The archipelago of immense beauty- Okinawa has to be one of Japan’s very best. Known for its pristine beaches, clear blue waters, coral reefs, a wide variety of water sports, forests and different adventure activities - Okinawa is an exciting holiday destination.
There is no derth of things to do; in fact, it might feel a little overwhelming. And that's we have a come up with a comprehensive list of the top 20 things to do in Okinawa, Japan for you traveller!
Discover the ruins of Nakagusuku Castle
Let's pay a visit to one of the island's UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Sitting atop of a limestone hill, the castle of Nakagusuku overlooks the East China Sea and the Katsuren peninsula.
Do take the help of guides on your trip, as the grounds are not marked, and you will not be able to find any electricity inside. Someone with prior knowledge is likely to come be a great help!
A regal experience at Shikinaen Royal Gardens
Japanese Gardens are famous all over the world. But, have you ever visited a royal Japanese Garden? The Shikinaen Royal Gardens has been sitting in Okinawa for centuries. And it is indeed a garden fit for the royal kings and queens.
Legend has it that this garden was built during the best years of the Ryukyu reign in Japan. At the time, the emperors were keen on expanding trade relations with the royalties of China, Korea, and other parts of Japan.
The garden was specially constructed to receive royal guests from different parts of the globe and is known to have hosted several significant meetings here.
If you are well-versed in the various Japanese history and legends- you might have heard about the ruins at Yonaguni. Other than history buffs, adrenaline junkies would also be delighted at prospect of exploring Yonaguni and some of its under-water treasures!
Even if you do not get your hands on the literal gems, you could always uncover the exciting ruins that sit at the bottom of the seafloor. There are many local legends on how these ruins go way back to over 8000 years old and, at one point, made up a drowned continent of their own, Mu.
When you are in Yonaguni - do not miss out on a local tipple. These are made from fermenting rice and are a local favourite across Japan.
Uncover the secrets at Iriomote
The best forests of Okinawa are said to be found in and around Iriomote. If you are more of a nature lover, one who wants to say in touch with the lush outdoors, Iriomote might just be the place for you!
Okinawa is best known for its various water activities. However, if you are looking for a quiet spot to hike through woods, this is your destination. Of course, there are many kayaking options here in the various water bodies that surround the island.
Get to know more about the Okinawa history at Okinawa Honto
If you want to look at Okinawa from a different perspective, Okinawa Honto is a fantastic place to start from. It is the largest island from among the group of Okinawa Islands. While the other islands might represent the traditional Japanese lifestyle- Okinawa Honto is more on the modern side.
Okinawa Honto is where you will find all the exhibits from the times of WWII, including those of Japanese military equipment. This used to be one of the many Japanese military bases back in the day and you still get to see the fighter jets and planes. Make your way to Naha to get to know more about this island.
Enjoy Okinawa World
Since we are already here in Okinawa Honto, we might as well have some fun at the beautiful Okinawa World. Though everyone pits this as your regular theme park- Okinawa World is simply so much more! And you're unlikely to come across an adventure park like this anywhere else in the world.
The theme park is centered around a natural deep cave system. After you are done exploring the cave system- do not forget to take back home some snake liquor. The Okinawa snake liquor is renowned, and Okinawa Honto sells some of the very best.
Go on a local food hunt
Japanese cuisine is exquisite, so much so that dishes have inspired renditions in specialty restaurant across the world.
However, it is one thing to eat Japanese food sitting in your country, and but experiencing the taste of authentic cuisine at a home-grown eatery is a real step up!
But, the best part about the local food tour in Okinawa is that if you are an ardent Japanese cuisine lover- you might notice that there are some significant differences in the food of Okinawa.
It represents more of the Taiwanese cuisine. While the rest of Japan obsesses over beef- you can find the significance of pork here.
The cuisine also goes beyond the staples. And at the top of your must-try lists should be the Yaeyama Islands soba noodles - an example of how pork plays an essential role in the Okinawan cuisine.
Take advantage of the gentle waters
Okinawa is all about enjoying some of the East China Sea’s best waters and all the other water bodies surrounding the islands. There are a lot of activities you can indulge in here on the different islands of Okinawa.
Diving into the open waters with sharks, sailing on a sunny day, watching the infamous whales of Okinawa, fishing, and the well-renowned ocean walking are some of the primary activities you can pursue here when you are on vacation.
If you happen to be in Okinawa during the initial months of the year, you must not miss out on the whale watching activities.
During the time, the whales migrate to Japan from Alaska. Kerama Islands in Okinawa is the ideal location for whale-watching
The Kerama Islands also offer some of the best sailing experiences. So, make sure that you spare some extra time fir one of the sailing trips while you are here as well.
Nagannu Island is exceptionally well renowned all over Japan for its unique ocean walking experiences. The islands have some of the most pristine beaches that are beautiful to walk along. And, you know what is even more attractive?
The ocean water. Want to go inside and have a clear idea of how the underwater world works? You can do that here on Nagannu Island!
Make it a day trip to Akajima Island
Are you a photographer or an artist looking for your next masterpiece? We’d recommend dropping by the famed Akajima Islands.
This is not the most common island choice of the tourists. But, artists and photographers love paying a visit to the island for their unparalleled natural charm. You shall not find this extent of scenic beauty anywhere in Okinawa.
While at the Akajima Islands, you can also choose to go on a short swimming trip in the gentle waters that surround the central Aka Island.
Go on a trekking tour around Taketomi Island
Taketomi Island is one of the most traditional islands in Okinawa that still follows the old cultures and traditions. You cannot see another island in Okinawa that continues to practice an old-world lifestyle like this one.
Start by paying a visit to the ancient villages and the villagers, who have chosen to maintain their distance from modern life and urbanization.
The best way to explore the villages is through a trekking adventure. This will take a few hours, but you will get to make the best of your experience.
Click pictures of the Sonohyan-utaki Stone Gate
The Sonohyan-utaki Stone Gate is one of the royal temples that were built during the Ryukyu period. This temple holds a special place in the culture because the people used to gather here for prayers when the king was not in the city.
Made from a distinctive form of Japanese limestone, the gate stands on tall en-route the temple's path. This is another unique Japanese tradition where a stone gate is guards the actual temple.
The temple complex in itself also happens to be a significant religious center in Okinawa.
See the old Okinawa pictures at Tamaudun Royal Mausoleum
The Tamaudun Royal Mausoleum is another one of the majestic Ryukyu dynasty creations. Being one the most unique museums in the area, it has even earned a place in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
Being close to Shurijo Castle, you can drop by the museum for a quick tour after completing your tours of the castle.
People mainly pay visits to out Itoman for its various historical spots. The most important among all the tourist attractions here has to be Okinawa Peace Park, am expansive space where you can acquaint yourself with the legends of the Battle of Okinawa.
The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum is also located here in the town of Itoman.
Get to know about the local cuisine at Makishi Market
Also known as ‘The Kitchen of Okinawa’, Makishi Market is what you need if you want to explore Okinawa’s culinary details fully. It is said that the market has been here for almost a century.
Specialty stores and vendors selling fresh produce have been in the business for long and must try out the some of the seaweed variants while you are here. There are also a lot of fancy restaurants and cafes in this region.
See the clear waters of Ishigaki Island
If you are somewhat familiar with the Michelin Green Guide Japan, you must have heard about Ishigaki Island. The islands have to be the most picturesque location in Okinawa. Also, the beaches are pristine.
The stingrays are what everyone wants to see while they are here, and unsurprisingly, snorkeling is one of the most popular activities here.
Party at Naha
At first glance, the small town of Naha might not look that interesting. Especially if you are here during the daytime or the evenings, you might as well find it boring. But, if you are inside your hotel rooms at night, you miss out on the authentic Naha nightlife.
Nights are the most glamorous around the streets of Naha as the town completely transforms after sundown!
Learn about the old traditions at Sefa Utaki
The Sefa Utaki played quite an important role in performing the massive numbers of religious ceremonies back in the days of the 16th-century Okinawa.
And if you want to know more about Okinawa’s traditions, make sure you pay a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. They have done a superb job in maintaining the traditions of Japan even to this day.
Take in the beauty of Miyako-Jima
Miyako-Jima is the one true island paradise of Okinawa, Japan. The beauty is evident from the moment you step foot here and you will instantly fall for the beaches.
Covered with white sands and providing some of the best sunsets- Miyako-Jima captures the heart of everyone.
Visit the world’s largest aquarium in Okinawa
Want to see how the largest aquarium in the entire world works? You do not have to look any further because Okinawa is home to the famed destination as well!
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is known for housing the native marine life, while also serving as a breeding ground for them.
Visiting Japan is always an incredible adventure. The culture, tradition, and natural landscapes are mind-blowing.
But, is the distinctive little details about Okinawa that make it stand out as an unorthodox Japanese vacation destination. We hope that we helped you in sorting your vacation plans to Okinawa traveler! Bon voyage!