If you love to chill on beautiful white sand beaches with crystal clear water, Okinawa is a must-see for you in Japan.
Okinawa prefecture counts more than 160 islands, but this article will focus on the main island.
Stretching for more than 100 kilometers from north to south, Okinawa’s main island is located far south of Honshu.
Naha is the prefectural capital of Okinawa and was also the capital of the Ryukyu Kingdom, which flourished thanks to maritime trade in East Asia. The kingdom wasn’t part of Japan until its annexation in 1879.
How to access Okinawa’s main island?
You can access Okinawa’s main island by plane via Naha’s airport. It is possible to get flights from various cities in Japan. From Tokyo, the trip takes around 3 hours.
From Naha’s airport, you can easily access the city center thanks to the Yui Rail.
However, to make the most of the visit outside Naha, renting a car is the best option.
Best time to go
Even if you can enjoy your stay all year round, I recommend visiting Okinawa in the spring and autumn, as the weather is generally nicer during these seasons.
Check the weather forecast when you plan to travel from August to September to make sure there’s no typhoon coming your way.
Now, let’s take a look at the best spots to visit on Okinawa’s main island.
Kokusai dori (meaning “International Street”) takes its name from the Ernie Pyle International Theater, built along the street after World War II.
This 1.6-kilometer street was also called the “Miracle Mile” thanks to its speedy post-war reconstruction.
Now, it has become a busy shopping and entertainment center, with an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants gathered in a lively atmosphere.
Throughout the year, cultural events and festivals are held on the street, such as the 10,000 Eisa Dancers Parade in August, where people can enjoy traditional Okinawan Eisa dance and drum performances.
Shuri Castle served as the political and cultural hub of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
The castle was destroyed during World War II but was rebuilt and opened to the public in 1992 as a national park. It was registered as a World Heritage Site in December 2000.
The castle’s vivid red exterior and intricate architectural details showed the unique combination of Okinawan, Chinese, and Japanese influences.
Unfortunately, in 2019, the castle was once again destroyed by fire.
The park around the castle has reopened since, but the reconstruction of the buildings is scheduled for completion in 2026
In the meantime, visitors are encouraged to observe the reconstruction work.
Travel north to Cape Manzamo, famous for its rock formation looking like an elephant’s trunk. It’s the ideal spot to take beautiful pictures and enjoy the peace and quiet of the area.
The Ryukyu Mura is an outdoor museum that displays the culture and customs of the Ryukyuan people in the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Visitors can watch artisans working on traditional crafts or enjoy music and dance performances while strolling around the village’s narrow streets. It is also possible to dress up in traditional clothing and taste regional cuisine.
Located in Okinawa’s Ocean Expo Park, Churaumi Aquarium is one of the world’s largest aquariums.
The impressive Kuroshio Tank, holding 7,500 m3 of water, showcases a diverse array of marine species such as manta rays, whale sharks, and an incredible variety of tropical fish.
The aquarium also has several themed exhibits, such as the Coral Sea and the Sea of Tropical Fish, meticulously designed to replicate the marine species’ natural habitats.
Shows and feeding demonstrations that shed light on the behaviors and characteristics of marine animals are also available.
To get to Kouri Island, you will need to cross the Kouri Bridge, which offers stunning views of the ocean.
Once you arrive at the island, you can unwind on the white sand beaches, cool off in the water, or explore the trails that lead to breathtaking sights. You can also visit the famous Kouri Ocean Tower to get a panoramic view of the island and its stunning surroundings.
Orion Happy Park（オリオンハッピーパーク）
Orion Happy Park is Okinawa’s most well-known brewery. There, you can take a tour to learn about the process of making the famous Orion beer, and at the end of your visit, you can enjoy beer tasting and shop for souvenirs.
The Hiji Waterfall is located in the Yanbaru region of Okinawa.
After taking an easy hike along the forest, you will get to the waterfall, which reaches a height of 26 meters and plunges into a crystal-clear pool below.