CONTRIBUTED BY ANTHONY CAMINA
Northern Okinawa can be a wonderland for those adventurous souls seeking special places to explore off the beaten path and guidebooks. One such overlooked gem is Otohadake Forest Park in Motobu. I found it by chance after eating at the Green Room Café.
The road that leads you to the park could be a bit intimidating for the novice driver on the island. The road really isn’t that precarious unless there is another car coming from the opposite direction. On the plus side the road is well-paved and has grooves at certain points to provide extra traction. On the con side, you will need the extra traction because the road is a bit steep and gets somewhat narrow. I was able to make it just fine with four adult-sized people packed into a Nissan Cube.
Once you get to the end of the road you park at what looks like a radio/microwave relay station (big yellow building – photo in directions below). Initially on parking the area does not look very impressive since the signs and maps displayed are a bit weathered.
Don’t let this fool you though; if you push on and walk into the field past the building you will be in for a special treat! There is a large beautifully tiled pavilion that will most likely catch your attention. As you walk to the pavilion and the foliage clears you will be rewarded with one of the most stunning views of the island I have seen in some time.
The day I went the weather was nice but the visibility could have been better. Considering that the visibility conditions were not optimal, the view was just gorgeous. As we walked back to the radio relay building we noticed stairs leading to a concrete second story catwalk. After walking up to the large well built catwalk we were delighted to see a 360 degree panoramic view of Motobu even more breathtaking that what we just witnessed. If you decide to visit you must absolutely take some sort of camera or you will be kicking yourself.
While on the catwalk we spied a playground on the opposite side of the building as the tiled pavilion. The playground was built to look like it was made from logs and is reminiscent of the tree house motif that appears occasionally on the island. The equipment was made to handle children of various sizes as the swings were large enough for an adult to use. There was also a log suspension type obstacle which looked very interesting and a very tall twisting slide. The view from the playground is also quite amazing.
Elsewhere on the park you can find many marked hiking trails. The foliage can be a bit thick to I would recommend wearing protective clothing if you do decide to explore the trails. There are restrooms and a soda machine on the grounds that appear to be well maintained. Down one of the forks in the road you can also find campsites and log cabins. If you are looking for a majestic vista, fun playground, and overall good time then be sure to check out Otohadake Forest Park.
Directions: From the Expressway 10 exit in Nago travel north on Hwy 58 until you get to highway 84. Turn left on the 84 and drive west towards Pineapple Park. After passing Pineapple Park you will pass the 123 on the right and a big orange mikan on the left. The next big intersection after route 123 you will take a right, which has a huge sign for Hope Hills.
Unfortunately I could not find a marker or name for this road but it is hard to miss. Keep driving on this road through a tunnel. After the tunnel you will see more flags/signs for Hope Hills on the left. Instead of turning left to go to Hope Hills you turn right. There will be a few prominent wooden signs at this turn. As you start up this road you will see a café on the right with a big raccoon dog outside. This is the road that narrows as you drive up to the park and eventually you will start to see the first set of log cabins. Drive to the top of the mountain and park at the yellow radio station building (through the middle fork in the road). The left fork takes you to a walking path and the right fork goes to the cabin/campground.
There were no posted hours for the park.
Phone: The telephone number to the park office is: +81 80-1741-8523