20 Things To Do In Okinawa

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If you are searching for a Japanese vacation that might have you tricked into thinking you are in Thailand, then look no further than Okinawa. Okinawa is both a Prefecture and the main island around 640 km (400 miles) south of Japan’s main island and around 500 km (319 miles) northeast of Taiwan. There are 160 islands that make up Okinawa, which is a tropical paradise with long white sandy beaches and crystal-clear water. From underwater fun to castles, aquariums, whale watching and island hopping, there are plenty of things to do in Okinawa. Tick these off your list.

Okinawa, Japan

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20 Things To Do In Okinawa

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Looking for things to do in Okinawa?

1- Swim At Emerald Beach

As a chain of islands, Okinawa is well known for its beaches and Emerald Beach is one of the most spectacular.

Emerald Beach consists of pristine white coral sand and an ocean that’s more of a cobalt blue colour rather than emerald!

But beautiful all the same.

The beach is uniquely shaped (almost looking like a Japanese character), immaculately clean and there are free showers, toilets and changing room facilities for visitors.

If you forgot to pack snacks and drinks don’t worry, there’s a small kiosk.


There are also lifeguards on watch at the beach between April and October, and turtle lovers will be pleased to know that sea turtles come to Emerald Beach to lay their eggs every year.

Emerald Beach is at 424 Azaishikawa, Motobu, Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture 905-0206.

2- Discover Kouri Island And Kouri Bridge

Kouri Island is a small and circular island with just a 1km radius.

In fact, the island is so small you can drive around it in just 15 minutes!

To reach Kouri Island you must drive over Kouri Bridge which connects the southern part of the island with Yagaji Island.

When heading to the island you will want to check out Kouri Beach which is at the foot of the Kouri Bridge.

Here you can experience transparent and shallow waters that are perfect if you are traveling with small children.

There are other fantastic beaches like Peace, Tinu and Tokei in the north of the island, but these are a bit wilder, with no lifeguards or facilities, just nature!

Head to Tokei and Tinu and you will be able to see some beautiful heart-shaped rock formations.

The island may be small but there are also several cute boutique cafes and eateries.

It is a great place to spend the day on any trip to Okinawa.

Kouri Bridge is at Sumuide, Nago, Okinawa 905-1635.

3- Visit Shuri Castle

Shuri Castle In Okinawa Japan
Visit Shuri Castle things to do in Okinawa prefecture.

Shuri Castle, also known as Shurijo, is a reconstructed former Ryukyu royal palace.

Unfortunately, a fire on the 31 October 2019 caused extensive damage but reconstruction is expected to be completed by 2026.

You can still visit the castle however and see the reconstruction process and castle grounds.

Shuri Castle was the administrative center and residence of the Ryukyu kings until Okinawa became a prefecture in 1879.

This castle has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage designated castle.

The castle was originally built in the 1300s.

Over its time wars and fires have destroyed the castle many times.

Today, despite the fire and anticipated reconstruction it’s still worth visiting the castle and the enticing Shureimon Gate at the entrance to the site.

Shuri Castle is at 1-2 Shurikinjocho, Naha, Okinawa 903-0815.

4- Go Snorkelling On Ishigaki Island

Ishigaki Island, Japan
Going snorkelling around Ishigaki Island is one of the top things to do in Okinawa Japan.

Ishigaki Island is one of the islands closest to Taiwan.

Owing to its proximity (300km/186 mi) to Taiwan the island is a cultural mix of Taiwan and Japanese culture.

If you are an underwater enthusiast there is no better island in Okinawa Prefecture to go snorkelling than Ishigaki Island.

A fringe of coral reefs surrounds the island which are home to a plethora of tropical fish.

Some of the most spotted fish include clown fish, sea goldies, blue-green damselfishes, sea snakes, moray eels, pufferfish and parrotfish.

Head to the tip of Kabira on the western side of Ishigaki Island to join a snorkelling tour where you could be in with a chance of seeing manta rays.

If you want to just, try your luck snorkelling from the beach rather than going out on a tour then head to Yonehara Beach as it’s the most popular place for beach entry snorkelling on the island.

You may also like to try SUP or kayaking at Kabira Bay.

5- Go On A Diving Tour

Divers At Coral Reef With Sea Turtle And Different Fishes
Going on a diving tour is one of the best thing to do in Okinawa.

Whether it’s your first-time diving or you are certified and experienced there are plenty of awesome diving spots and tours to join in Okinawa.

Depending on your dive experience and what you want to see you can choose a diving tour that’s suitable for you.

You don’t have to travel that far to find awesome diving spots.

On the main island there are diving spots that are easy to reach from the main hotel area.

Other impressive spots include Blue Cave which is also on the main island but for the best chance of spotting sea turtles, you may consider a diving trip to the Kerama Islands.

Sesoko Island and Miyako Island are also excellent spots because of their beaches, coral reefs and fish varieties.

6- Check Out The Largest Aquarium In Japan Churaumi Aquarium

On the northwest side of Okinawa’s main island on Motobu Peninsula, you will find the Churaumi Aquarium.

If you are traveling with children, this is one of the best things to do in Okinawa.

This aquarium is in the Ocean Expo Park and until 2005 it was the largest aquarium in the world, with 710 marine species to see.

The tanks at this aquarium are huge, enough to hold whale sharks!

Some of the best things to see at the aquarium include feeding time at the Kuroshio Sea tank (at 9:30am, 3pm and 5pm) and the Deep Sea Experience Room.

Churaumi Aquarium is at 424 Ishikawa, Motobu, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0206. Reserve your tickets online now.

7- Marvel At Okinawa’s Geology At Cape Manzamo

Cape Manzamo In Okinawa Island
Marvelling at Okinawa’s geology at Cape Manza is one of the things to do in Okinawa.

Cape Manzamo, also known as Cape Manza, is located near Onna Village on Okinawa’s main island.

From the cliffs you can see across out towards the South China Sea and at low tide there are a few tidal pools that emerge at the bottom of the cliff.

This spot is rather funnily nicknamed “the toilet bowl” because of its rock formation and owing to the rocks surrounding the cliffs this is also a popular scuba diving spot.

From the car parking area, it’s a short hike to the cliff edge and you can walk along the cliff edge taking in the views.

Cape Manzamo is at Onna, Kunigami District, Okinawa 904-0411.

8- Explore The Mihama Americana Village

Okinawa isn’t only about beaches and the ocean.

The Mihama Americana Village is a large entertainment complex in central Okinawa.

Because of the presence of American military bases there is more American culture here than anywhere else.

Mihama Americana Village resembles an American outdoor shopping complex.

There are shops, restaurants and plenty of things to see and do.

Visit to see the unusual blend of Japanese and American culture or just to grab a bite to eat of something more familiar.

Mihama Americana Village is at Mihama, Chatan, Nakagami District, Okinawa 904-0115.

9- Walk Around Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Park

Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Park is on Mabuni Hill.

This site and park are where the Battle of Okinawa ended in 1945.

The Battle of Okinawa was a devastating battle whereby 200,000 civilians, Japanese and foreign soldiers lost their lives.

At the park there is a large stone monument with the names of the 200,000 people who died inscribed.

In the Okinawa Peace Hall, there is a 12m (39 ft) lacquer buddha which is a symbol of peace.

At the site there is also an art museum where you can learn more about the war, the Battle of Okinawa and pay your respects to those who lost their lives.

Peace Memorial Park is at 444 Mabuni, Itoman, Okinawa 901-0333.

10- Step Inside The Caves At Okinawa World

Okinawa World is a slightly strange theme park and although it’s described as a theme park, don’t expect Mickey Mouse and rollercoasters.

The park’s main attractions are the natural caves, snake museum and craft village.

Gyokusendo Cave is a whopping 5 km (3.1 mi) in length and is the longest of the caves in the southern part of Okinawa Island.

It also posts the title of “Second Longest Cave in Japan”! 850 metres (2788 ft) of the cave is open to the public to explore.

While inside you can gaze at the mesmerising stalactites and stalagmites.

There’s also the Kingdom Village which showcases traditional Okinawan crafts.

While visiting the village you can learn more about weaving, origami, pottery, and dyeing.

You can also get stuck in by taking a craft workshop.

Then there’s Habu Park which is named after the local Habu snake which is poisonous.

This park has a small snake museum, a zoological garden and there’s even a snake show.

Okinawa World is at Maekawa-1336 Tamagusuku, Nanjo, Okinawa 901-0616.

11- Shop, Eat And Be Entertained At Kokusai Dori

Kokusai Dori is the main tourist shopping street in Naha (Okinawa Prefecture’s capital) that stretches for around 2 km (1.2 mi) through downtown Naha.

This part of Nara is filled with cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, boutiques, department stores and souvenir shops.

You will find Kokusai Dori to have a buzzing atmosphere, with many shops open until 10pm and live music playing at many of the bars and restaurants.

Branching off from Kokusai Dori are three covered shopping arcades: Ichiba Hondori, Heiwadori and Mutsumidori.

A great way to explore Naha is on a cycling tour.

12- Admire The Scenery At Furuzamami Beach On Zamami Island

Okinawa Sea
Relaxing on Furuzamami Beach on Zamami Island is one of the top things to do in Okinawa.

Most people visiting Okinawa will head to Nara at some point, where Zamami Island is one of the most popular islands near Nara.

Furuzamami Beach is on the southside of Zamami Island and is 3km (1.86 mi) in length so there’s plenty of space, even during peak season when people flock to the beach.

The white sandy beach, bluer than blue waters and green foliage behind the beach make for a stunning setting.

Whether you choose to relax, sunbathe, swim or snorkel, Furuzamami is a tremendous Okinawa beach.

Furuzamami Beach is at 1743 Zamami, Shimajiri District, Okinawa 901-3402.

13- Check Out The Pokémon Center Okinawa

Pokémon is quintessentially Japanese and when visiting Okinawa, you can visit the Pokémon Center.

If you are into Pokémon, then you will want to check out this center for the best hobby products and all things Pokémon.

The Pokémon Center Okinawa opened in 2022 so it’s a relatively new addition to Okinawa.

The center has a store, gaming space and information center.

You can learn all about the latest characters and new games.

This is a must visit place for all Pokémon fans!

Pokémon Center Okinawa is at 1F, 1 Raikamu, Kitanakagusuku, Nakagami District, Okinawa 901-2306.

14- Try Soki Soba, Okinawa’s Local Dish

Okinawa Soba
Eating Soki Soba, Okinawa’s local dish, is one of the top things to do in Naha Okinawa.

Soki soba or Okinawa soba is a traditional Okinawa Prefecture dish.

Soki means pork spareribs in Okinawa and Soki soba is created when you add soki meat on top of Okinawa soba noodles.

This dish is boneless stewed pork spare rib and it’s delicious.

There are many places to eat soki soba in Okinawa owing to its history with the dish.

One of the most popular and long-established shops is Gabusoka Shokudo which now has branches across the Okinawa islands.

15- Look At The Rare Plants At Southeast Botanical Garden

The Southeast Botanical Garden resort is home to 1,300 rare, tropical plants.

This is a must visit place for nature lovers and botanical enthusiasts.

The botanical garden is home to the largest row of Alexandra palm trees in Japan.

There’s also an herb garden, water garden, botanical garden, rhododendrons and baobab trees!

You can also see wildlife at the botanical garden.

There’s a small space where you can see capybaras, squirrels, and monkeys.

The Southeast Botanical Garden also puts on a beautiful seasonal illumination display.

Millions of holiday lights are lit creating beautiful shapes and displays.

Southeast Botanical Garden is at 2146 Chibana, Okinawa, 904-2143.

16- See A Traditional Ryukyu Village On Taketomi Island

Shisa Statues
Seeing a traditional Ryukyu Village on Taketomi Island is one of the things to do in Okinawa City japan.

Just off the coast of Ishigaki Island you will find Taketomi Island, which is well-known for its beautiful, preserved Ryukyu village.

If you want to get a real feel and understanding for what life is like in Okinawa away from the tourist spots, this is the place to be.

This picturesque island is surrounded by white sand beaches, blue water and coral reefs.

The village itself is defined by its quaint limestone walls, hibiscus and bougainvillea hedgerows and wooden houses with terracotta tiled roofs.

You might also spot some shisa statues that look like mythical lions guarding houses.

Stroll along the village’s peaceful streets and then head to the beach, this is a wonderful way to relax.

Ryukyu Village is at 1130 Yamada, Onna, Kunigami District, Okinawa 904-0416.

17- Go On A Kayak Tour On Iriomote-Jima Island

From swimming, to diving and snorkelling there are so many water sports to participate in when visiting the Okinawa islands.

But how about an activity that won’t get you too wet like kayaking?

Iriomote-jima is one of the remote Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa.

Around 90% of this island is covered in dense jungle so it’s relatively untouched.

A large part of the island is part of the Iriomote Ishigaki National Park.

The presence of mangrove forests makes this a fascinating place to go kayaking.

18- Shop At The Makishi Public Market

Fish On Ice For Sale In Okinawa, Japan
Shopping at the Makishi Public market is one of the things to do in Naha Okinawa.

The Makishi Public Market will give you a real sense of island culture and everyday life in Okinawa.

If you feel a bit uncomfortable in the butchery section of your local supermarket, the Makishi Public Market might not be for you.

Their meat and fish section has rather a few unusual and graphic cuts of meat.

They sell everything from pig’s face to stomach and feet.

Surrounding the central market there are alleys that sell ready to eat food.

From the freshest tempura to goya juice and steamed cakes, there’s so much to try and you just know the food is fresh!

Makishi Public Market is at 2 Chome-10-1 Matsuo, Naha, Okinawa 900-0014. Join a market tour to discover its secrets.

19- Go On A Whale Watching Tour

Humpback Whale Jumping Out Of The Water
Going whale watching is one of the fun things to do in Okinawa.

Between January and March, the ocean surrounding Okinawa is full of whale action.

If you want the best chance of seeing humpback whales, then definitely book a tour during this time.

There are plenty of whale watching tours to choose from, especially those that journey between Okinawa’s main island and the Kerama Islands.

The humpback whales that you can see on your tour travel all the way from Russia and Alaska to the waters surrounding the Kerama Islands.

They travel an incredible 9,000 km (5592 mi) to Okinawa over fall and winter to give birth and raise their calves.

The whale watching mecca of Japan is the waters around Tokashiki and Zamami islands which are located to the west of Okinawa’s main island.

Whale watching tours go from several destinations like Naha, Yomitan, and Onna on the main island as well as from locations on the Kerama Island.

20- Feel The Spiritual Importance At Sefa Utaki

Sefa Utaki is a place of spiritual importance to the people of Okinawa.

Utaki refers to a natural and sacred place where people can go to pray.

During the Ryukyu Kingdom, Sefa Utaki was the most sacred place to pray.

The native Okinawa faith was led by women, so the site was strictly prohibited to men, apart from male members of the royal family.

Today men are allowed to visit.

The whole area is surrounded by dense forest and rugged rocks, and it does emit a strong sense of peace and tranquillity even before you reach the sacred site.

Sefa Utaki is at Kudeken-539 Chinen, Nanjo, Okinawa 901-1511.

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Harriet Comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!