Because my friend warned me that there was no real easy way to see a lot on the island unless I was in a car I figured I might as well see if there were any tours. The one that popped up the most was the Hip Hop Bus by Jumbo Tours.
They offer 6 tour routes, one of which leaves from Chatan, the rest of which leave from Naha. I picked course A which was 6,000 yen (about $60) with a time frame of between 10 or 11 hours long and did not include a meal. I booked it for my last full day of my trip, a Sunday.
The itinerary included
- Nago Pineapple Park ナゴパイナップルパーク (Stay time ~50mins)
- Kouri Island 古宇利島 (stay time ~30 mins)
- Warumi Bridge わるみ大橋(車窓) (look from window, not a stop)
- Ocean Expo Park/ Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium 海洋博公園・沖縄美ら海水族館 (stay time ~ 3 hours)
- Okashigoten Onna 御菓子御殿・恩納店 (stay time ~30 minutes)
- Cape Manza 万座毛 (~20 minutes)
There were 6 pick up spots and we were dropped off in our choice of spot from one of those 6. They were mostly hotels. They included in order of pick up:
- Kenmin Hiroba(Okinawa Kencho-Mae) 県民広場(沖縄県庁前)
Loisir Hotel Naha(Annex) ロワジールホテル那覇(イースト前)
Double Tree by Hilton Naha ダブルツリーbyヒルトン那覇
Okinawa Kariyushi Urban Resort Naha 沖縄かりゆしアーバンリゾート・ナハ
Hotel Royal Orion ホテルロイヤルオリオン
T Galleria Okinawa by DFS T ギャラリア沖縄
The pick up times fell between 8 and 8:50 am with a note saying if you were not at the bus stop at the time on the schedule then the bus would skip it. This made me nervous so I made sure to hurry to my bus stop. Several were technically within walking distance of my hotel but I wanted to sleep in and the shortest walk was to the Hotel Royal Orion. I got there 5 minutes early and the bus was already sitting there waiting. I was the only one who signed up for that pick up spot so as soon as I was on board they hurried off to the next one.
It was a full tour. There were no empty seats available and because I had gotten on the second to last stop that also meant that there were no window seats open.
Our tour conductor spoke Japanese and English and that was it. The audio guide however was available in English, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Korean, Thai, Spanish, and Russian. Three of their tours have these languages available. All six tours are available in English but double check that the language you want is available seeing as three of their tours have only five languages available rather than the full eight.
I love a good audio guide and I had packed a lot for the tour. I’d filled a bag full of snacks and drinks. (All tours include a free bottle of Kumejima Island mineral water and the tour I was also on included a free Beniimo Tart when we visited Okashigoten Onna.) I also bought sandals to wear on the beach which I didn’t end up doing because it was raining. Here’s a suggested Hip Hop packing list .
Normally for a tour I’d suggest bringing your own headphones, however for this tour they used a radio system that came with a single ear bud on a wire. This system was easy to use. You turn it off when the tour conductor tells you too, you pick your language, you turn it off when it tells you to turn it off. The difficulty is that it’s one ear bud and I’m not sure why but I had an awful time trying to hear it. With my own headphones it sounded like someone talking at the other end of a tunnel, even with the sound all the way at max. With the single earphone I could still barely hear anything. I had to focus really hard to hear anything and if anyone around me made a sound it drowned out the little bit I could hear. I don’t think I was the only one struggling as a woman in front of me just gave up 10 minutes into the beginning and fiddling with it.
I figured it couldn’t actually be that quiet and there must’ve been something wrong with my device, so at the next stop before we left and as our guide was walking down the aisle I told her I was struggling to hear it. We tested probably about 12 other headphones only for them to be minutely better. She even tested my machine and said that’s as loud as it gets.
I found this disappointing. I mean I did hear some, but first off I hate ear buds. They’re difficult to stick in my ears and as a person who spent a 2019 having chronic ear infections it just seems like a terrible idea to begin with.
I’ve honestly never been on a tour set up that way. Where there’s a radio transmitting to all the devices the audio rather than actually just having an automatic thing you plug into at your seats. We had to be reminded at every stop to turn off the machines because the battery would die. Apparently the machines are also quite expensive, we were warned that if we took them off the bus or damaged them we could incur a $10,000 fee. Same if we damaged our seat in some way.
The tour worked in a similar fashion to the one I took in Hokkaido where the tour conductor wrote the time we were meant to be back on a whiteboard that she showed up before we got off at each stop. We were strongly advised to be back in time or fear being left behind and thus having to get a taxi to the next stop which might be hours away.
I also found depending on the location that we visited that it was way too short of a time. For some they made sense. I didn’t need too long at Okashigoten Onna (shopping inside one building) or at Kouri Island (a beach). But other things like the Cape Manza I felt like needed at least 10 more minutes and places like Nago Pineapple Park and Ocean Expo Park/ Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium were too huge to cover within their allotted times. I even hurried, and barely made a dent in either. It doesn’t seem like it. It truly seems like 3 hours at the aquarium is enough time, maybe, but when you’re there on a busy Sunday and also have to figure out your way around and where you want to eat lunch it eats up a lot of time. Especially when you have to subtract about 30- 40 minutes of those 3 hours in making sure you get to and from the bus. It’s nearly a 15 minute walk from the bus parking to the aquarium.
I do think though that this was probably one of the tours I had less fun on. I think the aquarium and the park it’s in requires a full day. But if you don’t have a car it’s a good way to get a taste of each place, especially if you’re only in Okinawa for a short period of time like I was. I wish though I’d been able to relax and listen to the audio guide rather then twist and strain trying to hear it. However because I was there for such a short time and didn’t have a car it was a good way to see more of Okinawa, so I am glad I went.
The next couple of posts will be about the individual places we went to and stopped at. As I go I’ll link them back so you can click on them in the list.
If you don’t want to do a full tour they have recently added a drinking and food tour that happens after the main tours. If you want to try some specialties with a local and some friends I think it’d be fun. However it is about $65 which is more expensive than my 11 hour tour. I didn’t try it because that seemed to much for me and I was rather tired and am not a big drinking person. Plus with our stickers we wore we got a free gift at a souvenir shop in Naha that I wanted to get to before they closed. If anyone does make it to this food and drink tour let me know what you thought of it.