Beach and waves

Kudaka Island – Where Okinawan Folklore and Paradise Meet

Kudaka Island. Shimmering coral, white sandy beaches, deep and fully green jungle. A lovely day trip to this remote island is waiting!

My friends and I took the speed boat that leaves the Okinawa mainland and brings us to Kudakajima (Kudaka Island) in just 15 minutes. A gust of wind embraces us as we step off the boat. In the distance, soft Okinawa music travels over to us in the little port. The water rocks the ferry and the warmth of this small but homely island welcomes us. Taking the first hill to the shops and houses, we hear the ferry leaving to take others back to the main island.

Cycling on Kudaka Island
Mamachari bicycle rental is charged hourly. It only costs 1000 yen per day!

Pedal Through Paradise

Renting our cool mamachari, we glance at the map that shows every trail, every corner of the 8km long island and take off to explore the first path we see. It takes just a few minutes and relaxed pedal strokes until we arrive at the coast. Kami no shima ("The Island of God"), as Kudaka is also called, is pure paradise, where island nature embraces ancient folklore and restful living.

Harsh coral rocks and the sea
Harsh coral rocks form the coast of Kudaka

The Ancient Folklore of Kudaka

Since it is believed to be the very first of 166 islands in the Ryukyu prefecture, created by a goddess that descended out of Heaven, Okinawans perform ritual ceremonies here. The islanders pray and pay homage to Amamikiyo, the creator goddess of the Ryukyus. Her first creation, Kudaka, is said to reflect the beauty of Heaven.

Only 270 people, mostly elderly live here. There are no supermarkets, convenience stores, barbers or entertainment facilities. The land is not to be possessed, but it is borrowed from god, the people believe. The northern part of the island, outside the village, is protected as a sanctuary, where no one is permitted to enter. Here a famous ritual called “Isaiho" takes place once every 12 years. It actually has not been done since 1978, but many annual events happen here.

map of the Okinawan islands
Photo: T.Kambayashi via Wikimedia Commons

Relax and Explore in The Afternoon

The first stunning cliff lies behind us as we continue our bike tour across the island. Next stop is the Habyan Cape on the northern tip of Kudaka. The coral rocks are sharp but there is a path that leads down to the water. This calls for a relaxing lunch by the ocean with the conbini food we packed before we boarded the boat. Even though there are no stores, there are vending machines and restaurants on the island. So we are not quite stranded without food.

As we head back along the bike trail, we discover the Romance Road, a quiet paved path along the water that reveals the coastline of the Okinawa main island, which is only 5km away from Kudaka. The lookouts and resting stops along this road give plenty of opportunities to snap the perfect shot of the scenery or to spend a couple of quiet minutes with your friends and loved ones. This was my favorite spot of the island.

dirt path and jungle
The jungle is everywhere! But the roads lead to all kinds of fun places!

The Infamous Star Sand of Okinawa

Now it’s off to the beach, right across from the Romance Road on the other shore of the island. Upama Star Sand Beach is a great spot to go swimming, diving and relaxing in the sun. There are no shower facilities there and it can only be reached through a jungle path. But the view and the soft star shaped sand, which this beach is famous for, are worth it. We quickly dry off in the sun as we continue our bike tour across Kudaka. As the sun is getting lower, we are ready for our ferry back to the Okinawa main island.

We drop off our rental bikes, which only cost 1000 yen for the day, draw a cool drink from the vending machine for the boat ride back and browse quickly through the souvenir shop by the port before we head back and leave this little paradise behind. What a day! To be able to visit paradise for a day and to completely enjoy this special island was a great experience.

grains of star sand on a fingertip
Photo: Geomr via Wikimedia Commons

If you visit Okinawa, this is a must see. Not a very touristy spot, but worth the trip. The memories you make will not be forgotten!

Getting to Kudaka Island

The ferries leave from Azama Port in Nanjo City. A round trip costs only about 1400 yen. There are plenty of websites with departure schedules, maps and guides to little hotels as well to help you plan your great trip.

Kudaka Ferry schedule and island rules

steps down toward the sea on Kudaka Island
Venturing through the island. Off to hidden caves and cliffs!

Popular Posts

Related Posts