With golden beaches, turquoise seas and boutique resorts, Okinawa Island (known locally as Okinawa-hontō) is made for luxury retreats. Walk in the footsteps of Kings and Queens at centuries-old Ryukyu castles. Dive to the depths to watch jewel-bright fish play on coral reefs. Or simply stroll along the sands and enjoy the view. Okinawa locals are renowned for their longevity and with so many magical experiences on offer, it’s not too hard to see why.
Tropical beaches, rich heritage and warm hospitality on the largest of Japan’s Nansei Islands.
Things to do
Japan’s volcanic Nansei Islands have a distinctly tropical feel – and Okinawa has no shortage of natural highlights to uncover. Head north to the Yambaru region to explore forested hills draped in mist. It’s here that you’ll find the enchanting Hiji Waterfall hiking trail, too. Or leave dry land behind and snorkel over the coral reef fringing the island. To get an even closer look at marine life, visit the Churaumi Aquarium where you can walk beneath the waves and watch sharks swim overhead.
The tropical nature of Okinawa means its cuisine is slightly different from that of mainland Japan. Centuries of trade with Southeast Asia brought spices such as turmeric to many traditional recipes. And the warmer weather means you’re more likely to find tender pork on the menu than sushi or sashimi. Popular dishes include Okinawa soba – a noodle soup topped with stewed belly pork, pickled ginger and konbu seaweed.
Throughout Okinawa you’ll find evocative echoes of its regal past as the heartland of the Ryukyu dynasty. Wander the romantic ruins of Nakijin Castle, surrounded by cherry tree groves. Then while away an afternoon in the tranquil surrounds of Shikina-en – a treasured royal garden rebuilt after World War II. Those interested in military history could explore thought-provoking sites such as the Peace Memorial Park and the former underground headquarters of the Japanese navy.
Stroll down the historic Tsuboya pottery street in the capital, Naha to pick up a handcrafted souvenir steeped in Okinawan tradition.
Top tip from slh