The Top 3 Spots for Island Hopping on Okinawa
Just when I thought Okinawa could not surprise me with anymore astounding beauty and hidden treats I found Zamami Island and it absolutely took my breath away, not to mention it took just 50 minutes to get there by a fast boat from Tomari Port in Naha. Small pathways connecting you to different restaurants, hotels and shops of all types in what gives the feel of an old village that has been hiding for years. From viewpoints that will get the blood flowing to white sand beaches that you won’t want to leave, to swimming in crystal clear waters in a water tube, some multi-colored fish of all shapes and sizes and last but by no means least the heavenly creatures that we call turtles.
You do need to book in advance especially during peak season as the boats do fill up pretty fast and there are 2 options available, the 50-minute fast boat or the 90-minute slow boat. If you are staying over then I would suggest getting the long ride in at 10 AM and then leaving the following day on the quick boat at 5 pm, this gives you lots of time to explore and relax. This link is super handy for ferries and other information.
If you want to feast and eat foods that you love, then take them with you as there are not many options available at the beaches. And for the drinkers please note that you cannot buy alcohol near the beach so take some delicious Orion with you. Picture it, sitting on a white sand beach enjoying sights like you have never seen before while sipping on an ice cold Orion and tucking into your tasty snacks. There are a few restaurants in town that you can try out for dinner; this depends purely on your tastes. Traditional Okinawan food, bbq or a greasy burger are all pretty much a stone throw away from each other. After your stomach is full you will need somewhere to sleep and Zamami has many options available but again you do need to book in advance. Expect it to be clean and basic and truly that is all you need for a trip like this, besides you won’t want to be stuck in your room very long when you see what outside offers.
There are quite a few observation points in Zamami and my favorite is Mount Takatsuki but the walk is pretty much uphill all the way and lots of fun as there are loads of butterflies flying all around so suck it up and take the walk, the view is spectacular to say the least. When I went with my brother we had a few hornets flying around and that wasn’t fun but if you can run you will be fine.
There are 2 beaches available to you on Zamami, if you are looking for a quiet beach where you can swim with turtles at low tide and high tide then Ama Beach is for you. You can get a bus from the port but I suggest taking a walk because it is simply beautiful what you will see around each bend and not too far either, you will need to walk off all those Orion’s anyway. The best beach in my opinion is Furuzamami Beach as it is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen; the water is so blue and so clear, the sand so white and so soft. Definitely catch the bus to this one, the walk is pretty brutal. You can rent an umbrella and 2 chairs for ¥2500 for the day and they also have snorkeling gear and tubes available for rent too. You will feel like you have reached paradise after just a few moments on this beach, surrounded by smaller islands time seems to stop while you soak up the sun, swim and snorkel to your heart’s content. Be sure to bring your camera and selfie stick as your social media networks will never be the same again.
You cannot compare this one to Zamami and trust me you can’t choose either, I would find it very difficult if I had to decide which one to go to for the weekend. Gosh but we face such hard decisions here in Okinawa, it’s a tough life but hey someone’s got to do it.
As far as the ferry situation goes it is very similar as you need to get to Tomari Port in Naha and you definitely need to book in advance, you are looking at very long lines at the ticket window so having a booking will allow you a nice slow stroll up to the window instead of a panicked shuffle. The boat ride also comes in different options and you can go slow and get there in 70 minutes or ride fast and be at the entrance to paradise in 35 minutes. Again my advice is to take the fast ride in and then go back slow. Here is a handy link.
Now the cool thing about this island is you don’t need to take food with you unless you are set in your beach eating ways because they have a good few spots for food here and plenty of beer on offer, can you imagine the look on my face seeing Orion signs all over the place. We took food with us as we were not sure about what type of food we could get there as was the case in Zamami but what I can tell you is you can grab a few Japanese and Western options of food so you can leave your food behind you but be sure to bring cash as you will find it very hard to find an ATM here. Finding a place to stay is easy as long as you book in advance but be sure you can get ferry tickets before you go and pay for your hotel, a little tag team work on the phones might be needed for this one. I like it simple and clean when it comes to staying on these islands and of course at a good price. You can’t go wrong on Booking.com.
Beach wise you have 2 options here so if you are looking for a very quiet and small beautiful white sandy beach then I would recommend Tokashiki Beach but bring your own umbrella. The Tokashiki Marine Village Hotel is pretty much right on this beach so if you are staying there you could either spend the day on this beach for some real down time or end off a busy day of beaching in some serious beauty. Now Aharen Beach is more my style as there is a good vibe to the place with a few bars and man oh man let me tell you, your jaw will drop when you walk down onto this beach and see the waters ahead of you! You can hire chairs and an umbrella for ¥2500 and chat to some awesome Australian guys working on the island as they work their way around the world, or did they say beach their way around the world? The water is extremely clear and absolutely beautiful, so you can snorkel around and see some awesome fish or just chill out in the water and take it all in. There is a viewpoint about a 10-minute walk away right from where you are swimming, you can literally step out of the water and walk the white sands through some cool rock formations and head up to a sight and a half. Words and pictures do not do these islands justice, you just have to go and see them for yourselves, right now. Okay maybe not right now as we are heading into the cooler months around here and the water will eventually get really cold but you can plan for summer next year, save your money and do them all.
A much smaller island indeed but as they say, dynamite comes in small packages and you will not be disappointed coming out here for the day. Nothing beats that thought of sitting on a small area of beach sand in the middle of the ocean, as long as it’s not because you are stranded there and no one knows where you are.
You will need to take quite a drive from central Okinawa to Toguchi Port to catch the boat to Minnajima, this is totally worth it and not only for the island but the drive up north is always a stunning drive when not on the highway of course. This is a quick boat ride but can get busy too, we didn’t book for this one and had no problems getting on a boat but do bear in mind that boat times do change throughout the year. This link has all the information you need to know.
The beach to hang out at is called Minna Beach and is a stunner to say the least, you’ll walk on a little bridge off the boat and to the left you’ll see all your water sport goodies like jet skis and banana boats and to the right is the beach area. I must mention that if you’re looking for a snorkeling experience with a twist then head to the left and you can wrestle the large fish in there for a spot in the water. Those guys are rough and will swim into your leg (because who do you think you are coming into their water to look at them?) so take it easy out there. You can rent the usual chairs and umbrellas, which we didn’t do this time around so we roughed it and used only our towels.
The water was wonderful and the beach itself was just perfect, just another day laying on an island in the middle of the sea eating, drinking and just plain and simple beaching. I highly recommend this for a day trip as it’s a quick in and out.
You can get Japanese food and beers (yay!) easily but we took our own food as usual because we like to eat what we like and for me I prefer light meals on the beach instead of hot soba. You can take a walk to the other end of the island and you’ll pass a school that had only 4 students at the time we went there so that is quite something. The other end of the island is the ocean of course but not to beach it, it’s pretty rough on that side but hey people were camping and fishing so there is that – each to their own I say.