All the palm trees, white sandy beaches, and turquoise waters make Okinawa ideal for a relaxed resort holiday. But things can get a lot more exciting in Japan’s southermost prefecture. Here are the best adventure activities to try in Okinawa — choose from jungle zip-lining, mangrove kayaking, scuba diving, wild camping and more.

We’ve split the adventure list into ocean and land activities, focusing on the areas of Onna, Motobu, Chatan and Yanbaru — all of which are on the mainland, Okinawa Island. At the end, you’ll also find information on how to get to Okinawa from Tokyo, transport once you’re there, and recommendations for accommodation.

scuba divers in Okinawa, underwater
Photo by Getty Images

1. Scuba diving

Okinawa is the prime diving location in Japan, attracting divers from around the world. From humpback whales in winter to manta rays in summer, sea turtles, sharks, and nudibranchs, the flamboyant macro favourite, Okinawa has it all. Dive shops can be found everywhere from Chatan to Motobu.

English-speaking dive shops

A few Okinawa dive shops serve English speakers, including Aloha Divers, Deep Emotion, and Sea Dog Diving.

Another recommended dive shop is Okinawa Diving Service Lagoon, which won the 2024 Japan Travel Award for Best Sustainable Travel. While their English support is limited, you get to grow and/or plant coral as part of your snorkeling or scuba diving experience.

License and dive prices

Getting your Open Water license costs around ¥45,000 in Okinawa, and can be done in four days. For those who are already experienced divers, most shops charge around ¥5,000 for a beach dive, while boat dives clock in around ¥6,000¥7,000. Equipment rental in Oki is separate and pricey, so do bring any equipment you have to lower the cost. Even just bringing your mask, fins, and snorkel will knock off a chunk of cash.

Shore diving

If you are very experienced and have your own equipment, you can save money and shore dive by yourself. It’s a common sight in Okinawa to see groups of friends gearing up at the most popular spots, to hop in together.

Gorilla chop beach diving
Photo by Mareike Dornhege

Shore-diving locations include Ark Dive on the Chatan Seawall, where you follow a guide chain into the water and out onto the reef, and Gorilla Chop in Motobu, which has a large parking lot, including shower facilities that are free to use.

Gorilla Chop is an all-weather favourite, as even if it’s choppy everywhere else, the waters here tend to remain calm and diveable. It’s named after a big rock on the beach that looks like a gorilla doing a karate chop.

Both dive sites offer vistas of beautiful coral gardens and colorful reef fish, with the occasional sea turtle, whitetip reef shark, or ray cruising by. They are both also popular spots for snorkeling — more on that below.

Zamami Island part of Kerama Isalnd group
Zamami Island, one of the Keramas. | Photo by iStock.com/Indigoai

Diving day trip to Kerama

If you want to see the best of Okinawa diving, we recommend a day trip to the Kerama Islands, about 1.5 hours from Oki main island. All of the dive shops above can organize a trip for you, or you can book one through Klook. It’s a good to idea to book in advance, as spots fill up quickly — especially in summer and on weekends. In the Kerama Islands, sightings of sharks, turtles, and giant trevallies are almost guaranteed, while the sunlight streams through the water over coral caverns.

Looking to dive near Tokyo? We have a dedicated Tokyo scuba guide.

2. Snorkeling

Okinawa offers amazing, accessible snorkeling spots as well. If you don’t have your own equipment, you can either buy a basic set at the nearest Don Quijote, or rent one. Most of the big resort hotels have activity booths set up on their beaches, and rent out snorkeling equipment directly, for around ¥2,000 per day.

snorkellers and turtle in Okinawa
Photo by Getty Images

A popular entry-level option is the Blue Cave Dive Experience in Onna. There’s also the chance to swim with whale sharks. Other than those two, here are our top snorkeling spots for all levels:

Sunabe Seawall

Located in Chatan, this is a very accessible snorkel spot. Head to the South Steps for easy entry into the water. From here, head right along the coastline and enjoy the coral gardens beneath you. A word of warning: If you don’t see any other divers or snorkelers in the water, winds are strong, and waves are choppy, it’s best to stay out for your own safety.

Diamond Beach

If you find yourself in Onna, don’t miss out on Diamond Beach, or Seragaki as it’s known in Japanese. There’s a parking lot here, but it fills up quickly on weekends. If it’s full, you can also park at the Okashigoten (Okinawa cookie) store nearby. From there, you also have beach access. It’s a popular spot, so just follow other snorkelers out onto the reef that is located in a bay.

Gorilla Chop

This is the prime snorkelling spot on the Motobu Peninsula. Gorilla Chop is shallow and protected, making it ideal for beginners, or on bad weather days when it is too rough to get into the water anywhere else. Pristine coral and a stunning array of reef fish await you here.

3. Surfing

You can also surf in Okinawa, but it heavily depends on the weather. The wind doesn’t always blow right. Winter is the most popular season, while in summer you’ll see surfers gather at popular surf points right before typhoons are about to hit (not recommended).

Teenage girl taking a surfing lesson from her mother in Okinawa, Japan
Photo by Getty Images

A good spot for beginners in the Sunabe Seawall, again. Here, you’ll also find several surf schools that rent boards and offer lessons, like Haibi Surfing School. Rental boards start from around ¥5,000 per day. Another great option is Tropical Surf House, run by licensed surf and kitesurf instructor Francesco Bolognese. He also offers accommodation for surfers at his guesthouse.

4. Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)

If a stand-up paddleboard is more your speed, Okinawa is the place to be. In particular, the more protected beaches of Onna and Motobu offer great SUP-ing. Several places in Onna offer SUP tours, including sunset paddle experiences.

SUP in Okinawa
Photo by Mareike Dornhege

Aruguide on Malibu (often spelled Maribu) Beach offers SUP tours from ¥7,150. Also, Cerulean Blue in Seragaki offers clear SUP rental for those “insta-bai” (Instagrammable in Japanese) pictures.

5. Parasailing

Plenty of hotels and shops offer this adventure activity in Okinawa, but one of our favourite providers is Minnajima Parasailing. Their website is in English, and they are very welcoming to visitors.

Parasailing in Okinawa
Photo by Mareike Dornhege

They rig you up on a parasail in Motobu and take you to Minna, a small paradise island just off the coast, for picture-perfect vistas. The best part? They’ll hand you a GoPro to take pictures with while you are up in the air, and send them to you after. Everything is included in the price of ¥8,000.

An alternative option is booking a parasailing experience through Sea World, which is popular with tourists.

6. Hiking

Okinawa has plenty of hiking trails. Many lead to mountain tops, or monuments like Okinawan castles — called gusuku in the local language. Don’t expect a Cinderella-style chateau, though — Okinawa’s castles are akin to limestone fortress walls from days gone by.

famous yambaru rainforest in okinawa prefecture, southern japan.
Photo by Getty Images

The best hikes are in the Yanbaru National Park, like the Hiji Falls route that takes about an hour to complete and leads you through the jungle, across stairs and bridges.

You’ll need to watch out for two animals in Yanbaru. First, there’s the endemic and endangered Yanbaru rail, a small flightless bird and symbol of the island. Second, keep an eye peeled for the habu snake. This highly poisonous viper lives in the woody and swampy areas of Okinawa, and while nocturnal, is sometimes encountered during the day.

Pro tip: Book a guided trek through Yambaru — it’s fun and family friendly.

7. Wild camping

Yes, you read that right. Okinawa actually allows wild camping. Of course, there are some restrictions: Stay off private property, areas that clearly state “no camping”, and cultural or national heritage sites like Okinawan graves or the sacred 300-year-old trees.

On weekends, you’ll see locals pitch tents and fishing rods, or park their camper vans, alongside many of the northern beaches. This is a good indication that camping here is a go.

man and dog with camping van, Okinawa
Photo by Mareike Dornhege

Camping is a fantastic way to explore the many sites of the wilder, northern half of the island. If you don’t want to bring anything with you, check out Evertrail Okinawa. They’ve turned Suzuki Jimnys into custom camping vehicles with rooftop tents. They come with everything you need, including camping chairs, a barbecue, firewood, and even cutlery and kitchen utensils. Rental rates start from ¥9,000 per day.

8. Mangrove kayaking

The mangrove forest connects Okinawa’s jungle and ocean — and is home to a buzzing array of wildlife. From reef fish hatchlings to water birds, mud skippers, and fiddler crabs, there’s a lot to see and explore in this exotic landscape. There are mangrove boardwalks on the island, like this one in Oura, or you can go on a kayak tour for a more immersive experience.

Man having fun with kayaking in lush mangrove river in tropical jungle, Ishigak island of the Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa, Japan
Photo by Getty Images

The closest mangrove kayak tour from Naha is on the Hiya River, about an hour from the airport, but if you have time, it’s worth going further north, into the jungle of Yanbaru. If that sounds like your jam, Yanbaru Club is one tour operator in the area that offers English support, with prices starting from ¥5,000 per person for a 90-minute guided tour.

9. Zip-lining

What’s a holiday without a zip line? Luckily, Oki’s got you covered, with multiple lines on the island. Onna Forest Adventure offers a whole zip line/climbing course, conveniently located in the middle of the island.

Orange colored half dome helmets arranged in a circle on yellowed lawn with Swift Quick Lock carabiners, handlebars and full body harnesses used for zip lining outdoor sports activities in a camping.
Photo by Getty Images

If that’s too much action for you, the nearby Panza zip line takes you 250m over the crystal-clear waters of the ocean, for just ¥3,000 per person. Finally, Matayoshi Coffee Farm up north also sports a course of five fun zip lines through the jungle canopy.

10. Canyoning

Besides hiking trails, Okinawa also offers some opportunities for canyoning, with Tataki Falls being the most popular. To get to the falls, you’ll need to follow the riverbed upstream. This involves river tracing for about an hour and some climbing, and is absolutely worth it to reach the swimming hole at the bottom of the falls. Don’t miss the opportunity to swing from the Tarzan rope that someone installed here to complete the course!

A common-sense disclaimer: Skip this trek on days of and after heavy rainfall, as the river becomes very dangerous.

Okinawa Miyakojima Irabujima Sabautugah
Photo by Getty Images

How to get to Okinawa

There are over 15 flights every day from Tokyo to Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, and many other airports in Japan also run direct flights to Okinawa. Besides the big names JAL and ANA, low-cost airlines like Peach, Skymark, and Solaseed also fly to the island. Rates can be as low as ¥5,000 for a one-way ticket, but generally range somewhere between ¥8,000¥15,000. Read more about getting to Okinawa.

How to get around Okinawa

Once you get to Naha, highway and limousine buses, taxis, or a rental car will get you to your destination. While it is possible to do Okinawa without a car, it is not the most convenient option, unless you stay in a resort you don’t plan on leaving much.

Buses that connect Naha and the major tourist destinations like Chatan, Onna, and Motobu are somewhat slow with frequent stops, but very affordable. The highway bus from Naha Airport to Chatan takes a bit over an hour, and will cost you around ¥1,000¥2,000. Look at bus tickets.

Taxis are cheaper than in Tokyo, as they start on a lower fare and charge less per kilometre. However, things in Okinawa are spread out, especially the further north you go (this is where all the fun is!). The cab fare from the airport to Chatan will set you back between ¥6,000¥8,000, depending on traffic, and should take around 45-60 minutes.

Where to stay

While Naha offers a plethora of hotels, most travelers prefer to stay further north,
where the beaches are beautiful and pristine.

Here are our three top areas:

Chatan

About 45 minutes north of Naha, Chatan is located in the centre of the island and offers great vibes and food options, as well as quicker access to lots of Oki’s highlights.

For a budget stay, consider Aien or the Seawall Hostel. Both are within walking distance of the ocean and restaurants. However, as the name of the latter suggests, the beach in Chatan is corralled in by a seawall. While less romantic than a beach, the seawall is a prime sunset location, and it gets busy in the evenings with people walking their dogs, playing guitar, or simply enjoying the views with a drink.

Onna

This is prime resort territory in Okinawa. Big hotels line the shore, and depending on the season you visit, you can sometimes find great deals. The resorts take up the waterfront with perfectly manicured beaches, but these are public access, so even if you aren’t staying, you can still lounge here. Explore the options.

Pro tip: Look for vacation rentals and smaller hotels second row to the beach for a better deal on your nights.

Motobu

Now we are talking adventure! About two hours from Naha, it is worth setting up your base on this peninsula to make the most of your time in Okinawa. Motobu offers access to the Yanbaru jungle, beaches, and great snorkel and dive spots. Motobu has less resort density than Onna, and here you can find accommodation for almost any type of budget, from vacation rentals to bed and breakfasts and fancy-pants hotels. Explore the options.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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