Mention Okinawa, and thoughts of blue skies, clear waters, and sandy beaches are likely to come to mind. Indeed, known as the Hawaii of Japan, Okinawa is an ideal location for the perfect beach getaway and allows the water sport enthusiasts to try out activities like diving and snorkeling. A trip to Okinawa therefore would not be complete without visiting one of its beautiful beaches.
While people commonly refer to Okinawa as a whole, Okinawa is in fact made up of hundreds of islands stretching over one thousand kilometers. Okinawa Prefecture as a whole refers to Japan’s southernmost prefecture, and its location in between Japan and Taiwan is what makes it so different from other parts of Japan. Its hot and humid climate resembles that of tropical countries, while culturally and cuisine wise, Okinawa bears many similarities to Chinese cultures. Surrounded by sea no matter which part of Okinawa you’re on, Okinawa has no lack of beaches to offer. Options include the remote beaches of Miyako Islands and Yaeyama Islands, which require either a plane or boat ride to access.
For a first-time trip to Okinawa with plans of staying at Naha, Okinawa’s capital city, it is thus a challenge to find nice beaches to visit. While Naha offers the convenience of being in a city and being near Naha International Airport, Naha’s only beach is Naminoue Beach. Being only a 15-minute drive from Naha Airport, Naminoue Beach is therefore extremely accessible to tourists looking forward to squeezing in a beach visit into their itinerary. Its location also makes it easy for those staying in Naha. However, being a beach located within the concrete jungle of Naha, Naminoue is rather small and has an expressway looming over its water which makes it slightly less picturesque. Nevertheless, admission to this beach is free and beach chairs and parasols can be rented by you to enjoy a short afternoon, by the beach.
Another beach out of Naha but still reasonably close by, is Mibaru Beach. Located close to the city of Nanjo, Mibaru Beach is approximately an hour’s drive from Naha. Even without a car, Mibaru Beach is accessible by bus. Boarding from Kencho-Minami-Guchi bus stop, Bus 39 takes you to the terminal stop, Mibaru Beach. The journey takes approximately an hour and costs 780 yen one way. Stretching for about 2 km, Mibaru Beach has a beautiful stretch of white but rough sand. The expanse of ocean that greets you from the beach entrance, which is a stone stairway tucked away in a little corner, is stunning. While facilities are sparse, glass-bottomed boat rides are available for a fee.
Lastly, Emerald Beach, located on the Motobu Peninsular is the furthest but one of the most popular beaches. Over 2 hrs drive from Naha, those without a car can choose to join local bus tours that include a trip to the Ocean Expo Park. Taking a day tour package is a value-for-money option as it often includes the prices of admission tickets to attractions as compared to taking expensive one-way buses. Located within the Ocean Expo Park, Emerald Beach has plenty of facilities available – float rentals, restaurants, changing areas, and of course the famous Churaumi Aquarium. The beach is divided into 3 areas – for playing, for resting, and for viewing. Regardless of what you choose to do, a visit to Emerald Beach will definitely make your trip worth it.
Driving in Okinawa is the optimum mode of transportation. However, the beaches outlined in this article remain accessible for those who are staying in Naha and do not drive.