Getting Oriented in Okinawa

Island-hopping outside Okinawa Honto means traveling among several disparate clusters of islands; Okinawa Prefecture is a conflation of smaller archipelagos clustered together, not a steady string of pearls. Traverse the long distances by plane and use ferries to get from one nearby island to another; on the islands themselves you'll enjoy the most freedom with your own transportation, but whether a bicycle or an automobile is more appropriate depends on the size of the island.

  • Okinawa Honto. Naha's Kokusai Street and Shuri Castle are a great introduction to the area. More captivating are the war memorials on the southern peninsula, and the diving and snorkeling spots, active artisan workshops, and wild scenery to the north.
  • Kerama Islands. Dazzling coral reefs and white beaches are only a stone's throw away from Naha's port. Though close to Okinawa's mainland, infrequent ferry times make planning ahead essential, but the vivid blue ocean makes these islands well worth the hassle.
  • Miyako Islands. A 45-minute flight from Naha, Miyako Island has arguably the best beaches in Japan. Along with snorkeling, diving, and great waterfront accommodations, Miyako offers a whole lot of R&R.
  • Yaeyama Islands. An hour flight from Naha, Ishigaki is a great place to visit and a launch point for the surrounding sights including time-forgotten villages on Taketomi Island and the reefs and forests of untamed Iriomote. It’s the perfect mixture of developed getaways and seriously off-the-map adventure.

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