Okinawa, also known as Hawaii of Japan, is a Japanese Prefecture consisting of 160 beautiful paradise islands. This archipelago is also called the Ryukyu Islands, a name that comes from the time the islands were an own independent kingdom.
The scattered Ryukyu Islands lie in the sea between Japan and Taiwan and offer a pleasant climate all year round. With its position in the subtropical zone, you can enjoy beautiful flowers all seasons. Taiwan Cherries, red ‘Deigo’ flowers, colorful bougainvilleas, white Easter lilies and golden Tabebuia trees brighten up Okinawa during all seasons.
It’s something unique and magical about Okinawa, something that’s hard to explain with words. You’re in Japan, but it feels like you’re in Hawaii. Crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, colorful coral reefs, Hawaiian shirts, unique traditions and friendly locals – that’s what Okinawa has to offer its visitors.
Have you ever felt tempted to visit Okinawa or never heard of this place before? Then this article about the top 8 things to do in Okinawa is perfect for you!
Here are the top 8 things to do in Okinawa:
Explore Ishigaki Island & the highest mountain of Okinawa
Ishigaki-Jima is the main island in the Yae-Yama archipelago located 420 kilometers southwest of Naha on the main island. Ishigaki is one of the most beautiful islands in the Okinawa Prefecture and offers lush scenery, a tropical jungle, and Okinawa’s highest mountain, Mt. Omoto-Dake – which rises 526 meters above sea level.
Ishigaki Island is a must among the things to do in Okinawa for those who love to swim and sunbathe. Here you can enjoy white sandy beaches, turquoise crystal clear water and also an abundant sea life with both colorful fishes and corals.
A perfect island for those who like to snorkel, swim and go on adventures in the wild!
Eat Sea Grapes
A must among the things to do in Okinawa is to taste one of their delicacies – and I recommend Sea Grapes. Sea Grapes is a kind of seaweed that’s glossy and green. Sea Grapes is salty in taste and actually tastier than you might think – so be sure to give it a try. If you don’t want to buy a whole box of sea grapes, then you can taste these in one of the many shops along the main shopping street in Naha.
Visit Iriomote-Jima Island
Iriomote-Jima is the second largest island in the Okinawa Prefecture and is located approximately 18 kilometers west of Ishigaki-Jima Island. Here are 90 percent of the island’s surface covered with subtropical virgin forests and the island is also designated as a national park since they have a large number valuable species of animals and vegetation. If there’s anything that this island is known for, it’s for the Iriomote wildcats, which is a protected species in Japan. On this Island, you can enjoy lovely boat trips through the island’s rivers. Sit back, relax and enjoy the stunning nature of Iriomote Jima Island!
Shop souvenirs til you drop in Naha
Okinawa offers delightful souvenir shopping for those who like to stroll around in stores. If there’s any place that stands out the most, then it’s Kokusai Street “International Street” in Naha on the main island of Okinawa. Here you can find all sorts of things in an excellent mix of pottery, chopsticks, Hawaiian shirts and local delicacies.
It clearly shows that Hawaii inspires the shopping street in Naha. Hawaiian shirts, ukuleles and even a Pokemon store selling Pikachu with Hawaiian shirts!
My best souvenir tips: Chopsticks, Pikachu with Hawaii shirt, Shikuwasa products (local and delicious citrus fruit), Sea Grapes, Chinsuko cookies, Ryukyu glass, snow salt, and Yachimun (pottery from Okinawa).
Explore Shuri Castle & learn about the history of Okinawa
Shuri Castle is the largest castle in the Prefecture and is situated in the south part of the main island of Okinawa. Shuri Castle served as an administrative center and home to the Ryukyu royals for centuries before Okinawa became a Japanese prefecture in 1879. This castle is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is today a beautiful place full of important and exciting Okinawa history!
Eat soft ice cream with salt
Have you ever heard of soft ice cream with salt? It hadn’t either until I visited Okinawa earlier this year. In Japan, nothing is unusual, especially not ice cream with salt on it. It’s actually very common that ice cream kiosks are selling soft ice cream with salt in various flavors in Okinawa. Licorice, wasabi, chili, pepper, green tea, hibiscus, black sesame, coconut, Shikuwasa and the fine snow salt from Miyako-Jima island are just some of the salty flavors that you can taste.
You’ll also get a traditional cookie called “Chinsuko” in your ice cream – yummy!
Stroll around Naha – The capital of Okinawa
You simply can’t leave Okinawa without visiting the capital, Naha. Beautiful houses, a lively shopping street, Hawaiian shirts and delicious food are just some of the things to explore in Naha. Stroll through town, go souvenir shopping, taste the famous sea grapes, order a soft ice cream with salt and just enjoy the lovely atmosphere!
Visit Miyako-Jima Island
300 kilometers outside the main island lies is this gem – a must to visit among the things to do in Okinawa. A flat island of abundant nature, white sandy beaches and excellent spots for snorkeling and diving. Wherever you go on the island, you will encounter lush cane fields and wonderful paradise beaches. Miyako-Jima is an island that is known for its clear waters, stunning coral reefs and delicious, healthy food.
When you visit Miyako-Jima, one can simply not leave without buying a bag of “Yukishio,” also known as snow salt. This salt contains the largest amount of minerals in the world and is an essential ingredient to the healthy lifestyle in Okinawa.