Okinawa is a prefecture made up of golden sand, green turtles, and somewhat unexplored islands. It is one of the most beautiful places in Japan, and cannot be missed.
Within this article, we will talk about the fastest, easiest, and most budget-friendly ways of getting from Tokyo to Okinawa, along with other ways of traveling around the prefecture.
Why Travel to Okinawa?
Not many people realize that the Okinawa archipelago is actually made up of over 150 islands – making it the perfect place to explore.
It is located approximately 400 miles away from the rest of mainland Japan, and as such, feels as though it is a whole new world.
It lies just off the coast of Kyushu, and enjoys a subtropical climate. If you’re looking for sun, sea, and surf, this is the best place to go in all of Japan.
With clear blue oceans, tropical forest-covered mountains, and endless days of adventure awaiting, you’re going to love Okinawa.
Domestic Flights from Tokyo to Okinawa
It is relatively easy to make this route affordable: all you need to do is pay attention to the dates that you are planning to travel on. Periods such as Golden Week are going to be incredibly busy, and as such, the prices are going to skyrocket.
There are usually many summer events happening in Okinawa, making summer another bad time to visit, with August being one of the worst months to travel.
By doing your research and comparing flight prices, you will be able to find a time that suits both you and your budget.
Return trips from Tokyo to Okinawa in the early months of the year are usually available to purchase for around $75. This price goes up increasingly until it reaches well over $200 in the summer.
Two of the best airlines to fly from Tokyo to Okinawa are:
- Peach Air: Offers cheap return flights, usually on offer around early January.
- Jetstar: Often promotes flight deals, making it a good idea to sign up for their email list.
Traveling from Naha Airport to Your Okinawa Hotel
One of the best routes to accommodations in Okinawa is by getting a van or taxi journey from Naha Airport to your hotel in Okinawa.
If you choose these transport options then it is best to plan ahead and book in advance. Okinawa is a popular destination and as such, if you leave it all last minute then you might just struggle to get there.
Alternatively, you could book an airport limousine bus to your Okinawa hotel.
Domestic Flights from Osaka to Okinawa
There are often more sales from Osaka to Okinawa than there are for Tokyo to Okinawa. If you are already located in Osaka, then flying from Kansai Airport might be your best option.
International Flights to Okinawa
ANA and JAL are two airlines that often offer great discounts for international flights into Japan. Some good ways to save money on multiple-destination travel in Japan are by signing up for the JAL Japan Explorer Pass or the ANA Experience Japan Fare.
ANA also has a Visit Japan Fare for $228and JAL has a Welcome to Japan Fare for $250. This makes it easy to see multiple destinations on a small budget.
As you may expect, these are only available when booking directly with the airline, rather than using a second party such as Skyscanner.
Ferries to Okinawa from Tokyo
Another great option for traveling between Tokyo and Okinawa is by taking a ferry. This can sometimes be more budget-friendly than a flight, but it is also considerably more time-consuming.
If you love traveling by sea then this might be the perfect option for you.
The best way to do this is by catching a Shinkansen to Kagoshima and then taking one of the 26-hour ferries to Okinawa. Typical prices for this are $130 without a bed, $260 with a bed, and $325 for a “first-class” experience.
The only downside with this is that you have to book it with a company called A-Line, where the website is written mostly in Japanese.
Still, ferries leave three to four times a week, offering a good amount of flexibility.
Explore Okinawa Main Island
There are many fun and exciting things to do in Okinawa! Now that you have your travel booked, you can happily start planning the trip of a lifetime.
The main city of Okinawa is Naha, which is where you will fly into if you decide to take a flight to Okinawa.
There are plenty of things to do in Okinawa. For example, you can visit the old home of the Ryukyu Kingdom at Shuri Castle, take a trip to the wonderful theme park of Okinawa World, or visit the city of Nago and experience all the wonders that it has to offer (namely, the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium).
Okinawa is also a great base to begin to explore wider Okinawa, with many island flights leaving from Naha.
Travel to Ishigaki
The jewel of Okinawa is the famous Kabira Bay in Ishigaki. The Yaeyama Islands are located around 250 miles from the main hub of Okinawa, and as such, the area is even more diverse and idyllic.
Here you will find a beautiful national park where you could spend days exploring, along with coral-filled oceans and white sandy beaches.
Unfortunately, there are no direct ferries from Okinawa, so the best way to get here is by flying direct from Tokyo or Naha in Okinawa.
It can be expensive to fly from Tokyo to Ishigaki as not many cheap airlines make the journey. However, you can use ANA and JTA (part of JAL) to take the route, using one of the many foreigners’ passes on offer.
Trips from Ishigaki
Alternatively, you could take a ferry to the nearby islands of Taketomi, Iriomote, and many more wonderful places.
Taketomi is one of the smallest islands in Okinawa, so it is a great place to see a lot in a short amount of time. It is filled with small traditional houses and is the best way of experiencing traditional Okinawa.
Iriomote is best known for its interior entirely encompassed by a jungle. You can kayak around the island, trek through the jungle, and explore the more rural side of Okinawa.
Yonaguni is another beautiful Okinawa island that is perfect for those who love diving.
Yonaguni is home to many underwater ruins, most of which are around 8,000 years old. Some legends speculate that the ruins are part of a continent called Mu, which is forever lost beneath the sea.
The island is one of the farthest inhabited from Japan, and as such, you can even see Taiwan when you look across the island.
It is easy to get to Yonaguni on a ferry from Ishigaki, and these leave fairly regularly. Alternatively, flights from Ishigaki or Naha leave several times a day.
Visit Akajima island
Akajima island, also known as Aka island, is relatively small but still packs a punch. It is well known for its observation towers which offer unbeatable views of wider Okinawa.
It can be a great place to visit as a day trip, as the island is easily accessible by ferry, with one to two ferries leaving from Tomari Port in Naha each day. The trip takes approximately 50 minutes.
Visit Kume Island
This is one of the best Okinawa islands for wildlife and plant life. The whole island is a national park, ensuring that there is plenty to experience whilst trekking through its lush foliage.
This is a great place to come birdwatching due to the fact that Kume has a large number of local species hiding within the tall grasses and bushes.
Kume is another island that is easy to get to. Naha has several flights per day which leave for Kume, with the flight duration taking around 35 minutes. These are relatively affordable and simple to take.
Alternatively, there are several direct flights from Tokyo each year during the summer season, although these are significantly more expensive.
Miyako-jima is one of the most beautiful islands in Okinawa and is best known for its beaches. Surrounded by almost endless idyllic Okinawa islands, this whole area is a true paradise.
The perfect place for going diving, kayaking, and snorkeling, this is one of those islands that you’re never going to want to leave.
Unlike many of the others, Miyako is an island that is only accessible by plane.
There are direct flights from Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka, but the fastest (and cheapest) way to travel to Miyako is from Naha. This flight only takes around 45 minutes.