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Things to do in Okinawa

Things to do in  Okinawa

Welcome to Okinawa

The mention of Japan rarely conjures up images of coral-fringed islands bathed in sunshine and lapped by turquoise waters. Okinawa, a prefecture comprising more than 150 islands, reveals a Japan that many didn't know existed. World War II relics sit on tropical beaches; sushi is served alongside exotic fruit; and the locals operate at a pace far more relaxed than Tokyo and Kyoto. International and domestic flights land in Naha, the prefecture's modern capital; while Okinawa-honto, the busy main island of the archipelago, is the principal starting point for sightseeing tours that showcase the region's beauty. Popular cruises cover the islands of Iriomote, Yubu, Taketomi, and Kohama, characterized by powdery white sand beaches, roaming water buffalo, and fauna-rich mangroves. The Ishigaki and Miyakojima islands—far closer to Taiwan and the Philippines than anywhere in Japan—are an ideal (and literal) jumping-off point for scuba diving and snorkeling. Diving courses tailored to all abilities allow you to explore caves and observe weird and wonderful marine species, including anemones, sharks, and damselfish. Meanwhile, off-road motorbike tours are great ways for thrill-seekers to explore the islands. Family-friendly Okinawa attractions include the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa World, and Ryuku Mura, while top draws for history buffs are Nakihim Castle, Shuri Castle, and the Himeyuri Peace Museum—all best booked in advance to ensure tickets and easy entry.

Top 10 attractions in Okinawa

#1
Okinawa World

Okinawa World

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To some, the four areas of Okinawa World may look just like theme parks, but even locals know this popular destination offers seasoned travelers immediate access to almost all of Okinawa’s culture, history and ecology in one easy spot.Visitors can spend the day exploring the dark and narrow passes of the impressive Gyokusendo Caves, which span some five kilometers underground. Kingdom Village, a vibrant replica of a traditional community grants travelers a passport to rural settlements and ancient times. And outdoor enthusiasts will love wandering the trails of Gangalanotani, where untouched forests and archeological sites get visitors up close with prehistoric times. And while not for the faint of heart, Habu Museum Park gets hearts racing with its famous exhibit of poisonous snakes and other indigenous creepy crawlies.More
#2
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

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The expansive collection of underwater wildlife living in the Churaumi Aquarium includes some 740 species and 21,000 animals—like three massive whale sharks—that represent much of the marine life indigenous to the oceans surrounding Okinawa.Travelers can explore the dark hallways lined with illuminated tanks and uncover mysteries hidden far beneath the surface of the sea. From coral reefs to the famous black current, known by locals as the Kuroshio, visitors can get up close with all the animals that live down below and learn more about what makes Okinawa a unique destination.More
#3
Iriomote Island

Iriomote Island

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The largest of the Yaeyama Island group in the East China Sea, Iriomote Island (Iriomote-jima appeals to visitors with its lush jungle and mangrove forest, the home of the rare Iriomote wildcat. The whole island is a designated national park and offers opportunities for kayaking and trekking through its unspoiled landscape.More
#4
Ishigaki Island

Ishigaki Island

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The second-largest and most populated island of the Yaeyama Island group in the East China Sea, Ishigaki Island (Ishigaki-jima is also the hub of the archipelago. The island appeals to visitors with its beautiful beaches, excellent snorkel and dive sites, and opportunities for kayaking along rivers and hiking through the hilly interior. More
#5
Himeyuri Peace Museum

Himeyuri Peace Museum

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The sobering Himeyuri Peace Museum serves as a beautiful homage to the 200-plus teachers and students from two area high schools that were forced into nursing during the Battle of Okinawa. Visitors to this quiet memorial can bear witness to the lives of these brave women as they wind through massive limestone monuments erected in their honor.Travelers can duck into a darkened cave—typical of the environment where many of the nurses hid to deliver care to the injured, or watch historic films that remind onlookers of the grave atrocities of war. Visitors learn about the lengths these nurses went to heal, despite limited medical equipment through ph words scrolled alongside the names and faces of each of the Himeyuri nurses. Travelers can read their stories and then wander into the well-kept garden to reflect on Okinawa’s history of war and its constant quest for peace.More
#6
Okinawa City (Okinawa-shi)

Okinawa City (Okinawa-shi)

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The second-biggest city on Japan’s Okinawa Islands, after Naha, Okinawa City (Okinawa-shi is steeped in history, culture, politics, and tradition. Here, on the city’s lively streets, traditional Okinawan culture is blended with Japanese and American influences (a result of the long presence of U.S. military bases.More
#7
Shuri Castle (Shurijo)

Shuri Castle (Shurijo)

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The majestic buildings of Shuri Castle (Shurijo or Shuri-jo), in Naha, Okinawa, were once the home of Ryukyu kings, before the island became part of Japan, and later served as the administrative center of the region. The Shurijo castle’s buildings have been destroyed repeatedly throughout history but were rebuilt in 1992.More
#8
Taketomi Island (Taketomi-jima)

Taketomi Island (Taketomi-jima)

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Located just southwest of Ishigaki in the Okinawa Islands, Taketomi Island (Taketomi-jima or, less commonly, Taketomijima) is at once convenient yet remote. Quiet and charming, the small island has no cars and no chain convenience stores, and the population of only a few hundred still live in traditional coral-walled houses with red-clay tile roofs. Visitors wanting to get the full cultural experience can tour the village on a cart pulled by water buffalo, guided by a local who’ll tell folk takes to the sounds of a local instrument.The island’s beaches also make it worth a visit. Kondoi Beach on the western shore offers beach facilities with white sand and beautiful teal water. Kaijihama Beach on the southwestern coast and Aiyauhama Beach on the eastern coast are both notable for their star-shaped sand formed by the shells of crustaceans.More
#9
Ryukyu Mura

Ryukyu Mura

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A trip to Ryukyu Mura may not be as authentic an experience as a visit to Okinawa’s rural hillside villages, but this popular destination still provides travelers with a taste of the region’s more traditional lifestyle and culture. Visitors can wander through examples of old school mountain housing, watch dance and theater performances and sample a variety of home-cooked local foods.Traditional artisans offer hands-on workshops for travelers interested in learning the art of pottery making, cloth-dying, weaving or cooking. These small group classes provide interested guests with the opportunity to learn more about the craft and culture of the region, and even create some souvenirs they’ll be happy to take home.More
#10
Hatoma Island (Hatoma Jima)

Hatoma Island (Hatoma Jima)

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The tiny island of Hatoma is barely a kilometer wide and home to just 50 residents. But with three full-service hotels, long stretches of white sandy beach, crystal blue waters and classic tropical island views, Hatoma is a gem of a destination for travelers looking to escape.Visitors can relax into the cool shade of Hatoma’s towering palm trees, snorkel in the shallow clear waters or explore the picturesque island on foot. Giant banyan trees in the northern part of the island and a tiny lighthouse are among the most popular attractions.Travelers should be aware that with only a handful of outdoor lights, Hatoma can be difficult to navigate in the dark. Those hoping to catch one of Hatoma’s spectacular sunsets should be sure to carry a flashlight.More

Top activities in Okinawa


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