You can’t say ‘Okinawa’ without conjuring up images of picture-perfect beaches, sandy bays, and gentle waves lapping at the shore. And Okinawa does not disappoint; it’s not as good as they tell you, it’s even better.
It’s mile after mile of coastline, on both sides of this long, skinny island. It’s a beach party just across the street from a shopping mall. It’s remote islands connected by bridge, where time has stood still. Whatever kind of beach holiday you want to have, you can find it in Okinawa.
No matter where you stay, you’re bound to be close to the water. So to help you choose, here’s out roundup of must-see beaches on the main island of Okinawa.
Travel tip: Here’s a full guide on getting from Tokyo to Okinawa.
Close to Naha
If you don’t drive, don’t despair. You can easily stay in Naha and still enjoy awesome beaches. Naha City has one beach in walking distance of downtown, Naminoue Beach, which is below Naminoue Shrine. Despite being in the city, the water is clean and clear, with a lovely sandy beach.
If you want a bigger bay, take the monorail to the airport, and a quick taxi ride to Toyosaki Beach. With two sweeping bays, lots of shade and facilities, you could easily chill here, watching the planes arrive.
South of the island
Those who venture south are rewarded with beaches that have few tourists and a more quiet atmosphere. If you’re visiting Okinawa World, you’re a stone’s throw from Mibaru Beach, which has great snorkeling. Nearby is also the tiny island of Ojima, connected by bridge, with a small but pretty bay where you can swim and a quaint fishing town famous for tempura and kamaboko. A bit more east is the sparkling white sand of Azama Sun Sun Beach, with two wide, sandy bays to enjoy.
These are the most popular and busy beaches in the whole island as they’re close to the city with easy access. Ginowan Tropical Beach has a deep bay that’s great for really stretching your legs and swimming, while the beach is a popular summertime BBQ beach party location. Farther up Highway 58 is Araha Beach, famous both for the Pirate Ship Playground on the beach, and the long waterfront promenade with lots of beach bars.
Head a bit more north and you’ll reach the stunning Moon Beach, considered one of Okinawa’s best, and the long stretch of Tiger Beach. Huge resorts dominate the waterfront here, but there are still many public beaches to enjoy, like Manza Beach, and Mission Beach in Onna.
Top activity: For the ultra-adventurous types, go snorkeling and kayaking in Blue Cave, Okinawa.
This peninsula does deserve special mention, thanks to a variety of small islands connected to Motobu by scenic bridges. Kouri Jima’s long bridge which crosses the pristine turqouise waters is especially stunning. Plus, tourists love the “love rocks” on a nearby beach which look like a pair of hearts. Closeby is the quiet Yagaji Jima, popular for beach camping. At the other side is Sesoko Island, where tiny beaches hide away under the bridge. If you’re staying in this area, close to the Churaumi Aquarium and Pineapple Park, then you’ve got lots of choices for where to go dip in the sea.
Top tour: Visit all of Okinawa’s hot spots, including Kouri Jima, Churami Aqaurium and Ryukyu Village on this one-day tour.
The wild north
Past the Motobu Peninsula is the remote Kunigami District, with the dense forests of the Yambaru National Park. This is where you go when you truly want to escape from the crowds. Okuma Beach and the nearby bays are the most popular.
But carry on all the way to the northern tip of the island, by Cape Hedo, you’ll find beaches that are competely deserted, often with no facilities. To have the beach all to yourself, drive a bit past the cape to Oku Beach, where the only living thing around will be the hundreds of hermit crabs crawling around.