Visiting the southern-most islands of Japan from the mainland is an easy plane ride to the city of Naha. Islands closer to mainland Okinawa are accessible by boat, whereas another flight is required for islands further south.
As the closest group of islands off mainland Okinawa, you can easily enjoy a day trip or a short stay here compared to the southern-based islands. Tokashiki, Zamami, Aka and Geruma make up this veritable smorgasbord of sightseeing and adventure activities.
From viewing humpback whales to camping, and of course – diving, snorkelling, and sunbaking – you’ll always be entertained. At night, enjoy the beautiful fireworks or stargaze with friends over a local beer or sake.
Get around by scooter or rent a car, and get ready to try snorkelling, diving, stand-up paddle surfing, kayaking, and even a banana boat. There are also a tonne of beaches that are the stuff of postcards, like Sunayama, Maenohama, Yoshino, and Aragusku.
For something a little different, explore around the Boraga “pumpkin cave”.
Okinawa mainland and Miyakojima are fun and popular destinations, but hopping over to the Yaeyama islands will complete the experience for adventurous souls. It’s home to the best-kept secrets of Okinawa: Ishigaki and Yonaguni.
With a coast dotted with beaches, the reef of Yonehara is definitely a highlight. Here, friendly locals will advise you of the top snorkelling spots, and may even give you some food; it’s not for you – bring it with you snorkelling. You’ll be surrounded by hungry and colourful tropical fish.
Meet the cheeky residents of Monkey Forest at Ishigaki Yaima Village, and don’t forget to try to local signature dish, Ishigaki beef, definitely one of my top must-dos in Okinawa.
This is the southern-most island of the Yaeyama islands (in fact, the whole of Japan). A mysterious underwater rock formation is a must-see attraction here. One theory claims that it was formed naturally, while others say it was man-made. Either way, definitely go have a look and decide for yourself. Even if you don’t dive, you can view this unusual wonder on board a glass-bottomed boat.
This unique landmark on Ie island has a breathtaking trail, suitable for all levels of hikers. It winds past a shrine lined by several torii gates, all the way up to a summit with spectacular views of the town below, the deep blue sea, and mainland Okinawa.
There are steps all the way to the top, so while hiking shoes are not necessary, enclosed shoes are highly recommended.
Diving is no doubt one of the main attractions of Okinawa. Speak to any of the local (accredited) dive shops about your level of experience and what you’d like to see and they can point you in the right direction. You can greet a rainbow of exotic fish, and perhaps even a turtle or two.
Head towards Ishigaki for a manta ray experience, but make sure you bring your diving license!
Gearheads can challenge themselves with this track based on mainland Okinawa. Check out shorter trails like The Chute and Spider Alley (don’t worry, the giant spiders are harmless, despite their threatening appearance).
To enjoy the bumps and thrills, make your way to Kaneda, which is accessible by car.
With plenty of beaches, islands, castles and mountain peaks on offer, Okinawa is the adventure mecca of Japan. Insider, Ayli shares her insider tips for the best things to do on the island.
From delicious to bizarre, Amelia Gambier tries some of Okinawa’s famous food on her trip to the remote islands south of mainland Japan.