Scenic Drives in Okinawa
Think about of Okinawa and most likely you’ll be thinking about the white sandy beaches and turquoise water that abounds around these islands. Back in the early 1990’s the government began connecting some of these islands with long winding bridges, and by doing so it added another twist to the beach experience; a twist that draws crowds of tourists every season to make the unique scenic drives over the beautiful waters of Okinawa.
Open to the public in 1992, Ikema Bridge connects Miyakojima with Ikema Island. This is the oldest of the long bridges found in the prefecture and one that looks its best at sunrise. The drive across the bridge is a short one so to better enjoy it, stop by the terraces at either end of the bridge to get a better look. At both ends you’ll find small beaches but if you want swim with the bridge in the background it is best to do so on the north end as the currents on the south end are stronger. But don’t stop at the bridge, Ikema Island offers its own pristine beaches like Ikizu and Funakuzu.
This is the longest toll-free bridge in Japan and after its opening in 2015 it ended up connecting 5 of the 7 islets that make up the Miyakojima District. For visitors, Irabu Bridge is not only an awesome engineering feat to admire, it is also passageway to another island icon, the Toriike Pond on the north shore of Irabu Island. To get a better sense of the bridge’s size, you can make the drive to Irabu and up to the Makiyama Observation Deck where entrance is free and the view stunning.
When it open to the public in 1995, Kurima Bridge became the second bridge of its kind in Okinawa Prefecture. This is another one of Miyakojima’s bridges and it connects Miyako Island with Kurima Island in the southwest. Driving across you will get to enjoy the turquoise waters below just as with other bridges in the region, but better yet, venture out on a walk to the middle of bridge and take in the view of Maehama Beach and Irabu Bridge back in the horizon.
Although not the oldest nor the longest, Kouri Bridge is probably the most visited bridge out of all the long bridges in Okinawa Prefecture. As with the other bridges, the drive across the bridge and the views of it are stunning. What sets this bridge apart from the others is the lively atmosphere on the beach below. With several cafes, food trucks, and marine rental shops, Kouri beach is one of the coolest hangout spots on this part of Okinawa. If you want to see the bridge from a higher point of view and learn about the wonder of shells, then go pass the bridge and visit the Kouri Ocean Tower.
Unlike the rest of the bridges on this list, Niraikanai Bridge does not connect Honto with any other island. It is actually part of Road 86 which cuts through the Nanjo District as you drive down to the beaches on the Pacific Ocean. Driving through the tunnel at the beginning and down the winding bridge is a thrilling ride. For the most picturesque view of the bridge, the ocean and Chinen Cape all in one frame, park your car on the narrow path just before the tunnel and walk up to the observation deck about 100 metres away.