Okinawa Itinerary: Best Way To Spend 3-5 Days in Okinawa

Last Updated on July 16, 2024

When travelers consider visiting Japan, mainland hotspots like Kyoto, Tokyo, or Nara come way before an Okinawa itinerary.

It’s often so far down the list that it doesn’t make the roster for consideration, but this little island rimmed with turquoise blue water blends the charming culture of Japan with the natural beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, and that cultural biosphere alone should render an excuse to visit.

There’s something about being able to order vending machine ramen after leisuring on a powdery white sand beach that is so… Correct. “If that’s wrong, I don’t ever want to be right” type of thing. 

My sister lived in Okinawa for over 6 years. I’ve visited her twice now, the first time was my very first trip out of the country. I’m a sucker for something sentimental, but despite that, Okinawa is in the top ten places I’ve traveled to over the years.

And because I feel that way, I’ve spent hours compiling all the information and destinations I’ve explored across multiple visits to create this perfect Okinawa itinerary. This article is filled with the best things to do in Okinawa and insider tips to help you plan your ideal trip to Japan’s southernmost prefecture. 

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Things To Know Before Visiting Okinawa

Check the current exchange rate. Rates are always changing. Right now the US dollar has a fantastic exchange rate for yen, which is reflected in this post. So be sure to compare before your trip so you don’t have any surprises.

You don’t have to have a car, but it’s highly recommended. There are Okinawa itineraries you can follow without a car, but having a car in Okinawa will make your trip 1000x better for the freedom it gives. Public transport is great on the island, but it will only get you so far.

Have change. The further north you travel, the less likely they are to accept cards. While you’re in Naha, make sure to grab paper yen from an ATM and convert it to smaller bills for ease of travel.

Know key Japanese phrases. No worries if you don’t know a lick of Japanese, but at least have some basics in your back pocket.

“Konnichiwa” (ko-ni-chi-wa) = hello

“Arigatou gozaimasu” (ah-ri-ga-to go-zai-mas) = thank you

“Sumimasen” (soo-me-ma-sen) = i’m sorry/excuse me

“Hai” (hi) = yes

“Iie” (ee-ye) = no

Pack plenty of sunscreen. The UV index is no joke here.

Beware the habu. This is a venomous pit viper endemic to the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. It makes hiking and late-night ground travel particularly dangerous. They’re typically 5 feet long and marked with bold, dark green blotches. If you’re bitten, seek medical attention immediately. 

 


 

Okinawa Itinerary

This Okinawa itinerary focuses on these main areas of the island: Naha, Nago, Yanbaru National Park, and Kerama Islands National Park.

The days are divided by region so that there is minimal backtracking. For these 3-5 days in Okinawa, you’ll visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites, immerse yourself in Okinawa’s own unique culture, hike to the island’s most stunning viewpoints, swim in some of the world’s clearest waters, and so much more.

I have advice and tips to cater to the amount of time you have to spend in Okinawa. It’s straightforward. If you’re in Okinawa for 3 days, follow days 1-3 of this itinerary. If you’re in Okinawa for 4 days follow the itinerary to the fourth day. Same for the fifth.

Who this itinerary is for | I recommend this itinerary for adventurous travelers who enjoy the outdoors and want to maximize their time on the island. It’s mainly outdoor-based with a sprinkle of shopping and fun dining experiences along the way. It covers some main tourist attractions as well as gems that are more off the beaten path. At the end of this post, I have an additional list of things to do in Okinawa if you want to tweak some things.

Use this map to help you navigate this Okinawa itinerary! For best use, download this map to your smartphone so you can use it offline (instructions here).

 


 

Okinawa Itinerary: Day 1

The first day of this Okinawa itinerary begins in the southern half of the island near Naha and Yomitan. You’ll start the day shopping along the world-famous Kokusai Street. Then, spend the rest of the day exploring Shuri Castle, Cape Zanpa, Zanpa Beach, and the Yomitan Pottery Village.

A paved road lined with small shops and palm trees on either side. Kokusai Street in Naha, Okinawa.

Kokusai-Dori

Kokusai Street (its name meaning: “International Road) is one of the most famous tourist spots in Okinawa. 

The 0.9-mile (1.6 km) diagonal street runs right through the heart of Naha and is filled with just about anything you can think of. It is catered to tourists, but enough interesting things are going on that you definitely won’t be bored as you browse. I saw a real frog coin purse once, and it still wasn’t the most interesting thing I saw that day. 

THINGS TO DO ALONG KOKUSAI STREET

/ / Taste the famous purple potato. Okinawa is known for Beni imo, a vibrant purple potato. You can try it a bunch of different ways, but it’s popular baked into tarts and pastries or made into ice cream. It’s dotted in plenty of spots along Kokusai-dori, but Okashigoten Kokusai Street Matsuo Branch is a great place to start your hunt.

/ / Visit the Makishi Public Market. This local market is nicknamed the “Kitchen of Okinawa” as it is a place full of the island’s culinary wonders. There are two floors, one with a predominantly seafood wet market and another with a ton of different restaurants serving local dishes. If you buy something from first floor, you can take it upstairs and have them prepare it for you for a small fee. 

– While you’re at the market, I highly recommend booking Taste of Okinawa’s cooking class and historic market tour. You’ll learn about local ingredients and hand-select everything for the recipes you’ll be making at the market. After touring the market, you’ll make 3-4 local dishes: an appetizer, soup, main, and dessert. Afterwards, you feast! 

/ / Try habushu. This is a traditional Okinawa rice liquor that boasts a fang-bearing pit viper at the bottom of the bottle. It’s said to strengthen the body and boost stamina.

/ / Peruse and meander. The shops and stalls are a melting pot, so going in with a plan is slightly ludicrous because you’re going to be pulled in many different directions. From fresh sashimi to questionable English translations printed on t-shirts. The market is your oyster.

Address: Google Maps | Cost: varies

 

Shuri Castle (optional)

Shuri Castle was the palace of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom and is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While stunning, it’s been through the wringer in the last century as it’s been destroyed and rebuilt many times. In 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa, almost all of it was destroyed and then rebuilt decades later. Then, in October of 2019, the main courtyard structures were destroyed in another fire.

Right now, there are ongoing renovations said to be finished in 2026. That’s why this is an optional activity since you’ll essentially be walking through a bunch of construction. However, the history is still there. Get updates here.

Address: Google Maps | Cost: ¥400 ($2.66), adults. ¥300 ($1.99), high school students.

 

Yachimun no Sato (Yomitan Pottery Village)

Pottery in Okinawa has a history that dates back over six thousand years. Their traditional “yachimun” style of earthenware was influenced by trade with Japan and other countries across Asia.

It has evolved over the centuries, resulting in unique handmade ceramics. The Yomitan Pottery Village has ceramic shops, traditional noborigama (literally “climbing kiln”), and pottery workshops.

You can browse around the studios and find a special travel souvenir. They have tea cups, kettles, plates, bowls, and a ton of other incredible crafts. You’ll need some self-restraint here because you’ll want to buy everything. Bring plenty of cash!

Address: Google Maps | Cost: varies | Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

 

Cape Zanpa

Cape Zanpa is the westernmost point of Okinawa and the last place the sun sets over the island. 

A massive lighthouse and dramatic sea cliffs overlook the vibrant East China Sea. For a small fee (¥200/$1.33), you can climb the lighthouse for an even better view of the area. It’s a picturesque location, sunset or not. 

It played a massive role during WWII when US troops landed on the shores south of the cape and officially initiated the Battle of Okinawa.

Nearby is Zanpa Beach, one of the best beaches in Okinawa. If you have the bandwidth, it’s an ideal spot to wind down for the rest of the day as there are lockers, bathrooms, water activities, and other rentals available. 

Address: Google Maps | Cost: Free

 

Okinawa Itinerary: Day 2

The second day of this Okinawa itinerary is probably one of my favorite days of the whole trip. The morning takes you north to hike the highest point in Okinawa, Mt. Katsuudake. From there, you’ll enjoy a scenic lunch at Pizza in the Sky, visit the Churami Aquarium, Nakjin Castle Ruins, and finish the day on Kouri Island.

View at the top of Mount Katsuu, one of the best things to do on an Okinawa itinerary.

Hike Mt. Katsuudake

Katsuudake, also known as Mt. Katsuu, is the highest mountain in Okinawa and boasts panoramic views of the coast north of Nago. While those credentials make this hike sound daunting, know that the hike out and back is only a mile.

Some areas of the trail are pretty steep, so you will experience some thigh-burning, but it’s brief and the views are worth the sweat. You’ll want to wear proper shoes and have all the day hiking essentials with you.

At the trailhead, there are bathrooms and walking sticks. The walking sticks will help you out a ton on this trail, especially on the descent, so don’t forget one before you head out. The trail is well marked, but always bring an offline map with you. My ole reliable is the GAIA App.

Address: Google Maps | Cost: Free 

 

A young tan girl smiles in front of a spread of pizza and juice on an Okinawa Itinerary.

Pizza in the sky

Pizza in the Sky is one of my must-eat spots while you’re in Okinawa.

This little restaurant is perched on a hill with even more memorable views over the island. They serve pizza, either small or medium size with a few different topping options, and salad.

While the food options on the menu are limited, a lot is going on in the drink section. You need to try the acerola juice made nearby in Motobu. Otherwise, they have other fruit juices, soda, tea, and beer.

Address: Google Maps | Cost: $

 

A massive aquarium tank filled with fish, whale sharks, and manta rays is the backdrop of a crowds silhouette at the Churami Aquarium in Okinawa.

Okinawa Churami Aquarium

The Okinawa Churami Aquarium is the second-largest aquarium in the world and is considered the best in Japan.

It’s plotted within the Ocean Expo Park, where there’s a ton of different things to see and do. I’m normally not one to include an aquarium on my itinerary, but even as an adult, this place was epic. One of the major highlights here is a massive tank that holds three whale sharks.

They do a ton of conservation and research efforts, plus a ton of educational exhibits to help protect the oceans. All of that I can get behind. Although, after seeing whale sharks in the Philippines, I’m not sure I’d go back again.

It’s always important to do your research when considering experiences like this. After you walk through the aquarium, check out the Omoro Botanical Gardens, Okinawa Village, and the observatory if they suit your fancy.

Address: Google Maps | Cost: ¥2180 ($14.50), adults. ¥1440 ($9.57), high school students.

 

Nakjin Castle Ruins

Nakjin is an ancient castle from the Ryukyu Kingdom that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was built in the late 1200s. During the Sanzan Period (1322-1429), Okinawa Honto (the main island) was divided into three separate kingdoms: Hokuzan in the north; Chuzan in the middle; and Nanzan in the south. The Hokuzan King reigned over Nakjin Castle until it was overtaken by the Chuzan to unify the island and create the Ryukyu Kingdom. 

Near the castle is a cultural center where you can learn about the Nakjin village history and look at artifacts dug up on the castle grounds like Chinese pottery, coins, and documents from various eras.

Tip: If you’re here during Okinawa’s cherry blossom season, typically January or early February, this is an excellent spot to see the sakura.

Address: Google Maps | Cost: ¥600 ($3.99), adults. ¥450 ($2.99), junior and high school students.

 

A panoramic view overlooks a white bridge connecting Okinawa to Kouri Island, one of the best stops on an Okinawa Itinerary.

Kouri Island

Okinawans refer to Kouri Island as ‘Love Island’ from their ancient folklore. 

It was said that at the birth of mankind, two lovers lived inside a sea cave on this island. The two famous heart-shaped rocks at Tinu Beach only add to the romance.

It’s small and circular, and only takes about 15 minutes to drive around, so it’s the perfect last stop before heading back to your accommodation. There are a handful of cafes you can grab a bite at, otherwise, there are great options back in Nago.

Things to do on Kouri Island

/ / Snap a photo of the Heart Rock: These iconic coral rock formations are the poster child of Kouri Island.

/ / Take in the views at the Kouri Ocean Tower: This observation deck has the best views of the island up at 269 feet (82 m). Grab a ticket in advance.

/ / Relax on Kouri Beach: A small beach next to the main bridge that is unspoiled and relaxing.

 

Okinawa Itinerary: Day 3

The third day of this Okinawa itinerary is dedicated to getting out in nature in Yanbaru National Park. The morning starts at the picturesque and historic Cape Hedo. Then, you’ll spend the afternoon hiking in the National Park before choosing your adventure for the evening.

Cape Hedo

This is the northernmost point of Okinawa, one of the most beautiful locations in Japan. It’s a cape that juts out into two oceans: the East China Sea in the west and the Pacific Ocean in the east. 

At the vista, there is a small monument that was erected to commemorate the end of the US occupation of Okinawa and its return to Japanese sovereignty. Another, a small white bird, honors the friendship between Kunigami Village and Yoronjima.

It’s stunning any time of day, but sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful. This day, aim to make it out for sunrise if you can as warm golden light illuminates the cape.

Address: Google Maps | Cost: Free

 

A triple-streamed waterfall cascades into a shallow pool framed by verdant tropical rainforest in Nago, Okinawa.

Yanbaru National Park

This nature area makes up the majority of Northern Okinawa with subtropical rainforests, mangroves, dramatic cliffs, and rare plants and animals. It’s a full-on nature playground if you love the outdoors. Waterfall hikes, canoeing, kayaking, secluded beach excursions, and wildlife watching are all at your fingertips here.

Best Hikes in Yanbaru National Park

/ / Hiji Otaki Falls Trail (1.7 miles, moderate, out-and-back): This hike takes you to the biggest waterfall in Okinawa. It’s a well-maintained trail, but there are a lot of stairs to take you up to the falls. 

/ / Tataki Falls Trail (1.3 miles, moderate, out-and-back): This is the perfect hike for a hot day in Okinawa. It follows a stream up to a small waterfall encased in lush green foliage. Don’t forget water shoes, your swimsuit, and a dry bag.

/ / Ogimi Shioyawan Loop (4.7 miles, moderate, loop): Picturesque and panoramic, this trail takes you along limestone mountains with views over Shioya Bay. Ogimi, the village the hike is in, is the longest-lived village in Japan.

/ / Jawbone Ridge Loop (6.8 miles, difficult, loop): This loop also runs through Ogimi with similar views as the one above, but is better suited for experienced hikers who want more of a challenge.

Want the view but not the sweat? Drive to the Ogimi Village Observation Deck and enjoy.

Tours in Yanbaru National Park

/ / Jungle River Trek: Private Tour of Yanbaru National Park: If you’re more comfortable hiking with a guide or in a group setting, this is a great tour to consider. They can cater and customize it to your fitness abilities, so the trek can vary from a gentle, dry path stroll for water and tea to more rigorous routes, navigating rocks and boulders and visiting two or more waterfalls.

Address: Google Maps | Cost: Free

 

The rest of the day will depend on how you feel from hiking. Here are some suggestions for things to do:

Ibu Beach

If you did light hiking, Ibu Beach is a great landing point for an afternoon of relaxing. 

It’s perfect if you want to be off the beaten path as it’s secluded with a small parking area.  Other great beaches in Okinawa are Emerald Beach, Araha Beach, or Manza Beach depending on where you’re based.

Address: Google Maps | Cost: Free

 

Japanese Dining Experience

Japan has honed the art of fun dining experiences, especially if you’re traveling with a larger group. If you’ve done some rigorous hiking during the day, your appetite will be primed for these dining experiences Japan is known for.

/ / Izakaya | Informal Japanese bar with drinks and snacks. Casual dining.

Where to go: Koryori Dining Midori, Shima Robata Fuji, or Inakamono.

/ / Yakiniku | “grilled meat”- You cook the meat and food yourself on a grill in the center of the table. Casual dining.

Where to go: Yakiniku Ryukyunoushi Onnabekkan, Usi no ibukuro, or Ryukyu No Ushi.

/ / Omakase | Meaning, “respectfully leaving it to the chef to decide what’s best”. It’s typically a multi-course sushi dinner. The setting is on the nicer side of things and reservations should be made in advance.

Where to go: Izumi, Sushi Isuke, or Sushi Sumeshi-yu.

 

Cape Manzamo

Cape Manzamo is another famous sunset spot on Okinawa. 

The oceanfront rock is shaped like an elephant’s truck, which is why it’s so popular. It lands on the more touristy side of things, but if it’s close to your accommodation for the night, it still makes for a gorgeous sunset.

Address: Google Maps | Cost: ¥100 ($0.67)

 


 

Okinawa Itinerary: Day 4 & 5

Kerama Islands National Park is a cluster of islands off the southern coast of Okinawa. The main island is called Tokashiki, so I’ll be using those two names interchangeably in the next two sections.

The main three islands in the park are Tokashiki, Aka, and Zamami. All three have ferries to and from Naha and between one another.

That said, there are endless ways you can spend the days in this National Park. All three offer pristine white beaches, crystal clear water, and unspoiled nature so you really cannot go wrong with whatever you choose.

If you want to relax, I’d say spend both days on Tokashiki to reduce transit (that’s what I’ve written about). If you’re eager to explore, go with the other two islands. Or all three. The ocean is your oyster.

 

The turquoise waters of Aharen Beach on Tokashiki Island meet against white sand and verdant green mountains in the distance.

Kerama Islands National Park

The Kerama Islands are all about slowing down, relaxing, and soaking up the sun- the absolute perfect way to end this Okinawa itinerary. 

Spend these next few days immersed in some of the world’s clearest waters. These are some of the highlights of Tokashiki Island:

Things to do on Tokashiki Island

/ / Snorkel with sea turtles along Tokashiku Beach. This pristine beach is a playground for sea turtles. Know you cannot snorkel without a life vest at this beach, so be sure to rent one of those with your snorkel gear. It can be purchased at the beach. There’s not much around, so pack snacks.

/ / Relax on Aharen Beach. This is the most popular beach on Tokashiki Island. Its stunning crescent moon-shape is lined with lush tropical rainforests.

/ / Take in the views on the Mt. Teruyama Observation Deck. One of the best viewpoints on the island overlooking Aharen Beach.

/ / Jet ski, paddle board, or kayak over the famous ‘Kerama Blue’ water. Water so blue it has its own name. Multiple dive shops around the island rent all the items you need for a fun day on the water.

/ / Take a paddle tour from Aharen Beach to Hanari Island. 800 m (0.5 miles) offshore of Aharen Beach is a stunning, uninhabited island. Book your paddle tour or browse more top-rated tours below.

 

Tokashiki Island Guided Tours

/ / From Aharen Beach: 2-Hour Sea Turtle Snorkel Tour: On this tour, you’ll board a yacht directly from the beach to an offshore snorkeling spot with many coral reefs, tropical fish, and green sea turtles. A major plus is that the tour boat doesn’t hold a ton of people so the waters won’t be crowded.

/ / 2-Hour Sea Kayak To Hanari Island From Aharen Beach: This 2-hour kayaking tour takes you to an uninhabited island right off the coast of Aharen Beach. You’ll paddle through a cave and explore the island on foot before returning to Tokashiki Island. This is a great option if you have limited time due to a day trip or if the waters are too cold for swimming.

/ / 3-Hour Sea Kayak & Snorkel Tour To Hanari Island From Aharen Beach: This 3-hour tour takes you to the deserted Hanari, also called Shibugaki Island, right off the coast of Aharen Beach. Depending on the tide height, you’ll paddle through a cave and scenic rocky areas before arriving leisurely at the island. Once you’re there, the guides will take you up the mountains while telling local stories of the area. After coming back down to the beach, you’ll finish the tour with snorkeling off the coast before heading back to Aharen Beach. This is a great tour for day trippers and those who want to fully immerse themselves in Tokashiki Island.

If you only have a day to spare for island hopping, these are some excellent, top-rated tours:

/ / From Naha: Full-Day Snorkeling Experience: During this full-day tour, snorkel beneath the surface of Japan’s famous blue waters to see beautiful fish, majestic sea turtles, and coral formations. Abroad one of the fastest dive boats in Okinawa, you’ll visit two snorkel sites and enjoy a local Japanese lunch against a picturesque view of the Keramas.

/ / From Naha: Kerama Island Diving Experience: If you have your PADI, this is an excellent introductory, refresher, or leisurely diving tour. You’ll plunge into world-class visibility, swim alongside sea turtles and schools of fish, and savor a local Japanese lunch with the Kerama Islands as your backdrop.

 

How To Get To Tokashiki Island

The only way to get to Tokashiki Island is via ferry from this terminal at the Tomari Port in Naha.

The Tokashiki Ferry departs for the Tokashiki Port twice daily. You can buy tickets up to 30 minutes in advance and board the ferry up to 10 minutes before departure. One-way tickets typically cost around ¥2700 ($18).

I recommend purchasing tickets in advance since ferries fill fast, especially during the summer months. Also, keep in mind that ferries can be canceled in poor weather.

How to Get To Aka and Zamami Islands from Tokashiki

You can get to Aka and Zamami Islands from the Aharen Port on Tokashiki.

The little boat is called ‘Ferry Mistushima’ and you have to make your reservation a day before you want to depart. To make a reservation you need to call the office: Zamami Village Office 098-987-2614. They take reservations until 5 p.m. the day before you want to depart.

The ferry leaves only twice a day from both ports: From Aharen Port: at 9:05 AM and 4:05 PM. From Zamami Port: at 8:30 AM and 3:30 PM. View the full timetable here.

One-way tickets are ¥700 ($4.66). 

 


 

Okinawa Itinerary Overview

Here is an overview of what you’ll be exploring over your Okinawa itinerary. Be sure to download the free map at the top of this blog post to help you map directions up to everything.

Day 1

Kokusai-Dori

Shuri Castle

Yomitan Pottery Village

Cape Zanpa

 

Day 2

Hike Mt. Katsuu

Pizza in the Sky

Okinawa Churami Aqaurium

Nakjin Castle Ruins

Kouri Island

 

Day 3

Cape Hedo

Yanbaru National Park

Your Choice (Ibu Beach, Japanese dining experience, or Cape Manzamo)

 

Day 4 & 5

Kerama Islands National Park

Tokashiki, Aka, and Zamami Islands

 


 

More Things To Do In Okinawa

On this Okinawa itinerary are all of the best things to do in Okinawa in every season, but there are some activities you can only do in certain seasons, such as seeing early-season cherry blossoms in winter or the Naha Tug-of-War. Depending on when you’re visiting, it could make sense for you to swap some things out. Read my guide on the best time to visit Okinawa for seasonal activities to add to this itinerary.

/ / Nago Pineapple Park | Theme park dedicated to the pineapple with tours, tastings, cafes, and gift shops.

/ / Peace Memorial Park | A massive memorial honoring those who fought in the Battle of Okinawa during WWII.

/ / Neo Park Okinawa | Botanical park and zoo with over 100 animals roaming freely without boundaries.

/ / Orion Brewery | Fancy a foamy pour? This is the headquarters for the beloved Japanese beer, Orion. You can see the beer-making process and join a tasting session.

/ / Blue Cave | This is a scuba diving and snorkeling cave striking blue water just north of Yomitan. Book the best tour.

/ / Ishigaki Island | Another lush isle perfect for relaxing and stunning blue waters. Can be a great alternative to the Keramas.

 

How Many Days Is Enough For Okinawa?

If you’re only planning on visiting mainland Okinawa, 3-5 days is a good amount of time to see the main sights and also get off the beaten path. I recommend staying for at least a week if you plan on island hopping in the Kerama or Yaeyama Islands.

 

A wooden treehouse in the mddle of a tropical rainforest. One of the best places to stay for an Okinawa itinerary.

photo by Treeful Treehouse

Where To Stay in Okinawa

There are a lot of different areas you can stay in Okinawa, but the more central the better. I have a recommendation below for this itinerary. Otherwise, check out my full guide on where to stay in Okinawa for my top recommendations.

/ / MAMBO HOSTEL | This hostel is top-rated if you’re traveling to Okinawa on a budget. They have mixed and female dorms available. Each room has a terrace with a mountain view, shared bathroom, and free Wifi. They also have a shared lounge, garden, and free parking onsite. It’s a stone’s throw from the Churami Aquarium and other spots in the Nago area. Other great hostels worth considering are the Seawall Hostel for something more central and the Yanbaru Hostel for something further north.

/ / AKACHICHI GUESTHOUSE | This fantastic mid-range stay is right in the middle of Okinawa- prime for exploring north or south. It’s a bed and breakfast surrounded by sugarcane fields. There’s a turquoise beach within walking distance (that alone would sell me lol). The property has a garden, terrace, air-con, free Wifi, and breakfast available. Another huge plus is you can book tours and classes directly through them. This is where I recommend staying for this itinerary.

/ / TREEFUL TREEHOUSE | This 5-star sustainable hotel is one of the most beautiful accommodation options on Okinawa. It’s located outside of Nago and is ideal for getting into nature for pure relaxation before exploring the northern part of the island. It’s definitely a splurge, though. Each suite has free wifi, air-con, a fridge, oven, coffee machine, bidet, free toiletries, and a desk.  There’s also a garden, free parking, terrace, and restaurant on site.

 

How To Get To Okinawa

There are a variety of different ways to get to Okinawa. You’ll need to leave from either Osaka, Tokyo, or Sapporo since these are the only cities with flights to Okinawa. From there, the island is a flight, or train and ferry away.

The fastest and cheapest way to get to Okinawa is by plane. It’s a 3-hour flight from Tokyo, 2 hour flight from Osaka, and 4 hours from Sapporo. The major airports in each city (Haneda, Narita, Osaka International, and New Chitose) all have a handful of direct flights leaving for Okinawa daily. Flying is affordable and will set you back around $100 outside of major holidays.

If you don’t want to fly, the other option is to take a bullet train south to Kagoshima, and then take a ferry across the South China Sea. This is the most expensive option and also takes the longest. Unless you want the scenic route, I don’t recommend doing this.

 

How To Get Around Okinawa

Okinawa is chalked full of transport options, so even if you’re tackling an Okinawa itinerary without a car, you don’t need to worry about how you’re going to get around. These are the most popular options for getting around the mainland and other islands.

Rental Car

The best way to get around Okinawa is by far with a rental car so you can travel on your schedule and have total freedom. It’s affordable and straightforward, but do note that driving is on the left side of the road and an International Driving Permit (IDP) is legally required to rent a car. You’ll want to brush up on common road signs in Japan before you arrive.

When you’re booking, be sure to add car insurance to your rental car as well as an ETC card for the tollways. If your travel credit card offers car insurance, double-check the policy to see if it will work for your trip to save money while you travel. With the ETC card, you’ll save money and time every time you enter and exit an expressway.

Also good to know: the roads in Okinawa are well-maintained, so you won’t need anything crazy like high clearance or 4×4.

Yui Rail

If you’re on a budget Okinawa itinerary, the Yui Rail is an affordable way to get around. It connects 19 stations in just under 40 minutes between the Naha Airport and the Tedako-Uranishi Station.

It makes the most sense to use it if you’re on a city break and staying within Naha. Otherwise, it doesn’t connect to major areas around the island, in which you’d need a bus to access.

There are a few different ticket options depending on your trip type. 1 & 2-day tickets are the most popular for travelers.

/ / QR 1-Day (¥800): unlimited rides

/ / QR 2-Day (¥1,400): unlimited rides

/ / Okinawa IC Card (¥1000-10000): prepaid card

They can all be purchased at ticket vending machines inside the rail stations.

 

Bus

Buses are a budget-friendly way to get around the main island. There are local buses, tourist buses, and airport services that run all around the island, from Naha to Nago.

Paying by the ride is cash only. You can use ¥1,000 bills and all coins except ¥1 and ¥5 coins. Also, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000 bills aren’t accepted on buses, so have smaller bills and change before boarding.

The prepaid OKICA IC Card (the same one you can use for the Yui Rail) is the other option if you’ll be using the bus frequently. You can buy them at the monorail stations, bus stations, and certain Family Mart locations around Okinawa.

Learn how to ride the bus and get more information on the routes on the bus website.

 

Taxi

If you’re traveling short distances, taxis can be useful for getting around. They’re not typically budget-friendly though. The GO App is useful for hailing taxis. Uber is another good option since all the drivers are registered taxi drivers.

 

Rental Bikes

Okinawa CHURA CHARI is a bike share service similar to Lime here in the US. It’s a streamlined service where you rent and pay for a bike through the app and return it at your destination.

They’re only available in Naha, a bit further south in Itoman, and around Yomitan. With the app you can see nearby bike stations and other availability.

 

Express Ferry

If you’re going island hopping in Okinawa, which you should do, there is a massive network of ferries to the surrounding islands. There is the option to fly to some of the larger islands like Ishigaki and Miyako, but for smaller ones, the only way to access them is by boat.

Ferries will always be cheaper than flights, so keep that in mind. Japan Airlines hosts most of the flights, but you can view all the options by searching with Kiwi. It’s a third-party site, but when you search with it you can see all your options in one search. Once you find your flight on there, book it directly with whatever airline.

Flights to major islands typically cost a touch under $100, but it depends on where you’re going and what season it is. The best tool for knowing how to get to each island is Rome2Rio. You put in two destinations and it tells you every way you can get between them. There are a lot of islands to consider when looking at ferry services, so this website will give you transit times, prices, and links for tickets.

 

Best Time To Visit Okinawa

The best time to visit Okinawa depends on where you’re going and what you want to do. Generally, I recommend spring or fall: April, October, and November. For specific advice and a full breakdown of Okinawa by season, read my guide to the best time to visit Okinawa.

 


 

If you’re planning a trip to Okinawa, feel free to reach out for additional advice and travel tips while you’re there. Otherwise, browse my other useful guides to help you plan your trip:

Best Time To Visit Okinawa

Okinawa Packing List

Things To Do In Okinawa (coming soon)

Where to Stay In Okinawa

Hiking Mt. Katsuudake: Okinawa’s Panoramic View


I hope you enjoyed my guide to this epic Okinawa itinerary. If you found it useful, save the pins below to Pinterest so you can reference it for your trip.

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