Okinawa is the “Hawaii of Japan” and just 3 hours from Tokyo. The glistering blue sea surrounding Okinawa’s islands are crystal-clear with soft white sands. The best time to visit is the summer, when the sun is bright and the water temperature is perfect for snorkelling. However, I’ve read that there’s a chance to see humpback whales in the winter.
I arrived at Naha airport via Haneda, which took 2h 30mins. Out of all the flight booking sites I’ve tried, the best deals have come from Skyscanner. The name Okinawa means “rope in the open sea” and is part of the Ryukyu islands. There are hundreds of uninhabited islands and they stretch between Japan and Taiwan. With limited time, I prioritised visiting a few islands and making the best of my time there.
Kerama Shotō (慶良間諸島)
The Kerama Islands are situated 40-km west of Naha. Interestingly, only 5 islands are inhabited: Zamami, Aka, Geruma, Tokashiki and Maejima. The highlight of this group of islands – the vast scenery, unspoiled natural landscapes and scenic mountainous views.
Zamami island (座間味村)
Zamami island has been my all-time favorite in Japan. Overall, there’s a certain tranquility here that is uncommon of touristic attractions. In early May, there aren’t many tourists and it almost feels like you have the entire beach to yourself. Zamami island is located in Shimajiri district and you can get there by ferry.
- Step 1: Check this english guide which explains everything on fares and accessibility. Next, check this timetable on the ferrys’ schedule and availability.
- Tip: The high-speed Queen Zamami ferry is the fastest one and takes 50 minutes to reach from Naha (Tomari port). In comparison, the regular ferry takes 2 hours from Naha to Zamami. If you’re travelling in a group, there’s a discounted fare available.
- Step 2: Make a reservation beforehand by calling the ticket counter (098-868-4567). Tickets are usually sold out during Golden Week (29th April – early May).
- Tip: The phone operator will give you details of your reservation – take a piece of paper and jot it down. On the day of your trip, head to Tomari port and give your reservation number and passenger names to the ticket counter.
Wallah! You’re all set and ready for an unforgettable adventure.
Cape Maeda, Onna Village
Cape Maeda is a popular site for underwater diving and snorkelling activities in Okinawa. When i found out about the Blue Cave at Cape Maeda, it was immediately on my to-do list. It turned out that the 4.5/5 reviews on Google and TripAdvisor were pretty accurate, as our underwater dive experience was nothing short of incredible. The best part of the trip was the easy access to the location and the english speaking instructors who guided us through the cave and underwater. A big shoutout to the guys at Natural-Blue, who were very patient and professional throughout our experience.
As a beginner myself, I was nervous and slightly scared as we approached the underwater dive. I’ve always loved swimming and tales from Disney’s Atlantis kept my hopes (and courage) up. After strapping on my diving gear and practising several underwater breathing techniques, I was ready to find nemos and explore the mystery of Cape Maeda’s blue cave. The combined package (snorkel + underwater diving) costed 10,000 yen (USD 90). Also, this includes fish-feeding and complimentary set of photos taken. Priceless!
- Don’t take a taxi, it is not worth the cost. Instead, get to Cape Maeda via bus. It is the cheapest way to get there and not too difficult to navigate. If you’re in Naha, take either bus 20 or 120 from Naha City to Kuraha bus stop.
- Make sure you have wifi / data roaming and google maps. There’s a bit of walking from the bus stop to Cape Maeda.
- In summary, read this site for all the details before embarking on your journey.