Stairways to heaven
"There are so many stairs."
That's a common response -- some would call it a complaint -- about visiting the picturesque Hiji Falls.
There are a lot of stairs, but don't let that stop you from making the two-mile walk through a beautiful tropical rainforest.
Hiji Falls is one of the places many servicemembers have on their list of things to see while stationed on Okinawa.
This was certainly true for my wife and me. We had seen beautiful photos of the falls and read great comments from people on various Web sites. So during a recent stay at the Okuma Recreation Center -- a resort-type facility in the northern part of Okinawa about 45 minutes north of Nago just off Highway 58 -- we decided to check out Hiji Falls, which is only five minutes from the resort.
Let me make clear that I love hiking in the outdoors. My wife, not so much.
So this short hike on a well-established trail with handrails next to all the stairs was a great trail for both of us to enjoy.
After paying our 300 yen each to enter the park, it was easy to see why so many people are attracted to the area. The trail winds along the Hiji River within a lush rainforest bristling with the sounds of nature. The stairs begin a few minutes into the trail, but are not nearly as bad as we were expecting.
For families with small kids or those who just want to take a breather, there are benches placed along the trail.
Twenty minutes into the hike, we hit the halfway point marked by a long suspension bridge hanging high above the river, offering beautiful views up and down the river.
As we continued our journey, we caught on to why some people bemoan all the stairs. After getting to the top of one long flight of steps and walking a short distance, my wife peered downward at another sizable flight of stairs and exclaimed, "that's so wasteful!"
My wife's reasoning -- and that of many others, I'm sure -- was that whoever constructed the staircase could have easily wound the trail along the river rather than making people climb to the top and then all the way down again.
With the sound of the falls within ear range, we trudged on.
Soon the falls appeared in the distance. Though not as tall as I had pictured, they still made for a beautiful photograph.
After taking it all in, we headed back the way we came. Hiji Falls is a nice quick trip off the beaten path that I highly recommend, especially if you're staying at Okuma. Getting to the falls is definitely worth the sweat.
know & go
To get to Hiji Falls, take Okinawa Highway 58 north through Nago and travel about 30 kilometers (about 45 minutes on the single-lane highway). The right hand turn for Hiji Falls is clearly marked by a sign and is opposite the turnoff for the Okuma Recreation Facility. Follow the signs for about 5 minutes to the parking area.
The entrance fee to the park is 300 yen per person. Camp sites and picnic areas are also available.