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Halekulani Okinawa Launches New Immersive Nature Experiences

Activities Provide Exclusive Access to Japan’s Newest UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site


Halekulani Okinawa, the award-winning luxury hotel located on the main island of Okinawa, Japan, unveiled two new wellness experiences that immerse guests in the rich culture, heritage, and natural beauty of the island’s Yanbaru region. Available exclusively to hotel guests through the Halekulani Okinawa Escapes program, Connect with Nature in Yanbaru and Wade Through the Waters of Yanbaru are unique private excursions that encourage travelers to harness the healing power of nature while exploring Yanbaru, one of Japan’s newly recognized UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites.

Inspired by the Japanese concept of shinrin yoku, the new Escapes experiences take place amid the lush natural landscape of Okinawa and promote mental and physical wellbeing through nature-based activities. Connect with Nature in Yanbaru is a guided sensory and meditative experience through the old-growth forests of Yanbaru National Park, designed to cultivate a deeper connection with nature and recenter the mind. Wade Through the Waters of Yanbaru offers an energizing experience that introduces guests to sawanobori, the popular Japanese adventure activity of stream climbing. The exhilarating excursion consists of wading and swimming through Yanbaru’s plunge pools, streams, and ancient forests, rewarding guests with unique scenery of the rugged and diverse terrain. 

Each experience begins with a kayak tour across Lake Fukugami from Fukuchi Dam, the largest dam in Okinawa. Guided by Shigemasa Higa, one of the few certified naturalists in Japan with permission to enter the dam, guests are brought to otherwise inaccessible areas of the forest, where they observe the region’s endangered species and indigenous plants such as Itajii evergreen trees, which account for nearly 70 percent of Yanbaru forest and subtropical deciduous broad-leaved trees.

“We are delighted to announce the launch of our newest guest experiences as we prepare to welcome international travelers once again,” says Akihiro Ichikawa, executive assistant manager of Halekulani Okinawa. “Since the pandemic, travelers are seeking outdoor activities and meaningful experiences that connect them with local culture more than ever.”

Both offerings are exclusively available as private guest excursions with a minimum of two participants. Connect with Nature in Yanbaru is $260 per person and Wade Through the Waters of Yanbaru is $181 per person.

Yanbaru, the northern region of Okinawa island, received its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2021 for its array of rare flora and fauna. Spanning more than 33,660 acres, Yanbaru is known as the “Miracle Forest” due to its natural preservation of numerous endemic and rare flora and fauna, including the Yanbarukuina (Okinawa rail) flightless bird, the Okinawa woodpecker, and the Yanbaru long-armed scarab beetle. 

Okinawa has historically been known for its longevity and is one of only five designated Blue Zones, regions in which people statistically live the longest and are the healthiest. Through the Halekulani Okinawa Escapes program, the hotel aims to enlighten and empower guests by experiencing historic Okinawan practices that are proven to result in a longer, healthier, and happier life.

About The Author

Julie is the co-founder of Well Defined and a longtime influencer and advocate in the wellness world. Along with her work at Well Defined, she is an executive recruiter and marketing specialist for Hutchinson Consulting. She is also a consultant and content strategist for numerous wellness brands. She is the former editor-in-chief and publisher of American Spa and was named a 2019 Folio Top Woman in Media in the Industry Trailblazers category and a 2018 winner of ISPA’s Innovate Award. She is also a seasoned journalist, specializing in spa, travel, health, fitness, wellness, sustainability, and beauty. She has been published in Departures,, E! Online,, Insider’s Guide to Spas, Luxury Travel Advisor, Marin Magazine, Ocean Home, Smart Meetings, Spa Asia, and Travel Agent.