Okinawa, once an independent kingdom called Ryukyu, is a destination with a proud history and unique culture different from mainland Japan, and visitors will want to experience it all. To do so, seriously consider a good cheap car rental with Skyscanner.
Arrival in Okinawa
Naha Airport in Okinawa has five car rental companies: Europcar, Hertz, Keddy by Europcar, Nippon Rent-a-Car, and Sunnycars. Cars range from Economy to SUV. Prices vary by car, with Full Size being the most expensive. The rental agents will ask to see a International Driver's Permit and an ID such as a passport.
A Loss Damage Waiver is mandatory, and some rental agencies include it in the rental price, but others charge it as an extra fee that must be paid upfront. It is important to note this is not insurance. Most rental cars come with a GPS, but it usually only operates in Japanese.
Driving in Okinawa
Drive on the left side of the road. Japanese traffic signs are based on international symbols, so knowledge of Japanese is not required. However, it's important to note that the sign for stop is an upside-down red triangle. Traffic in Okinawa is heavy, as there is little public transportation outside of Naha. Traffic is heaviest on the weekends. Note that it is illegal to drive in the bus lane!
What to See and Do in Okinawa
From the 15th Century until the 19th Century, Okinawa was an independent country called the Ryukyu Kingdom. The royal palace, Shuri Castle, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an excellent place to learn about the unique history and culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which flourished as a trading destination for nearly 450 years.
Cape Manzamo, which roughly translates as "a field for 10,000 people to sit," is one of the island's best geological formations, famous for a rock shaped like an elephant's trunk. The bay teems with wildlife, and visitors can see coral reefs in the clear blue sea. Parking is chaotic, and a private tour can run around $600, but this is one of the top must-see destinations in Okinawa, especially for watching sunsets.
Awamori, a distilled alcoholic beverage unique to Okinawa, is made from long grain indica rice. The Kamimura Shuzo distillery has daytime and nighttime tours, and visitors can make their own bottle of awamori and store it in the distillery's cellar for five to 10 years. Awamori drinking parties can be held here as well.
Ryukyu Village in the central region hosts classes on a wide range of traditional indigenous topics, ranging from making lamps from coral to designing shisa (a type of gargoyle that looks like a cross between a lion and a dog) to playing the shamisen, a three-stringed guitar-like instrument. Ryukyu Village also features performances of eisa dances and folk songs. People who want to experience the authentic Ryukyu culture should head here.
Returning the Car
There is a gas station at the airport, so returning the car with a full tank of gas is easy.