Step into a tropical paradise at Okinawa’s Southeast Botanical Gardens!
I decided to check out the Southeast Botanical Gardens on Okinawa’s main island, and boy am I glad I did. Filled with palm trees, baobab trees, and 1,300 other varieties of tropical and subtropical plants, the open-air paradise was as good as it gets.
Not only that, but there were a number of different animals to befriend, fish to be caught, and experiences to be had, such as colouring a statue of an Okinawan shisa, or lion dog guardian diety. The Southeast Botanical Gardens is a place where adults and children alike can enjoy a fun-filled day of activities!
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The extensive grounds are divided into two main areas: the aquatic garden and the botanical garden. There's both walking tours and tram tours, and you can also take a round-trip bus between the two areas—I recommend the latter.
The aquatic garden!
I felt as though I should start with a trek through the aquatic garden, and so I did.
The sheer number of rare and unique plants is sure to impress even the most well-acquainted scholar or plant specialist!
Hibiscus flowers remain in bloom all year round on Akabana Street. It’s like being in a tropical paradise!
A dragon’s blood tree
If you look in the top left corner of the photo above, you’ll see a dragon’s blood tree; it is said to be the oldest species of tree on the planet! As its name suggests, when the bark or leaves are cut, they secrete a red coloured resin, which is said to look like the dried blood of dragons. This is the only place in Japan where you can see a total of 16 dragon’s blood trees in the 4-5 meter range.
The Omoiyari Pond
A gorgeous view of the Omoiyari Pond.
Free-range Muscovy ducks
Gradually closing the distance between us, they came right up to me.
It isn’t the tropics without insects and reptiles at every turn you take!
Beautiful butterflies (bottom left) flutter freely around the gardens.
Lizards of varying sizes can be seen scaling the walls and scuttling below.
If you’re lucky you may be able to catch a reptile mid-shed like I did. It’s quite a fascinating process.
The Champuru Petting Zoo
Animal lovers will enjoy this area; you can feed the rabbits, chickens, turtles, etc.
Rabbits deep in conversation
An African spurred tortoise
Monkeys, as well as other animals, can be watched from outside their cages.
A capybara taking a rest
A squirrel monkey
A lotus pond
This is Okinawa’s most spectacular lotus pond. Peak viewing season for the flowers is generally around June and July.
Now arriving at Goat Island! You can purchase some food at the entrance before you head in.
The goats watch to see who’s buying the food, who they should befriend. It’s up to you if you want to feed them through the fence, or be daring and feed them from the inside!
This is your chance to be the most popular person in the joint—just bring food!
There’s no doubt about how much they love to eat. It is recommended that you stay close to and monitor children closely, however, if they are to go inside with you.
Mashiro the hedgehog.
The botanical garden!
Finally, I headed to the second area: the botanical garden! This area, though only half the size of the aquatic garden, had much to offer as well. There were pineapple and banana orchards, and an awe-inspiring Alexander palm-lined street. On mainland Japan, Alexander palms can only be grown in greenhouses, so this is the only place in the country where you can experience their magnificence out in the open air.
This is where you’ll find a number of livestock animals, such as horses, pigs, etc.
You are advised to use the tongs when feeding.
A couple Aldabra giant tortoises
An inobuta, which is a wild boar and domestic pig hybrid
And now for a smiling inobuta
An aguu, a native pig of Okinawa.
This is another lotus pond, one with its dainty blossoms in full bloom.
About Southeast Botanical Gardens:
Various events are held within Paradise Park.
Surrounding myself with nature and animals, I was able to leave with a refreshed mind and spirit. As the rain provides the plants with the energy they need to come to life, I suggest visiting during or just after a light shower. You can look out at the beautiful scenery of the aquatic garden from the restaurant, too, which features a buffet that offers visitors the chance to try herbs and local vegetables grown in the gardens. And since the Southeast Botanical Gardens are open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, you can escape the high sun by coming later in the day when the temperature begins to drop—the plants are even lit up at night.
Basic information on Southeast Botanical Gardens
- 2146 Chibana, Okinawa City, Okinawa[MAP]
- 1 hour by car from Naha Airport
- Business Hours
- 9:00-18:00 (Last admission 17:00)
Fri., Sat., & Day before holidays 9:00-22:00 (Last admission 21:00)
- Admission Fee
- 1,500 yen (Adult)
Admission + Guided tour 1,800 yen
Admission + Lunch buffet 2,500 yen
Seniors 60+ 1,000 yen
The restaurant and gift shop can be accessed without paying admission.
- No scheduled holidays