Cafe Caracuma (Thai In The Sky)

CONTRIBUTED BY JEN PRESTON

One wonderful aspect of Military life that I did not expect when I was dragged kicking and screaming into this experience are the wonderfully outgoing people. I am naturally an introvert… you are an alien to me unless proven otherwise… I stick to what and whom I know.  Thank goodness that the people that I’ve met on this island are not that way, or I’d still be sitting on my couch, sucking my thumb, counting down the months.

I think perhaps it’s the nature of having to move every 2-3 years, and that many of these folks grew up as brats (I hate that term, my parents used to call me that when I was being rude).  They moved around from base to base, and so they learned early on that there is no time to waste meeting people, because they would be leaving on a jet plane in no time.

In the spirit of this new found social structure, my husband and I generally move like wolves in packs. No trip to the beach is complete without 4-5 people… wanna go to Sushi Zen for dinner?  You call Lauren, Damien & Janet, I’ll call Cortney & Clay, everybody meet there at 6:30, now BREAK!  I feel like I live in the freshman dorms again, but I have to say, I’m enjoying myself and my new friends a lot.

So the past several weekends, we’ve been road tripping. Packing our travel bags with sunscreen, towels, zesty beverages, maps, good intentions and not enough bug spray.

One good trip was to “Thai in the Sky” or Cafe Caracuma. While the food was very delicious, I would say the whole experience was more memorable for the road trip than for the dining.

Things you should know about road trippin on the Island of Okinawa:

1. Cartographers LIE. perhaps not intentionally, perhaps it is Japanese nuance.  Perhaps much like D.C. was designed in circles to keep the Brits lost if they were ever to attack, Okinawa was designed to confuse Americans, should they ever attack and decide to stay for 60 years.  Apparently we still haven’t figured it out.  Lesson learned – use maps as a suggestion, not as fact.

2. Even if you get lost on the island for days, as long as you have Yen handy, you will never run out of zesty beverages.  Vending machines spring from the earth in the oddest of places. You might die of sugar shock, but there will always be sweet drinks.  I recommend the Bilkka – lime & coconut deliciousness.

3. Make sure your driver and your navigator are on good terms.  There will be incredulousness, and animosity, but as long as they are both well-intentioned the trip can end well.

4. Remember that life is a journey and not a destination.  The TRIP is the experience. Take the time to stop if you are hungry, take some photos at scenic spots.  And if by the time you get to your destination, it has closed 6 minutes prior, do not yell at the person who made you stop to use the restroom and took 10 minutes long. Especially when she is your navigator.

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Now – about that Thai in the Sky:

It is actually called Cafe Caracuma, and is on the south-eastern tip of the island. We made the mistake of trying to get there from Shuri Castle, when it would have been easier to come all the way back to Kadena and start from scratch.  But again, I refer you back to tip #4.

Once you get there, there is a bit of a wait, or at least there was for us – there were 17 parties ahead of us, which took about 1.5 hours to wait out. Luckily the grounds are quite scenic.  1st there’s the view.  There’s a reason this place is dubbed “Thai in the Sky.”

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Then there is the most random prehistoric museum I have ever seen. A little barn full of dinosaur bones, teeth, amber, fossils.

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Then there are the beautiful gardens surrounding the place.

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And then finally, finally, finally….just when you think you can’t take it any more, and why do they think that my wonderment at all these fossils is going to make me forget that I’ve been waiting to eat for and hour and a half, and why did I even go on this road trip that took me 3 hours to get here with these people I don’t even know, and I should have stayed on my couch with my cat…waaAHHHHHH.  Right at that point….the food comes.  And order is restored.

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Wasn’t that a fun adventure troops?  Who’s up for a road trip next weekend?

Hours: Open from 10:00am-10:00pm (last order 9pm) and closed on Tuesday.

Phone: 098-949-1189

Address: Chinen-1190 Chinen, Nanjo

Google Maps Coordinates: 26.1622348, 127.8122955

Directions (from the comments below): 

Take the expressway south until it ends (where it splits, take the airport signs for the expressway and keep going until the end of the expressway).
Bear left on 329 and then south onto 331 (329 basically turns into 331), going a total of approximately 16 km between the two.
After 16 km, you will see the junction for Rt. 86. Do not turn there, but start clocking and keep going another 1.2 km and then turn right. Your landmark for the right turn is the white sign directing you to “Chinenjo Castle”)
After you turn right, start counting the small alley roads and take your 3rd Right. You should start seeing the Cafe Curucuma signs now.
Then take a quick left and go up a steep (very steep) grade for .4 km
Then turn Right at the big green dinosaur and you are in the parking lot!


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24 Comments
  • May 1, 2015

    Hi, does anyone know if this place has vegetarian options? I would hate to drive there and they don’t have vege options. Thank you!

    Zoviel Charles
    Reply
  • March 1, 2015

    We enjoyed our dinner here, but we did not know that they close at 7pm with last order at 6pm in the off season. We arrived at the door at 6:06pm and the sign on the door said “closed.” We asked if we could make a “to go” order and the waitress went and got the chef who came out and saw us with our 3 little boys and told the staff to seat us. So nice! Our food was great. Next time we will arrive earlier so we have time to enjoy the view before dark!

    Darcie
    Reply
  • December 29, 2013

    The cafe Kurakuma is open daily, 10:00am to 20:00. It closes on Tues at 18:00. You might want to check on reservations, because tour buses often stop there. However, there is plenty to see if you have to wait.

    Linda
    Reply
  • December 28, 2013

    Is this place open everyday?

    Sally
    Reply
  • December 19, 2013

    Just visited. Okinawa and loved EVERYTHING. This cafe was just one of several pleasant experiences. It is as delicious and scenic as everyone says. Where you turn into the property there is also an unusual site….a Ground Golf course.

    I bought three paper packages of tea in the gift shop. I know one was jasmine, but now I can’t remember the others or what their health benefits were. The color of the pretty packages were lt green, lavender, and white. Can anyone help me with the names or brand????

    Linda
    Reply
  • December 17, 2013

    The views to this place are nice open field/farms and there are wind turbines too.

    SSgt Wright
    Reply
  • September 9, 2013

    Can anyone post GPS coordinates for this place that we can put into either Google Map or Iphone Maps App?

    Larry
    Reply
    • December 17, 2013

      Paste this into Google Maps +26° 9′ 45.87″, +127° 48′ 45.04″ the green arrow is the parking lot and the pin is the center of the property. From what I remember, the restaurant is in the back past a museum, store and some type of garden.

      +26° 9′ 45.87″, +127° 48′ 45.04″

      SSgt Wright
      Reply
  • July 18, 2012

    oh, i want to try this thai!!! havent really explored south yet, though.

    however, my comment: i cant find Bilkka anywhere!!!!!! every machine i go to, i try to find what you described as coconut-lime goodness, and i feel taunted by the thoughts that i may be missing out on a simple pleasure while i am here. which machine should i be looking in?

    LAUREN
    Reply
  • July 15, 2012

    And we are currently driving away from it unsatisfied because we got there at 8:26 and the parking attendant told us they close at 8 now. Upon further inspection of the sign, the old 22:00 closing time has been covered by 2 neat little white lines and there is no new closing time listed. So, I guess 8 it is… Bummed out after driving for what felt like forever…

    Matt
    Reply
  • May 22, 2012

    Ok- its closed for dinner on Tuesday now

    Trish k
    Reply
  • July 28, 2011

    We finally nailed down shorter and more accurate directions to this place last night using our GPS and Google Earth/Maps:

    Take the expressway south until it ends (where it splits, take the airport signs for the expressway and keep going until the end of the expressway).
    Bear left on 329 and then south onto 331 (329 basically turns into 331), going a total of approximately 16 km between the two.
    After 16 km, you will see the junction for Rt. 86. Do not turn there, but start clocking and keep going another 1.2 km and then turn right. Your landmark for the right turn is the white sign directing you to “Chinenjo Castle”)
    After you turn right, start counting the small alley roads and take your 3rd Right. You should start seeing the Cafe Curucuma signs now.
    Then take a quick left and go up a steep (very steep) grade for .4 km
    Then turn Right at the big green dinosaur and you are in the parking lot!

    I hope these directions help you all… I have spent many an hour trying to figure this out but it is worth it! 🙂

    Megan P
    Reply
  • April 18, 2011

    BTW, the title (Caracuma) is a bit deceiving. It’s Curcuma (くるくま/Curucuma), in case you’re trying to find it on a Google map or GPS, etc..

    Jeff
    Reply
  • April 13, 2011

    I love the Padthai. And the butter lemon fish (don’t know the actual name). Curry’s great too. Best Thai food on island IMO.

    Jeff
    Reply
  • January 9, 2011

    We went on the ‘road trip’ yesterday evening…long, scenic way there and expressway for the way back. This restaurant is awesome!! Quick and polite service. Fantastic food! Accommodating for large parties as well. I agree with the quickest way there from Kimberly above. I don’t think I would come down 331 through Naha again though even if I did want scenic…I would use the expressway and explore once I’m south of Naha. Have fun with the maps 🙂

    Kelly
    Reply
  • August 17, 2010

    This place is kind of difficult to find, but their curry was amazing. I got the set of 4 different curries ranging from a scale of 1 to 5 peppers. The 5 was very spicy but tasted great. If you wanted to go hardcore though, they do have a curry rated 7 peppers.

    Andrew
    Reply
  • August 22, 2009

    Kimberly’s directions basically work (and nice drive), but it is shorter to: 331 >>> right at Shinzato intersection onto 137 >>> left on 86 then take a right at the small kukrakuma logo sign (the logo is actually hiragana spelling of ku-ra-ku-ma). If you reach the tunnel, you went too far.

    Here is the map: http://nakazen.sakura.ne.jp/access.html

    Here is the website: http://www.nakazen.co.jp/cafe/
    Cheers

    Bill
    Reply
  • March 15, 2009

    When this post was first written I remember thinking it was amusing for the road trip rules, but I didn’t give the restaurant a second thought. Then my friend told me about this place a couple times and it sounded good so we thought we’d try it. I didn’t put two and two together and remember this post until later. I think it doesn’t do the restaurant justice! We went last night and it was delicious. The view was fantastic. The little museum and store was kind of fun too. There was a huge dinosaur (not sure why!) and I tasted some noni juice. That is a strange flavor! But I digress. On the way down there, it seemed like we’d been driving so long we wondered if it was going to be worth it. But after experiencing it, we’re planning to go back. It was definitely worth it! They grow their own herbs for their dishes. The name Curcuma derives from Tumeric which supposedly has some healing properties but is very popular in curry– and they have a lot of curries on the menu! Curry isn’t exactly my thing though, so I can safely say there are plenty of other choices. One caution, many of the dishes were heavy on the cilantro. Now I love it, but if you are one of those people who can’t stand cilantro, then keep that in mind when ordering. Everyone we ran into spoke English very well so you should be able to communicate that to them. Anyway, you should go try it for yourself, but I just wanted to give you their “official” directions.

    Head south from Foster on the expressway, getting off at the Haebaru-kita exit. Turn left onto Highway 329, bearing right when the road splits and turning south onto Highway 331. Follow 331 through Sashiki, past the Chinen Marine Leisure Center and into the town of Chinen. Turn right onto Highway 86. Go through a tunnel for 600m. Take the downhill left and follow the yellow flags. Take the 2nd left and park at the end.

    It’s open from 10-10 (last order 9pm) and closed on Tuesday. Call for reservations 098-949-1189.

    Kimberly
    Reply
  • October 5, 2008

    Thanks for the directions!!! 🙂

    Joelle
    Reply
  • October 5, 2008

    Please refer to your free map of Okinawa from Schilling before following the above directions. Yes, take 331 to 86 if your are going to the restaurant from Shuri Castle or Okinawa World otherwise take the Epressway South to 329 then use your handy-dandy map to get to 86. It only took us 35 min to get home, but 2 hours to get there following the above directions.
    Also, yes there are signs…in kanji. None are in English until you actually get to the building itself. They are brown, with white and black kanji, and a red “half” arrow on the bottom. The first character looks like a sideways “m.”
    If following the directions from the original post, you wind up 86 and it’s either the first or second left. There are signs visible in either direction. If you pass the windmills or “Castle Lounge” you have gone too far.
    The food was really good and well priced. We had the whole day to kill so we didn’t mind this adventure, but like I said, please refer to a map before circling the southern tip of the island for “no reason” like us.

    theroamingms
    Reply
  • June 5, 2008

    There isn’t a prehistoric museum at Cafe Curucuma. It is a display on loan. The building beside the main restaurant seems to be used for various exhibits and also for parties and other promotions.

    Bodhi
    Reply
  • May 31, 2008

    LOVING #1 & #4 — perfectly said. 🙂

    Joelle
    Reply
  • May 31, 2008

    Being one of those “brats,” road trips fill me with excitement and renewal…the possibilities that come with creating a fresh start are countless. If there IS a snag in a trip, here in Okinawa, the bentos and vending machines turn lemons into C.C. Lemon! Thanks for reminding us that the trip is the experience.

    Kandy
    Reply
  • May 31, 2008

    To me no Okinawa road trip is complete without a pitstop at Family Mart or Lawson’s for snacking essentials, which for me always involves some of their chicken. Ummm…love that convenience store fried chicken. Add to that some canned coffee and a bag of interestingly flavored chips and we’re set to go! Hmmm…Bilka, never tried that. Sounds tasty and summery.

    Can’t wait to hear what this weekend’s roadtrip has in store for ya.

    kellyerace
    Reply