Photos by Allie Whalen
Photos by Allie Whalen

Nago Castle Park: A kid’s paradise

by Allie Whalen
Stripes Okinawa

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!)

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 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.

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!) There are also monkey bars, zip lines, climbing walls, and toddler-sized equipment.

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!

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!

Allie Whalen is a culinary artist and amateur photographer with a love for the outdoors. She has recently begun sharing her experiences online where she talks about natural and healthy ways to take care of your body and the world around you. She is a military spouse based in Okinawa near Camp Hansen. Allie and her family are excited make beautiful Okinawa their best move yet. There they enjoy the rugged, tranquil life on the northern parts of the island. You can find Allie’s blog at alliemwhalen.com, where she details her travels, basic conservation techniques, home education, and leading a healthy lifestyle.

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