A highlight for many people on their trip to Northern Okinawa is a visit to Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. It is a magnificent complex with 77 tanks, two restaurants, a gift shop, and barrier-free facilities to appreciate the beauty of the ocean and the creatures that live within it. Be sure to visit the reproduction of a coral reef and the deep sea tank.
The centerpiece is the huge aquarium called The Kuroshio Sea Tank, with floor to ceiling windows with three whale sharks, plus mantas, rays, and sharks. This is the only aquarium in the world with more than one whale shark together.
The Okichan Theater is a fun show featuring bottlenose dolphins and false killer whales. A commentary on the ecology and abilities of dolphins is provided by the staff. The aquarium is outside and located next to the ocean, providing a beautiful backdrop for the show.
Enjoy the dynamic leaping and entertaining chorus of the dolphins against a background of blue sea.
For heartier meals, go to the 4th floor Inoh Restaurant and enjoy the buffet lunch. The Café Blue on the first floor has lighter fare, including taco rice, spaghetti, and snacks like purple potato ice cream. It has a spectacular seating area with windows onto the main tank.
If you make reservations at least 7 days in advance, you can get a free audio guide explaining the creatures in the different tanks, but it is not necessary to enjoy the incredible beauty of the displays. Churaumi Aquarium is open from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm from October to February, and until 8 pm from March to September. There are extended hours for special days.
Admission is 1800 yen for adults, 1200 yen for high school students, 600 yen for elementary and junior high students, and free for children under 6 years old. There is a special discount for admissions after 4 pm.
Just a bit of trivia, the word “Chura” in Churaumi Aquarium is from the Okinawan dialect, with “chura” meaning “beautiful”. The name “Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium” was chosen from over 13 thousand names submitted in a nationwide competition.
Churaumi Aquarium is part of the Ocean Expo Park complex which also has the Oceanic Culture Museum and the Tropical Dream Center located in Motobu, about 3 hours by highway bus from Naha. Take highway bus #111 from Naha City Terminal to Nago. At Nago, transfer to one of the local buses #65, 66, or 70 and get off at the Commemorative Park Stop.
For more information: http://oki-churaumi.jp/en/index.html