Kouri Island & Tower
Kouri island is connected to northern Okinawa by bridge. As we traversed the two lane bridge we marveled at just how clear-blue the water was. We could see down through the water to the reefs below the surface. Once on the island we stopped at a beach which offered swimming and snorkeling, but we decided we would move on and come back to the beach later as there were other things we wanted to see. Our next stop was the Kouri Shrimp Wagon. It used to be a food truck offering garlic shrimp and marinated chicken dishes but has grown in popularity to the point that they expanded and moved into their own restaurant. Let me tell you, there is a reason they are popular. It was delicious! Even Heather, who is normally not a seafood person, really liked it.
After lunch we traveled a mile or so up the road to Kouri tower. After purchasing tickets at a pretty reasonable fee we boarded an automated golf cart. Yes, you read that correctly. The golf carts drove themselves. It drove us up the side of the large hill zigzagging along plant-lined paths. There was an English audio narration that talked about the island, the view, and the heritage of the island. At the top we disembarked and entered the actual tower. The first area we came to was a seashell museum. Pie absolutely loved this! There were so many beautiful shells and color variations and they were creatively displayed. Most were inside glass cases, but some were not, so we had to make sure what little hands were touching so we didn’t break anything. The tower, some 4 stories tall, was perched atop the tallest hill on the island so it seemed like we were much higher. From the observation deck on the top level one could see all around the island and over the bridge connecting Kouri island to Okinawa. Once we had our fill of the scenery we walked through their shop that had local wares and pumpkin cookies that are made on site. Each person got one free cookie as we entered the store, and their free samples paid off because we liked them well enough to buy a box of 20 to take home with us. There was also a decent amount of merchandise from nearby Nago Pineapple Park including locally produced and bottled pineapple wine.
Nago Pineapple Park
After leaving Kouri island we stopped at the Nago Pineapple Park. This park was a mash-up of educational, entertainment, and an agricultural site all in one. We again boarded automated golf carts that led us past small fields of various-sized pineapples. Some were as small as my thumb while others were as large as a football. Like Kouri tower, the audio narration told us all about how pineapples grow and from where the name pineapple came. At the end of the driving tour we walked through a 2-story greenhouse complete with elevated walkways so they could maximize their space. At the end of the greenhouse section they had a dinosaur display with animatronic dinosaurs that moved and made noises. While I am not sure how dinosaurs related to pineapple production, it was a fun experience. We then munched on some fresh pineapple skewered with chop sticks before exploring their retail shop. We noticed that the pineapple park and Kouri tower must be in a business relationship because we saw many of the same items in each shop including the cookies we had purchased from the tower. The final stop before leaving the park was a video detailing how pineapples are made into wine. As we exited the park we could look through large glass windows at the machinery used to prepare the pineapple for wine production. Finally, as we were headed for the van an employee beckoned us over and motioned for us to board a kiddy train powered by a large lawnmower-type tractor. He pulled us around the parking lot and through a winding path with more animatronic dinosaurs before returning to the front of the park. While I still don’t get the correlation between dinosaurs and pineapple, it was fun nonetheless.