Japan’s renowned exotic island escape – formerly part of a separate kingdom – offers an entirely different, far more tropical environment to its mainland islands. With so many travel options to explore in Okinawa, we break down the best places to visit.
Made up of a constellation of sub-tropical islands in the south of Japan, Okinawa is home to countless idyllic holiday destinations, extraordinary history, world-class beautiful beaches, fantastic food and warm-hearted locals that hold true to their traditional way of life.
If you’re considering a trip, here are a few of the best places in Okinawa you simply must visit:
Ishigaki Island, the main island of the Yaeyama Islands on the south western tip of the Okinawa archipelago, is a treat for all the senses.
Lively markets tempt visitors with lines of food stalls selling the unique local Yaeyama islands cuisine, which is particularly healthy and considered a major contributor to the long life spans of Okinawan residents.
Meanwhile the most photographed spot on Ishigaki Island is the magnificently turquoise waters of Kabira Bay, attracting thousands of tourists every year.
For visual treat, visit the Tamatorizaki Observatory for a dazzling display of hibiscus flowers.
Lying six kilometers southwest of Ishigaki, Taketomi Island is a tiny flat jewel, just nine kilometers round.
With a warm and welcoming village community, and rows of charming houses with red tiled roofs and garden walls of coral stone alongside white sand-covered roads, Taketomi is a tranquil heaven on earth.
Not surprisingly, the entire town has been designated a National Traditional Architecture Preservation District.
Kabira Bay is one of Ishigaki’s best-known tourist spots, located a 30-minute drive from Ishigaki’s city centre, in the northwest of the island.
Here turquoise water, white sands, coral reefs and dense vegetation come together in a picturesque sprawl.
Strong currents preclude swimming, but the stunning views of coral and marine life visitors can enjoy from the many glass-bottomed boats make up for it.
Thrusting out west from the middle of Okinawa Island, the tip of Zanpa Cape is characterized by a tall white lighthouse, majestic in its solitary dignity.
The surrounding area is covered with thickets of Adan (screw pine) trees and coastal vegetation, typical of subtropical Okinawa.
As a popular fishing spot, rocks along the water edge are usually littered with fishermen.
Or if you’re in the market for bicycles, restaurants, shops and more, pay a visit to Zanpa Misaki Recreation Plaza, guarded by a huge Shisa lion-dog.
When it comes to retail therapy, few can compete with Naha City on Okinawa Island. More specially, Kokusai Street and New Paradise streets in the city’s centre (behind the Matsui bus stop) are unparalleled for their wares.
Full of traditional and modern craft shops, souvenir shops, delightful cafés and restaurants serving tempting fare every few meters, the entire area is a magnet for shopping lovers.
And for more unique purchases, explore the nearby little back streets.
How to get to Okinawa:
There are regular flights that operate daily from major domestic airports such as the Narita International Airport, Haneda Airport, Central Japan International Airport (Centrair), and Kansai International Airport to Okinawa’s gateway, Naha Airport.
For more information and articles on all things Okinawa, visit our main Okinawa guide page here.