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Heart rock is a popular spot for couples to visit on Kouri Island, Okinawa.
Heart rock is a popular spot for couples to visit on Kouri Island, Okinawa. (Aya Ichihashi/Stars and Stripes)
Heart rock is a popular spot for couples to visit on Kouri Island, Okinawa.
Heart rock is a popular spot for couples to visit on Kouri Island, Okinawa. (Aya Ichihashi/Stars and Stripes)
Parlor Rosso serves the best smoothies on Kouri Island, Okinawa. The owner has a fruit farm where she grows mangoes, acerolas and passion fruit.
Parlor Rosso serves the best smoothies on Kouri Island, Okinawa. The owner has a fruit farm where she grows mangoes, acerolas and passion fruit. (Aya Ichihashi/Stars and Stripes)
Kouri Shrimp on Kouri Island, Okinawa, has been preparing delicious seafood out of a small truck since 2014.
Kouri Shrimp on Kouri Island, Okinawa, has been preparing delicious seafood out of a small truck since 2014. (Aya Ichihashi/Stars and Stripes)
The delicious, decadent spicy garlic shrimp from Kouri Shrimp on Kouri Island, Okinawa, is a must-try for seafood lovers.
The delicious, decadent spicy garlic shrimp from Kouri Shrimp on Kouri Island, Okinawa, is a must-try for seafood lovers. (Aya Ichihashi/Stars and Stripes)
Kouri Island, Okinawa, is famous for its beautiful water and heart-shaped rock.
Kouri Island, Okinawa, is famous for its beautiful water and heart-shaped rock. (Aya Ichihashi/Stars and Stripes)
Kouri Beach, a popular swimming spot on Kouri Island, Okinawa, boasts shallow water suitable for families with small children.
Kouri Beach, a popular swimming spot on Kouri Island, Okinawa, boasts shallow water suitable for families with small children. (Aya Ichihashi/Stars and Stripes)

Kouri Island is one of the most beautiful island destinations in Okinawa.

About a 1 ½-hour drive from Camp Foster and Kadena Air Base, the island is connected by Kouri Bridge to the main island of Okinawa.

Recently my family visited from the main islands of Japan, and I thought they would enjoy a delicious lunch and Kouri’s breathtaking turquoise ocean.

The bridge also links Yagaji Island with Kouri, and the downslope view from the Yagaji side is absolutely amazing. I always want to mount a GoPro camera on my forehead to record the view while I am driving. Photo ops and restrooms are available in a parking area near some restaurants before the bridge crossing.

Kouri Island gained popularity after a Japan Airlines commercial featured the popular Japanese boy band Arashi at the Heart Rock in 2014. Many fans started to visit the tiny island and eventually people around the world found it, too.

What is the Heart Rock? It is two rocks standing just offshore from Teenu Beach. By viewing them from a certain angle, the two rocks overlap into one heart-shaped rock.

When word of this little trick spread, the island got quite popular with couples who swear their love in front of the heart-shaped rock.

Parking costs 100 yen to 500 yen depending on where you park. The trail down to the beach is a tad bumpy, so I recommend wearing something comfortable. I’ve visited here numerous times before the place got packed with tourists. It is bittersweet sometimes to see the drastic changes.

Kouri Ocean Tower is a new addition to the island’s attractions. An amazing view from the tower overlooks Kouri Bridge. The tower also has a shell museum. Admission for adults is 800 yen and 300 yen for children 7-12.

Passing by the tower, I saw the familiar pink logo for Kouri Shrimp, which opened in 2014 in a small truck at a public parking lot near Kouri Bridge.

I was stunned by the garlic shrimp; it was almost as good as the Hawaiian garlic shrimp from Oahu’s North Shore. I went back again and again with my kids, but sadly, Kouri Island got too popular, and so did the garlic shrimp. It became almost impossible to find a parking space, and eventually I stopped going. But this time I gave it a shot as Kouri Shrimp has opened a new shop on the island.

The new location is a modern, two-story wooden lodge. I could recognize it only because the owners still serve shrimp from the truck, and the familiar pink shrimp logo is visible outside.

We ordered the original garlic shrimp plate for 1,100 yen ($10) and spicy garlic shrimp 1,320 yen ($12).

I was a little skeptical about the quality of the food since the place has gotten so popular, but it tasted exactly as I remembered. My family devoured the shrimp in no time. Everyone must eat the garlic shrimp or suffer for the rest of the ride. Mmm, garlic.

You cannot consider your meal complete without a delicious dessert. We stopped by my favorite smoothie truck, Parlor Rosso, to get the best smoothie on the island. I picked an acerola smoothie for 900 yen. Acerola is a tropical, cherry-like fruit.

Parlor Rosso’s main shop is in Motobu, but on the weekends its smoothie truck is at the parking lot by Kouri Bridge. The owner grows acerola, mango and passion fruit at another property, Yoha Mango Farm. The Keitt mango smoothie, 900 yen, is indescribably yummy.

The smoothies come with no additives, nor are they watered down. It’s almost like drinking a puree. Rosso’s mango smoothie tastes even better than eating a mango, and they’re delicious.

Every little moment on Kouri Island will underscore how lucky you are to be on Okinawa.

ichihashi.aya@stripes.com Twitter: @AyaIchihashi

DIRECTIONS: Northbound on the Okinawa Expressway, take exit 10 and continue north on Route 58. Take a right at Yofuke/Blue Seal intersection, then into a tunnel on the left. After two tunnels, make a right at the light to head north. Stay on Route 58 to Makiya/Family Mart intersection, then turn left. Stay on Route 110 passing through Ojima Island and Yagaji Island, then turn onto Route 247.

TIMES: Open year-round.

COSTS: Toll is 830 yen from Kitanakagusuku (Exit No. 3) IC to Kyoda (Exit No. 10) IC.

FOOD: Kouri Shrimp is your best choice for lunch and don’t forget to try a Parlor Rosso smoothie on weekends.

INFORMATION: Kouri Shrimp, shrimp-wagon.com; Parlor Rosso, yoha.shop-pro.jp/?mode=f5

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