Okinawa Island is like Japan with extra wasabi. Japanese is widely spoken here but languages of the Ryukyu Kingdom are still in use today and incomprehensible to those on the mainland. Naha is the prefecture’s capital city, located in the south of the largest island, Okinawa-hontō, and the best place to get a feel for what this amazing region has to offer. You’ll have all the urban luxuries a traveller could ask for, such as shopping and nightlife in Kokusai Dori (International Street), a pleasant walk in rustic Shikina-en Garden, or a visit to Shuri Castle near the city’s eastern edge. The castle’s age is unknown and had to be almost completely rebuilt after World War II using photographs for reference. It can be reached from Shuri Station of the Okinawa Monorail, and goes well with a walk down Shrikinjocho Stone-Path Road – which seems to be lifted straight from the past – as you head back into the city.
However, Naha is only the tip of the iceberg. The coast and waters of Okinawa are its main draws, beating anything you’ll find on mainland Japan. Because the islands are located further south, a pleasant warmer climate can be enjoyed pretty much year around. This helps no matter what you do but the weather really shines on the beaches. You can romp alongside other beachgoers at popular spots like Manza and Moon Beach – both packed with activities, watch the sunset off Sunset Beach, and dive or snorkel at Cape Maeda and Odo Kaigan – and that’s only on the main island!
You’re also going to want to stop by Nago, if only to visit Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, a four-storey facility with 77 tanks holding 10,000 cubic metres of water. The largest tank, The Kuroshio Sea, is home to many whale sharks and manta rays – you may find regular diving boring after this!
If you’re the adventurous type, why not venture out to other islands that are part of the Okinawa, Miyako and Yaeyama archipelagos? The latter group has Iriomote, second in size only to Okinawa itself but contrastingly unpopulated. You have to get there by boat but it has fantastic waterfalls and inland beauty. Ishigaki gives you fantastic beaches and a good chance of seeing manta rays in the wild. The region also has world-class offshore fishing, which of course results in some mean seafood.
For one of Okinawa’s cultural highlights you should make your way to Tarama of the Miyako Islands during Hachigatsu Odori, the August dance festival. From the 8th to 10th, the island is inundated with visitors and media arriving to view and record festivities. Expect crowds and plenty of partying!
So wot are you waiting for? It’s time to book a hotel to Okinawa and choose from our selection of flights to see this beautiful side of Japan.
Hotels in Okinawa start at AU$61 per night. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.