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Things to do in Okinawa

Things to do in  Okinawa

Welcome to Okinawa

The mention of Japan rarely conjures up images of coral-fringed islands bathed in sunshine and lapped by turquoise waters. Okinawa, a prefecture comprising more than 150 islands, reveals a Japan that many didn't know existed. World War II relics sit on tropical beaches; sushi is served alongside exotic fruit; and the locals operate at a pace far more relaxed than Tokyo and Kyoto. International and domestic flights land in Naha, the prefecture's modern capital; while Okinawa-honto, the busy main island of the archipelago, is the principal starting point for sightseeing tours that showcase the region's beauty. Popular cruises cover the islands of Iriomote, Yubu, Taketomi, and Kohama, characterized by powdery white sand beaches, roaming water buffalo, and fauna-rich mangroves. The Ishigaki and Miyakojima islands—far closer to Taiwan and the Philippines than anywhere in Japan—are an ideal (and literal) jumping-off point for scuba diving and snorkeling. Diving courses tailored to all abilities allow you to explore caves and observe weird and wonderful marine species, including anemones, sharks, and damselfish. Meanwhile, off-road motorbike tours are great ways for thrill-seekers to explore the islands. Family-friendly Okinawa attractions include the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa World, and Ryuku Mura, while top draws for history buffs are Nakihim Castle, Shuri Castle, and the Himeyuri Peace Museum—all best booked in advance to ensure tickets and easy entry.

Top 10 attractions in Okinawa

#1
Shuri Castle (Shurijo)

Shuri Castle (Shurijo)

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The majestic buildings of Shuri Castle (Shurijo or Shuri-jo), in Naha, Okinawa, were once the home of Ryukyu kings, before the island became part of Japan, and later served as the administrative center of the region. The Shurijo castle’s buildings have been destroyed repeatedly throughout history but were rebuilt in 1992.More
#2
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

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The expansive collection of underwater wildlife living in the Churaumi Aquarium includes some 740 species and 21,000 animals—like three massive whale sharks—that represent much of the marine life indigenous to the oceans surrounding Okinawa.Travelers can explore the dark hallways lined with illuminated tanks and uncover mysteries hidden far beneath the surface of the sea. From coral reefs to the famous black current, known by locals as the Kuroshio, visitors can get up close with all the animals that live down below and learn more about what makes Okinawa a unique destination.More
#3
Ishigaki Island

Ishigaki Island

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Travelers looking to escape the energy and excitement of Okinawa can find a relaxing respite on the shores of Ishigaki Island. Although this popular destination ranks among the Yaeyama Islands’ most populated centers—the silver shores of Ishigaki are a globetrotter’s delight. Visitors can float across the emerald waters of Kabira Bay aboard glass-bottom boats and wander around Kabira Park promenade where epic views are prove to be more than photoworthy.Well-kept dressing rooms complete with showers and toilets, shaded areas and shallow waters make Sukuji Beach ideal for families looking to wade through the coast’s crystal clear waters. And travelers without small children will love the uninterrupted views of Uganzaki lighthouse in the far distance. Yonehara’s coral reefs attract both novice and experienced snorkelers who say the close-to-shore aquatic life is some of the best on the island.More
#4
Iriomote Island

Iriomote Island

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Beautiful Iriomote Island is one of the most remote spots in the Japanese archipelago. Not a lot has changed on the island in recent decades, and 90 percent of it remains blanketed in jungle and mangrove forest, the abode of the rare Iriomote wildcat. While the interior of the island, the second largest of the Okinawa Islands, can be explored via kayak, riverboat or trek, the main draw for most of the island’s visitors are the colorful reefs covered in virgin coral that ring the island.Snorkelers and divers who explore beneath the surface near Iriomote might spot dolphins and manta rays, who school along the aptly named Manta Way during the spring and summer.More
#5
Okinawa World

Okinawa World

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To some, the four areas of Okinawa World may look just like theme parks, but even locals know this popular destination offers seasoned travelers immediate access to almost all of Okinawa’s culture, history and ecology in one easy spot.Visitors can spend the day exploring the dark and narrow passes of the impressive Gyokusendo Caves, which span some five kilometers underground. Kingdom Village, a vibrant replica of a traditional community grants travelers a passport to rural settlements and ancient times. And outdoor enthusiasts will love wandering the trails of Gangalanotani, where untouched forests and archeological sites get visitors up close with prehistoric times. And while not for the faint of heart, Habu Museum Park gets hearts racing with its famous exhibit of poisonous snakes and other indigenous creepy crawlies.More
#6
Okinawa City (Okinawa-shi)

Okinawa City (Okinawa-shi)

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In 1970 more than 5,000 Okinawans retaliated against years of military occupation in what eventually became known as the Koza riot. Four years later, on April 1, the city recovered its independence and embarked on the path to becoming one of the island’s top destinations for both locals and travelers.Steeped in history, culture, politics and tradition, the streets of Okinawa City (Okinawa-shi) are alive with an electricity and energy that’s practically unmatched. Large shopping centers, international military bases and world-class botanical gardens all exist side-by-side and offer a testament to the diversity of this city’s past and future. Nearby Shuri Castle, popular Daiichi Makishi Public Market and dozens of live karaoke joints make Okinawa a hub of entertainment and history for travelers that’s worth spending a day—maybe even more—exploring.More
#7
Miyakojima

Miyakojima

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The picturesque beaches of Miyakojima are among the most popular places to relax, rejuvenate and unwind. Incredible snorkeling, crystal clear waters and long stretches of underwater coral reefs attract divers from across the globe. And Miyakojima’s tropical climate makes it ideal to visit almost any time of year.Located about 300 kilometers south of Okinawa’s main island, beaches like Maehama and Sunayama rank high among Miyakojima’s most visited destinations. But its vast sugar cane fields offer a scenic escape from some of the region’s more populated islands and sites like the Tuyumya Grave and Tropical Botanical Garden offer beach-coming travelers opportunities to explore further from the shores, too.More
#8
Himeyuri Peace Museum

Himeyuri Peace Museum

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The sobering Himeyuri Peace Museum serves as a beautiful homage to the 200-plus teachers and students from two area high schools that were forced into nursing during the Battle of Okinawa. Visitors to this quiet memorial can bear witness to the lives of these brave women as they wind through massive limestone monuments erected in their honor.Travelers can duck into a darkened cave—typical of the environment where many of the nurses hid to deliver care to the injured, or watch historic films that remind onlookers of the grave atrocities of war. Visitors learn about the lengths these nurses went to heal, despite limited medical equipment through ph words scrolled alongside the names and faces of each of the Himeyuri nurses. Travelers can read their stories and then wander into the well-kept garden to reflect on Okinawa’s history of war and its constant quest for peace.More
#9
Taketomi Island (Taketomi-jima)

Taketomi Island (Taketomi-jima)

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Located just southwest of Ishigaki in the Okinawa Islands, Taketomi Island (Taketomi-jima or, less commonly, Taketomijima) is at once convenient yet remote. Quiet and charming, the small island has no cars and no chain convenience stores, and the population of only a few hundred still live in traditional coral-walled houses with red-clay tile roofs. Visitors wanting to get the full cultural experience can tour the village on a cart pulled by water buffalo, guided by a local who’ll tell folk takes to the sounds of a local instrument.The island’s beaches also make it worth a visit. Kondoi Beach on the western shore offers beach facilities with white sand and beautiful teal water. Kaijihama Beach on the southwestern coast and Aiyauhama Beach on the eastern coast are both notable for their star-shaped sand formed by the shells of crustaceans.More
#10
Southeast Botanical Gardens

Southeast Botanical Gardens

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Okinawa’s Southeast Botanical Gardens encompasses more than 100 acres (40 hectares) with 30,000 plant specimens representing 1,300 species. Thanks to Okinawa’s subtropical climate, visitors can see plants and flowers from around the world that won’t grow anywhere else in Japan.The gardens are divided into two main zones. Closest to the entrance are the botanical gardens, while further on lies a much larger water garden comprising a series of ponds surrounded by wooded hills. For an extra fee, a guided tram ferries visitors around the park and offers a good overview of what you might want to explore on your own later.More

Top activities in Okinawa


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