Underground Okinawa for Nature Lovers

CONTRIBUTED BY MARY RICHARDSON

If you think the only things to do outdoors in Okinawa involve crystalline water, swaying palm trees, and sandy beaches, think again. 

In truth, the island has an alluring network of caves and forests to explore.   

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I have always wanted to swing on a vine in a forest

Recently, we discovered a little bit of this “underground” world when we visited the Valley of Gangala, a gorgeous mystical forest that feels like a movie set for Lord of the Rings. 

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Never heard of it before? Neither had we, and it’s literally across the street from its more famous neighbor Okinawa World.

 While Okinawa World has the benefit of being a sort of cave-themed amusement park with lots of amenities for kids and families, the Valley of Gangala is much more natural and rustic. 

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It’s an ideal place for people who enjoy the rustic beauty of outdoors and don’t mind a bug bite or two! In fact, it’s perfect for contemplating nature and photographing a fairy tale like forest. 

So besides spiders and greenery, what else can you expect there? 

Well, first off you descend into a cave that’s been transformed into a café and central meeting area, but not in an obtrusive or commercial way. You have to admit that’s pretty unexpected. When was the last time you sipped a latte with stalagtites hanging over your head?  

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On the day we went, in fact, the café was adorned with huge artistic photos of the forest. They were also setting up for a traditional Okinawan musical performance in the cave.  How cool is that?

Next, we took a walking tour of the forest. We paid about 2000 yen a person for that because unfortunately, there’s no other way to see the area. Conveniently, however, they gave us each bug repellent, a mechanical anti-mosquito contraption, and a bottle of jasmine tea to sip as we sauntered through the greenery. 

The tour was led by a nature guide and was entirely in Japanese, but the guide seemed willing to translate a few things for us.  Despite our lack of language, the walking tour was fascinating. We saw lots of forest plants, huge bamboo trees, caves with geologic rock formations thousands of years old, and a very special stalagtite. ( the star attraction of all the caves!) I won’t say anymore than that! IMG_5000 

If you’re dying to know what the special attraction is, you can view our blog, but warning, it’s for adult eyes only!

The tours are scheduled every hour or so from 9:00 am and the park closes at 6:00. I recommend calling ahead to reserve a tour. If you’re stuck waiting for a tour, you can walk across the street to Okinawa world and check that out for a while though you may get sucked in! They gave us a discount coupon to do that and we managed to escape on time to make our tour.

 If you are a nature lover, the Valley of Gangala is the perfect new place to enjoy.

 Phone: 098-948-4192

Hours: 9:00- 6:00

Directions: Drive south on the expressway to Haebana Miniami 1C, Take 507 South, turn left on 331 and another left on the 17. Follow the signs to Okinawa World Cave Park. You’ll see Okinawa World on the right side and the Valley of Gangala on the left. 

 


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7 Comments
  • December 17, 2013

    This place is across from Okinawa World and it will end at Okinawa world if you want to do both I would walk through the valley first since it is less than an hour. At some point going through the valley that it crosses under the road and you end up and Okinawa World. Copy and paste the below into Google Maps or GPS:

    +26° 8′ 29.25″, +127° 44′ 48.36″

    Note: the green arrow is the check-in building and the pin “A” is lost out on the road.

    SSgt Wright
    Reply
  • June 28, 2010

    Hi! I just took my friend who is visiting me here to Valley of Gangala today. I just wanted to add that they gave us a clip board with a few pieces of paper that described the tour and the general info he would be talking about all in English! Our tour guide would also come check on us at almost every stop and let us know what number on the paper he was talking about at that time! This place is a must see!

    Ashley C.
    Reply
  • May 31, 2010

    Just wanted to add: We went a few weeks ago and picked up a brochure. The times of the tours are 10am, 12pm, 14:00pm, and 16:00pm. If you have a kelty kids backpack for your nonwalkers or toddlers it is a great place to use it.

    Reply
  • September 8, 2009

    I just wanted to make a correction to your directions. I went to Okinawa World yesterday, and since the comments are closed on it, I thought I’d post here. Also, I thought it would be helpful to note when you come to exit 1 on the expressway, take the exit to the left that has Haebaru Kita and the airport on the sign since the other way leads you into Naha and Rte. 82. But, anyway, after the exit, you look for A2 which is Haebaru Minami (not Haebana). Also, it is IC not 1c which stands for interchange. I just though it would be helpful to correct the directions. Thanks!

    ash
    Reply
  • July 24, 2009

    How in the world did you find this place?! I’ve never even heard of it, and now I can’t wait to go. And Mary…. I can’t *believe* you touched it! LOL

    Dasha
    Reply
  • July 24, 2009

    Cute blog! Your video ‘surprise’ made me laugh out loud! I love the idea of your video collection – it will be great to look back on once you leave Okinawa!

    SMorgan
    Reply
  • July 24, 2009

    Super cool! I felt relaxed just reading your post! Sounds like a wonderful date day!

    Joelle
    Reply