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Okinawa

Travel Guide

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



Crystal clear water

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

JAPANS PARADISE

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

WHEN TO VISIT OKINAWA

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 close to 25 degrees.

Clifs okinawa

MIYAKOJIMA

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

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

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-JO

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

CHURAUMI AQUARIUM

The aquarium is the largest in Japan and is located at Ocean Expo Park on 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 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

MEMORIAL PARK

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 Ciry (the northern part of the main island of Okinawa). The area also consists of the Peave Memorial Museum and the Himeyuti Monument.

Elepohant mountain

CAPE MANZA

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

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

IRIOMOTEJIMA

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 to do 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

ISHIGAKIJIMA

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 a number of wonderful beaches, monuments, rich nature and a number of 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 hottest months of the year are July and August. The coldest are December and January.

You don’t have to worry about holding on to your valuables or walking around with large amounts of cash. Japanese are a very loyal and well behaved people with very few thieves and the like. Seeing younger children riding the subway home alone from school alone is not an uncommon sight to see in Japan. Of course there are crap boots everywhere, but Japan has very few of them.

Japan uses Japanese Yen – JPY.

We recommend a smaller exchange before the trip at Forex or another currency exchanger to be able to pay for transport from the airport if you have decided to activate your Japan Rail Pass at a later date, for food and drink on site upon arrival and so on.

Safe ATMs for cash withdrawals can be found around the city. You don’t have to worry about walking around with larger amounts of cash as the country is very safe. Of course there are jerks in the country, but Japan has extremely few of them.

7-eleven usually has a very good exchange rate at their machines. When withdrawing larger sums such as thousands of euros, it can differ up to hundreds of euros against what you get at Forex if you exchange before the trip. We therefore recommend only bringing a smaller amount and withdrawing more cash on site.

Do not exchange at the airport. Visit a bank or 7-eleven in town.

Tips are not appreciated by the staff and can sometimes be considered disparaging.

If you want to tip, ask the staff beforehand if it is okay. Most likely, you will get a no, as tips are not part of their everyday life.

Looking for another city?

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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