Recently, my husband and I visited Japan. We planned five nights in Tokyo and six in Kyoto and I figured a little sun and fun on a tropical island would be fun. I really enjoyed both cities, but by the end of our Kyoto stay, I was ready for some nature and a break from tall buildings, subways and crowds.
We planned to spend three nights on the island of Okinawa in Japan’s southernmost prefecture. The plan was just to relax and enjoy being in nature before heading over to our next stop, Seoul, South Korea.
In This Article
Driving in Okinawa
Okinawa is very easy to reach from other islands in Japan as it’s about a two hour flight away from Tokyo and Kyoto. We flew from Kyoto to Naha, the capital of Okinawa, and rented a car for three days. I was a little apprehensive about driving in Japan, but the roads are clearly marked in both Japanese and English, and you can even pay tolls with a credit card!
We decided that my husband was going to be the driver, and in order to be able to rent a car in Japan he had to obtain an international driving permit from AAA. The permit costs about $20 and is very easy to get. When you get in the car, it takes a few minutes to get used to driving on the left side of the road, and it helps if you start this adventure in a place without too much traffic, like Okinawa.
I didn’t drive the rental car on this trip because it didn’t make sense for both of us to get an international driving permit, but I’ve driven rental cars in New Zealand and Australia. So if you are worried about driving on the other side of the road, don’t be, just avoid big cities until you get used to it.
There aren’t a lot of highways in Okinawa, so it takes a while to get from place to place. Hyatt Regency Seragaki Island is located about an hour away from the airport and we paid $6.50 in tolls on the way there. I’ve never seen a toll booth that accepts American Express, so that was a pleasant surprise.
Side Note: I used American Express because I received a retention offer from Amex to keep the card for another year and the offer included a substantial spending requirement. If you have Chase Sapphire Reserve, tolls count for the $300 annual travel credit.
Hyatt Regency Seragaki Island Check-In
My friend, who’s a Globalist (top tier Hyatt status), booked a room for us as a “Guest of Honor” reservation. Guests of Honor get all the benefits awarded to Globalist members such as upgrades, lounge access, free breakfast and free parking. This is a category four hotel so it only cost 15,000 points per night.
When we arrived, we were taken to the Regency Club on the third floor to check in. This only took a couple minutes. Like everywhere else in Japan, they scanned both of our passports, and after a couple of minutes we were done.
We booked a standard room, but a couple of days before arrival I checked Hyatt’s website and saw that there were all kinds of rooms still available, including suites. I emailed the hotel asking them for a complimentary upgrade if they still had any suites unsold at the time of our arrival. At check-in, I was happy to learn that Hyatt did upgrade us to a suite!
There are two buildings, one has regular rooms and suites and another, called the Beach House, has apartment-style suites with full kitchens. Our suite was located in the main building, which made me very happy because it was close to the club and the food.
After we finished checking in, one of the employees took us to our room. Turns out we were upgraded to a corner suite on the seventh floor with two huge rooms, two enormous balconies, a walk through closet, an amazing bathroom and a separate powder room. This is a newer hotel, so all the finishes and the furnishings are modern and simply flawless.
There were two TV sets, one in the living room and one in the bedroom, a full-sized fridge, an oven/microwave combo, a full set of dishes and silverware and a Nespresso coffee maker. The suite had more storage than I knew what to do with and separate AC controls for the living room and the bedroom.
The curtains in both rooms, as well as lights, are all electronically controlled. Unlike some other places I’ve stayed at, everything is very easy to use and very intuitive. Another hotel we stayed at in Japan had AC controls all in Japanese, but Hyatt’s designers actually thought about who’s going to use their products and made them easily accessible to anyone.
The bed was comfortable with both soft and firm pillows and lovely linens.
The bathroom was huge, with a typical for Japanese walk-in shower that actually also has the tub, and double sinks.
I loved the shower. In fact, every hotel we stayed at in Japan had an awesome shower with great water pressure, hot water that never runs out, and very nice fixtures.
The bathroom has a sliding door that separates it from the walk through closet and sliding panels that, when closed, completely separate the bathroom from the bedroom.
Food at Hyatt Regency Seragaki Island
Because we were staying on a Guest of Honor reservation, we had access to Regency Club where we ate breakfast. The breakfast was excellent – there was an egg station where the chef could make any kinds of eggs you like, many kinds of cheese, cold cuts, breads, cereals, fruits and some Asian dishes. I don’t eat gluten or dairy and I still found plenty of options. The dishes are replenished regularly and they never seemed to run out of anything.
The Regency Club was open all day, and we had access to tea, coffee and soft drinks. From 5 P.M. to 7 P.M. there’s a cocktail hour complete with wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages.
The appetizer-type foods were quite good and there’s enough variety (and quantity) to make a light dinner. The club was never crowded. During breakfast and cocktail hour, there was always plenty of seating.
This hotel is pretty isolated and there aren’t a lot of eating establishments in the walking distance. We did have a car, but we didn’t want to drive so we ate at the resort. There are a few restaurants on property and we tried the Italian restaurant Cucina Serale and it was very good. The prices at all on site restaurants are high, but I expected this because this is Japan and this is a Hyatt property.
The Beach and Pool
Technically, there are two small beaches but I wouldn’t count on getting a good swim or even spending a lot of time there.
The beaches are actually tiny, and at low tide, which is most of the day, the roped-off swim area turns into a small puddle. So unless you go very early in the morning, just skip it and hang out by the pool. There are other, bigger beaches on Okinawa, but they aren’t within the walking distance.
There are three pools – the indoor pool, the small lagoon pool with a great view of the ocean, and the bigger, free-shaped pool. All pools are family-friendly and have a lifeguard. The pools don’t open till 9 A.M., and the opening time is strictly enforced. Both of us were pretty unhappy about this, it was very hot and humid during the day, so an early morning dip would have been great. We’ve stayed at a lot of hotels and never seen such late pool opening time.
We were there during low season, so the hotel wasn’t fully booked, but I can see how the pools could get pretty crowded during more popular times.
The hotel’s grounds are lush and tropical and beautifully landscaped.
Views from any direction are amazing, you can see the turquoise sea for miles. There’s also a lot of unspoiled natural beauty around the hotel’s grounds.
Service at Hyatt Regency Seragaki Island
Like everywhere else on this trip to Japan trip, the service was flawless. There was a bit of a language barrier, but the staff were uniformly kind, cheerful, ready to help and very sincere.
Because we stayed on a Guest of Honor reservation, parking was included, even valet parking.
When we were leaving and the valet staff brought us the car and we were surprised to see that they washed the car. I still don’t know how they’ve managed to do this in just a couple of minutes, but that’s an indicator of the excellent service you can expect.
Things to Do in Okinawa
As I mentioned earlier, we were there to relax and I didn’t want to do too much. Also, there are very few true highways in Okinawa, so getting from place to place takes time. Snorkeling or diving are very popular activities in Okinawa. We decided to only spend time in the northern part of the island and took a drive to Kouri Island to see the long overwater bridge connecting Okinawa and Kouri.
On the way back we stopped by Ocean Expo Park, home to Churaumi Aquarium and other attractions.
We didn’t go to the aquarium but instead went to Tropical Dream Center, a beautiful botanical garden. I love botanical gardens, and if there’s one in the place I am visiting, I just have to go there. Tropical Dream Center has an amazing collection of orchids, and in spite of the heat, I loved it.
We stayed in a suite, but I peeked into a standard room, and it too looked spacious and very modern. The fact that we were upgraded, definitely helped us enjoy our stay more, but we would have been happy in a regular room too. Having club access helped us save a lot of money on food and drink, though.
The resort feels so luxurious, the lobby is beautiful, and the rooms are so posh and modern, I actually felt like I am at a far more upscale resort. I am surprised this is a Regency and only costs 15,000 points/night.
The next stop on our itinerary was Seoul so this was a great mini break between visiting large cities. With many direct flights, Okinawa is a very accessible destination.
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