There are a thousand reasons to love Okinawa. However, there’s no need to limit yourself to the main island. Okinawa may be the largest island in the Ryukyu Archipelago, but it isn’t the only. The region contains well over 100 islands, and each and every one of them is a unique gem in their own right. Whatever your fix is, there’s sure to be an island for you. So why not do a little island hopping while you’re there? Read on for our top recommendations in the Naha and Ishigaki clusters and advice on how to get there.
Island Hopping in Okinawa: The Clusters
An article listing all of the region’s islands would be ridiculously long and not particularly helpful to you. Therefore, we’ll focus in on the two most popular island clusters. The first of these lies directly East of Naha (Okinawa’s largest city). We’ll call this group the Naha cluster. However, this group is also frequently referred to as the Kerama cluster. These islands are all easily accessible via high-speed ferries from Naha’s Tomari Port.
The second cluster lies further south, closer to Taiwan. We’ll call this one the Ishigaki cluster. While there aren’t any ferries to these islands, they are easily accessible via a short, cheap flight from any of Okinawa’s major cities, and they’re well worth the additional effort.
Island Hopping in the Naha Cluster: The Best Water
For the most perfect, bright blue water, you’ll want to head directly to Tokashiki, the largest island in the Naha cluster. In fact, the water’s colour is so distinct that it’s even earned its own shade “Kerama Blue”. The island is known for its coral reef and is easily one of the best choices for snorkelling in the region.
Island Hopping in the Naha Cluster: The Best Sand
Meanwhile, if sand is your thing, you’ll love Kume Jima. It has that perfect, fine, bright white sand that seems to only exist in TV commercials. It also has a truly unique feature. One of its beaches, Hatenohama, is actually a 7km sandbar perched out in the middle the ocean. It’s the stuff of dreams. If you happen to be the only one there, you can treat it as your own personal paradise.
Island Hopping in the Naha Cluster: The Best Wildlife
In terms of wildlife, Zamami is the best place to be. From January to March, it’s a hotspot for humpback whales. You can either take a boat tour or catch sight of them from one of the island’s three observatories. It’s also a popular spot for sea turtles which frequently come right up to the island’s beaches. Additionally, the hiking trail that links the island’s observatories is often bursting with butterflies.
Island Hopping in the Ishigaki Cluster: The Best Conveniences
Now, let’s turn our attention to the Ishigaki cluster. Nearly all of the flights to this region arrive on Ishigaki Jima. This island contains the 2nd largest city in Ryukyu Archipelago and is a great place to stock up and enjoy city life before heading out to explore the smaller islands. The waters of this island are a pure shade of emerald and contain the Manta Scramble, an area where large groups of the rays gather. One of the many natural animal attractions to be seen in Okinawa.
Island Hopping in the Ishigaki Cluster: The Best Kayaking
Iromote Jima is covered in lush, thick mangrove forests and winding rivers. It’s the absolute best place for kayaking, especially along the Uracuchi River. Thread your way up the Urauchi river or kick back and enjoy a cruise along it. Remarkably, this island is also the only place in the world that the Yamaneko Wildcat lives. Adult cats grow to an adorable 60 cm long.
Island Hopping in the Ishigaki Cluster: The Best Snorkeling
From above, Kuro Jima is shaped just like a heart (aw!); it’s super easy to love this tiny island. The Sekisei Lagoon, the largest coral reef in Japan, wraps around it. As a result, it’s the absolute best place for snorkelling.
And there you have it; our top recommendations in the Naha and Ishigaki clusters. Whenever you choose to go, we’re confident that you’ll have a great time. Below, we’ve included some additional information about Tomari Port in Naha—the high-speed ferry gateway to the Naha cluster. It’s best to book your tickets online in advance, but it’s also possible to purchase them directly at the port itself.
Name: Tomari Port (Naha’s Port)
Address: 3 Chome-25-1 Maejima, Naha, Okinawa 900-0016, Japan
URL (General Information): http://www.kotsu-okinawa.org/en/index_ferry.html
URL (Ferry to Tokashiki): http://www.vill.tokashiki.okinawa.jp/for-visitor
Post by Japan Journeys.