Recharge on stunning white beaches, walk around historic castles and visit one of the world’s largest aquariums on this tropical island in the south of Japan.
Okinawa is a rare tropical paradise that mixes a beach-going culture with a preservation of the past. Try exciting watersport, tan on white-sand beaches, watch whale sharks gliding in an aquarium or visit a castle that once protected the archipelago’s rulers.
Okinawa is the main island of the Okinawa Prefecture, an archipelago of 160 islands south of mainland Japan. Its main access point is Naha, a busy urban sprawl that also serves as the region’s capital. Find shopping, food and crowds along Kokusai-Dori, Naha’s main street. While here, taste Okinawan soba, a soup-noodle dish famous to the area.
Not far from town, the hilltop Shuri Castle reminds visitors of the island’s ancient history. Take a short drive south from Naha to the Peace Memorial Park, where monuments pay tribute to the quarter of a million American and Japanese civilians and soldiers who died here in World War II. It was one of the Pacific’s most fierce battles.
To the north, the Ocean Expo Park gives visitors the chance to learn about the archipelago’s marine life. See whale sharks cruising alongside tropical fish at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, home to one of the world’s biggest fish tanks. Nearby attractions such as a re-creation of a 17th-century Okinawan village and a botanical garden boasting more than 2,000 orchids make northern Okinawa a satisfying daytrip destination.
The island features miles of popular and less-crowded beaches that are a great to visit throughout summer. The best swimming months are between April and October. Scuba dive amongst rock formations at Mission Beach or enjoy views from the lighthouse at Cape Zanpa.
Not far from the coast, walk to the Hiji Waterfall or traverse stunning pineapple fields in Nago Pineapple Park. Follow subterranean streams of photograph stalactites at Gyokusendo Cave.
Fly into Reach Okinawa’s Naha Airport from Japan or China. Get around the city by bus. Alternatively, rent a car (or moped) to travel further afield. Tours can be booked through Naha’s travel agencies.