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Okinawa travel guide

Places to visit in Okinawa
...without your Japan Rail Pass

Crystal clear water

Welcome to Okinawa

Okinawa is Japan’s southernmost area and consists of several smaller islands. Okinawa prefecture can be divided into 3 island groups: Okinawa Shoto, Okinawa Honto and Miyako Retto. The prefecture is sometimes also called the Ryukyu Islands and comes from an older, local culture and name.

Your Japan Rail Pass is of no use on Okinawa, but it can still be a nice addition to your trip! We got you covered with plenty to visit.

Waterfront beach


Okinawa is known for its white beaches, crystal clear waters and gorgeous coral reefs. The area has a subtropical climate, which makes it warm all year round – unlike the rest of Japan. The main island consists of hundreds of beautiful beaches with numerous activities and world-class resorts.

Water hitting cliffs


The best time of year to visit Okinawa for those who want to avoid tourists is late March – October. Okinawa can of course be visited all year round, but some beaches are closed to the public due to the weather. The advantage of visiting in March – April is the amount of people. There are significantly fewer tourists and less stress at the beginning of the year but with full access to all beaches. However, the water temperature can be slightly lower (20-23 degrees), which may suit some tourists.

Mid-May to mid-June is classified as the area’s rainy season. This usually doesn’t bother people who visit Okinawa for snorkeling and diving. The high season starts in July along with the rest of Japan and offers a wonderful stay for those who can handle the heat. Unfortunately, prices for accommodation and flights are significantly higher during this period of the year. It is not unusual for temperatures above 30 degrees daily.

Hurricane season is unfortunately from July to October, and annually Okinawa is hit by 5-8 hurricanes which can lead to canceled flights and ferries due to high tides, strong winds, and high waves.

September to October is a good time of year to visit Okinawa. Summer is long in Japan and the weather is generally good and the water temperature is close to 25 degrees.

Clifs okinawa


Miyako Island is an island, 300 KM southwest of the main island. The island is best known for its wonderful beaches and coral reefs that surround the island. A very popular destination among divers.

Yonaha Maehama Beach has won awards as “Japan’s finest beach” on several occasions. A large number of resorts are located along this wonderful beach.

Note that the island is far south of the main island of Okinawa and requires transportation by air. The flight between mainland Okinawa and the island of Miyako-jima takes about 55 minutes and usually costs around SEK 1,000-1,500 round trip.

Dragon mountain


Gyokusendo Cave or Gyoku Sendo is a naturally created museum of the past 300,000 years for the public to visit. Expect blue and crystal clear water along with limestone shaped like spears hanging from the ceiling.

Gyokusendo is the largest of many caves on Okinawa but also ends up as the second largest cave system in all of Japan after Akiyoshido. Unfortunately, the public only has access to 1 of the 5 kilometer long lime tunnels.

Coral reef


The best thing about Okinawa is said to be underwater! The coral reef in Okinawa consists of around 200 different types of coral and is home to lots of colorful and beautiful animals. This attracts thousands of divers and tourists from all over the world every year. 

The water temperature fluctuates between 21-30 degrees and is the only place in Japan where you can dive and snorkel all year round. In addition to all the fish, the reef is also home to animals such as manta rays, hammerhead sharks, humpback whales, and four kinds of turtles.

The area also offers diving tours out to Kouri-jima for exploration of the sunken ship USS Emmons, caves, and underwater ruins.

Red tempel


Shuri Castle also called Shuri-jō or Shurigusuku was an Okinawan castle in the Shuri area and was mostly destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The temple was recreated and restored in 1992 using historical descriptions, notes, memories, and found photographs.

Shuri-jo has been a world heritage site since 2000 but unfortunately managed to be damaged again in 2019 by a fire that started in the area.

Child in aquarium


The aquarium is the largest in Japan and is located at Ocean Expo Park in the northern part of the main island. Ranked as one of Japan’s best aquariums, it has welcomed over 20 million visitors since 2002. 

The main attraction to visit is the Kuoshio Sea, a 7,500,000-liter water tank. Home to whale sharks, manta rays, and loads of other fish. A perfect visit for a rainy day in Okinawa.

Old attack plane


Okinawa Peace Memorial Park is a place of remembrance for those who fell victim during World War II. The Battle of Okinawa during World War II claimed several hundred thousand lives and the devastation was extreme.

The country took a big hit during this war and wants to honor its compatriots and victims with a memorial site in Itoman City (the northern part of the main island of Okinawa).

The area also consists of the Peace Memorial Museum and the Himeyuti Monument.

Elepohant mountain


Manzamo / Cape Manza is a spectacular viewpoint near Onna Village in the northern part of Okinawa’s main island. Very popular with photographers during sunset and sunrise, so bring your camera!

Landmark in ocean


Kourijima also called Kouri Island is a small island about 1km north of the main island. The island can be visited by car because of the Kouri Bridge, one of the country’s most spectacular bridges because of its view. The island has some of Okinawa’s finest beaches and tropical green waters.

The northern part of the island offers a very popular attraction “the Heart Rock”. Kouri island is easily reached by car or bus from Naha City and takes only one hour. A perfect day trip if you visit Okinawa.

Boats on river


Iriomote Island is the largest island in the Yaeyama Islands group and consists of 90% virgin jungle. The entire island is covered with jungle and is classified as a national park.

Popular tourist attractions on the island are kayaking, hiking, and exploring the island’s pristine nature. You will find several beaches with crystal clear water and white sand along the coast of the entire island.

Waterfall forest


Ishigaki Island belongs to the Yaeyama Island group of islands and is the southernmost part of the Okinawa Islands. The island is the second largest and most popular in its island group. The island is also used as a center point and transport location for travelers going on to Iromote Island and Taketomi Island. 

Like all the other islands in the area, Ishigakijima has several wonderful beaches, monuments, rich nature, and several luxury resorts. Ishigaki is also significantly calmer and more relaxing compared to Okinawa’s main island.

Anything else to know before arrival?

Don’t worry, we got you covered with the most important information below.

Okinawa’s airport is called Naha Airport (OKA) and its Japanese name is 那覇空港.

You can easily get to Naha by domestic flight from the mainland and by international flight from, for example, South Korea. A recommended option is to visit Okinawa for a couple of days if you are in South Korea for longer than 14 days.

The best month to visit Okinawa is May. During this time, the weather is comfortably warm, and the rainy season hasn’t fully started, making it perfect for enjoying the beautiful beaches and outdoor activities. Also, May offers the unique opportunity to experience local festivals and flowers in bloom, enhancing the cultural and scenic appeal of Okinawa.

Visiting Okinawa can be pretty expensive, but the cost depends largely on your travel style. While it offers luxury resorts and upscale dining that can elevate expenses, there are also budget-friendly options such as guesthouses and local eateries that help keep costs down.

Three to five days is generally enough to experience the highlights of Okinawa. This allows you to explore the main island’s beautiful beaches, historic sites like Shuri Castle, and vibrant markets. If you’re interested in diving or want to visit smaller islands like Ishigaki or Miyako, consider extending your stay to fully enjoy the natural beauty and relaxed pace of these idyllic spots.

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Visit out other travel guides and explore the fantastic country of Japan. We add new destinations weekly and please, feel free to suggest new destinations to the travel guide if you’ve been in Japan before. We appreciate all the suggestions!

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