Best Things To Do In Okinawa – The Most Comprehensive Guide
Okinawa Prefecture, Japan is known as one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country, which welcomes millions of visitors every year.
Okinawa’s greatest appeal is its magnificent white sand beaches, turquoise ocean, and warm subtropical climate, which attract beachgoers and divers from Japan and throughout the world.
In addition to its beaches, the Prefecture has a wealth of other tourist attractions, including world-class hotels, tranquil islands, a distinctive traditional culture, and superb regional cuisine.
If you are planning to visit Okinawa, you cannot miss trying out all the things recommended for you in this article. Let’s check out all the best things to do in Okinawa right now!
Top Picks For Things To Do In Okinawa – Recommended By Travelers
1. SUP/Canoe Tour At Mangrove Forest And Snorkeling Tour At Ishigaki Blue Cave
Ishigaki Island, known as a stunning subtropical paradise and gateway to the Yaeyama Islands, offers a variety of fun activities, tranquil views of the deep ocean, and a sense of local culture. In addition, the island offers access to the Yaeyama Islands, a collection of breathtakingly uninhabited islands located 400 kilometers southwest of Okinawa’s main island.
On Ishigaki Island, swimming, snorkeling, diving, and glass-bottom boat cruises are some of the most popular water sports. Besides that, SUP and canoeing are also enjoyed by lots of tourists.
If this is the first time you’ve visited Okinawa, you should definitely try SUP and canoeing in the “Miyara River,” a mangrove river that is a national cultural treasure and a natural monument, and fantastic snorkeling in the well-known snorkeling spot called Blue Cave in Ishigaki. This will be a perfect plan for you to enjoy Ishigaki’s natural beauty.
2. Experience Japanese Culture “Tea Ceremony” In A Full-fledged Tea Room Wearing A Basic Kimono In Onna Village
Onna Village is situated in the center of Okinawa Island and takes up a significant part of the island’s western coast. Surrounded by the sea, mountains, vegetation, and flowers, the village is truly a haven of peace and tranquility.
If you want to explore the Japanese tradition of tea ceremony, Onna is a good place for you to do that. In a full-fledged tea room, which is unique in Okinawa Prefecture, you can participate in the “tea ceremony” while wearing a simple but beautiful kimono. The teacher here will teach you about Japanese tea ceremony carefully so that you can know how to make and drink Japanese matcha in a perfect way.
Experiencing the traditional Japanese tea ceremony would be one of the most wonderful things to do in Okinawa. You will not only have a real experience of Japanese culture but also feel Okinawa’s human being in Onna Village’s tea room.
3. Dress Up And Join Official Street Go-Kart Tour Of Naha
On the southern tip of Okinawa’s main island sits the city of Naha. It serves as the prefectural capital and the political and economic hub of the Ryukyu Kingdom. With a population of over 300,000, it is Okinawa’s largest and most populated city.
Instead of going on standard sightseeing excursions, you can get a fresh viewpoint on Naha by getting on a custom-made go-kart. On the go-kart tour, you can explore the streets while dressed as your favorite anime, video game, or comic book character. While having fun, you can also visit famous sites in the city such as Senagajima Island and Kokusai Main Street.
4. Dive Into Iriomote Indigenous Culture
Being the second largest island in Okinawa, Iriomote has a diversified subtropical environment, with a mountainous rainforest core giving way to mangrove forests and flashes of pure beach along the coast. During the day, you can discover the island’s interior on a guided hike or kayak excursion and then at night enjoy calm coastal breezes and the starry night sky.
Your journey to Iriomote will not be complete without exploring the indigenous culture on the island. If you’re on a guided tour, the guide will provide you with unique first-hand information about indigenous culture that isn’t available anywhere else. It’s the ideal break in between snorkeling and forest hikes. During the tour, you will have chances to visit a shrine, a traditional house, historical sites and one of the oldest villages in Iriomote, Sonai while listening to personal experiences, local myths, and legends. It’s such a wonderful experience to discover Iriomote culture, history, and customs right?
5. Explore Mysterious Pumpkin Limestone Cave On Miyako Island
Featuring spectacular white sand beaches, Miyako Island is a beach-lover’s paradise. It is a wonderful location to unwind while taking in the boundless blue sea, and it’s just around 50 minutes by plane from Naha.
If you research destinations to travel to on Miyako, the pumpkin limestone cave should be the first on your list. Once you see the cave’s pictures online, you will definitely want to see it with your own eyes. Here you can experience walking over rocks to the cave’s entrance while seeing stunning blue shades of water, which makes the walk really enjoyable. After that, you can swim through a gap of emerald water to enter the cave after you get to its entrance.
As the interior of the cave is really dark, you will be given flashlights so you can see where you are going. When you are swimming, you are able to witness the lovely pumpkin-shaped formation, which is visible as soon as you enter the cave.
Climb up and down the limestone cave using your entire body to truly appreciate the intriguing cave. It’s a lot of fun because there is a diving area towards the end! If you’re afraid of heights, don’t worry! Just give it a try and then you’ll find that it’s worth it!
6. Visit Former Navy HQ Headquarters
If you are into war history, Former Navy HQ Headquarters is a must-visit attraction in Okinawa. The succession of underground rooms tell the story of how the Japanese defended the island, how the Americans invaded, and how horrifying and utterly devastating the events were. You may need to use your imagination because the chambers are generally empty, but the bunker is full of excellent signs and pictures that describe life and death inside.
While purchasing your ticket, make sure to visit the top floor’s one-room museum that includes an interesting range of historical documents, medical and military relics, and statistical charts. The captions in English are simply and directly translated from the Japanese, so it’s very easy for you to fully understand everything in the museum.
7. Spend A Few Hours In Nago Pineapple Park
Nago Pineapple Park is one of Okinawa Prefecture’s interesting destinations for both kids and adults, but it may be the most suitable for families with young children.
The kids will absolutely love the automatic golf cart that takes them around the “pineapple green house”. On the ride, you and your children can see a lot of pineapples in the field. After the ride, you have the option of visiting the dinosaur park or the gift store which offers a wide variety of pineapple-related products such as pineapple wine, pineapple cake, pineapple chocolate, etc. In addition, you can take your kids to the park’s restaurant and try some delicious pineapple ice cream and fresh pineapple.
8. Go On A Fantastic History Karate Tour
More than 130 million people worldwide practice karate, also known as heiwa no bu, or the “martial art of peace” in Japanese. Surprising to many, Okinawa is the origin of karate, and the martial art has a strong connection to the islands’ past and present.
You must visit Okinawa’s dojos and grandmasters if you are interested in karate or budo. On the History Karate Tour, you can explore Okinawan culture and the origins of your Karate technique. Additionally, you can go to historical Karate locations that are tough to reach on your own and meet outstanding great Karate teachers.
Other Top Attractions In Okinawa That Are Worth Your Visit
1. Shurijo Castle
Shurijo Castle is one of the most popular places to visit in Okinawa. Originally built in the late 1300s, the castle used to function as the administrative hub and home of the Ryukyu kings for several centuries.
Shurijo has been devastated numerous times throughout history by wars and flames, most notably in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 and in the 2019 fire. With the intention of restoring the main hall in 2026, it is currently undergoing reconstruction. There are several gates leading to the castle’s main entrance, including the well-known Shureimon Gate.
On the top of the hill situated the castle’s main hall, the Seiden, which is currently being reconstructed. The Seiden, the most lavishly decorated structure and a landmark of Okinawa, was formerly the location of important state ceremonies and events. Comparing it to castles on the Japanese mainland, its vermilion color and architectural style are very different.
In the past, celebrations were held in Una Plaza, which spans in front of the Seiden. The Hokuden (North Hall, destroyed in the fire), Nanden (South Hall, destroyed in the fire), and Hoshinmon (Hoshin Gate, survived the fire) surround it on the other three sides. The Hokuden and Nanden respectively served as governmental institutions to welcome envoys from mainland Japan and China.
The Nanden was the starting point for a circular tour of the castle’s interior before the fire. The Ryukyu Kingdom’s history, as well as its interactions with China and the Japanese mainland, were covered in informative exhibitions. There are also historical relics on display that were both created on the island and acquired through international trade.
The interiors of the Hokuden and Nanden were built to resemble contemporary museums; however, the Seiden’s interior had been restored in the original design. The beauty that enveloped the Ryukyu rulers was possible to be experienced by visitors. Among the displays was a reproduction of the king’s throne and crown.
2. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is located in the Motobu Peninsula in the northern part of Okinawa Island, about two hours’ drive from Naha Airport. You can enter the aquarium, which has the theme “Encounter the Okinawan Sea,” from the third story (Coral Lobby).
When you descend to the second and first floors, the structure is designed to give you the impression that you are underwater. In reality, it has been created so that you can experience what it’s like to take that enigmatic voyage into the Okinawan Sea as you travel from Life in Inoh through the Coral Sea, past the Kuroshio Sea, and finally to the Okinawan Sea.
The Kuroshio Sea, one of the biggest water tanks in the world, is the top attraction at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. This enormous tank, which measures 10 meters in depth, 35 meters in length, and 27 meters in breadth, is filled with migratory fish from the Kuroshio, including two whale sharks and four manta rays.
Nowhere else in the world has there been multiple breeding for the purpose of manta ray and whale shark reproduction. Over the course of more than ten years, 800 colonies of 70 distinct coral have been produced and are on exhibit at the water tank known as the Coral Sea, which allows natural light to enter. Every year around the middle of June, coral begins to spawn.
After enjoying the world of the Okinawan sea, you can take a break with some tea and light snacks such as taco rice, an Okinawan specialty at the Café Ocean Blue at one corner of the Kuroshio Sea.
Meanwhile, you are still able to see the sea life in the tanks up close with gracefully swimming whale sharks and manta rays. Chilling out at the Café and observing fish swimming across in front of your eyes must be one of the most amazing things to do in Okinawa, right?
3. Kabira Bay
This is one of the most beautiful spots for sightseeing in Okinawa. Kabira Bay on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, is unrivaled when it comes to gorgeous beaches and distinctive marine life. It is the epitome of a truly tropical escape. Kabira Bay, also known as Kabira-wan in Japanese, is one of Japan’s top 100 most well-known natural features.
In spite of the fact that only marine life, not people, are allowed to swim in the well-known bay, taking a trip on a glass-bottomed boat allows tourists to see the unusual corals and vibrant fish that live there. Every step of the beachwalk offers gorgeous scenery, while Kabira Koen, a park with views of the bay, offers a genuinely expansive glimpse at the ocean.
One of the tour boats might take you to one of the nine uninhabited islands that encircle the shore. An afternoon of island hopping is a terrific chance to see the island’s natural beauty because it reveals flora that is unique to Okinawa. However, be careful because tides can quickly change, and putting a bag down to take the ideal picture could result in it being washed away. Black pearl shops offer plenty of opportunities to choose the ideal souvenir.
4. Yonaha Maehama Beach
Yonaha Maehama Beach is a must-visit location if you’re planning a trip to Miyako Island. Being formed with fine powder snow-like white sand and stretching for about 7 kilometers southwest of the island, Yonaha Maehama is the most stunning beach on Miyako Island and even the entire Okinawa. Additionally, it is one of the very few beaches on the island where lifeguards are available during the swimming season.
The locals agree with you if you think the name of the beach is too long. Because of this, Yonaha is frequently shortened, and Maehama Beach is the name of the beach.
In most years, the swimming season runs from April through October. Free parking is available. Yonaha Maehama Beach has complete restroom, shower, and changing room amenities. From late March until early October, the amenities are open.
If you’re searching for some thrilling water sports to participate in, make a reservation for a session with one of the watersports activity providers along the beach for electric surfing, jet skiing, fliteboarding, or dividing. The cost is typically fair, and many people speak English.
5. American Village
In the heart of Okinawa Honto stands a massive entertainment complex called Mihama American Village. There are numerous American military bases in the vicinity, and the Americana-themed entertainment complex appeals to locals’ interest while bringing nostalgic memories for base residents. The Mihama American Village resembles a huge American outdoor mall with numerous stores, restaurants, and a large parking area.
Many businesses, such clothing boutiques that sell American-made items or restaurants that specialize in hot dogs and hamburgers, have an Americana vibe. The Mihama 7 Plex cinema offers both Japanese and American films. Sunset Beach, a favorite location for picnics and a nice site to see the sunset, is just a short distance away along the waterfront.
6. Cape Manzamo
On Okinawa Island, close to Onna Village, is a remarkable rock structure called Cape Manzamo (also spelled Cape Manza). It is a very well-known destination for travelers to Okinawa.
According to legend, Cape Manzamo got its name because Shō Kei, the monarch of the Ryukyu Kingdom, paid a visit to the region in the 1700s. Shō Kei is said to have observed the cliff and said that it could accommodate 10,000 people sitting on it. The name can be interpreted as “field for 10,000 people to sit” from the kanjis that make it up.
From Cape Manzamo, you can get a beautiful view over the East China Sea and this is where the ocean displays its brightest blue shades. A part of the rock formation somewhat resembles an elephant with its trunk in the water, which adds to its allure.
At the bottom of the cliff, a number of tidal pools can be seen during low tide. Despite the area’s unflattering nickname of “the toilet bowl,” scuba diving is quite popular right in front of those pools. It’s not precisely simple to get to the tidal pools and toilet bowl, but it is doable.
Make sure to grab a local snack before you leave because there are souvenir and snack shops close to the parking lot and the cape.
1. What Is Okinawa Popular For?
In the southernmost region of the nation, Okinawa, a trail of more than 160 subtropical islands—of which only 50 are inhabited—come into sun-drenched focus. These remote islands are known for their laid-back atmosphere, blue water, and coral reef surrounds, and they are all easily accessible with direct flights from several Asian cities.
Despite having some of Japan’s best beaches, Okinawa is more than just a beach destination. Along with its leisurely pace comes a rich cultural past, as a result of where Okinawa Japan is located, has created a singular fusion of Chinese and Japanese cultures.
Okinawa sounds like an obvious choice for an epic journey when you consider its world-renowned craftsmanship, pristine natural beauty spots, and healthy diet, which is thought to hold the secret to long life (the region is home to more centenarians than nearly anywhere else in the world).
When arriving in Okinawa, you will forget all of the skyscrapers, hi-tech trains, and crowded pedestrian crossings that are frequently associated with Japan. All you can see are picturesque pristine sandy beaches, sparkling oceans, subtropical mangroves, and a seductively relaxing pace of life. Those are things that make Okinawa popular with tourists around the world.
2. Is Okinawa Worth Visiting?
Yes, definitely. Okinawa offers lovely beaches, wonderful weather, and warm inhabitants. Visits are highly recommended because the culture is significantly different from that of Japan’s major islands.
This is the place to go if you want a truly relaxing vacation. Both the weather and the cuisine are excellent. Many tourists have visited Okinawa and had wonderful experiences. “I like taking a ferry to go to other, more distant islands with beautiful beaches. We observed various marine life species and the water was stunning. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime trip!”, a traveler reviewed.
3. Is There A Lot To Do In Okinawa?
South of Japan are the subtropical islands of Okinawa Prefecture (stretches between Kyushu Region of Japan and Taiwan). The more than 160 islands that make up the prefecture – 49 of which are inhabited – are grouped into three main island groups: the Okinawa Islands, the Miyako Islands, and the Yaeyama Islands.
Millions of tourists visit Okinawa every year, making it the most popular beach and summer vacation destination in the nation. The magnificent white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and warm subtropical climate of Okinawa Prefecture are its main attractions for tourists from Japan and around the world.
Apart from its beaches, Okinawa has a wealth of other tourist attractions to offer, including luxury hotels, tranquil islands, traditional cultures, and great local cuisine. Thus, there are a great deal of things to do in Okinawa.
4. Is Okinawa Japan Cheap?
A budget visitor can expect to survive on US$116 or less per day in Okinawa, the least expensive prefecture in Japan. Food, travel, and housing are all included. Of course, everything depends on how you want your time here to be spent. For example, you may wish to stay in a larger hotel or treat yourself to dinner at a fancier restaurant.
You won’t be disappointed with whatever you do in Okinawa. When traveling around Japan, it’s a fantastic location to check out. Don’t be scared to step outside of your comfort zone; instead, take advantage of every opportunity to explore and experience new things.
5. What Should I Know Exactly About Okinawa?
The majority of people are familiar with Tokyo, the capital of Japan, and maybe a little bit about Osaka and Kyoto, but other than those two cities, most travelers are unaware of much of this fascinating nation. The following list contains the top three misconceptions regarding Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture, which may interest you.
Okinawa is an island
The Okinawa prefecture, an archipelago that trails Taiwan like a string of pearls, is made up of more than 160 islands and is sometimes referred to as the “Hawaii of Japan.” Others are dotted with luxurious resorts at the edge of pristine dive spots. Some of the islands are simply a slip of uninhabited white sand bordered by azure seas. Some, like the remote Yaeyama Islands, are covered with dense jungle, luxuriant mangrove swamps, rivers, and waterfalls.
Getting around Okinawa is hard
The roads are left-hand drive (like Australia and New Zealand) and the majority of rental cars are equipped with GPS systems, so forget about rattling around in old buses and taxis. A rental car is the ideal way to go around on the larger islands, where attractions are dispersed and bus service is limited. The three major islands of Okinawa, Miyako, and Ishigaki are accessible to smaller neighboring islands with frequent ferry services, making island touring just as simple.
Okinawa is forbidden in winter
Here in the cooler months, temperatures can still reach a tropical 20°C while the rest of Japan freezes through the winter. The ocean’s temps are equally enticing, and the water is exceptionally clear. It is still feasible to rent snorkel equipment and find diving tour operators that will take you out in the ocean despite it being the off-season and the confused looks you’ll get from rough-looking locals. The benefit? Holiday crowds won’t be a struggle for you.
Due to its distance from the rest of Japan and the country’s usual main cities like Tokyo and Osaka, Okinawa is indeed renowned for having a distinctive atmosphere.
Making the trip to Okinawa is a little more difficult than going to some other destinations in Japan, but if you want a change of pace and some amazing natural beauty, this is a great option.
It is one of the top destinations in Japan for those seeking some sand, sun, and surf and thus, there are absolutely so many things to do in Okinawa when you pay a visit here.