Okinawa, with its stunning beaches, sub-tropical climate, and many tourist attractions, is a popular vacation destination for many. If you’re thinking about visiting here, then check out our list of unforgettable things to do in Okinawa.
- Dive the 10 000 Year Old Yonaguni Ruins
- Spend Time on the Beaches
- Attend Okinawan Festivals
- Visit the Okinawa Peace Park
- Tour the Distilleries
- Visit the Nago Pineapple Park
- Visit the Castles of Okinawa
- Tour the Nuchi-una Salt Factory
- Try Okinawan Snake Wine
- Visit Cape Manzamo
- Explore the Mihama American Village
- Visit the Yomitan Pottery Village
- Visit the Sonohyan-utaki Stone Gate
- Visit a Traditional Ryukyu Village
- Explore the Sacred Sefa-utaki
- Visit the Churami Aquariam
Dive the 10 000 Year Old Yonaguni Ruins
Yonaguni is a small island with a population of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants. The waters surrounding the island have long been a popular diving spot thanks to the clear water and hammerhead sharks. However, in 1987, the 10,000-year-old Yonaguni ruins were discovered, which attracted more people to the island.
These ruins, which consist of enormous stepped monoliths and other structures, are believed to have been built by the Jomon people who existed in Japan from 12,000 BC to around 300 BC. It sits between 25 to 100 feet beneath the water surface and is open for experienced divers to explore.
Read more about the top diving spots in Okinawa.
Spend Time on the Beaches
It should come as no surprise that Okinawa has some of the best beaches in Japan, and it’s also one of the biggest reasons why so many tourists flock here. But with 150 islands, how will you know which beaches are the best and where they are located? That is why we have composed this list of the most stunning beaches in Okinawa.
Attend Any of the Okinawan Festivals
Many festivals take place across Okinawa each year that are unique to the islands. There is the Ryukyu Lantern Festival, the Tedako Festival, and the Eisa Dance Parade, to name a few. Learn more about these Ryukyuan events on the Okinawa festivals page.
Visit the Okinawa Peace Park
The battle of Okinawa took place from April to June 1945 and was the final and one of the bloodiest battles of World War 2. Most of the fighting took place in the southern regions of Okinawa Honto, which is where you will find most of the war memorials and the Peace Park.
Tour the Distilleries
The Okinawa islands are home to a particular type of drink known as awamori. There are many distilleries throughout the region that specialize in the manufacturing of these drinks. Some offer educational tours of their facilities and allow visitors to sample and buy their brews.
Read more about these Okinawan distilleries you can visit.
Visit the Nago Pineapple Park
The Nago Pineapple Park sits outside downtown Nago City on the main Okinawan island and is a pineapple farm theme park for tourists. And although the entire concept sounds strange, it’s actually a lot of fun.
Visitors will drive through the park in a yellow pineapple vehicle that moves on tracks. You will make your way through stunning tropical gardens and pineapple growing fields before visiting on-site stores that stock and sell pineapple-based food, candy, and drinks. There are many free samples you can try before buying. It’s great fun for kids and couples.
|Address||1195 Biimata, Nago, Okinawa Prefecture|
|Business Hours||09:00AM to 18:00PM|
|Closed Dates||Open 7 days a week|
|Admission Fee||Prices vary from free to 600 yen (depending on age)|
Visit the Castles of Okinawa
Up until 1609, the Ryukyu Kingdom existed as a completely separate country from Japan. The language and culture are not the same, which is why the castles on Okinawa look so different. Check out the Okinawa castles page to find out more about the best castles to visit.
Tour the Nuchi-una Salt Factory
Most health professionals seem to agree that salt is unhealthy. However – the salt produced at the Nuchi-una Salt Factory is different. Seawater gets pumped from the ocean into the high-tech facility where the salt content is extracted from the water and treated before being transformed into mineral-rich, super healthy salt.
Free self-guided tours are available to anyone who comes knocking on the door, but people in groups larger than ten need to phone in advance to make a booking.
For hygiene purposes, visitors are not allowed to enter the actual factory rooms, but large windows enable anyone to see what is going on. The second floor of the facility has a salt gift shop where visitors can purchase various products featuring this healthy salt, such as cooking salt and beautifully decorated salt gift sets. There is also a restaurant serving a variety of exquisite dishes that makes use of the salt manufactured at the facility. The Nuchi-na Salt Factory is a highly recommended Okinawa destination to visit if you happen to be in the area.
|Address||2768 Yonashiro Miyagi, Uruma City, Okinawa 904-2423|
|Business Hours||09:00AM – 17:30PM|
|Closed Dates||No Closing Days|
Try Okinawan Snake Wine
Okinawan snake wine, also known as habushu, is a unique type of alcoholic drink native to Okinawa. Its main ingredient is the habu snake, which is commonly found in some parts of Southeast Asia and Japan.
Brewers soak the snake in ethanol for a month to preserve it. Afterward, the snake is placed in a 60% alcohol mixture for another month before adding an awamori combination consisting of various herbs and honey. So what about the venom? Don’t worry because the alcohol dissolves the poison, making it safe to drink.
Read more about habushu here.
Visit Cape Manzamo
Sho Kei, ruler of the Ryukyuan Kingdom during the first half of the 18th Century, proclaimed that the field on Cape Manzamo is large enough for 10,000 people to sit. This is also how the place got its name – Manzamo (10,000 to sit field).
Cape Manzamo is on the main Okinawan island facing the East China Sea. It’s a place known for its beautiful scenery and perfect sunsets, which is why it attracts so many visitors. It’s easily accessible from the nearby Onna Village and is right next to a popular diving spot. Cape Manzamo is suitable for year-round visits, but try to avoid visiting during winter because of the prevalent windy conditions.
Explore the Mihama American Village
The Mihama American Village sits 15km north of Naha on the main island of Okinawa. It serves as an entertainment area for the many nearby US military bases and is popular with US marines, their visiting families, and local Japanese alike. There are various stores, restaurants, a movie theater, and a giant ferris wheel for people to enjoy. The ferris wheel is the main highlight as it provides spectacular views of the coastline and nearby areas.
|Address||Mihama, Chatan-cho, Nakagami-gun 904-0115, Okinawa Prefecture|
|Business Hours||Most facilities are open from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM|
|Closed Dates||No closing days except for in the case of a typhoon|
|Admission Fee||Free parking and admission. Ferris wheel costs 500 yen|
Spend a Day at the Yomitan Pottery Village
Near Naha, upon a hill, sits the Yomitan Pottery Village. It’s located in a quaint little town consisting entirely of kilns, houses, and shops, which reminds one of medieval Japan. Visitors will walk along a path that winds past many of these glass and pottery workshops and watch these highly skilled craftsmen working their trade. Pottery and glassworks are for sale from these workshops, and prices start from $10 and go all the way up to thousands of dollars. The Yomitan Pottery Village is a place well worth visiting.
|Address||2653-1 Zakimi, Yomitan-son, Nakagami-gun 904-0301, Okinawa Prefecture|
|Business Hours||09:00AM to 18:00PM|
|Closed Dates||Open 7 days a week|
Visit the Sacred Stone Gate of Sonohyan-Utaki
The Sonohyan-Utaki Stone Gate is a sacred site on the Shuri Castle grounds. The structure was built in 1519, and each time before the king of the Ryukyuan Kingdom would embark on a journey, he would first stop to pray at the stone gates. Interestingly, it’s not uncommon to find locals praying here from time to time. These gates also served as an important place from where the high priestess would get initiated. The structure suffered damages during World War 2, but was repaired in 1957 and then became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Visit a Traditional Ryukyu Village
The Ryukyu Mura Village is one of the best places in Okinawa to experience and learn more about Ryukyu culture and traditions. It’s a relatively small theme park consisting of a recreated Ryukyu community. People who visit will be able to walk around and see what a traditional Okinawan village looked like centuries ago. Also, there are various events, such as a habu snake show, eisa dancing, taiko drumming, and ceremonial recreations. Visitors will also have the option to take part in traditional pottery making, weaving, and learning to play the sanshin guitar from locals.
|Address||1130 Yamada, Onna-son, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa, 904-0411|
|Business Hours||08:30AM to 17:30PM|
|Closed Dates||No closing days.|
|Admission Fee||1200 yen|
Explore the Sacred Sefa-utaki
The word Sefa-utaki means ‘purified place of Utaki‘ and is considered to be the holiest place in Okinawa since its believed to be the exact spot Amamikyu – the goddess of creation, first landed when she descended from the heavens. It served as one of the most important places of worship for the Ryukyuan people until it became a Shinto shrine when Okinawa became a part of Japan.
The shrine sits on the Chinen Peninsula, which is on the main Okinawa island, about 15km from Naha. To visit this World Heritage Site, guests will first make a stop at a visitor center before making the same journey priestesses have done for centuries. It’s a trail that leads through a sub-tropical forest that goes past various other shrines and places from where you can enjoy beautiful scenic views. The trail ends at a place called Sangui, which is a small opening between two enormous pieces of rock, which leads to the most sacred altar.
|Address||Chinenguteken, Nanjo 901-1511, Okinawa Prefecture|
|Business Hours||09:00 AM to 6:00 PM|
|Closed Dates||December 29 to January 3d and 3 days each during the 5th and 10th month of the lunar calendar.|
|Admission Fee||200 yen|
Visit the Churami Aquarium
The breathtaking Churami Aquarium in Motobu, Okinawa, is part of the much larger Ocean Expo Park. It’s considered by many to be the best aquarium in Japan and was the world’s largest when it first opened its doors in November 2002.
The 19,000m2 Churami Aquarium has four floors and 77 tanks, which houses whales, sharks, dolphins, manta rays, and many other fish species. The enormous Kuroshio tank attracts the most tourists, and there is even a large tank that exhibits living coral – the first in the world. Tourists can also watch an Okinawan sea life documentary on an enormous HD screen.
This highly educational attraction is ideal for couples and kids.
|Address||Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, 905-0206, 424 Ishikawa, Motobu-cho, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa Prefecture|
|Phone/Fax||Phone: +81-980-48-3748 |
|Business Hours||October to February: 8:30am – 18:30pm|
March to September: 8:30am – 20:00pm
|Closed Dates||First Wednesday and Thursday of December|
|Admission Fee||Visit here for further information.|