Discovering Gyokusendo cave

Gyokusendo Cave, beneath Okinawa World theme park, was discovered in 1967, and it’s estimated to be around 300,000 years old. The cave extends over 5 kilometres, making it one of the longest cave systems in Japan, but only about 890 meters are open to the public. Walking through the cave, I was mesmerized by the thousands of stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over millennia. The way they’re illuminated with strategically placed lights creates a magical atmosphere that feels like stepping into another world.

When my husband and I visited Gyokusendo Cave in late September as part of our Okinawa itinerary, we were seeking a break from Okinawa’s tropical heat. Inside, the cave maintains a constant cool temperature of 21°C, providing a refreshing respite from the outdoor heat.

Inside the Gyokusendo Cave

Gyokusendo cave Asia main hall

The path through Gyokusendo Cave is well-maintained and easy to navigate, with railings and steps in steeper sections. The sound of dripping water and the sight of small streams and pools add to the cave’s serene beauty.One aspect that struck me was the careful balance between preserving the cave’s natural state and making it accessible to visitors. The lighting is subtle, highlighting the formations without overwhelming them or disrupting the cave’s natural ambiance.

The cave is a sanctuary of spectacular rock formations, with hundreds of thousands of stalactites and stalagmites adorning its interior. The path winds its way through this subterranean landscape, past turquoise pools of the Ao-no-izumi spring and alongside an underground river.

Strategically placed lighting illuminates the cave’s features, creating a magical ambiance. These lights not only reveal the intricate details of the rock formations but also cast multicoloured displays on the cave walls.

Natural Features

Natural features of Gyokusendo cave
  • Asia’s Grand Hall – This is a giant underground room lined with stalagmites 2 meters high. The Grand Hall is 20 meters wide and 80 meters deep and can encompass a six-story building.
  • Variety of speleothems – There are many speleothems formed by dripping water, by water flowing over walls and floors and streams of water.
  • Fossils of Ryukyu jika (exctint deer) – A deer which inhabited the Ryukyu archipelago until about 30,000 years ago.

The steel walkway through the cave is well-designed, with railings and steps where needed. We found the path to be slightly wet and slippery in places, so good walking shoes and caution were essential. Despite this, the walkway is accessible and offers plenty of opportunities to stop, learn from the informational displays, and take photos with our mobile phones. The cave’s layout cleverly concludes with an escalator, sparing visitors the climb back up the entrance stairs.

With all the stops along the way, it took around 40 minutes to explore Gyokusendo Cave. For those planning to visit, I recommend going early or during off-peak times to avoid crowds. The tranquillity of the cave is something to be savoured in quieter moments. And while the cave’s natural lighting allows for photography, large equipment like tripods and selfie sticks are not allowed here.

For those planning to visit, I recommend going early or during off-peak times to avoid crowds. The tranquillity of the cave is something to be savoured in quieter moments. And while the cave’s natural lighting allows for photography, large equipment like tripods and selfie sticks might be cumbersome.

Useful Information

Underground river in Gyokusendo cave

Entrance Fee
Adults: 2,000 yen
Children: 1,000 yen

Opening Hours
9:00-17:30 (Last entry16:00)

Summer Special Tours
In the summer, you can explore some off-limits areas of Gyokusen Cave with a caving instructor. Reservation is required and the tour takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Price: 5,000 yen (rental clothes included)

Gyokusendo Cave

Maekawa-1336 Tamagusuku, Nanjo, Okinawa 901-0616, Japan

📞 Contact

🚉 Closest Station (Directions)

Bus Stop – 5 mins away

🕥 Opening Hours

Monday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Tuesday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Wednesday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Thursday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Friday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Saturday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Sunday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Final thoughts on Gyokusendo Cave

Visiting Gyokusendo Cave was an incredible experience that showed us a different side of Okinawa. It’s not just a cool place to escape the heat, but a journey into a beautiful and ancient underground world. If you’re ever in Okinawa, make sure to check it out. It’s worth seeing the stunning rock formations and experiencing the peaceful atmosphere of the cave.

Gyokusendo Cave is located within the Okinawa World, and the ticket to the theme park also includes entry to the cave system. You cannot pay for it separately, so you might as well enjoy the rest of the park too. You’ll love it!

Read More on Okinawa

Where to stay in Okinawa
Okinawa Pineapple Park
Okinawa SouthEast Botanical Gardens
Best things to do in Okinawa

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Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.

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