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Things To Do In Okinawa

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Things To Do In Okinawa

Things to do in Okinawa
Okinawa | Photo Credit – Jason

Okinawa is an archipelago of some 160 islands off the coast of Kyushu island in Japan. The Okinawa islands form the main island group of the Okinawa prefecture in Japan. Most of the islands in the Okinawa island group are not inhabited and therefore have their natural beauty preserved and intact.

The climate of Okinawa is subtropical and as such it is a great destination for enjoying sandy beaches and sunbathing. While being a part of Japan, Okinawa will feel a bit less Japanese to you. The white sand beaches and lush greenery make Okinawa a great place to visit, unlike other densely populated areas and cities Japan is known for such as Osaka and Tokyo.

This list brings to you the best things to do when you find yourself in Okinawa. From enjoying at Okinawa Honto to Shuri Castle, we will try to cover everything for your itinerary while in Okinawa.

Okinawa Honto

Things to do in Okinawa
Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum | Photo Credit – Ken FUNAKOSHI

While you’re in Okinawa, you are certainly going to be jumping from island to island. For most people, the island they get to start with is the Okinawa Honto. This island is the largest among the Okinawa islands and used to be a military base during WWII. You would be surprised to know that there is still an American Base here and drills are still carried out with the occasional plane rafting through the sky.

The largest city on the island is Naha which has a number of museums for you to explore. Examples include the Himeyuri Peace Museum and the Okinawa Prefecture Museum & Art Museum. Try the best in food at the exclusive Yunangi. Grab a little souvenir to your trip from the Tsuboya Pottery Street in Naha. Be sure to visit the Okinawa World theme park and Gyokusendo Cave.

Underwater Ruins at Yonaguni

Things to do in Okinawa
Yonaguni island | Photo Credit – Nao Iizuka

Yonaguni island offers one of the best diving opportunities around. The underwater ruins are made of solid rock and that many of them have been dated to being as old as 8000 years. The ruins have been associated with a legend that says that they were part of a lost continent called Mu, with many ruins depicting formations such as staircases as well as rooms.

While you dive here, please be aware that the diving experience can be a bit challenging and is not recommended for novice divers as the currents around the ruins are known to shift dangerously. In any case, if you’re looking for a underwater experience you will never forget, come to Yonaguni island.

Okinawan Cuisine

Things to do in Okinawa
Goya champuru | Photo Credit – pelican

Japan is a place that is quite well known for its food. And while you’re in Okinawa, you’d find a step up to that experience. Okinawan cuisine is unique even for Japanese food. There are several delicacies unique to the islands that you must try while you are here.

Rich for both the eyes and the tongue, Okinawan food will surely go down as one of the best culinary experiences you are ever going to have. Let’s go over some of these dishes:

  • Goya Champuru is a dish that is made of bitter melon, egg, tofu, vegetables and Spam served with rice. It has a very unique flavor with all its components building and enhancing each other.
  • Rafute, or Okinawa Pork Belly is a braised pork dish cooked with awamori, which is Japanese rice liquor. This dish is more of an appetizer than it is an entree. Best as an accompaniment to beer. the thinly sliced pork strips melt in your mouth right away.
  • Umi Budo or Sea Grape is a special seaweed in Okinawa. It is also known as green caviar. These shiny green balls are usually eaten with soy sauce or vinegar. The flavor can be described as salty with a distinctive texture.
  • Orion Draft Beer is a local brew found almost everywhere in Okinawa.
  • Santa Andagi are fried brown sugar doughnuts that can only be found in Okinawa.

Shuri Castle

Things to do in Okinawa
Shuri Castle | Photo Credit – tonynetone

Located in Naha in Okinawa Honto, the Shuri Castle is one of the main island attractions in Okinawa. The ancient Ryukyu kingdom is associated with the Shuri Castle. The rulers of the Ryukyu kingdom built this castle as their seat in the Gusuku architecture along the traditional Okinawan style.

This traditional Okinawan style architecture is a big reason why tourists from all over the world make their way to the island. The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt several times,

Ishigaki Island

Things to do in Okinawa
Ishigaki Island | Photo Credit – Sei F

Ishigaki Island has a lot to offer while you’re in Okinawa Japan. The island offers many activities that you can enjoy as part of things to do. Okinawa has a number of islands that offer diving opportunities and Ishigaki is one of the prime among them. Here you can dive alongside manta rays in the crystal clear waters of Manta Scramble in Ishigaki island. Ishikagi island is also famous for its star shaped sands. 

If you’re new to diving, or even want to learn, contact the experts in Ishigaki island, the Marvellous Pleasures company. They offer tours and instructions on diving. The best hotel we can recommend for you while you’re at Ishigaki island is Arezudobare. This place provides not only luxury but also can sign you up for many of the islands activities and events.

Other well known places in the island are Kabira Bay and the Hirakubo Lighthouse. Other popular things to do at Ishigaki are taking yacht tours,  trekking, enjoying culinary delights such as noodles and ishigaki beef and hanging out at the Sunset beach.

Akajima Island

Often referred to as Aka Island, this place is home to the most beautiful beaches Okinawa has to offer. Coming here without a camera would be a mistake, for this is one of the most picturesque places in the world.

This island is not as big and makes for the best place for a day trip filled with fun activities, swimming and enjoying at beautiful beaches. While you are here, be sure to climb up many observation towers to gather the best views the island has to offer.

Nagannu Island

Things to do in Okinawa
Nagannu island | Photo Credit – Hajime NAKANO

Known for its white sand beaches, Nagannu island is the best place for a relaxing beach vacation. The water here is exceptionally clear and white sands also line the underwater shore. You can try ocean walking here.

Strap on some weights with a helmet and walk about the ocean floor taking in all manner of marine life around you. This white sand island is accessible from Naha by a ferry.

Churaumi Aquarium

Things to do in Okinawa
Churaumi aquarium | Photo Credit – naosuke ii

Churaumi aquarium was the world’s largest aquarium until it was surpassed by Georgia Aquarium in 2005. Located at the Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, this aquarium is filled with exhibits containing deep sea creatures, sharks and fishes. The aquarium is known for its 80 species of corals which spawn every year since 2001.

Other popular marine life exhibits include whale sharks and manta rays. The aquarium has been attempting to breed whale sharks in captivity, a feat otherwise not achieved anywhere. A very popular attraction, the Churaumi aquarium must be on your list of things to do in Okinawa.


Nago | Photo Credit – SteFou!

Nago is one of the cities on the main island of Okinawa, Okinawa Honto.  Visiting Nago should be high on your list of things to do in Okinawa.  Attractions on the main island city include visiting the Oura bay, the Hajiusui Monument, Nago Museum, the Nago Citizen Beach, the Warumi Ohashi bridge and taking in traditional okinawan architecture in the city. Other places to visit are the Busena Marine Park and the Neo Park Zoo.


Fishing | Photo Credit – troy_williams

One of the best things to do in Okinawa Japan is to fish. Given the availability of sea food in Japan, you can imagine Okinawa to be one of the those places filled with seafood. However, the island actually specializes in meats like beef and pork. Seafood is available but it is expensive and only select places operate it.

This makes fishing one of the most popular tourist activities in Okinawa. The main attraction is offshore fishing, which can be enjoyed by taking a chartered boat out to sea. There are a lot of exotic fishing opportunities here, and many trips that you can take come with fishing equipment included so you don’t need to rent your own.

Taketomi Villages

One of the smallest islands in Okinawa, Taketomi island is a very popular destination for a day trip. You can take a trip to visit the entire island in only a couple of hours. The local mode of transport here is a lumbering cart pulled by a buffalo. There are a number of villages in the island that you can take time to see.

Sailing at Okinawa

Kerama Island | Photo Credit – SteFou!

Until recently, sailing was not as popular in Okinawa as it is now. Now, you can sign up for sailing trips all over Okinawa either as a touring party or by chartering your own boat. A great things to do alongside sailing is island hopping. There are a number of islands in Okinawa that you can go about.

Be sure to visit or at least pass by Kerama islands. Of the hundred or so islands making up Okinawa, most are uninhabited and thus sailing allows you to go there, making it one of the most sought out tourist activities.

Okinawa History

Sefa Utaki | Photo Credit – Hideyuki KAMON

Delve into the history of the Ryukyu kingdom by exploring the many historical sites they have left behind. UNESCO world heritage site in Okinawa are the castles left behind by the Ryukyu.  Some of these are:

  • Nakijin Jo Site
  • Zakimi Jo Site
  • Katsuren Jo Site
  • Nakagusuku Jo Site
  • Shuri Jo Site
  • Tamaudun Royal Mausoleum
  • Sefa Utaki
  • Shikinaen Royal Garden
  • Sonohyan Utaki Ishimon

To be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site a historical location is given legal protection and is preserved as a monument to history. These castle ruins have been studied and are extremely popular among tourists.

Be sure to visit them when you find yourself in Okinawa. History of Okinawa also relates to the world war, where the battle of Okinawa was fought.  The battle of Okinawa was a decisive battle in the history of Japan.

Yaeyama Islands

The Yaeyama Islands provide a getaway from the bustle of metropolitan life by its rural lifestyle, clear blue waters and coral reefs. This laid back destination is great for relaxing under the sun, diving as well as enjoying Okinawan culture. The Yaeyama Islands are composed of the Ishigaki, Taketomi, and Iriomote island.

Two of them have already been explored in this article. While you’re here at the Yaeyama Islands, you should try out the noodles served in pork broth. The traditional Okinawan cuisine is extremely delightful and is one of the best things that you will ever try.

Bird Watching

Bird Watching, Okinawa | Photo Credit – troy_williams

Kume island is known for being a place with a lot of wildlife and greenery. A natural paradise, Kume is also a national park, and offers tourists a chance to trek through its lush and thick interior.

Bird watching at Kume  is a very popular activity and many tourists flock to have a chance at it. The forests are filled with unique species of birds that have made their home in the tall forests and grasslands of Kume.

Is Okinawa Safe?

Safety at Okinawa can be a concern for many travelers. For the average tourist, Okinawa is considered to be quite safe. The inhabitants here can be very welcoming and receptive.

Best Hotels to Stay in Okinawa

Hotel Nikko Alivila Yomitan Resort | Photo Credit – B H

Given its status as a popular travel destination, there are many hotels for you to choose from when you’re in Okinawa. Here is our list of them along with why you should pick them over others:

  • Rihga Royal Gran Okinawa: This hotel is located in the center of Naha city. The place is pretty luxurious and accommodating and will also sign you up for a number of activities such as Diving, Walks and sightseeing in locations nearby.
  • Island Terrace Neela: Located in Ikema island, Miyakojima. This hotel is located at a beachfront and offers a luxurious stay at its villas. This hotel is great for a holiday at the seaside and offers great views from its rooms. It is pretty secluded and makes for a great vacation if you like being alone.
  • Hotel Nikko Alivila Yomitan Resort: This five star hotel is located at a beachfront and offers stunning views of the sea. There is a great pool here along with a spa with all the amenities for relaxation. Sign up for a massage and prepare for an evening of fun filled activities on the beach and having great dinner at any one of the hotel’s 8 restaurants.
  • The Terrace Club at Busena: Located in Okinawa Ken, this hotel is a great place to enjoy beach life as well as other relaxing amenities. The rooms that will be provided to you here are really good and you can unwind at the private beach this hotel has on offer.
  • Ritz Carlton Okinawa: Located at Kise Beach and surrounded by hills. Take cooking classes here and enjoy relaxing food at one of its three restaurants. The in room amenities are quite modern and luxurious. This hotel is great for families and couples.
  • Hyakunagaran: Like most other Okinawa hotels, this place is great for getaways and enjoyment at the beach. Located in a seafront mansion and while you are here you can have a choice between Japanese style suites or western rooms. There is Tamagusuku Castle, which is the oldest in Okinawa, nearby. There are hermitage hot baths in the hotel as well as a great restaurant.
  • The UZA Terrace Beach Club Villas: This hotel is great for families and is located at a great place alongside the East China Sea. The beach is great and accessible and there is also a spa for in hotel luxury. While technically not being a hotel, but rather a collection of villas offering luxury living.
  • Hoshinoya Taketomijima: Great for local explorations, the hotel offers a lot of packages to explore the island’s attractions and experiences. This Taketomi hotel is located at the beach for a relaxing vacation. The red tiled bungalows are connected to each other by white sand paths. There is a pool here which you can use to relax.

This was our take on a vacation to Okinawa. We have compiled a list of stuff to do while you are here, as well as a list of staying options for your time here. Okinawa continues to be a great tourist destination and is visited by thousands of tourists every year.

This scenic place is great in many respects and we hope that our list of suggested attractions here is helpful to you in navigating Okinawa. We hope this article was helpful to you in planning your trip to Okinawa. While you are here, try to cram in as much as you can for your trip to be filled with a number of great experiences and memories.

Also read about things to do in Maryland.

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