Display

Less Than a Beer: Exploring Hedo Point

Waves crash against the 200-foot cliffs at Hedo Point, the northern-most spot on Okinawa, on Oct. 18, 2015. The point is a popular tourist destination, and makes for a good day trip from Kadena Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Waves crash against the 200-foot cliffs at Hedo Point, the northern-most spot on Okinawa, on Oct. 18, 2015. The point is a popular tourist destination, and makes for a good day trip from Kadena Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tim Flack)

Several monuments, including the marker, “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” were found at Hedo Point, the northern-most spot on Okinawa, during an Oct. 18, 2015, visit. Hedo, a 90-kilometer drive from Kadena Air Base, offers an interesting day trip to explore the island. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jason W. Edwards)

Several monuments, including the marker, “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” were found at Hedo Point, the northern-most spot on Okinawa, during an Oct. 18, 2015, visit. Hedo, a 90-kilometer drive from Kadena Air Base, offers an interesting day trip to explore the island. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jason W. Edwards)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- (Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of stories built on the challenge of "less than a beer." The goal is to provide the Kadena Air Base community with information on interesting places to explore on Okinawa that are cheaper to visit than buying one beer.)

North, or south? That's the sort of question that can best be answered by the flip of a coin when you're considering a weekend road trip to explore Okinawa.

The quarter landed on heads, so we exited Kadena's Gate 1, turned right and drove north on Route 58. Our goal was to go as far north as possible on our island home.

The first half of the drive past the resort hotels, dive shops and restaurants was congested with tourist rental cars, but traffic began to thin out on the other side of Nago. By the time we passed the turnoff to Okuma Recreation Facility, we were the only car on the road for long minutes at a time, a rare luxury here.

Route 58 hugs the coastline, a two-lane cement ribbon winding along the ocean.  We found great places to stop to take photos of the beautiful water, hunt for sea glass and cool rocks.

About 90 kilometers from Kadena, we finally arrived at Hedo Point, the northern-most spot on the island and a popular tourist destination.

Hedo Point offers an absolutely stunning view of waves smashing into the 200-foot high cliffs. We stood peering down into the turbulent waters, while spray from the waves battering the cliffs drifted up and cooled us off.

There are several monuments dotting Hedo Point, including one commemorating Okinawa's connection with the Yoron Island, visible in the distance on clear days.  Another monument celebrates the 1972 reversion of Okinawa back to Japan. A small marker with the words "May Peace Prevail on Earth" is perched on the edge of a cliff.

A three-story replica of Okinawa's most-famous endangered and flightless bird, the Yambaru Kuina, sits within view on a hillside a few kilometers from Hedo, looking out over the ocean.

It took us a few attempts to find our way to the bird. My best advice: As you're driving on the road leading out of Hedo Point back toward 58, you'll see a tiny road branching down toward the ocean. You'll have to navigate the extremely narrow road all the way down to the coastline, then slowly climb back up steep switchbacks until you find the parking lot. I wasn't sure my mini-van would make it, but we finally chugged into the parking spot.

My kids quickly scaled the steps inside the bird, with its distinctive orange and red beak, climbing to an observation deck and window. After a few photos, we were back on the road.

When we got back to Route 58, I mentally flipped another coin, and decided to turn left. I knew the road would eventually wrap around the island, turn into Route 70, and I'd be headed south back down the east coast.

I quickly realized that I was in the middle of Yambaru Kuina country, where local traffic slows to a crawl in an effort to protect the birds. There were plenty of signs warning me to be careful of them on the road, with phone numbers to call if I accidentally hit one, or found an injured bird. I found one news article that stated there were only about 700 of the birds left, so the concern is understandable, but it makes for a slow drive home.

All told, it was another memorable Okinawan adventure. If you haven't made the trip up north yet, I would highly suggest it. Just watch out for the Yambaru Kuina.

Getting to Hedo Point:
- Exit Kadena Gate 1 and turn right onto Route 58.
- Drive about 90 kilometers and the entrance to Hedo Point will be on the left.