Go on an island hopping adventure in Okinawa
Comprising of more than 150 islands, the Japanese Prefecture of Okinawa is a collection of tropical beaches and lively coral reefs. Okinawa is known for its tropical climate, attracting both local and foreign visitors, as well as its fascinating marine life. With different sets of archipelagos, the islands of Okinawa should not be missed. Here are some of Okinawa’s favourite islands for weekend getaways.
About 190 miles away from the main island of Okinawa, Miyako-jima is the largest—the fourth largest island in the Okinawa prefecture—and the most populated island among the Miyako archipelago. The island is an island destination is a hit to both locals and tourists, home to beautiful beaches and unforgettable sights.
The surrounding waters of the island is arguably one of the clearest in Okinawa. The transparency of the Miyako-jima’s waters attract not only beach goers but as well as divers from far and wide. One of the islands more famous beaches is the Yonaha Maehama Beach. A seven kilometre stretch of fine white sand, vibrant blue ocean beach with a stunning view of the Kuruma Ohashi, a connecting bridge between Miyako-jima and Kuruma-jima.
Most of the beaches in Miyako-jima offers snorkelling tours for you to discover and explore the islands marine life. There are many beach-entry snorkelling sights in the island, one of the best site is Yoshino Beach, with schools of colourful fish and lively corals residing just near the shore!
An archipelago of coral-fringed islands, Kerama islands is a beautiful collective 36 islands with only four inhabited—Aka-jima, Tokashiki-jima, Zamami-jima, and Geruma-jima. Just 20 miles west of Okinawa’s main island, Kerama islands is perfect for island-hopping, snorkelling and even whale watching.
The idyllic island paradise is perfect for soaking up the sun and getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. One of the less visited island is Aka-jima. Unlike Zamami-jima and Tokashiki-jima, Aka-jima is easily looked past because it is significantly smaller than the two but despite this, Aka-jima is packed with fun activities and delectable cuisines.
With Aka-jima being small, exploring the island by bike is highly recommended. Beaches usually offer water activities such as snorkelling and kayaking, and if you’re lucky, you might get to catch a few deer’s walk pass the beach!
In Geruma-jima, a unique local restaurant will serve you colourful dishes that included lots of flowers. In Trattoria Bar Gnon every meal seems to be a masterpiece the exudes simplicity and creativity. The dishes are made entirely from local ingredients, even the colourful flowers!
Japan’s southernmost island, Hateruma is a small and peaceful island with a humble population of 600 people. The island is part of the Yaeyama Archipelago, which is popular among many of the city dwellers.
The islands most visited attraction is Nishihara beach, in which has a vibrant and lively coral reef nearby the shore. Nishihara beach is famous for its fine sand, unlike the other beaches in the are which has rocks rather than sand. Apart from the beach, majority of the island remain undiscovered. With endless scenic fields of green plantations and a painting-like views.
The coral island of Hateruma is small enough for you to explore by bike. Many would come to the island for day trips from Ishigaki island but there are accommodations available in Hateruma for visitors to stay in for a night of two, some may even have bike rentals that would be cheaper. Despite the island’s small size, staying a night would be ideal as the island gives off a relaxed feeling. Rushing to explore the island will just be a waste of energy.
Approximately 60 miles west from the Okinawa mainland, Kume-jima is one of the many islands part of the Okinawa islands. Known to be one of the most beautiful islands amongst the Okinawa island, Kume-jima is filled with beautiful beaches and untouched beauty.
Despite the island being a popular getaway for many of the locals, the beaches in the island is still generally less busy than the ones on Okinawa Honto. One of the most visited beaches in Kume-jima is Hatenohama beach, a seven kilometre white sand bar surrounded by emerald blue waters. The beach, however, can only be accessed by joining a tour.
Similar to the many of the surrounding archipelago, rulers settled in the island and constructed castles as a power move. It wasn’t till the 1500’s was the castle taken over by the Ryukyu Kingdom. Head to Uegusuku Castle Ruins to witness what remained from before the 16th century, the castle looks over the East China Sea and the whole island.
Also part of the Okinawa archipelago, Yonaguni island is a small island that only takes about an hour to be explored by car, though the island is more ideal to be explored by bicycle. Despite being such a small island, Yonaguni-jima is packed with places and activities you can experience, from the pristine beaches to the mysterious underwater world.
Many of those who visit Yonaguni-jima would often go for the incredible deep sea diving experience. Dubbed to be the ‘Japanese Atlantis’, the Yonaguni Monument has fascinated everyone from archaeologists, scientists and mystery enthusiasts after being being discovered in 1986. The structure of the ruins is said to be dated back to thousands of years and even with its discovery, there is yet to be revealed about the ruins’ past. Take note, the site of the ruins is also a hot bed for hammerhead sharks and Anbonia (a type of highly poisonous snail which can be found under the sea), be sure to sign in with a scuba diving agency or group to be safe.
Because of the island being nearly untouched, Yonaguni-jima has an impressive number of pristine beaches. In Hikawa beach, despite being famous to many of the island visitors, it is still not as crowded and is suitable for swimming and snorkelling. The island also has a variety of rock formations and cliffs, such as the Kuburadake, which is a conservation site for rare birds and trees.
Okinawa is well connected in terms of air travel, with numerous flights departing from Singapore to Okinawa everyday. Domestic flights from Tokyo, Osaka, Shizuoka, Ishikawa, Kobe, Nagoya and Fukuoka are also available to Naha Airport.
There are also flights from the mainland islands to Ishigaki or Miyako. If you wish to travel to Okinawa’s vast array of islands, you would either have to take a ferry or airplane to get around.
If you want to spend more time in some of the islands, there are accommodations available for all the travellers. From small island hotels to Minshuku– family operated bed and breakfasts.