11 Best Islands to Explore in Okinawa

The Best Islands to Explore in Okinawa offer stunning tropical beauty and cultural richness. From pristine beaches with crystal-clear waters to unique cultural sites, these islands in Okinawa Prefecture promise an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a blend of both, the best islands in Okinawa have something to offer for every traveler. Take a look at our compilation featuring the top 11 islands in Okinawa that are perfect for exploration.

Miyako Island

Miyako Island
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Miyako Island is a must-visit destination for beach lovers. Located in the Miyako Island group, it boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Okinawa. The island’s turquoise waters and powdery white sands create a picture-perfect setting for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.

As one of the best islands to visit in Okinawa, Miyako Island offers an array of attractions and activities for travelers of all ages. Miyako Island is also known for its vibrant coral reefs, making it a haven for diving enthusiasts. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the underwater world and encounter colorful marine life.

One of the best times to visit Miyako Island is during the spring and early summer months. The island comes alive with blooming flowers, including the renowned hibiscus flowers that add vibrant colors to the landscapes. Additionally, the warm and pleasant weather during this period makes it perfect for outdoor activities and exploration.

Ishigaki Island

Ishigaki Island
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Ishigaki Island is the main island of the Yaeyama Islands and is one of the best islands to explore in Okinawa. It offers a blend of stunning natural landscapes and cultural attractions. With its stunning natural beauty and unique cultural experiences, Ishigaki Island offers an unforgettable journey for those planning a trip to Okinawa.

The island is known for its vibrant coral reefs, making it a paradise for snorkeling and diving. Ishigaki Island is also home to Kabira Bay, a picturesque bay with crystal-clear waters and beautiful coral formations. Additionally, make sure to visit the charming town of Ishigaki, where you can experience the local culture and sample delicious Okinawan cuisine.

To get around the island and explore its wonders, renting a car or scooter is often considered the best way to get the most out of your visit. With car rental services readily available, visitors have the freedom to navigate the island at their own pace, discovering hidden beaches, scenic viewpoints, and local attractions.

Taketomi Island

Taketomi Island
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Taketomi Island, nestled in the Okinawa Prefecture, is a must visit destination for travelers seeking an authentic and tranquil experience in Japan. Taketomi Island is a small, picturesque island located near Ishigaki Island. It is known for its well-preserved traditional Ryukyuan village, which has been designated as an important cultural asset of Japan.

The village features traditional-style houses with red-tiled roofs and stone walls, creating a nostalgic atmosphere. Take a leisurely stroll along the island’s sandy streets, rent a bicycle, or take a water buffalo cart ride to explore the island’s tranquil beauty. Don’t forget to try the local specialty, “jima-meshi” (island-style rice), for a taste of authentic Okinawan cuisine.

Beyond the cultural treasures, Taketomi Island also boasts beautiful beaches with clear waters and vibrant coral reefs. Visitors can relax on the pristine shores, go snorkeling or diving to explore the colorful marine life, or take a boat tour to the neighboring uninhabited islands.

Iriomote Island

Iriomote Island
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Iriomote Island is the largest and most remote island in Okinawa. Known as the “Galapagos of the East,” it offers a pristine natural environment with dense jungles, mangrove forests, and stunning waterfalls.

Explore the island’s untouched wilderness by taking a river cruise through the mangrove forests or embarking on a jungle trek to discover hidden gems like Pinaisara Falls.

Iriomote Island is also a great place for kayaking, snorkeling, and diving, allowing you to immerse yourself in the island’s rich biodiversity. Explore the vibrant coral reefs, azure waters, and encounter the colorful marine life that teems beneath the surface. With its clear waters and abundant marine biodiversity, Iriomote Island is a haven for underwater exploration.

Zamami Island

Zamami Island
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Zamami Island, located in Okinawa, is a true hidden gem that is also worth a visit. This small island offers a serene and laid-back atmosphere, making it an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Zamami Island is part of the Kerama Islands, a group of remote islands of Okinawa. It is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and abundant marine life. Snorkel or dive in the colorful coral gardens to encounter sea turtles, tropical fish, and even manta rays. 

Zamami Island is also home to Furuzamami Beach, a breathtaking stretch of white sand that has been consistently voted as one of Japan’s best beaches. Relax on the beach, go for a swim, or take a boat tour to explore the island’s surrounding beauty.

Ie Island

Ie Island
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Ie Island, also known as Iejima, is a small island located northwest of Okinawa Island. It offers a serene and tranquil atmosphere, making it an ideal escape from the crowds.

Exploring the entire island of Ie is a delightful experience. The island is known for its beautiful beaches, lush greenery, and historic sites. Visit the Ie Island Memorial Museum to learn about the island’s WWII history or explore the iconic Mount Gusuku, the tallest mountain in Okinawa, offering panoramic views of the surrounding islands. Ie Island is also famous for its annual Lily Festival, where you can witness the island’s vibrant flora in full bloom.

Ie Island is also a sanctuary for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can go snorkeling or diving in the crystal-clear waters, exploring the vibrant coral reefs and encountering a wide variety of marine life. Kayaking and paddleboarding are also popular activities, allowing visitors to navigate the island’s coastal waters and discover hidden coves and caves.

Tokashiki Island

Tokashiki Island
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Tokashiki Island, a stunning island in Japan, is a true paradise that offers a unique and unforgettable experience. Tokashiki Island is one of Okinawa’s Yaeyama Islands and is a popular destination for nature lovers.

The island is best known for its pristine beaches, scenic hiking trails, and vibrant coral reefs. Head to Aharen Beach, a stunning stretch of white sand, for swimming, snorkeling, or simply enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Explore the island’s hiking trails to discover breathtaking viewpoints and lush forests. Tokashiki Island is also a gateway to the Kerama Islands National Park, offering opportunities for boat tours and diving adventures.

The charm of Tokashiki Island extends beyond its natural wonders. Visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture by visiting traditional Okinawan villages, where traditional Ryukyuan houses and artifacts can be found. Taste the island’s delectable seafood and sample traditional Okinawan dishes, offering a true culinary delight.

Kume Island

Kume Island
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Kume Island is best known for its charming beauty. Kume Island, located west of Okinawa Island, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. It boasts beautiful beaches, clear waters, and a laid-back atmosphere. 

The island is known for its sacred sites, such as the Uegusuku Castle Ruins, which offer a glimpse into Okinawa’s rich history and heritage.

Take a stroll along Eef Beach, one of the island’s best-kept secrets, and soak up the sun while enjoying the pristine surroundings. Kume Island is also famous for its local delicacies, including Kumejima Beef and Kumesen, a traditional Okinawan liquor. The island is renowned for delicacies such as Kume Island beef and seafood dishes made from the freshest catch from the surrounding waters. These culinary delights offer a true taste of the island’s flavors and traditions.

Aka Island

Aka Island
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Aka Island, located in Okinawa, is a breathtaking destination that showcases the natural beauty and cultural heritage that Okinawa is known for. It is part of the Kerama Islands and is renowned for its incredible marine biodiversity. The island is best known for its vibrant coral reefs and is a popular spot for snorkeling and diving.

Explore the underwater world and encounter a plethora of marine life, including sea turtles, colorful fish, and fascinating coral formations. Aka Island also offers stunning beaches, such as Nishibama Beach and Geruma Beach, where you can relax and enjoy the tranquility of the island.

In addition to its natural beauty and cultural offerings, Aka Island is known for its warm hospitality and welcoming locals. Visitors can interact with the island’s residents, experience their way of life, and savor the island’s delicious cuisine, which features fresh seafood and unique dishes that blend local flavors with traditional Okinawan ingredients.

Minna Island

Minna Island
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Minna Island, one of the best Okinawa islands, offers an array of unique experiences that make it a must-visit destination. Minna Island, located near the main island of Okinawa, is a hidden paradise that offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city life. The island is accessible by a short ferry ride and is known for its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters.

Snorkel or swim in the vibrant coral gardens surrounding the island, or simply relax on the beach and soak up the sun. Minna Island is a perfect destination for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

The island is home to vibrant coral reefs and a diverse range of marine life. Snorkelers can explore the coral gardens teeming with colorful fish, while divers can discover hidden caves and encounter larger marine species like sea turtles and rays.

Okinawa Honto (Main Island of Okinawa)

Okinawa Honto
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Last but not least, the main island of Okinawa, often referred to as Okinawa Honto, is a must-visit destination in its own right. It offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and modern amenities.

One of the best things about Okinawa Honto is its stunning coastline and beautiful beaches. The island is blessed with picturesque shores, such as Emerald Beach and Sunset Beach, where visitors can relax, swim, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the turquoise waters. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful day by the sea or looking to engage in water sports, Okinawa Honto’s beaches have something to offer for everyone.

Nature lovers will appreciate the island’s diverse landscapes and outdoor recreational activities. Okinawa Honto offers scenic hiking trails, such as the Yanbaru Forest Trail, where visitors can experience the island’s lush forests and encounter rare flora and fauna. Snorkeling and diving enthusiasts can explore the island’s vibrant coral reefs and swim alongside tropical fish and other marine creatures.

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