The Hard Reef is a relaxing surfer bar that puts you in the island spirit with surfing decorations and reggae music.

The Hard Reef is a relaxing surfer bar that puts you in the island spirit with surfing decorations and reggae music. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

CHATAN TOWN, Okinawa — With a soothing reggae beat playing, I sit back in my bar stool, close my eyes and can almost feel the warm island breeze blowing.

The image doesn’t get any more specific because I can’t understand a lick of the Japanese lyrics.

Despite the musical communication barrier, Hard Reef bar in Sunabe is a great place to sip a couple tall cold ones. I went on a Monday night and I was surprised to see about a dozen patrons there on what you would think would be the slowest night of the week. It was a mixture of locals, American civilians and servicemembers.

Being so close to the ocean, and with a name like Hard Reef, it’s no surprise the bar is a surfer hangout. It even says so on the sign outside: “Ryukyu Island surfers” and “surf spot.”

Of course, another tell-tale sign is the surf shop of the same name that occupies half the building.

While I don’t surf and I didn’t know anyone when I walked in, the friendly, laid-back atmosphere made me feel right at home as I bellied up to the bar. A tall draft beer promptly was placed in front of me in a chilled mug, just the way I like it.

Various ocean-related shows were on the two television sets in the bar. The first had something to do with squid or octopus — a Japanese station — and the second was a video of surfers catching big waves.

Eventually a friend of mine came along and had a few with me, and we ended up talking to another customer he knows. While bar isn’t huge, it’s not too small either, and the patron told me Hard Reef gets packed on the weekends.

The bar décor is friendly and festive as posters and pictures of surfing — as well as an actual surfboard — grace the walls. You can tell the bar is a meeting place for friends by looking at a wall covered with probably hundreds of photos of regulars having a good time.

There is lots of room to sit at the Hard Reef, whether you plop down in a bar stool or park your rear in one of the numerous booths. All the furniture and the bar are dark, finished wood that give the bar a warm, relaxing atmosphere, with a little help from some soft lighting. The brightest light in the joint is hanging over the pool table, which is in the back along with a couple more booths.

Hard Reef is a perfect spot to relax with friends for a few drinks after a day at the beach.

As always, if you drink, do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.

Hard Reef

Chatan Town, Okinawa

Drink prices: 300 yen for beer during happy hour (6 to 9 p.m.) and 500 yen after that, 600 yen or 700 yen for mixed drinks.

Cover: None

Food: Local dishes with a handful of salads on the menu. Prices range from 500 yen to 800 yen.

Entertainment: Music and one pool table

Clientele: Mixed American and Japanese

Dress: Very casual

Location: From Camp Foster take Route 58 toward Kadena. Turn left toward the Sunabe seawall at the light before the Route 23 turn-off. Go to the second light and turn right. Hard Reef is the fourth building on the left. Parking is limited and not available at the bar. You can park along the seawall, but beware of no parking or reserved areas — your car could get towed.

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