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Hiji Waterfall is one of Okinawa's best hiking spots

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-10-09

If you are looking to cool yourself off during the late months of Okinawa's summer season, then plan a day to visit Hiji Waterfall. Located in northern Okinawa, the 30 meter high waterfall plunges from a sharp rocky cliff through a beautiful gorge lined with tropical flora on both sides. A green pool of water below is greeted by the white water from above. Once more the raging flow begins its downward path, splashing over many large boulders strewn about the river's bed. Resting on one of the giant boulders at the water pool, you begin to be mesmerized by the constant sound of falling water. It is loud, but it is also pleasant.

Getting to this beautiful spot is half the fun. You first begin your hike from a small dirt parking lot. A small concrete dam extending across the river is located straight ahead, and you follow the foot-trail to the right. Here the river is a little silted, but as soon as you walk for another five or ten minutes, the water becomes clear. This is also where you can make a decision to continue on the foot-trail, or trek though the river.

It was only a few years ago that the waterfall was accessible by a manmade trail, which includes a wooden walkway covering most of the course. Getting wet and wading through the river is very fun, but do not be fooled into thinking that the wooden walkway is only for grandmothers. It has many steep steps to ascend, which will leave any hiker a little winded, and there are several breath taking views with nice covered rest areas for you to stop and catch your breath.

Staying on the trail you will soon notice small runoffs of water coming down the mountain side. There are also a few places to enter the calm water of the river, before reaching a small bridge. From the small bridge, you will climb up the first major set of steps, bringing you high above the water. Here the sounds of the lush forest take over.

One of the most awesome parts of the hike along the trail is a huge suspension bridge, which spans about forty yards across to the other side. When crossing the bridge, it begins to sway from its long, steel cables. This is not a good crossing for people afraid of heights - the drop to the river below is easily over a hundred feet. However, the bridge is perfectly safe.

Once on the other side, you will begin to descend more steps. The path once again continues along the banks of the river, sometimes letting you enter right from the walkway, and other times taking you back into the mountain forest. You will eventually come to a covered rest area, and from here it is just a short distance to an excellent swimming hole. The area is deep enough for jumps from a rope, which someone has generously tide to a tree for "Tarzan" movie lovers, but be careful of slippery rocks. And, never dive head first.

The swimming hole is a great place to cool off and rest before covering the last part of the hike. If you have arrived by hiking through the river, you will not be able to continue because of two smaller waterfalls blocking the way. Ascend to the path from the swimming hole area. The walkway gives you an excellent view of the waterfalls from up above and provides a safe passage to the main waterfall.

To get to Hiji, take Highway 58 north from Kadena. Continue past Nago until you reach Okuma. You will cross over the Hiji River, and then turn right following its bank. Keep an eye out for signs pointing the way as you pass through the small village. You will eventually come to a dirt road, which will lead you to the parking lot. The best time to visit Hiji is early in the morning, before everyone else. Do not go after a large rainfall, because the river will be too dangerous to enter. Have fun!

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