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Complete Guide to Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

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Ready to make a splash with an ocean of excitement? Break out your snorkels because we’re going on an adventure at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. 

Get ready for close encounters with crazy sea creatures as you explore this magical deep sea world. Forget your regular aquarium visit! This water wonderland will whisk you away and transport you into the wild, mysterious world of the ocean’s depths.

With 10,000 incredible marine creatures and 740 divine species – what more could you want for a wild and wonderful sea adventure? Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is the ultimate paradise – from mesmerizing manta rays to bewitching giant whale sharks, every corner of this place will have your jaw dropping with awe.

Not only can you be astounded by the marine life at this popular aquarium, but you’ll also feel good knowing that your visit is helping out many scientists with their work.

They use the research center here to determine how to protect endangered species and uncover discoveries about our oceans. So get ready to be wowed—not just by all our aquatic friends but also by what’s going on behind the scenes!

Don’t let the chance to dip in a world of wonders swim away. Visit Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, take its rightful spot off your bucket list, and dive into an extraordinary aquatic voyage.

What is Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium?

Whale Shark and Manta Ray at Churaumi
サラリーマン / Adobe Stock

Tucked away on the gorgeous Okinawa Island of Japan is the fantastic Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium – a highly recommended destination for any die-hard animal lover. It’s home to the third-largest aquarium tank in the world!

Established in 2000 and located in the Ocean Expo Park, the Churaumi Aquarium has become a super popular place to visit- its name practically echoes globally. Locals and tourists flock here to admire rare species of marine life from exotic places across the globe.

Aside from its fantastic sea life displays, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium also has a range of educational activities geared to all ages. These programs will provide insight into the significance of caring for our marine friends.

Now, if that’s not enough, there’s plenty more to keep you busy, too – with a selection of excellent eateries and amazing goodies sold in the gift shops. It’s the perfect place for a fun-filled family day out.

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Top Attractions

Okinawa Aquarium
M.M.Meeks / Flickr

Many attractions are featured in this massive aquarium, such as the Kuroshio Sea Tank, Coral Sea Tank, Tropical Reef Tank, Deep-Sea Tank, and Marine Mammals Exhibit.

Kuroshio Sea Tank

Stingray Swimming at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

At 115 feet long, the Kuroshio Sea is the so-called main tank. Impressively, it’s almost 90 ft wide and 30 ft deep.

This gigantic aquarium houses whale sharks, manta rays, 80 kinds of coral, and other sea creatures. It is the first in the world to breed whale sharks in captivity, and there are currently three whale sharks in the tank.

The humongous whale sharks move with such grace that it feels like everything in the surroundings is moving in slow motion. If you get close to their enormous tank, you feel as if you are right among them and even part of nature itself—it’s an incredible experience.

Coral Sea Tank

Brightly Colored Fish in Coral Sea Tank at Okinawa Aquarium

The Coral Sea tank at the aquarium was purposely built without a roof. This allows the exhibit to be bathed in natural light.

Most of this exhibit’s coral has been cultivated slowly for over a decade. The tropical fish who inhabit this coral reef serve to keep at bay seaweed and sea anemones that would otherwise hinder the growth of the coral.

Deep-Sea Tank

Whale shark
Ayanami No03 / Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Churaumi Aquarium’s enormous deep-sea tank can contain 7,500 cubic meters of water – enough to splash around in 10 Olympic-sized pools. The tank is home to fantastic deep-sea creatures, like majestic manta rays, gentle whale sharks, and joyful dolphins.

Marine Mammals Exhibit

Dolphin Exhibit at Okinawa Aquarium

Check out the Marine Mammals Exhibit at Churaumi Aquarium if you can’t get enough sea creatures. On display, there are dolphins, whales, seals – you name it. Observing these animals and picking up a few fun facts about them will be fun. Get ready for an ocean education as you’ve never had before.

Shark Research Lab

Whale Shark at Okinawa Chauraumi Aquarium

The aquarium is one of my favorite places to spend the day because it has many sharks to learn about. A new shark research lab just opened, where scientists study how these creatures act and behave, which should help us better understand them.

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Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium Travel Tips

Okinawa Aquarium
M.M.Meeks / Flickr

The Churaumi Aquarium is practically overflowing with some of Earth’s most mesmerizing species, and you’ll leave with a whole lot of knowledge. Here are a few tips to ensure your visit is as unique as possible.

  • Plan. Ensure you don’t get stuck outside when the aquarium is closed because you forgot to check its hours. Knowing when to visit can save you from major headaches, especially on holiday or weekend trips. Don’t forget to double-check opening hours and admission prices so there won’t be surprises at the door.
  • Get there early. Want to make the most of your visit? Getting there before 11 a.m. will be like having the whole place to yourself. Avoid those pesky peak-time crowds.
  • Take your time. The aquarium is a whole world to explore, so there’s no way you can see it all in one trip. Put together a plan and explore the exhibits – take your sweet time and don’t rush.
  • Stick around for lunch. The aquarium has several excellent eateries—think sushi, cafe-style grub, and more. Prices are reasonable, so treat yourself while you’re there.
  • Check out the gift shop. There are a plethora of Okinawa-inspired goodies – from clothes to keychains with whale sharks on them to magnets. So, swing by and pick yourself up some sweet reminders for your trip.
  • Enjoy the view. The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is located in a stunning spot, so take a few minutes and soak up all of its beauty. Plus, you can’t forget about those incredible views of the ocean and nearby islands. It’s amazing.

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Things to Do Near Churaumi Aquarium

Kannonzaki Lighthouse, at Sunset, Okinawa
Martin Capek / Adobe Stock

There are a few attractions close to Churaumi Aquarium, such as:

  • Kerama Islands  If Japan is on your travel bucket list, you better get snorkeling in the Kerama Islands of Okinawa. Known best for its magical blue waters, this place has an experience so unique it can’t be found anywhere else. Locals call it ‘Kerama blue,’ trust me – you will be mesmerized by its brilliance as you explore the crystal-clear depths. Even better, plenty of dynamic coral reefs and diverse marine life exist.
  • Nakijin Castle – Want to take a time-travel journey back to Okinawa, Japan? Then you have to check out Nakijin Castle on the Motobu Peninsula. It was built in the 12th century by the Hokuzan Kingdom and destroyed twice afterward. But don’t worry – its ruins are currently part of the historic park known as the Nakijin Castle Ruins Historical Park. You can come any time between 8 am and 6 pm for a time-traveling experience.
  • Katsuren Castle – If you’ve got some extra time and want to check out an ancient castle, the Katsuren Castle is the spot for you. Initially built in the 15th century, the castle was rebuilt in the 60s and now boasts a museum, gift shop, and all kinds of incredible historical artifacts. Plus, it’s open from 8 am to 6 pm – perfect timing for taking a break from seeing all that Okinawa presents.

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Hotels Near the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Ippei & Janine Naoi / Flickr

Are you planning a trip to Okinawa, Japan? There are plenty of fancy hotels that you can stay that afford easy access to the aquarium.

  • Hotel Orion Motobu Resort & SpaReady to get away and be spoiled? The Hotel Orion Motobu Resort & Spa is the perfect spot. Just a five-minute drive from the aquarium – you can gaze at stunning ocean views from your room. But that’s not all! Sit back, relax, and unwind with some spa time in their wellness center after an adventurous day of exploration.
  • Yukurina Resort OkinawaSearching for an adventure? Stay at Yukurina Resort Okinawa. This lovely little haven is the perfect spot: cozy, a few minutes stroll from the oceanarium, and hugged by lush trees. You can start your day with a yummy Okinawan breakfast, then wind down in the hot springs later – this place has it all.
  • Emerald Inn by CINEMA RESORT GROUP. Hoping to score a fantastic deal on a hotel stay? Check out Emerald Inn by the CINEMA RESORT GROUP. You’ll be only ten minutes away from all the underwater fun at the famous aquarium, and it won’t break your wallet. Get comfortable in their clean rooms, and you won’t even have to worry about finding transportation – they’ll shuttle you back and forth for FREE.

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How can I get to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium using public transportation?

You have a few public transportation options if you’re heading to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. The most convenient way is to take the super-fast Yanbaru Express Bus from Naha Bus Terminal—it’ll arrive in around two hours.

You can also try driving down the Okinawa Expressway or hopping on an Okinawa Bus. Plenty of local buses run around Nago City to take you there.

How long does it take to explore the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium?

Depending on how long you want to admire each exhibit, expect it to take two to three hours of exploring before you get your fill at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. But if you’re keen to attend a show or join a fun program, allocate more time – this place is way too cool not to hang around for long.

Is it possible to see whale sharks at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium?

Yes, you can see some whale sharks at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. This spot has a ginormous tank with all sorts of underwater creatures, like crazy big whale sharks, manta rays, and oodles of tropical fish.

Generously highlighted as one of the aquarium’s star attractions is those delightful whale sharks that you can stare at in awe while meandering through an underwater tunnel.

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