itinerary

One Week In Okinawa – The Ultimate Itinerary

One Week In Okinawa – The Ultimate Itinerary

Welcome to the tropical paradise of Okinawa, where aqua-blue waters, white sandy beaches, and lush green landscapes await your arrival. This guide will help you spend the best one week in Okinawa

Use this itinerary any way you want – it isn’t a step-by-step guide to walk you through your one week in Okinawa, but rather a guide where you can take what you want and leave what you don’t. There may be more listed for a location than what time allows, and you definitely shouldn’t rush through your trip to Okinawa.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or simply looking for a tranquil escape, Okinawa has something to offer for everyone. Explore the historic Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and delve into the rich history of the Ryukyu Kingdom. 

Take a stroll along the picturesque Kokusai Street, where you can shop for traditional crafts and sample delicious local delicacies. Feel the warm sand between your toes as you relax on pristine beaches or dive into the crystal-clear waters of the Kerama Islands for an unforgettable snorkeling or scuba diving experience. 

With its vibrant coral reefs, breathtaking sunsets, and friendly locals, Okinawa is a destination that will leave you in awe. Get ready to explore a place like no other as we uncover the hidden gems of this tropical paradise in the perfect itinerary for one week in Okinawa.

 

View of Nago city and a bay in Okinawa from Mount Katsudake hike

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Arrive in Naha

No matter where you’re coming in from, you’ll land in Okinawa in the main city of Naha. Here, you’ll see a lot of military personnel, and use this as your starting point whether you continue north on the main island, head over to neighboring Kerama Islands, or take off to any of the other 160 islands in the Okinawa Prefecture. 

You will come to Okinawa and leave from it through Naha, so it doesn’t matter if you stop there first or last! Just be sure not to miss the rich history, lively city sights, and everything else waiting for you in Naha.

Naha - 1 Day

Shuri Castle

The highlight of Okinawa is Shuri Castle. A UNESCO Heritage Site, this is a symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom that used to dominate the area and a must-see in your one week in Okinawa. Although the castle tragically burned down in 2019, you can observe the reconstruction process and learn about its history. 

Surrounding Shuri Castle are more highlights to see, like a traditional Japanese-style home, an old steep stone road, and many shrines, temples, and ancient artifacts. Take some time to walk around the area!

Cost: ¥400 / $2.70 
Time: 
2 hours

Red building of Shuri Castle in Okinawa
Shuri Castle | Image from Atlas Obscura

Kokusai Dori Street

Kokusai Dori Street felt like a mini Vegas. Neon lights, street vendors, trinkets, and tourist stores galore. However, if you head down some of the side streets and the covered market, you’ll get a better taste of local life.

Kokusai Street is a perfect place to try some Habushu, a liquor made with Habu snake venom (with the snake right in the jar)! However, some places can be a bit of a rip-off, so check reviews online first, and don’t be afraid to get off the main strip!

Cost: Free
Time: 1-2 hours

Neon lights and palm trees at Kokusai Dori street in Okinawa's capital city
Kokusai Dori | Imagr from Good Luck Trip

Peace Memorial Park

There is no denying the intense and graphic history that WWII has left in Okinawa. The Peace Memorial Park is the best way to learn and pay remembrance to the Battle of Okinawa, one of WWII’s bloodiest conflicts. Established in 1975, the park honors over 240,000 lives lost through its moving monuments.

Witness the Eternal Flame’s continuous glow ignite a spark of hope for a world free from war. Delve deeper into the battle’s human cost at the Peace Memorial Museum, where artifacts and personal stories paint a vivid picture of the era. Take a guided tour or explore at your own pace, reflecting on the horrors of war and the preciousness of peace. Remember, respect and modesty guide your visit to this significant site.

Cost: ¥450 / $3
Time: 2-3 hours

Green park and a small pond at the Peace Memorial Park in Okinawa
Peace Memorial Park | Image from Ciel Tourist

Thrift Shop!

You may not consider thrift shopping as a fun thing to do on holiday, but thrift shopping in Japan is next level, especially if you know where to go. You can pick up a traditional kimono for less than ¥1,000 / $6.75.

For the best selection, head to “Hard Off / Off House Okinawa Awase”, where they have 3 rows of kimonos of every style, size, color, and material. You can take your kimono to a retail shop that sells them to learn more about the one you bought, learn how to wear it, fold it, and more about its history. Okinawans are very proud to share their culture and kimonos with foreigners!

Where To Eat In Naha

  • Drink Habushu 
  • Conveyor Belt Sushi, whichever one is near you (and has good ratings)
  •  King Taco – they serve Taco Rice which is an Okinawan favorite

Onna - 2 Days

Onna is the best first-stopping place to rest from travel and take in the beauty of the island. Instantly, you’ll see how blue the water is. Onna is a resort destination with soft sand beaches and snorkeling off the coast! Before exploring the rest of this historic and bustling island, take some time at Onna to chill out under the sun and explore the blue water.

Dive Blue Cave

The highlight of water activities is snorkeling or diving at the Blue Cave on Cape Maeda. This area is teeming with travelers in the peak summer months, but a perfect place to explore in the shoulder season. Water temperatures are always comfortable, but the conditions can fluctuate to near dangerous, especially in the winter.

If you’re looking to go on a tour, then you’re in good hands! If you’re more up for traveling at your own pace, then be sure to check out the Cape Maeda website. At the bottom, you’ll find the day’s guidance on whether swimming is allowed or not, with a live cam of a hanging flag.

While there isn’t anyone monitoring the area per se, the cape is known to have a gnarly current and some rough waves so I suggest you heed the advice online. If you can’t swim, it’s still worth some time exploring the area! 

Cost: ¥100/hour for parking
Time: 3 hours

Turquoise water in the Blue Cave in Okinawa, a popular snorkeling destination
Blue Cave, Okinawa

Surfing / Beach Day

Onna is the best place to have a chill beach day. If you stay at a resort, chances are there is a beach right outside! While there are beaches all over Okinawa, they are not all the same. Some have rough coral and rocks, while others are as fluffy as almond flour. The area along Onna and towards Churaumi Aquarium is the best for beach chilling. Also conveniently, a perfect place to watch the sunset. 

There are some expert surf instructors in Okinawa – if you stay at the Tropical Surf House listed below, you’ll be staying with the top surf instructor, and kiteboard instructor in all of Japan! 

Girl on the beach holding a black dog in her lap
The Best Beach Days

Cave Okinawa

A tourist attraction, but also very cool to explore. These limestone caverns are a great way to learn the foundations of these dramatic islands, and fun to do with the whole family! They will often put on light displays, but these geographic features are pretty nifty themselves.

Parking is free and it’s a fun thing to do if you have extra time or a rainy day. If you’re interested but don’t have the time while you’re in Onna, there are a few of these cave excursions around the island!

Cost: ¥500 / $3.37
Time: 1 hour

An underground limestone cavern in Okinawa at Okinawa World
Okinawa World | Image from Japan Travel

Cape Manzamo

Cape Manzamo is the perfect place to see the sunset. The visitor center is modern and nice with a lot of local food options and free to explore. There is a small walking trail that goes out onto the cape for a small fee, but so worth it to see the unique cliffs! 

The area does get a bit busy, so go earlier rather than later. If you’re still up for an adventure then head just 5 minutes south and check out Mermaid’s Grotto on the beach! This area is not for swimming, but it does have cool tide pools to check out!

Cost: ¥100 for small lookout hike
Time: 30 minutes

Head to the 3rd floor of the visitor center (near the escalators) and you'll find a private outdoor deck. There are no signs for it, but you can get impressive views for free!

View of Cape Manzamo at sunset in Okinawa
Cape Manzamo Viewpoint

Where To Eat in Onna

  • Orchid Ryukyu Cuisines – Not the best for food, but it sure is a local experience with a show while you eat!
  • hale’aina HOA – Not Japanese, but the best food we’ve have in a long time (and great for working)
  • Agu Shabu-Shabu and Okinawa Cuisine Kafuu – $$$ but a fun local experience

*Be aware in touristy areas – some restaurants will give you an appetizer or beer you didn’t order.. if you take it, you buy it. Be aware of their sneaky tricks to get more money out of you.

 

Nago - 2 Days

Nago is like the capital of northern Okinawa. A great jumping-off point to both the tourist activities and heading north into the Yanbaru National Park. There are a lot of traditional restaurants in Nago and fun modern things to do. 

Churaumi Aquarium

The Churaumi Aquarium is a must-do for every traveler in your one week in Okinawa, even if you try to skip the touristy stops as we do. This was the most incredible aquarium I’ve ever seen! Not only because of the amount of education and conservation efforts that are taken by the aquarium but also because of the massive Whale Shark that is there.

Although I usually don’t support large mammals in captivity, all of the animals that are there either cannot be released into the wild due to injury or human habituation. The dolphins that are in the show are never forced to perform and only spend a few years in the aquarium before being released (knowing a few extra tricks to show off to their pod).

The owner of the budget accommodation below used to work at the aquarium, so if you stay with him you’ll get the ultimate tour!

Cost: ¥2,180 / $14.69
Time:
3 hours

You can buy discounted tickets at convenience stores close by to save a few dollars!

Whale shark statue outside of the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium during sunset

Hike Mount Katsudake

The best views over Nago and the surrounding peninsula & islands are from Mount Katsudake. There is a network of trails that lead to mountain peaks with incredible views. Parking is free and it is never busy! 

This is one of the best-hidden gems in Okinawa and a great way to explore outside without heading all the way north into the denser rainforest. The trek is free and beautiful any time of year, but don’t underestimate the strength of the sun! 

Cost: Free
Time: 1.5 hours

Girl standing on Katsudake mountain looking out over the city of Nago in Okinawa
Katsudake Mountain View

Snorkel Gorilla Chop

Our favorite snorkeling location was Gorilla Chop, a must-do during your one week in Okinawa. It is an easy drive to get there, and just a few meters from a public bus stop! Parking is free, and once you’re on the beach, it’s only a few meters into the water until you’re in one of the best snorkeling spots in Okinawa! Here you may see turtles, octopuses, unique and colorful fish, and of course, other divers.

This is a popular place since it is sheltered from the wind and waves, and it’s easy to access. Although there are a lot of scuba divers, the depth never got more than 10 meters, so it’s very easy to snorkel! Visiting Gorilla Chop in the morning or shoulder season is the best way to experience it with fewer people and less water disturbance. 

Cost: Free
Time: 2 hours

Do Not feed the fish. The animals were habituated to people as a result of tours feeding them. If you go with a tour group, make sure it isn't one that supports unethical animal encounters!

Underwater footage of Gorilla Chop in Okinawa, some of the best snorkeling in Okinawa
Gorilla Chop Coral Reef

Nakijin Castle Ruins

The Nakijin Castle will take you back in time to the 14th century. Here you can explore a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a testament to the Ryukyu Kingdom’s legacy. Explore the sprawling ruins, imagining the royal court, temples, and defensive structures bustling with life. Climb the observation tower to be rewarded with breathtaking panoramas of the Motobu Peninsula and East China Sea.

Wear comfortable shoes as you navigate the uneven terrain, and remember sunscreen and water during warmer months. Consider this historical gem as part of a day trip exploring nearby wonders like Kouri Island!

Cost: ¥600
Time: 1 hour

Stone wall structure at the Nakijin Castle Ruins in Okinawa
Nakijin Castle Ruins | Image from Japan Travel

Where To Eat in Nago

  • Annetai Chaya Hammock Garden – Incredible views right next to the more touristy Pizza in the Sky
  • Miyazato Soba – One of the oldest Soba restaurants in Okinawa, a traditional meal
  • Sashimi from a fish market – Perfect for a sushi date on the beach, our favorite was at 483 Nakaoshi in Nago. 
  • Orion Brewery – Not really a place to eat, but this is the beer of Okinawa. Take a tour to see where it’s made and try it yourself!

Kunigami & Yanburu National Park - 2 Days

This is the least explored part of the island, but our favorite by far. You can drive deep into the ancient jungle, see more wildlife, and explore on foot. This is the best hiking area and home to most of the island’s waterfalls!

Explore Daisekirinzan & Cape Hedo

The northernmost point of the island has insane views and history. Daisekirinzan is a low-cost way to explore the unique topography of the area and learn about the people who used to live here. There are 3 hiking trails, banyan trees, ruins, and so much natural beauty and spiritual lore which only takes about 90 minutes to walk.

Further north is Cape Hedo, a great lookout and viewing area to see the insane geography of the area you just hiked! Down on the beach is popular for surfers, but waves can get pretty big so beware!

Cost: ¥1,200 / $8.00
Time: 2 hours

View of a steep cliff and jungle from Daisekirinzan in northern Okinawa
Daisekirinzan

Hike Hijio Falls

If you’re going to do any waterfall hikes within your one week in Okinawa, let it be Hijio Falls. It is the biggest on the island and the suspension bridge you cross to get there is so dreamy. If you go early morning or closer to sunset, you won’t have much of a crowd. The park closes at 17:00, with the last entry at 15:30 so don’t wait too long!

Although swimming is not permitted, you can still feel the mist from the viewing area at the base of the falls. There are a few spots to enter the water further downstream, just watch out for Habu! If you want to swim at the falls, then check out Ta-Taki – just as beautiful and with swimming permitted.

Cost: ¥500 / $3.40
Time: 2 hours

A waterfall cascading through the jungle at Hijio Falls in Okinawa
Hijio Falls

Mangrove Kayaking

If you’re keen to explore out in nature, then get up and close with a mangrove kayaking excursion. Located on the eastern coast, the Higahi-son Fureai Hirugi Park is a perfect place to get on a kayak and float among the trees. 

You’ll be amazed at the life that lives in these coastal ecosystems, and your guide will educate you on all the birds, fish, insects, and plants that rely on each other to thrive. Mangroves keep coasts protected from erosion, tsunamis, hurricanes, and everything else that the ocean throws at us… crazy how so many places rip them out for ‘a better view’!

If you don’t want to get in the water, you can still walk along the boardwalk and get a glimpse!

Cost: Free park entry, kayak tour booked privately
Time: 1 hour

Lush magrove trees in shallow water with a kayaker in Okinawa
Okinawa Mangroves | Image from Japan Travel

Where To Eat In Kunigami

  • Emi no Mise – Best traditional options, recommended by many locals!
  • Satsukimaru – Great local food when you’re exploring the far North
  • Agachi Mui – Perfect for a break to take in the ocean views
  • Ogimi Sky Terrace – Incredible views over the bay with a walk-out viewing deck

Getting Around in Okinawa

Okinawa is best traveled by rental car. Especially if you want to explore the northern part of the island where public buses don’t run, you’ll need a car. Many hosts have one for rent, or may know someone that can provide it!

Be sure to have your International Driver’s Permit with you, as driving laws are very strict in Japan. Also, Japanese drivers are extremely courteous… like too kind. So drive slowly, and be courteous in return!

The public bus is useful, but only as far an Nago – anything further north is not accessible. The buses work on a pretty regular time clock, although the drivers barely speak English so be ready to know where you’re going!

Best Time To Visit Okinawa

Okinawa is a beautiful tropical paradise any time of year. However, depending on what you’re looking for out of your perfect one week in Okinawa, some times are better than others.

In general, the best time to visit Okinawa is in the shoulder seasons of April & May, or September & October. These months you will still have ideal weather, but without the intense heat and big crowds. 

Explore the other destinations waiting for you in Asia!

Summary - Perfect One Week Itinerary in Okinawa

You can do so much within this one week in Okinawa. This island has a rich history, incredible food, lush nature, and friendly people.

One week may not seem like enough, we spent 45 days there and still wanted to stay longer!

Between the capital city of Nago’s rich history at the Shuri Castle, WWII memorials, and the northern region’s Yanbaru National Park, there is something for every traveler.

You cannot go to Okinawa without exploring the life under the water in the vibrant coral reefs. Also, be sure to try as much of the local food as you can – that may just be the secret to the Okinawan’s vitality and long-lifespan! 

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in Japan, 0 comments
14 Best Things To Do in Pula, Croatia

14 Best Things To Do in Pula, Croatia

Exploring the vibrant city of Pula, Croatia? Discover the best things to do in Pula that blend rich history, stunning landscapes, and coastal relaxation.

From ancient Roman amphitheaters to hidden beaches, this guide highlights diverse activities catering to every traveler’s interests. Join us in uncovering the gems that make Pula a must-visit destination, seamlessly combining culture, history, and coastal allure for a memorable experience.

Pula Arena is the highlight in the city of Pula, Croatia

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Why You Need To Visit Croatia If you're not already convinced!

Pula Tourist Card

If you are spending some time in the city to see the historical sites, look into getting a ‘Pula+ Card‘ for access to 6 attractions and sights.

The card grants access to the Arena, Zerostrasse, Temple of Augustus, Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria, Sacred Hearts Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Art of Istria!

Swing by the local Tourism Office to get your card when you arrive!

€14 for adults, €6 for students and children under 5 to see the top sites in Pula!

Roman Ruins

Like every town and city in Croatia, the ‘Old Town’ has ancient architecture dating back to the days of the Romans and before. The history that has walked these streets is breathtaking, and the region has done so well to preserve the structures and atmosphere of its rich past. 

The following are some paid and unpaid attractions to get a taste of the city’s history. 

Pula Arena

Pula, Croatia is home to one of the most well-preserved Roman Arenas in the world, and arguably one of the best things to do in Pula! Built in 1 AD, this arena has seen centuries of bloodshed and battles and is still used today where it hosts concerts, the Pula Film Festival, sporting events, and more! 

The magnificence of this arena can be experienced from the outside, with the ability to walk 360 degrees around the perimeter. Seated right near the main harbor, this is a must-see destination in Pula!

Cost: €10 for adults, €5 for students and children
* Included in Pula Tourist Card

Aerial view of the Pula Area, an ancient colosseum from the Roman Empire
Source - History Hit

Fortress Kastel (Pula Castle)

Built on top of a hill in the old town, the Pula Castle has a great vantage point for travelers to explore the city views and rich history that lies within the walls. 

The fortress was constructed by the Venetians in the 17th century, and today it is home to the Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria. The fortress can be walked around the outside, where you’ll also get a glimpse of the Roman Amphitheater, and still get a taste of its impressive size and unique shape. 

On your winding walk down from the castle, stop by Jupiter Pizza for what I can personally confirm as the best pizza in town!

Cost: €2.70 entry tickets
* Included in Pula Tourist Card

Zerostrasse

Directly under Fortress Kastel, there is a series of tunnels that were used as a bomb shelter during the First World War. 

Constructed by the Austro-Hungarian empire, these tunnels have 4 entrances that link the city into this underground 2.5 miles of tunnels. Today the tunnels host signs walking you through the history of this underground world, and occasionally there are some other events held inside!

* Included in Pula Tourist Card

Check out @PulaNightLife on social media for any events or music shows happening inside the Zerostrasse tunnels! 

Roman Mosaic

The Roman Mosaic isn’t an excursion per se, but it’s definitely a fun thing to seek out in the city as you explore the weaving streets, alleys, and staircases that connect the Old Town.

Explore the city streets and find the authentic remnants of the rule of the Roman Empire. They’re a bit tricky to find, but amazing to see the craftsmanship that has lasted centuries.

The mosaic is totally free to see and a fun thing to add to your day of exploration!

Roman Mosaic hidden in the streets of Pula, Croatia
Roman Mosaic in Pula

City Bike Ride

Around the city, you’ll see Tier-branded electric bikes and scooters available for rent for a crazy good price! 

West of the Old Town, there is a network of paved, dirt, and gravel paths that will lead you to abandoned forts, coastline access, and incredible views in every direction. You can also see the well-known Galebijana Cave, but to fully explore it you’ll need to get into the water!

We loved that the bikes were electric because we felt we could ride around all day. 

To rent them, you need to download the Tier Bike and Scooter apps, where you can track down their locations, the battery levels, your ride history, and pay for use. 

There are plenty of parking areas in this area, which allows you to ditch the bike or scooter whenever you want to keep exploring! 

Cost: €1.50 / 30 minutes

They have to be returned to a proper parking area shown on the map of the app, otherwise, you could incur a €26 fee!

Galebijana Sea Cave

Pula has an incredible sea cave that is so easy to get to, and when you go in the off-season you’re guaranteed to have the cave all to yourself! This was by far one of the best things to do in Pula.

The best ways to get there are by bike rental or sea kayak! Even in the off-season, sea kayaking is very comfortable and fun (maybe less so if you plan to get into the water)!

The Galebijana Sea Cave is easy to get to, and a must-see for anyone in Pula no matter the time of year. 

We took a sea kayak, which cost €50 for a 2-person kayak and was worth every penny. In the off-season, contact Istria Kayak Tours via email at istriakayaktours@gmail.com, or by calling +385 098 802 349. 

A kayak floating in a sea cave in Croatia, one of the best things to do outside!
Pula Sea Cave

Beaches

Although you won’t find any white sand beaches around Pula, or any of Croatia for that matter, the beaches here offer a much different experience!

The rocky coast and limestone sea caves offer a more adventurous type of exploration. Be ready to dive into the water (safely, of course) to see what is waiting for you along the Istrian coast!

Lookout for 'FKK', a German word - Freikörperkultur (don't ask me how to pronounce it). This essentially translates to Free Body Culture, AKA, Nude Beach! These are common all around Europe!

Kamenjak

While not directly in Pula, the beaches on the Kamenjak Peninsula, including Safari Bar Kamenjak, are renowned for their natural beauty and unique features.

The Kamenjak Peninsula and Premantura Nature Park offer a variety of beaches with rocky cliffs, hidden coves, and crystal-clear waters.

The surrounding natural reserve provides opportunities for exploration, and the diverse beaches cater to different preferences, making Kamenjak a favorite for those seeking adventure and a connection with nature.

Prementura Beach during sunset in Pula, Croatia
Image from Prementura.net

Havajsko Beach (Hawaii Beach)

Havajsko Beach offers a blend of pebbles and rocks, creating a picturesque setting closely resembling Hawaii, as the name suggests.

The clear waters are perfect for snorkeling, or just taking in the breathtaking views. The beach is relatively secluded, offering a more intimate experience away from the bustling crowds.

Be sure to explore around the Verudela area, and you can’t miss the Verudela Canyon, a favorite swimming spot!

A view of the Verudela Canyon is one of the best things to do in Pula, Croatia!
Image from PulaCroatia.net

Pula Market

Exploring the Pula Market is a much when exploring the city. See how locals shop, sell, and purchase what they need from local vendors, one of the best things to do in Pula for a local experience.

Here, you will find fresh produce, meat, cheese, and items like clothing, and gifts. This is a bustling marketplace and a perfect spot to people-watch!

Even better is the building the market is located in. Although typically these types of markets are located outdoors, the Pula Market is in a 3-story century-old building, filled with local art, and natural light, and always busy with shoppers!

Open daily from 7 am – 2 pm, closed on Sunday, and always free to walk around!

Check out a full one-month budget in Croatia for travelers, so you can do more with your wallet.

Check out a full one-month budget in Croatia for travelers, so you can do more with your wallet.

Pula Aquarium

The Pula Aquarium is a great way to experience the diverse aquatic life of the Adriatic Sea and inland freshwater ecosystems. It is located in the 130-year-old Austro-Hungarian Verudella Fort on the coast just south of Pula.

The Pula Aquarium is committed to the rich biodiversity of its natural heritage and is persistently working to rehabilitate and release endangered and at-risk species.

Normally I wouldn’t recommend animals in captivity, but the Pula Aquarium doubles as a wildlife rehabilitation location!

Cost: Entry is €17 for adults, and €13 for students and seniors.
**Check out their website to find current discounts!

Brijuni National Park

Brijuni National Park is just off the northwest coast of Pula and hosts intriguing features and activities that will interest any traveler who passes through! The park is a bustling place to visit in the summer months with hotels on the island, a golf course, and many land and water tours. 

Everything is accessible on foot, but if you’re not interested in walking a few miles to see it all there are bikes and golf carts available to rent! In the off-season, you’ll have a massive island to explore at your pace with so many things to see. 

The park has so many things to do, including a Safari Park, exposed 130 million-year-old dinosaur footprints on the rocky beach, a 1,600-year-old Olive tree, picturesque ‘Pine Valley’, and miles of serene walking paths!

Cost: €22 for ferry to the island and National Park access
+
Additional €4 for the bus ride to Fažana

Getting to Brijuni National Park

To get there, first, you’ll need to take a 15-minute bus ride from Pula up to Fažana, a quaint coastal town just North of Pula. 

Near the main harbor area, you’ll find the Brijuni National Park information center where you can purchase ferry tickets to get across to the main island. The ferry ticket also grants access to the National Park and all of the free excursions offered. 

The ferry runs at specific times so be sure to check the timetable for the dates you wish to visit.

A woman standing in the Row of Pines at Brijuni National Park in Pula Croatia
A zebra standing in a field at the Brijuni Safari Park

Istrian Food

Nothing brings you closer to a culture’s roots than through food. Especially with a region as old as Istria, explore the ancient methods of processing and preparing their cultural offerings with the locals themselves!

Olive Oil Tour

Participate in an olive oil tasting tour to learn about Istria’s renowned olive oil production. Learn how to incorporate it into your diet, read the labels, and sample the varying aromas.

There is no better place to experience the history and importance of Istria’s olive oil than at the ‘House of Istrian Olive Oil‘. 

For only €15, get a tour of the process and an all-inclusive tasting. This tour lasts 50 minutes and can be longer for a more thorough experience!

Wine Tasting

Wine tasting anywhere is always a fun time, but when a region has been making wine for thousands of years, you can trust they know what they’re doing.

Wine tasting in Croatia is a must, especially in Istria where the majority of the country’s wine is made! Check around for any tastings and tours that suit your preferences, or include this as a day trip from Pula when you head further North into the heart of wine-country.

Cooking Class

There is no better way to experience the food of an area, than cooking it yourself! There are so many options for a cooking experience in Croatia, but it’s always best to find one that includes shopping for the local ingredients at the market, and always includes local wine 😉

Check out this 6-hour market tour and cooking class, which offers it all for only €210 per person!

 

A typical meal in Pula, Croatia

Check out this Ultimate Europe Packing List so you're ready for any adventure!

More Adventures in Pula

The fun doesn’t stop there! Although this is a curated list of my top 14 suggestions, so much waits for you in and around Pula!

Rent a car and take a day trip from Pula – the best way to see the rest of Istria! 

Or, check out some of the highest-rated tours in Pula.

Summary - Top 14 Things to Do In Pula, Croatia

Pula, Croatia is a must-visit for anyone visiting the coastal country on the Adriatic. The charming culture, cobble-stone streets, and Roman architecture leave you in awe. Not the mention the aqua-blue water with hidden gems tucked along the coast!

Pula is a must-see location, leaving the only question; what will you do first?!

Explore the other destinations waiting for you in Europe!

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in Croatia, 0 comments
How To Get To Koh Samui

How To Get To Koh Samui

Planning your escape to the Gulf of Thailand? The first step of the journey is figuring out how to get to Koh Samui, the largest and most convenient of the archipelago, so you can hit the beach and start your tropical vacation!

In this guide, we’ll break down the different route options, cost estimates, and considerations, pros, and cons of each, so you can pick the plan that best suits you. Book your tickets directly from here and start your journey to the island paradise of Koh Samui!

Airport sign in Koh Samui at sunrise, one of the ways on how to get to Koh Samui

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Getting to Koh Samui by Plane

For those prioritizing speed and convenience, flying is the most direct route to Koh Samui. Not to mention that the Koh Samui airport is possibly the most beautiful in the world!

Direct flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) in Bangkok to Samui Airport (USM) take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. However, this convenience comes at a cost, with flight prices ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 Thai Baht. 

It’s recommended to book your flight well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure the best deals! Learn the secrets of booking the cheapest flights!

Pros

  • Speed: The quickest way to reach Koh Samui so you can hit the beach ASAP!
  • Comfort: Direct flights provide convenience and comfort.
  • Airport: Koh Samui Airport is by far the most beautiful airport I’ve ever seen!

Cons

  • Cost: Generally more expensive compared to other options.
  • No Scenery: You will miss the beauty along the way that you get with a bus, train, or ferry.
  • Carbon Intensity: Flying is usually the least sustainable mode of transport. 
View out of a plane with a yellow sky and clouds

Getting to Koh Samui by Ferry

For a more scenic route, ferry travel to Koh Samui offers a more adventurous journey. The main ferry terminal on Koh Samui – Nathon Pier – is centrally located on the west coast. However, there are a few ferry ports so double-check which one you will arrive at to coordinate your arrival!

While most ferries depart the mainland from Donsak Pier, 2 other options exist that may be ideal for your travels. Other ferry options depart from Surat Thani or Chumphon on the mainland, connecting to Nathon Pier in Koh Samui.

From Donsak Pier

Donsak Pier is the most common port to leave the mainland and ferry over to Koh Samui. Located in Surat Thani, 275 km northeast of Phuket, getting there may require a bus or train ride from a main city, so be sure to consider that into your cost!

The ferry ride itself takes anywhere between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours for 450-240 Baht. Typically the ferry runs 2x a day, mid-morning and mid-afternoon, so be sure to plan every leg of the journey with the other.

There are 3 main operators; Lomprayah, Donsak Raja, and Seatran. Not all of them operate year-round, and prices and speeds differ between them so be sure to check them all!

Use 12Go.Asia, or Bookaway to easily compare and find the best travel options for you!

Getting to the Pier

Since getting to the pier may require some extra travel, I will briefly go over some ways to get there! Depending on where you’re coming from, you can choose between bus, train, or flight to Surat Thani By BUS Bus is the most common way to travel on land between cities in Thailand. No reservations are required in many cases, with different options for your ride to suit your preferences (VIP, A/C, standard). The best part, is the buses will take you directly to the Surat Thani ferry terminal, unlike the train and plane options below. 
  • Bus from Bangkok – Surat Thani: 600-900 THB / 9-16 hours
  • Bus from Phuket – Surat Thani: 380 THB / 6 hours
  • Bus from Krabi – Surat Thani: 450 THB / 4 hours
By TRAIN The train is a great way to see the countryside, with affordable options! This is great if you’re coming from Bangkok, and want to lock it in for a long ride down the coast. You can get a sleeper car for extra comfort, but be sure to book your ticket at least 5 days in advance!
  • Train from Bangkok – Surat Thani: 1,000 THB / 9-12 hours
By PLANE
If you don’t want to miss all the action on the ground, you can combine a flight to Surat Thani Airport and a ferry out to Koh Samui! Often, this is cheaper than flying directly to Koh Samui, although it does add some time to your travel. Consider the cost to bus from the airport to the ferry terminal + the ferry cost, to see if it outweighs flying directly to Koh Samui.

Pros

  • Scenery: You get to see Thailand’s beauty along the way!
  • Budget: Ferries are much more affordable than a flight, saving you money.
  • Carbon Intensity: A ferry is a more sustainable option than a flight. 

Cons

  • Duration: Depending on where you’re coming from, this can be a much longer route.
  • Limited Ports: There are only 3 ports that operate between the mainland and Koh Samui, requiring a potential extra leg of travel to get there.

Transportation on Koh Samui

Upon arriving on the island, transportation options are abundant and affordable. Taxis, scooter rentals, and shared trucks, known as Songthaews, are readily available and great for exploring this tropical island.

Taxis are convenient for quick point-to-point travel, with costs ranging from 300 to 500 Thai Baht for short distances. Since flights and ferries arrive on the island at regular intervals, they are often waiting to pick up any travelers who have just arrived. Be sure to have some Thai Baht in cash on you so you’re ready to catch a ride! 

Scooter rentals provide an eco-friendly and flexible means of exploration, most of which will require you to leave your passport with them. Scooter rentals are located all over the island, but you can also ask your host for some recommendations. Cars are also available, but much more expensive and less easy to navigate this mountainous island.

Songthaews offers shared rides with affordable fares. This is basically sitting on a bench in the back of a pick-up truck, but a great local experience to have, and usually very affordable!

Upon arrival on Koh Samui, be sure to ask your accommodation if transport is included for pickup from the airport or ferry terminal. Often, it is included in your stay, relatively affordable, or a great way to find a contact to have someone available to get you when you arrive!

Get an International Driver's Permit before leaving your home country so you're able to rent abroad with no problem, covered by insurance, and won't be extorted for money by local law enforcement!

Girl sitting on a motorbike with 2 backpacks on, an efficient way to travel in Asia

Transportation to Koh Phangan & Koh Tao

Your journey in the Gulf of Thailand doesn’t have to stop at Koh Samui. Continue venturing north to the other 2 islands in this archipelago; Koh Phangan & Koh Tao. Since neither of these islands has an airport, Ferry is your only option to get there!

Koh Phangan is famous for its Full Moon Party, less-touristy atmosphere, and spiritual communities. My favorite destination in all of Thailand!

Koh Tao is an underwater paradise for snorkelers, scuba divers, and free divers. Although a much smaller and further island, don’t discount this little gem’s attraction!

Check out everything you can't miss with this  2 week itinerary in Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao!

Summary - Getting to Koh Samui

Getting to Koh Samui offers a variety of choices catering to different preferences. Whether opting for the swiftness of air travel or taking the scenic journey by ferry, each mode comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Once on the island, the diverse transportation options ensure that exploring Koh Samui is not only convenient but also environmentally conscious. Consideration of the environmental impact, advance ticket booking, and embracing sustainable transportation practices collectively contribute to a well-rounded travel experience on this tropical haven.

 

Now that you know where you're going, make sure you have everything you need with the  Ultimate Thailand Packing List!

Posted by Taylor Mallaber in Thailand, 0 comments
2 Week Itinerary – Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao

2 Week Itinerary – Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao

Discover the hidden gems in the tropical archipelago of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao – a two-week adventure designed for the budget-savvy adventurer.

From the lush waterfalls and spiritual retreats of Koh Samui to the vibrant markets, legendary parties, and tranquil beaches of Koh Phangan, and finally, the adventure-packed adventures beneath the waves and atop scenic viewpoints of Koh Tao, prepare for an unforgettable journey in the heart of the Gulf of Thailand. Embrace the charm, discover hidden gems, and immerse yourself in the magic of these tropical havens.

Sunset on the beach in Koh Samui, Thailand, with long tail fishing boats floating in the distance

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Arrive In Koh Samui

Since this is the only island with an airport and the most direct access to the mainland, it’s easiest to start your travel in Koh Samui! Koh Samui is a popular tourist destination and relatively easy to get to from the mainland! 

Koh Samui is the most touristy, and expensive, and has the least to offer of the 3 islands in my opinion – we are still talking pristine beaches, clear warm water, delicious Thai food, and vibrant exploration!

 

You can get to Koh Samui via ferry from the Raja Port, or via plane from any nearby airport including Bangkok and Phuket.

Day 1-2 - Koh Samui (West & South)

Na Muang Waterfall

Begin your island adventure at the enchanting Na Muang Waterfall on Koh Samui. A moderate hike through the lush jungle leads to the two-tiered cascade, surrounded by vibrant greenery. 

Cost: 30 THB

Time: 2-3 hours.

Samui Elephant Sanctuary

Connect with majestic elephants ethically at Samui Elephant Sanctuary. Take a guided tour, providing an opportunity to feed and bathe these gentle giants while contributing to their conservation. You can volunteer to feed the animals, and learn about their rehabilitation process! 

Cost: From 1,500 THB

Time: Half-day.

Not all animal experiences have ethical actions for the animal. Do not support places where: animals are forced or coerced into interacting, there is no education or conservation efforts, and if the animals are used for profit rather than awareness.

Asian elephant with a man reaching his hand out to touch the elephant's trunk at an ethical animal sanctuary

Kerton Hostel

Beds in a hostel in Koh Samui
$

Baan Hin Sai Resort

View of a pool and a beach at sunset on Koh Samui, Thailand
$$

Sea Dance Resort

An aerial view of beach villas and a pool in Koh Samui, Thailand
$$$

Day 3-8 - Koh Phangan

Bottle Beach Viewpoint & Trek

Get an unparalleled panoramic view of one of the best beaches in Koh Phangan – the crescent-shaped Bottle Beach. The viewpoint is accessible by a well-marked trail that winds through the lush jungle. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, and bring a camera to capture the breathtaking scenery from the viewpoint, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot some monkeys overhead! This is a budget-friendly way to appreciate the natural beauty of Koh Phangan.

To continue to Bottle Beach, you can either continue the trek for a total 5-6 hour trip or head back to the lot and catch a lift for only 150 THB! 

Cost: Free!

Time: 2-3 hours round trip

Thongsala Night Market

Immerse yourself in the vibrant Thongsala Night Market. Located in the island’s main port town, the market comes alive in the evening with a myriad of stalls offering everything from street food to handmade crafts. The market is free to explore, and prices for food and souvenirs are budget-friendly. Sample traditional Thai dishes, indulge in local delicacies, and soak in the lively atmosphere. Consider bringing a reusable bag for your purchases and an adventurous palate for trying new flavors.

Cost: Very affordable
Time: 2-4 hours in the evening

Spiritual Escape in Srithanu

Indulge in the serene atmosphere of Srithanu with budget-friendly yoga classes. Drop-in classes start from 300 THB, offering a rejuvenating experience for the mind and body. Join experienced instructors in open-air studios surrounded by lush greenery. Bring comfortable clothing and an open mind for a session of relaxation and self-discovery. Experience an authentic Ecstatic Dance at Pyramid Yoga, or a healing sound bath at the Dome Sauna

Cost: From 300 THB

Time: 2-6 hours

Thai Cooking Class

Explore Thai cuisine (my favorite) with a budget-friendly cooking class in Koh Phangan. Learn the art of Thai cuisine using fresh, local ingredients. Classes typically include hands-on instruction, a visit to a local market to source ingredients, and the joy of savoring your creations. Classes are suitable for all skill levels, and instructors provide insights into the rich culinary heritage of Thailand. We went to Muai’s Thai Traditional Cooking Academy and it was an incredible experience!

Cost: From 800 THB

Time: Half-day

Full Moon Party

Join the legendary Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Beach, an iconic monthly celebration that draws revelers from around the world. The party kicks into high gear during the full moon, transforming the beach into a pulsating dance floor. Entry is free, and drinks are available for purchase at various beach bars. Bring comfortable beachwear, dance under the moonlight, and immerse yourself in the electrifying atmosphere of this must-attend event. For budget-conscious travelers, it’s an unforgettable night of music, dancing, and vibrant energy. 

Cost: Free entry, drinks available for purchase

Time: Nighttime festivities

Stay Safe! Stay out of the ocean for safety and hygiene (it becomes a toilet), wear shoes since there ends up being broken glass, and be aware of undercover cops selling drugs.

Haad Rin Rock Viewpoint

Hike to Haad Rin Rock Viewpoint for a mesmerizing perspective of Koh Phangan and the Gulf of Thailand. Accessible by a scenic trail, the viewpoint offers breathtaking vistas, especially during sunrise or sunset. The hike takes approximately 1-2 hours from a paved road, but you can get right to it on an off-road bike. Head to the lighthouse after the FMP to get a view from above!

Cost: Free

Time: 1-2 hours

Haad Rin Viewpoint on Koh Phangan, Thailand

Puk's Palace Hostel

Common space in a hostel with chairs and a bar on the beach in Koh Phangan, Thailand
$

Castaway Bungalows

Green Papaya

Days 8-13 - Koh Tao

Snorkel Tanote Bay

Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Tanote Bay for an unforgettable snorkeling experience. Tanote Bay boasts vibrant coral reefs and an abundance of marine life. This is a common scuba dive location, but all of the beauty can be experienced from the surface! Pack sunscreen, a hat, and some extra cash for a fresh coconut after the water.

Cost: Snorkel gear rental around 200 THB

Time: Half-day

Scuba Dive Trip

Koh Tao is known as a prime destination for scuba diving. With the migration of Whale Sharks, unique topography, and vibrant reefs, diving here is unforgettable. Stop by Black Turtle Dive shop to check out their work in Coral Restoration projects and see how you can get involved!

Read more about responsible Diving in Koh Tao, including the best locations and schools to dive with!

Side view of a coral reef that has taken over a sunken ship wreck

Koh Nang Yuan

Be sure to save a day to take a trip to the postcard-perfect Koh Nang Yuan. Boat trips start from 600 THB and typically include snorkeling, beach time, and a hike to the iconic viewpoint. The island’s pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a slice of paradise. Budget-friendly and easily accessible, Koh Nang Yuan is a jewel in the Gulf of Thailand. Although it looks close and accessible by a kayak, the locals thought we were crazy for trying! If you do make it this way, be sure to let me know in the comments!

Cost: From 600 THB

Time: Full-day

Assave Dive Resort

A blue pool and palm trees at a dive hostel in Koh Phangan, Thailand
$

Koh Tao Heritage

Lounge chairs and cabanas next to a pool, with the ocean in the back in Koh Tao, Thailand
$$

Cape Shark Villas