Get ready for an adventure like no other as we dive into the beautiful world of Okinawa and answer that burning question: Is Okinawa worth visiting?
Now, I had the incredible opportunity to experience this firsthand on my solo journey to Miyako Island in October 2023, and let me tell you, I had an absolute blast!
Just picture it: crystal-clear warm waters, coral reefs filled with vibrant fish, and beaches that could rival the Maldives. Okinawa is like a dream come true, and let me tell you, snorkelling and swimming feel like escaping to a whole new world. It’s a real-life fantasy!
But Okinawa is more than just its picturesque scenery. It’s a place where the pace of life is slower and more deliberate, a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Japan’s busy cities.
And here’s the icing on the cake, especially for my fellow solo female travellers – Okinawa is a safe haven. It’s a destination where you can explore with confidence, surrounded by welcoming locals who make you feel right at home.
So, in this blog, we’re going to unravel the heart and soul of Okinawa to highlight why it’s a destination that’s absolutely worth a spot on your travel bucket list.
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My Trip To Okinawa
Okinawa was a highlight of my three-week adventure through Japan and South Korea. As a solo traveller, I decided to kick off my Okinawa experience by heading straight to Miyako Island.
The stunning beaches and snorkelling opportunities drew me in, and I couldn’t wait to explore this island paradise.
I visited in October, during the autumn season, and it was quite warm but very windy with short bursts of rain. This meant driving from one end of the island to the other to chase some sunshine!
One of my best decisions was renting a car, as public transport options are rather limited on the island. Plus the island is huge and not very walkable.
A car gave me the freedom to explore every nook and cranny, discovering hidden gems along the way.
I also was pleasantly surprised to find that Miyako Island is relatively affordable, both in terms of accommodations and dining options. With direct flights available from major Japanese airports, getting to this slice of paradise is a breeze.
I even found flying in from Seoul and stopping in Naha a very smooth experience
I can’t wait for you to see some of the photos I took on my trusty drone and phone that I have scattered throughout this blog post. The island is just so photogenic!
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Is Okinawa Worth Visiting?
Absolutely, Okinawa is a destination that’s truly worth visiting! It’s a slice of paradise that I can’t recommend enough.
The unique Japanese islands have a gorgeous blend of culture, history, and natural beauty. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or simply someone seeking a serene escape, Okinawa has something for everyone.
Let’s unpack the top reasons why Okinawa is worth visiting.
First and foremost, the locals here are incredibly warm and welcoming, always ready to share their traditions and stories.
From the vibrant Eisa dance performances to the historic Shuri Castle, you’ll find a deep sense of history and tradition around every corner.
And let’s not forget the food – savour the flavours of Okinawa’s unique dishes, like Rafute and Goya Champuru paired with a can of Orion Okinawan beer.
What makes Okinawa even more fascinating is that its people have one of the world’s longest life expectancies.
You may already know this as it was recently highlighted in the Netflix documentary “Live to 100, Secrets of the Blue Zone.” The Okinawan lifestyle and diet have been subject to much curiosity and study, as this region boasts an unusually high number of centenarians.
The lessons learned from Okinawan longevity offer valuable insights into living a healthier and more fulfilling life, making your visit to this paradise a potential inspiration for a longer and more vibrant life.
Okinawa’s Stunning Natural Beauty
But it’s not just about the culture – Okinawa is a nature lover’s dream. The bright blue waters, abundant marine life, and stunning coral reefs make it a mecca for divers and snorkelers.
And the green landscapes are perfect for hiking.
Seriously the beaches and coral reefs are nothing short of stunning! So many of my friends were so surprised a place like this existed in Japan.
While Okinawa has an abundance of positives which we will unpack even further in the rest of this post, it’s important to note one potential downside.
The one drawback you might encounter is that it can get quite crowded, especially during the peak tourist seasons.
Due to its increasing popularity, Okinawa’s most famous attractions and beaches can sometimes become crowded with both domestic and international travellers. This may lead to difficulty finding accommodations, rising prices, and a somewhat less serene experience at some of the more well-known spots.
However, this shouldn’t deter you from visiting Okinawa! To mitigate this downside, consider planning your trip during the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn. Additionally, exploring some of the lesser-known and quieter areas and islands of Okinawa can provide a more peaceful and authentic visit.
So, yes, without a doubt, Okinawa is absolutely worth the journey!
10 Reasons To Put Okinawa On Your Bucket List!
If you’re still not convinced about Okinawa, I’m thrilled to share with you the top 10 reasons why you need to put Okinawa on your bucket list!
After my solo trip to Miyako Island (the largest island among the Miyako Islands of Okinawa), I can’t help but gush about this incredible destination and its unique offerings.
Let’s dive into my top 10 reasons why I think you too should also visit Okinawa.
1. Mesmerizing Coral Reefs
Okinawa is a haven for snorkelers. The coral reefs here are absolutely mesmerizing. Snorkelling in these crystal-clear waters and swimming with vibrant marine life is a true highlight of visiting Okinawa.
2. Maldives-Like Beaches
You won’t believe your eyes when you step onto Okinawa’s beaches. Some of them, like those on Miyako Island (aka Sunayama Beach), mirror the idyllic beaches of the Maldives. The soft, powdery sand and bright blue waters without a huge price tag.
3. Slow-Paced Bliss
Okinawa’s laid-back atmosphere is a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of city life. I found it to be the perfect break from exploring other Japanese cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto which can be very chaotic!
It’s a place where you can truly unwind and relax.
4. Healthy Okinawan Cuisine
The Okinawan diet is renowned for its health benefits and longevity. I’m talking about diets that allow locals to live past 100 years old!
Savour local dishes like Agu Pork, Beni Imo, and Okinawa soba noodles and you might just adopt some of their healthy eating habits.
5. Unique Ryukyuan Culture
The Ryukyuan culture of Okinawa is a distinct and fascinating blend of influences from China, Japan, and other Southeast Asian countries. Immerse yourself in the traditions, music, and dance that set this culture apart.
6. Friendly Locals
The warmth and friendliness of the Okinawan people make your stay even more special. They’re always eager to share their culture and traditions and show you the best spots on the islands.
7. Historical Riches
Okinawa’s history is fascinating, with landmarks like Shuri Castle that have stories to tell. Explore the cultural heritage and delve into the region’s unique past.
8. Adventure Galore
For thrill-seekers, there are ample opportunities for adventure, from water sports to hiking in lush green landscapes.
There’s something for everyone here, I tell you!
9. Island Hopping
Okinawa’s proximity to other beautiful islands allows for incredible island-hopping adventures. Discover more hidden gems and expand your Okinawan experience.
10. Solo Traveler’s Paradise
As a solo female traveller, I can attest to Okinawa’s safe and welcoming environment. It’s the perfect place for a solo adventure!
So, there you have it – 10 compelling reasons to help answer, is Okinawa worth visiting?
Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a taste of unique culture, this stunning destination has it all, as I discovered on my unforgettable journey.
Heading to Japan for 1 month? Check out my 4 weeks in Japan itinerary that covers the best places to go. Spoiler alert, it includes a visit to Okinawa!
5 Things to Know Before Going To Okinawa
Before you hop on that plane to Okinawa, here are five essential things you should know.
Okinawa’s weather can be all over the place, so it’s essential to pack accordingly. Summers are hot and humid, while winters are pleasantly mild.
Typhoon season hits in summer, so check the weather forecast to plan your visit wisely. The islands can also experience significant winds and rain showers throughout the day.
I found the water temperatures to be also very warm even in the shoulder seasons, pure heaven when you’re out snorkelling for the day.
Cash Is King
Credit cards may not be universally accepted, so ensure you have some cash on hand.
Also, don’t forget to notify your bank about your travel plans to avoid any payment hiccups.
While many Okinawans are welcoming and helpful, not everyone speaks fluent English. Learning a few basic Japanese phrases can go a long way, and don’t be afraid to use translation apps – they can be a lifesaver!
Okinawa is an archipelago, and each island offers a unique experience. So, consider island-hopping to explore the diversity.
Ferries and domestic flights make it easy to jump from one paradise to another.
Plan Your Accommodation
Accommodations can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. So, I suggest you book your hotels in advance. From luxurious resorts to cozy guesthouses, Okinawa offers a range of options to suit your style (more on where to stay up next)!
With these tips in your back pocket, you’ll be all set for your trip to Okinawa!
Where To Stay In Okinawa
Wondering where to stay on your trip to Okinawa?
When it comes to choosing the best areas to stay in Okinawa, you’ll find a variety of options to suit your preferences and travel style. Here are my recommendations for every budget!
Naha City, Okinawa Main Island
Naha, the capital of Okinawa, is a popular choice due to its proximity to the airport and a wide range of accommodations.
It’s a great base for exploring the southern part of the main island and offers plenty of dining and shopping experiences.
Mid-Range Hotel in Naha, Okinawa: Okinawa Prince Hotel
⭐ 9.2/10 (567 reviews)
For those who want to sprinkle some mid-range magic into their Okinawa trip, look no further than the Okinawa Prince Hotel.
It’s like your home away from home, only way better with the stunning ocean views. Comfort, style, and a touch of luxury – it’s all there.
Best Luxury Hotel in Naha: ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort
⭐ 8.3/10 (613 reviews)
Alright, if you’re going all out on this trip, you’re in for a treat at the ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort.
It’s pure luxury! You’re basically living the high life right on the beach. The views are off the charts, and the pampering is next level.
For those who want to experience the serene beauty of Miyako Island, staying on the island itself is a must.
I chose to skip Naha and head straight to Miyako Island as I wanted to experience the best beaches and resorts Okinawa has to offer. And let me tell you, Miyako Island didn’t disappoint and I’m very happy with my choice!
Resorts and guesthouses are scattered across the island, but here are my recommended stays.
Mid-Range Hotel in Miyako Island, Okinawa: Hotel Risingsun (Where I stayed!)
⭐ 8.1/10 (283 reviews)
When it comes to that sweet spot between budget and luxury, Hotel Risingsun on Miyako Island hits the mark.
It’s where I chose to stay, and I can vouch for the comfort and convenience it offers. You’re in for a cozy and delightful experience, with all the island vibes to make your stay just right. Plus the provided linen PJ’s were a nice touch!
Best Luxury Hotel in Miyako Island: Ronsard Resort IRABU
⭐ 9.3/10 (82 reviews)
For those seeking the crème de la crème of accommodations, the Ronsard Resort IRABU is the ultimate luxury experience.
It’s all about opulence and indulgence in a paradise setting. Just look at this place, it looks like somewhere in Mykonos! The impeccable service and breathtaking surroundings will make you feel like a true island royalty.
Ishigaki is another captivating island in the Yaeyama archipelago.
It’s known for its vibrant coral reefs, making it a fantastic choice for divers and snorkelers. Accommodations range from budget-friendly to upscale resorts, let’s check out a couple of great options.
Mid-Range Hotel In Ishigaki Island: Alaise De Bale Ishigaki
⭐ 8.9/10 (181 reviews)
For those looking for a balanced blend of comfort and affordability, Alaise De Bale is a fabulous choice.
This mid-range gem offers value for money, providing a taste of luxury without stretching your budget.
Conveniently located in Ishigaki City, it offers easy access to local attractions, dining, and shopping. The hotel is known for its warm and personalized hospitality, ensuring a memorable stay. Comfortable rooms and on-site dining further enhance the experience.
Luxury Hotel In Ishigaki Island: ANA InterContinental Ishigaki Resort, an IHG Hotel
⭐ 8.5/10 (388 reviews)
If you’re in search of pure relaxation and indulgence, the ANA InterContinental Ishigaki Resort is the epitome of luxury.
Perched on a picturesque hillside, it offers breathtaking views of the sea. The resort boasts world-class amenities, a private beach for exclusive relaxation, elegant accommodations with Okinawan charm, and exceptional service that goes above and beyond.
FAQs: Is Okinawa Worth Visiting?
Let’s dive into these frequently asked questions about: is Okinawa worth visiting?
Is Okinawa Worth Visiting?
Oh, absolutely, Okinawa is worth every moment of your visit!
Its unique blend of culture, natural beauty, and a relaxed atmosphere make it a destination that leaves a mark on your heart.
From pristine beaches to rich cultural experiences, there’s something for everyone here.
So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey!
Is Okinawa Good for Tourists?
Okinawa is not just good for tourists; it’s fantastic!
The locals are incredibly welcoming, making it a hospitable destination for visitors including solo female travellers.
With its well-preserved culture, mouthwatering cuisine, and a wide range of activities, Okinawa has everything you need for a memorable travel experience.
Which is Better: Okinawa or Hawaii?
Well, that’s a tough one! Both Okinawa and Hawaii are stunning in their own ways. Okinawa offers a unique blend of Japanese and Okinawan culture, while Hawaii boasts its own distinct Polynesian charm.
Your choice depends on what you’re seeking – Okinawa for a blend of cultures and historical richness, or Hawaii for its surreal landscapes and diverse islands.
How Many Days in Okinawa Is Enough?
Ideally, I’d recommend spending at least a week in Okinawa to fully explore the main island and visit one or two of the smaller surrounding islands. This allows you to soak in the culture, lay by the beach, go for a hike, and simply relax.
However, even a shorter visit of 3-4 days can be well worth it, so make the most of the time you have!
Why is Okinawa So Popular?
Okinawa’s popularity is no surprise! It’s renowned for its stunning coral reefs, welcoming locals, and unique longevity secrets.
The mix of natural beauty, rich history, and a slower-paced lifestyle has a universal appeal.
It’s no wonder that Okinawa has found its way onto the bucket lists of so many travellers seeking authentic experiences and remarkable adventures.
So Is Okinawa Worth Visiting?
In conclusion, the resounding answer is a resounding YES – Okinawa is undeniably worth visiting. My personal journey to this stunning corner of the world left me with memories that will last a lifetime.
From snorkelling in the spectacular coral reefs filled with fish to the Maldives-like beaches that seem almost too perfect to be real, Okinawa offers a unique blend of natural beauty that’s nothing short of breathtaking.
The relaxed pace of life in Okinawa is the perfect break from the hustle and bustle of everyday living and exploring Japan’s largest cities, allowing you to sit back, relax and enjoy the simple things in life. Plus it’s a safe haven for solo female travelers like me!
And let’s not forget the longevity secrets – Okinawa has much to offer in the quest for a longer, more fulfilling life.
So, whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or someone simply looking for an island escape, Okinawa has it all. Its friendly locals, unique culture, and breathtaking landscapes make it a destination and a bucket list experience you won’t regret.