When I was a girl, I was always excited to stay in hotels—it was a luxury we almost never got, my dad preferring to drive 48 straight hours and sleep in the passenger seat than stop for a bed. If we stopped at all, we’d always end up at the cheapest of the cheap, a Motel 6 or Super 8, so the first time we stayed in a Marriott I was blown away by the accommodations. Of course, as an adult I learned that Marriott is also pretty basic. I don’t get that feeling often—being blown away by a hotel’s unexpected greatness—but Hotel Patina on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa did that for me.
Reservations: I booked our stay on Expedia, bundling it into our plane tickets to the island. You can also book through TripAdvisor and all the other booking sites. Although it’s possible to book through the Patina website, it’s all in Japanese.
Access: Patina is very close to the port, which receives buses and taxis from the airport quite regularly. Although you can take a taxi from the port to Patina, it’s only about a 10-minute walk, meaning that it’s probably not worth the fare unless you have many or heavy bags.
Neighborhood: Patina is the best of both worlds: close enough to restaurants and night life that you don’t need a car to reach them, but far enough away that you don’t get the noise pollution. Also, since Patina is so close to the port, it’s easy to branch out to the other islands nearby for a daytrip.
Checking in: Very smooth—we dropped off our bags and had the hotel staff watch them for no charge when we first arrived, then checked in and got our rooms that evening after exploring. No muss, no fuss.
Staff: Friendly and helpful. Although they seemed relieved that I could speak Japanese, they also have enough English to get by. The woman at the front desk when we first arrived was even helpful in suggesting that we leave our bags, and locked the up in front of us.
Security: Good. All the doors have a physical key, and although no key is required to use the elevator, the only way up is through the well-lit and staffed lobby. Our back patio also had a lock. When we left our luggage, it was kept just inside the front desk area beneath a cinching net with bells on it to alert the front desk clerk of any tampering.
Size: Reasonable for Japan, though a bit small by American standards. The beds took up quite a lot of the room, but there was ample space to walk around it and to store luggage. There was also a desk with plenty of real estate and two chairs, one next to one of the beds. The bathroom was normal Japanese size (i.e., small) but had a nice deep tub. It also seems that you can get more real estate if you take a single room or a “large twin.”
Comfort: This was the most comfortable Western-style hotel we stayed in during our trip. The rooms were beautifully appointed with furniture that looked like it had been picked with care rather than bought from some industrial hotel supply place. The bed was a touch hard, but I like a firm mattress and had no trouble sleeping. The water in the shower was hot, and the air conditioning was cold. Our room also had a patio, as I believe all the rooms do, which was nice to stand on in the evening when the breeze blew in from the sea, which we could see from our room. The patio also had a laundry drying bar, which maybe others wouldn’t be excited about, but made me exceptionally happy—as tough as it is to get your clothes dry in a Japanese dryer, the drying bar seemed like the kindest amenity of all. One frustrating point is that the room light is right next to the bathroom light, and it’s hard to remember which is which in the middle of the night, so make sure you pay close attention. Rooms are also available in smoking and non-smoking, unlike many Japanese hotels, so book early if you need a non-smoking room.
Amenities: Patina pulls out all the stops on the amenities. In addition to the regular free tea, free coffee, and free toiletries that all but the most basic accommodations provide, and in addition to the free WiFi and free computer use in the lobby that you get from more middle-of-the-road options, Patina also provides free laundry onsite (wash yourself, but there’s also free soap), free parking, free bike rentals for up to six hours, and free breakfast buffet with Western and Japanese options. The food was great: miso soup, rice, pickles, grilled fish, salad, yogurt, cereal, pastries, fruit, oatmeal, waffles, omelets… There was a window where you could order food cooked, but I don’t remember all the options. There’s also plenty of tea, coffee, and juice as well.
Price: The prices are seasonal, but when we went in November, the “twin room” (two twin-sized beds) were $91.78 USD. This was the flat room cost—that is, my brother, who stayed in a twin room, was charged exactly as much as my husband and I were. It looks like they’ve changed their fee structure a little such that you’re charged about 30% more for two people, but being as how most hotels charge 100% more the moment you add a second person, I think it’s still a fantastic deal.
TL;DR: Patina is a lovely hotel: clean and beautiful, with thoughtful décor and great amenities. No complaints—just someone tell them to move the bathroom light.