Okinawa Japan Travel Guide

The main island of Okinawa is one of my favorite places in Japan. It’s definitely Japan but with a tropical twist. My wife is from Okinawa so from her I have learned many lesser-known details of the island and its people.

If you looking to escape Japan’s sometimes harsh winters or just want an island getaway as part of your time in Japan, then Okinawa will not disappoint.

Naha International Airport

Okinawa, Japan, and its surrounding islands are an excellent place to visit if you are seeking an exotic beach vacation that includes more than just sand and sun. Visiting Okinawa Japan is well worth it because of the incredible combination of historic, natural, and cultural activities. Not to mention its friendly people.

Naha, Okinawa, Japan downtown cityscape

So, if you are planning to go on a trip to Okinawa, here’s the inside scoop.

The greatest time to visit Okinawa is during the springtime. You can do so many exciting things on the Island, such as scuba diving, relaxing on the beach with your friends and family, visit Hiji Falls, and so on. Since it is one of the safest islands, you can visit your desired locales in Okinawa at any time of day or night.

However, there is also some other information you must know before going on your trip to Okinawa. The trip cost, places to stay without a car, scuba diving companies, etc., are a few of the things to know to make the most of your trip. So, I will provide you with all the information so that you can get a complete guide to visiting Okinawa.

Best Month To Visit Okinawa

The best time to visit Okinawa is between April and May (Spring) when the weather is pleasant enough to enjoy a variety of activities in the city and explore the island’s many rural and remote destinations.

Although Okinawa’s subtropical climate makes it a nice spot to visit throughout the year, spring is the best season to visit because you’ll be able to avoid the crowds. It’s an excellent time to visit Naha city especially if you are not a fan of extremely hot weather. As in Tokyo steel, concrete and asphalt hold a lot of o heat from the sun.

Moreover, lily festivals and boat races are held during the spring months, making it the best time to visit Okinawa.

Okinawa Dragon Boat Race

Okinawa the cost of a visit from Tokyo

As a general rule round-trip flights from Tokyo to Okinawa cost around 306 dollars on average. However, a one-week vacation in Okinawa costs roughly 3,690.66 dollars for two persons on average.

When you first look at a world map Tokyo and Naha seem worlds apart but are surprisingly easy to get to via commercial air travel.

In total Tokyo and Okinawa are 1,553 kilometers apart, taking an average of 2 hours and 44 minutes one way. The cost for a round-trip flight might vary depending on the airline company. The following table shows the flight costs for a round-trip from Tokyo to Okinawa.

Naha Airport,Okinawa Japan
AirlinesFlight TimeCost
1. Jetstar Airways2h 55m$107
2. Peach Aviation3h$111
3. SNJ2h 40m$127
4. ANA2h 40m$158
5. JAL2h 40m$188

Swimming safety and precautions

Most people who visit Okinawa and the islands that surround it often want to know about swimming and diving safety.

It is not completely safe to swim in Okinawa at certain times of the year since there is some poisonous marine life in its waters. Public beaches will display warning signs if dangerous marine life is present. However, in remote areas, there are no lifeguards or signage that alert you to these dangers.

Aharen Beach on Tokashiki Island in Okinawa

As the ecosystem and weather are different in Okinawa, the sea is full of dangerous species, such as stonefish, sea snakes, lionfish, etc. Moreover, the sun’s rays are so powerful on Okinawa that even locals don’t swim in just their bathing suits. UV rays create sunburn, which causes blistering, a high temperature, and severe discomfort.

As a general rule Okinawans try to avoid spending time sunbathing. They will often use sunblock and use beach umbrellas to stay out of direct sunlight.

However, it is possible to reduce the risks if you stay aware of posted warning signs. Also, the sea conditions on the east side might be safer than on the west side in Okinawa. Always check with the local guides and information system.

Okinawa Ocean Safety Guide

If you want to swim in Okinawa be sure to take proper cautions. Take proper measures against UV rays, wear swim boots or beach shoes, and don’t touch any creatures or plants while you swim in the sea. The box jellyfish is one of the most harmless-looking creatures.

Shinto Shrine Naminoue at the top of a cliff overlooking the beach and ocean of Naha in Okinawa

The box jellyfish may be found in the ocean around Okinawa. It’s shaped like a cube, a two-inch diameter body, and long tentacles. It is difficult to see with the naked eye due to its translucent body. Box jellyfish stings can produce extreme agony all over the body as well as welts on the skin, and it can be fatal.

At some public beaches, first aid boxes contain items to aid in a sting such as vinegar. As a precaution, it’s prudent to carry a first aid kit for such events. Many kits will contain rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, and tweezers (for removing tentacles or the stingers).

Okinawa At Night

There’s a myriad of activities in Okinawa for everyone’s personal taste. From shopping to exploring the ocean under a full moon.

Okinawa, Japan at American Village Shopping and Entertainment Area

From night diving on Tokashiki Island to dancing at the Epica club, there are so many things to do in Okinawa at night. Some other places to go to in Okinawa at night are Kerama Island, Shuri castle, and Chatan town’s night market. The American village with a large Ferris wheel.

Okinawa might be known for its sunny brightness and seemingly eternal summer, but it also has its own set of delights once the sunsets. Here is a list of some of the amazing places you can go in Okinawa after dark:

  • Okinawan cuisine at Shima Uta
  • Southeast Botanical Gardens
  • Tokashiki Island
  • Okinawa Starry Sky Studio
  • Shuri Castle
  • Ishigaki Island
  • Epica Club

Time spent in Okinawa is never wasted

Most people have a general time allotted to about a week. Depending on what your goals for your time there are.

If you’re staying on the main island, 3 to 7 days in Okinawa would be enough time to see several attractions and get a feel for the island culture, one week allows you to combine beach time with sightseeing and activities.

Much of it also relies on the individual. For example, some people may enjoy spending two weeks at the beach, while others may have an hourly itinerary and try to squeeze everything into a few days.

I would recommend you to make at least a 5-day itinerary and carefully plan each day for your Okinawa visit as there are so many fun things to do and beautiful places to visit.

Sharks Near Okinawa

As in any tropical environment beachgoers often have one particular variety of marine life they worry over.

Like many other dangerous marine species, there are also sharks near Okinawa. Sharks have been spotted in the area on occasion, particularly when the tides shift. Beaches that have lifeguards will warn swimmers of their presence and remote beaches will have signs to alert swimmers.

Shark diversity is abundant in Japan, notably in Okinawa. More than a third of the world’s shark species dwell and reproduce in Japan’s temperate and tropical waters. However, shark attacks are not too common in Okinawa’s waterways.

Tourist Friendly Okinawa

A major part of Okinawa’s economy is tourism along with the fishing industry. The island has many resorts and hotels that cater to people from many parts of the world.

Although Okinawa is not a well-known tourist spot, it is tourist-friendly. The local people are also welcoming and helpful to the visitors.

Okinawa

Visiting Okinawa with a disability should be no problem as the island welcomes all people.

In total Okinawa issued the first Barrier-Free statement in Japan in 2007, intending to welcome all visitors, regardless of disabilities or physical restrictions. Moreover, the city is concentrating on enhancing accessible tourism and expanding its list of sights, restaurants, and activities.

English In Okinawa

As a general rule Okinawans speak Japanese and don’t communicate in English. Even those who can Speak English are often hesitant to use it. Fortunately, major hotels, tourist locations, and places close to U.S. military bases commonly have English speakers who are eager to communicate.

Furthermore, there are numerous English-speaking services available in the area, and these services continue to grow annually. Even though Okinawans generally don’t speak in English, they are used to hearing English and are generally welcoming of it.

Safety In Okinawa

Okinawa is as safe as, if not safer than, central Japan. The level of crime in the region is around 17.76%, which is considered to be very low.

The safety rate of walking alone in the daylight in Okinawa is 81.05%, whereas walking alone at night is 75.05% safe. There is also a very little risk of things being stolen on the island. So, it can be said that Okinawa is one of the safest places to visit overall.

 Kokusai dori the main shopping street at night in Naha City Okinawa

Okinawa Without A Car

If you have no plans for renting a car and plan to rely on the local buses or the monorails then stay in the metro areas.

Asahibashi Station near the Naha Bus Terminal and Kokusaidori, the city’s main commercial area are two of the most popular places for tourists to stay in Okinawa without a car.

Rental Cars In Okinawa

If you don’t have a car rental, you have to choose a place to stay where you have easy access to public transports and rental cars. Otherwise, you won’t be able to travel around all the excellent places on the island.

Okinawa Monorail

Okinawa Monorail Tickets

Hotel Rocore Naha is also an option to stay in Okinawa without a car. The hotel is close to the Prefectural Office Station, which is in the heart of Naha city. So, you will be able to travel to different places in Okinawa via public transportation and vehicles easily.

The value of visiting Okinawa

Naha has a historic castle (Shuri), a bustling retail area, and a myriad of other sights, making the island well worth visiting.

Naha (the capital) is Okinawa’s largest city, with 60% of the population of the main island. It also has the Okinawa monorail, which is the only public rail system on the island. It provides a convenient route across the city to Shuri, the island’s former capital.

Kokusai Dori shopping street in Okinawa

Naha’s major commercial and entertainment area Kokusai Dori (shopping street) and the Namiougue shrine are some of the most beautiful places of Naha that make the city worth it for a look. Besides, if you stay at Hotel in Naha, you’ll have plenty of time to tour the Main Island and visit adjacent Ie and Tokashiki.

Rain In Okinawa

On average rain is common in Okinawa during the rainy season. The rainy season begins in May and lasts until the end of June.

Okinawa’s Current Weather

During the rainy season in Okinawa, it rains almost every day, but just for a few hours at a time. At the same time, there won’t be many fully sunny days throughout the rainy season, as clouds will hover over the city for almost 80% of the time.

Scuba Diving In Okinawa

While diving is accessible all year, the best time to go scuba diving in Okinawa is from mid-July to early September.

Diving tours Okinawa

October can be an ideal month to go scuba diving in Okinawa because the water stays warm, the crowds thin out, and typhoons have mostly passed. Avoid high seasons and months like February, the beginning of May, and August, as well as September, if you want to go scuba diving for a lower price.

Where To Dive

Aloha Divers Okinawa, Best Dive Okinawa, Heichao Dive, Deep Emotion Diving Service, etc., are some of the best diving companies in Okinawa.

Here is a list of the top 10 dive companies in Okinawa:

  • Okinawa 39ers
  • Reef Encounters
  • Aloha Divers Okinawa
  • Best Dive Okinawa
  • Heichao Dive
  • Aruguide Okinawa
  • Deep Emotion Diving Service
  • Piranha Divers Okinawa
  • Okinawa Diving
  • Sakura Dive Okinawa

Trip Advisors Top Rated Dive Companies

Scuba Diving In Japan the cost

Diving in Okinawa can be pretty expensive depending on your budget, with a 2-tank boat dive costing about 145-165USD.

However, a single introductory dive costs about $91, which includes all diving equipment. The dive itself usually lasts between 20 and 60 minutes.

Dive typeCost
Single Dive$73
Two Dives$136
Three Dives$182
Diving Rates Okinawa

Swimming Okinawa In December

Swimming is not advised in late November and December due to the colder weather and lower sea temperatures. During the day, it might be pleasant to relax on the beach, but at night, the temperature drops below 69 degrees Fahrenheit.

Scuba and Snorkeling Okinawa

People do, however, occasionally go scuba diving in December while wearing a dry suit or a thick wetsuit. Swimming may also be possible in December, depending on the weather and temperature on that particular day.

Monthly Temperatures In Okinawa

Okinawa’s average yearly water temperature is 25°C. August is the hottest month for water temperatures 29.10°C, whereas the water temperature will drop to 21.5°C in March.

The table below shows the water temperature in Okinawa for each month:

MonthAverage Ocean Temperature CelsiusAverage ocean Temperature Fahrenheit
January22.2 C72 F
February21.7 C71.1 F
March21.5 C70.7 F
April22.4 C72.3 F
May24.3 C75.7 F
June26.5 C79.7 F
July28.5 C83.3 F
August29.1 C84.4 F
September28.3 C82.9 F
October27 C80.6 F
November25.3 C77.5 F
December23.7 C74.7 F
Average Daily Ocean Temperatures

Do You Need A License To Scuba Dive In Okinawa?

You don’t need a license to scuba dive in Okinawa. However, some of the trips arranged by different companies might require a scuba diving license.

Diving Boats in Okinawa

Well, there are no explicit rules regulating scuba diving in Okinawa that divers on a guided tour should be aware of. As is customary with tour operators, you have to be in decent physical shape and have swimming skills. But scuba diving with a tour operator in Okinawa requires a minimum age of ten years old.

Driving Age Restrictions and Rules In Okinawa

In Japan, you have to be at least 16 to drive motorcycles under 400 cc. However, for driving vehicles and motorcycles over 400 ccs, you have to be 18 years old.

Getting an international driver’s license you will have to complete the paperwork. Getting a driving license in Japan will require your valid license, an official translation of your license, passport, and other papers.

International driver’s licenses or permits are not granted directly in Japan (for tourists) and must be obtained in advance in your native country. For a nominal charge, they are generally given by your country’s national automotive organization.

Naha CityScape

The US state departments website explains in detail the process for getting an international driver’s license for Japan. It’s best to get the paperwork done far in advance and license in hand before travel to avoid any delays.

For US citizens check this link for international driver’s licenses.

US Dept of State International Drivers Licenses

Okinawa has breathtaking views, a subtropical climate, incredible marine life, and stunning beaches. The Island is often compared with the popular tourist spot Hawaii. In fact, Okinawa is often called the Hawaii of Japan, By now, you’ve got to know many new details about visiting Okinawa Japan.

My wife is anxious to see her family again and so a trip to Okinawa is soon to be on our travel itinerary. Mainland Japan is an exciting place to see and explore, but missing out on Okinawa would truly be a missed opportunity to learn about a part of Japanese culture and history that’s not exactly 100% Japan.

Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau

So, don’t hesitate to plan a trip to the wonderful Okinawan Islands. Thanks for reading through. Hopefully, you’ve found this article helpful. Have a fantastic day!

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.