An easy ferry ride from Okinawa’s main island, the Kerama Shoto National Park, or ‘The Keramas’ as they are commonly called, are a collection of more than 30 islands. Only four of them are inhabited by humans, who share these tiny jewels with turtles, whales, deer, massive hermit crabs and flying foxes. The pristine waters surrounding these remote islands is such an incredible shade of blue that they had to give it its own name—Kerama Blue.

Highlights of the Kerama Isalands: Whale watching, scuba diving, snorkeling, and drinking cold awamori while watching the sunset.

Kerama Islands
Just another day in paradise | Photo by Emily Dickson

The Keramas offer a completely different experience from staying on the main island. The smallest of the inhabited islands, Aka Jima, has only 400 residents, one ATM, and none of the conveniences that you’ll find elsewhere (i.e. no FamilyMarts or 7-11s). While the main island has no shortage of beaches, if you want a truly quiet experience, far away from huge resorts and tourist traps, then you’ll love the Keramas.

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Huge hermit crabs love Orion Beer
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When to visit the Kerama Islands

The best time to visit the Keramas is from May to October, when the ocean is warm enough to swim and you can fully enjoy the gorgeous beaches. Golden Week is especially busy, as are the peak summer holidays. It is best to make a reservation well in advance for the guest houses. Though it is possible to go in winter, rough waters can cause ferry cancellations, and some guest houses on the islands close during the season. Winter, however, is the best time to go whale watching as a day trip from Naha.

Getting to the Kerama Islands

Tomarin Terminal in rainy day in Naha, Okinawa, Japan
Tomarin Port in Naha, Okinawa | Photo by

All ferries to the Kerama Islands leave from Tomarin Port in Naha City. One ferry is designated for Tokashiki, and one is designated for Zamami and Aka.

  • Tokashiki Ferry: Two ferries go to Tokashiki. The Marine Liner Tokashiki is a passenger ferry, which takes 35 minutes and costs ¥0 (adults). The Ferry Tokashiki is a slower cargo ship, which takes 70 minutes and costs ¥4,740 roundtrip. Tickets can be reserved online up to two months in advance. Both Tokashiki ferries board at the north section of the port, about 10 minutes on foot from Tomarin’s ticket office, so be sure to get there early or else you’ll be running for the boat.
  • Zamami and Aka Ferry: The regular ferry costs ¥4,090 return (adults), while the high speed Queen Zamami which costs ¥6,080 return (adults). Tickets can be reserved online 23 days before departure. The Queen Zamami also boards at the north section of the port. The ferry stops first at Zamami, and then continues to Aka.
  • Mitsushima Inter-island Ferry: You can get from island to island on the Mitsushima, but it’s not very frequent. There is a route between Zamami and Aka, and between Zamami and Tokashiki. You can only buy tickets on the day of your travel, from the village ticket office.
  • You can also buy ferry tickets at the Tomarin Port on the day of your travel. However, this is risky in peak season, as the seats may sell out. Alternatively, you can call the Zamami ticket office at 098-868-4567, or the Tokashiki ticket office at 098-868-7541 to make a reservation by phone, and pay when you go to collect your tickets at Tomarin.

    Which Kerama Island to visit?

    A traditional house on Aka Jima | Photo by Emily Dickson

    It is certainly possible to go to one of the islands as a day trip, but really you should dedicate at least two nights for the best experience. Each island has its own personality and attractions, so read on to decide which one you’d like to go to. When it comes to staying overnight, note that these remote islands offer low-key, laid-back accommodation, often in traditional Okinawan-style houses and buildings, so don’t expect swimming pools, buffets and fluffy slippers.

    Tokashiki Island

    Arahen Beach on Tokashiki Island
    Arahen Beach on Tokashiki Island | Photo by

    The biggest of the Keramas, Tokashiki has two main villages, one at the Tokashiki port, and the other at Arahen, on the south east side. Guest houses will typically arrange to pick you up from the port if it’s too far to walk, or if you’re staying in Arahen. There is a local bus which goes between the two villages. Tokashiki is known for its many observatories, which fabulous views of the coast. The two main beaches to enjoy are Tokashiku Beach and Arahen Beach.

    Zamami Island

    Ama Beach on Zamami Island
    Photo by Emily Dickson

    The most popular Kerama island, Zamami has a bit more hustle and bustle than Tokashiki in terms of cafes, souvenir shops and guest houses. Furuzamami Beach is the busiest, with beach huts where you can rent snorkels to explore the coral reefs, and buy food and drinks. One of the top activities here is swimming with sea turtles, which frequent Ama Beach in the warmer months. Beach guards on SUPs patrol the waters, making sure that tourists do not chase or harass the turtles. There are local buses which go between these two main beach areas.

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    Aka Island

    Kerama Deer on Aka Jima
    Kerama Deer | Photo by Emily Dickson

    The smallest of the inhabited Keramas, Aka is a true escape from the outside world. A small string of guest houses line the tiny alleys behind the beach, and all roads leads to the water. You’re guaranteed to spot the shy Kerama Sika (deer) that live around this area, as well as the turtles which nibble seaweed on the beach next to the port. Nishibama Beach has lifeguards and facilities, but to have the place all to yourself, get dropped off at Kushibaru Beach, on the other side of the island. Aka is connected by bridge to Geruma Island, which has a little village and world-class diving.

    So which island to choose? You’re really spoilt for choice and can’t go wrong with any of the islands. Enjoy a little piece of paradise!

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