Nago Castle Park
One of our favorite parts of Okinawa to explore is Nago. It is mountainous, covered with jungles, and full of areas to check out! The Nago Castle Park is just one small part and it is beautiful any time of year. It is especially well-known in Okinawa during late January and early February when the stunning cherry blossoms begin to bloom. (It's even been designated as one of Japan's Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots and has over 200,000 trees!) We visited the Nago Castle Park after New Years and it was a perfect time to spend the day exploring the park.
The Nago Castle Park is full of history, playgrounds, and hiking trails. It is also huge - close to 175 acres! The history of the castle, that the park is so aptly named after, dates back to the 14th century. The castle served as the home of the Nago Aji, much like a chieftain in other cultures. There is not very much of the old castle left today but the grounds and the views from the park are remarkable.
You could easily spend a full day just exploring Nago Castle Park. You can choose any spot in the park to visit but I would recommend starting here at the top. And not to worry, each area is equipped with picnic benches, restrooms, and vending machines. There aren't any restaurants in the park so if you want to spend more than a few hours there, I would also recommend bringing a picnic lunch, your favorite snacks, and plenty of water. This is the perfect chance to use all of your new reusable bags and bottles for traveling! 😉
The "Cherry Blossom Area" is the highest point in the park and the views here will not disappoint. There is a 3-story observation tower that you can climb for 360 views of Nago and the East China Sea. It is also a great place to get pictures of Mt. Nago. After you're done at the pinnacle of the park, start making your way down (if you go on foot you'll have to hike back up!)
The whole park is covered in hills so if you have kids, you'll want to make sure you take sliders so they can have fun on all of the slopes! Just down the hill from the "Cherry Blossom Area" is the "Umaku Children's Playground." It will also provide your kids (or those young at heart) with hours of enjoyment. There are two different levels with playground equipment including a little bit of everything.
My kids' favorite part of the playground is always the roller slide (another good use for those sliders!) The roller slide is the first part of the playground they run to and then they continue to go back to it the rest of the time. There are also monkey bars, zip lines, climbing walls, and toddler-sized equipment.
The playground has recently been renovated and it shows. All of the equipment is in great shape and you can tell they put a lot of time and money into making it even better. There is a sidewalk that circles the whole area so it's a great place for little kids to ride bikes, too. As with other parts of the Nago Castle Park, there are gazebos for picnics and restrooms.
A short walk from the playground is an impressive suspension bridge. It seems to blend into the landscape of the jungle and hills but when you walk up to it, you see it project out of the top of the forest.
As you walk over the suspension bridge make sure you look down to appreciate the tile work all the way across it. You will see flower and turtle patterns intricately laid into the bridge. It is also lined with beautiful sculptures of the cherry blossoms that the park is known for. The attention to detail in Okinawa will never cease to amaze me! Whether it's grocery shopping or park hopping, a lot of thought goes into the details.
The suspension bridge is a beautiful part of the Nago Castle Park to photograph and a great place to grab a family photo. I hope you add this to your list of places to visit in Okinawa! The city views, playgrounds, sculptures, and forest views will not leave you wondering if there's more to do. In fact, we were ready for a coffee pick-me-up after a full day exploring this park! Post your adventure photos and tag me at @allie_whalen on Instagram!