13 Islands in Okinawa to Experience Nature & Southern Island Ambience
When visiting Okinawa, we suggest visiting its many islands and not just limiting yourself to Okinawa Island! There are 37 inhabited islands and 111 uninhabited islands in Okinawa, each with its own unique culture and character. Each island has different foods, events, and ways to enjoy the ocean.
In this article we will introduce islands we recommend visiting while in Okinawa. If you would like to enjoy island time or get in touch with nature, then this is a must-read!
Table of Contents
- Ishigaki Island
- Miyako Island
- Kume Island
- Iriomote Island
- Taketomi Island
- Kohama Island
- Hateruma Island
- Tokashiki Island
- Yonaguni Island
- Kita-Daito Island & Minami-Daito Island
- Islands that can be accessed by car from Okinawa Island
- Recommended resort hotels on Okinawa’s outer islands
Ishigaki Island is located 400 km from Okinawa Island. With flights to/from major domestic airports and even several international destinations, the island is easily accessible.
The southern island feel is stronger than in Naha, and is recommended for those who want to enjoy nature and resort hotels. The island is also known for being a diving mecca. Out of all of the outer islands in Okinawa, it is fair to say that Ishigaki has the most tourist attractions and food culture.
Miyako Island is located 290 km away from Okinawa Island. There are 2 airports – Miyako Airport on Miyako Island and Shimojishima Airport on neighboring Shimoji Island.
The highlight of Miyako Island is without a doubt its beaches. In fact, Miyako’s Yonaha Maehama Beach has been ranked the best beach in Japan on TripAdvisor’s ‘Best Beaches in the World’ ranking for the past 3 years. Other beaches include Painagama Beach and Turiba Sunset Beach, which both have beautiful clear waters despite their proximity to the island’s urbanized area.
There are around 900 sacred places called utaki on Miyako and the other islands in the Miyako Archipelago. The spiritual atmosphere of these islands might be considered one of their many charms.
Related Articles (Japanese only)▼
7 Recommended hotels on Miyako Island
4 Best beaches for swimming on Miyako Island – chosen by a writer residing on Miyako Island
Trip to Miyako for girls who love taking photos – JJ Girls’ trip to Miyako
Kume Island is located about 100 km west of Okinawa Island. It is one of the largest islands in Okinawa Prefecture and is famous for its awamori liquor brand, Kume Island’s Kumesen.
A must-visit spot on the island is Hate-no-Hama Beach, which is a 7 km long sandbar. To get to the sandbar, it is best to participate a tour and take a boat ride to it. Once there, you will have a 360-degree view of the emerald green sea and can enjoy swimming and snorkeling.
Besides Hate-no-Hama, Eef Beach, which was chosen as one of Japan’s Top 100 Beaches, and an untouched limestone cave, Yaja Gama Cave, are also worth visiting.
Related Article (Japanese only)▼
Visit Kume Island – the most beautiful island in the Ryukyus?! (tour info. & highlights)
Iriomote Island is renowned for the Iriomote cat. As there is no airport on the island, it must be accessed via boat from Ishigaki Island.
As over 90% of the island is forest, it maintains a unique ecosystem and practically the entire island has been designated as a national park. The island’s great variety of animal and plant species are one of its appeals.
Boasting the largest mangrove forest in all of Japan, kayaking, canoeing, and hiking tours are popular among visitors. We recommend visiting this island if you love adventure and want to immerse yourself in nature.
Taketomi Island is located about 6 km south of Ishigaki Island and can be reached in 10 minutes by boat.
The island was formed by coral reefs and is still surrounded by coral reefs to this day. Because of this many people come to the island to go diving. Water buffalo cart tours around the village are extremely popular.
Visitors to the island may pay an optional entrance tax of JPY 300 per person to help protect the natural environment and preserve the scenery of the rural village.
Related Articles (Japanese only)▼
Make the most of Taketomi Island’s ocean – Guide to all the beaches on the island!
Snorkeling tours on Taketomi Island – an island surrounded by coral!
Enjoy a relaxing time in a cottage at Hotel Peace Island Taketomijima – perfect for your trip to Taketomi Island!
Kohama Island was the setting of the Japanese drama ‘Churasan’. It is located about 30 minutes by boat from Ishigaki Island.
We recommend this island as it has not be developed into a tourist attraction and maintains the landscape of olden day Okinawa. Enjoy the scenery of sugar cane fields and the ocean from ‘Sugar Road’.
As it is located in the center of the Yaeyama Archipelago, you can see all of the neighboring islands from the summit of the 99.8 m tall Mt. Ufudaki.
Related Article (Japanese only)▼
Enjoy island time at Kohama Island’s resort hotel – Haimurubushi
Hateruma Island is Japan’s southernmost inhabited island. Its name is said to mean ‘the island at the end of Ryukyu’ (hate no Uruma).
It can be reached in about 1 hour from Ishigaki Island by high speed boat. There are various sightseeing plans and tours from Ishigaki Island to Hateruma Island.
It is said to be the closest island in Japan to the night sky and is famous for stargazing. Nishihama Beach is a popular beach where you can enjoy the view of the ‘Hateruma Blue’ sea. Enjoy the clear sky and clear sea on this island.
Located just 30 km away from Naha, Tokashiki Island is one of the islands closest to Okinawa Island. As it can be reached in just 35 minutes from Naha by high speed boat or 70 minutes by ferry, it is perfect for those who want to take a day trip to another island.
Tokashiki Island is known for its beaches. In particular, Aharen Beach was ranked highly in TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award for Best Beaches in the World 2016.
Japan’s westernmost island is Yonaguni Island. It is actually closer to Taiwan than Okinawa Island and can be reached by plane from Naha and New Ishigaki Airports.
It is renowned for its underwater ruins. It was also the location of the Japanese drama ‘Dr. Koto’s Clinic’.
One of the unique activities you can enjoy on the island is playing with its indigenous Yonaguni Ponies.
Kita-Daito Island & Minami-Daito Island
Kita-Daito and Minami-Daito Islands are isolated islands, located 450 km away from Okinawa Island. The islands can be reached either by plane or boat from Naha. It takes 1 night by boat, so make sure you have ample time to allot for your trip.
Despite being one of Okinawa’s islands, it does not have a distinctive southern island feel, but you can feel its history and romance.
There are foods you can only try here, such as Daito Soba noodles, which differs slightly from Okinawa Soba, and Daito Sushi, which is made using pickled seafood.
Islands that can be accessed by car from Okinawa Island
Kouri Island is an island that can be reached by car from Okinawa Island and is known for its beautiful ocean. It is connected to Nago City on Okinawa Island by Kouri Bridge. The view of the island and bridge from the observatory at Unten Forest Park in Nakijin Village is also noteworthy.
With its variety of beaches and cafes, you can spend all day on the island.
For more information about Kouri Island (Japanese only)▼
Take a tour with a Kouri Island expert – Cafes, lunch, observatories, and the amazing sea!
Senaga Island is located about 1.5 km south of Naha airport, making it a convenient place to stop by before your return flight.
Although it is a small island, it is full of charms – you can see planes taking off and landing, dip your feet in the water at the beach, or enjoy shopping and dining at Umikaji Terrace.
Hamahiga Island, Henza Island, Miyagi Island, Ikei Island
Hamahiga Island, Henza Island, Miyagi Island, and Ikei Island are connected to Uruma City in Okinawa Island by bridge. This bridge is known as the Kaichu-doro Sea Road and is a popular place to go for a drive.
Besides the beautiful sea, there are sacred spots and scenic spots on these islands.
Recommended resort hotels on Okinawa’s outer islands
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