. With time to kill, I instead went for a quick dip in the pool prior to dinner. Located in an extremely remote area, there aren’t many options when it comes to dining nearby. Thankfully, Alivila has several places to eat, including Japanese, Western and buffet restaurants. I went to Sawa, a Ryukyu cuisine eatery that serves a delectable shabu-shabu course menu, featuring Wagyu beef and Agu pork. The food, like the service, was immaculate throughout.  

The evening then ended with another dip in the pool. There really is something exhilarating about swimming after sundown. As with Oriental, guests at Alivila can enjoy a night pool during the summer months (until the end of September). While there’s no poolside bar here, on this particular occasion, a local musician performed, adding to the atmosphere. Most stayed until the end, enjoying the entertainment. It was a terrific way to spend the final night.  

Checkout the next morning wasn’t until noon, so there was time for another enticing buffet breakfast, a stroll down to the beach and a final swim in the pool. The time spent at Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa and Hotel Nikko Alivila flew by. Staff at both places did everything they could to make my stay as memorable as possible. It’s no surprise so many guests return. I’m already planning another visit next year.