Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

One of the top activities we’d heard about in Okinawa was the Churaumi Aquarium, billed as the second-largest in the world. So one gray morning, we set off in our rental car and traveled a couple hours north to check it out.

At the entrance, there was an epic playground, full of ropes courses perfect for toddlers and kids to climb and burn off energy before heading inside to visit the fish.

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In our case, it didn’t work.

From the moment we arrived inside, my son took off running, ready to explore. I chased him through the starfish touch exhibit, the halls of fish swimming, and the exhibits where you could get up close and personal with under-the-sea creatures, coming face-to-face with only a slim pane of glass separating you.

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He ran from place to place (which is why I don’t have many any photos)

Until he pressed his nose up against the glass holding this giant blue crab, at which point he backed away slowly, murmuring “No, no, no, no.” Apparently giant blue crabs are the stuff of toddler nightmares.

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Once we were finished with the main building, there was still much more to explore. We stepped outside to the sun beginning to peek through the clouds, and went on to see the manatees and sea turtles in their (incredibly sad and small) pens.

That was the most disappointing part of the aquarium – I think I’d imagined something with far more space for the actual animals. In Florida, there are places you can swim with the manatees in wild – to see four of them penned up in an area no bigger than a swimming pool was awfully sad. Especially when there was plenty of space for bigger tanks…

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After a (admittedly awesome) dolphin show, we left the animals behind and stepped down to the beach for a little outdoor exploring, although no swimming allowed, sadly.

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To visit the Churaumi Aquarium on Okinawa, be prepared to drive a couple hours from Naha. Parking is plentiful and full information on tickets & hours is available in English here

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