Tokashiki Island, Okinawa
About half an hours` ferry ride away from Naha, Tokashiki Island, part of the Kerama Island group, is a convenient and fun choice for a day trip or maybe a couple of days away from the hubbub for those visiting Japan`s southern islands.
Near the ferry terminal there is a place to rent scooters, cars, and bikes (personal favourite), and these are all great ways to travel the island. If you don`t want to rent, there are handy local buses which you can hop on instead. Aharen village is one of the most popular spots on the island, and should be your first stop (watch out if you`re on a bike – it`s hilly and will not be an easy ride!). On the way you might decide to drop in on the park in the hill overlooking Aharen– a fantastic spot for the kids to play on the playground and nagai-suberi (long slide) and for the adults to enjoy the scenery. Pack a picnic and settle down for a family lunch. Right near the entrance to the park is also a set of stairs leading up to a lookout – this is definitely worth a look, especially if you want to see the island lit up during sunrise and sunset.
Once you`ve had your fair share of breathtaking scenery, nip back on your bike (or bus) and zoom down the hill to Aharen village. Compared with the main villages of other islands in Okinawa, Aharen may seem small, but it has all of the basics and a swimming beach right in front of it to boot. Next to the entrance to the beach make sure to pick up some delicious Okinawan Blue Seal ice cream and rent some goggles and flippers for some snorkeling on the reefs.
The reefs are similar to those of the nearby Zamami Island, and home to beautiful and rare fish dancing among the coral (see if you can spot a pufferfish!). If swimming is not really your thing, consider riding the glass-bottomed boat which leaves from Aharen beach instead. Still not pushing your buttons? Maybe you should try a kayak around the bay instead (guaranteed to be beautiful at sunset)!
For a tasty lunch or dinner head into town (about 3 footsteps away from the beach!) to one of the village`s local restaurants. While there`s plenty of delicious traditional cuisine for the meat-eaters, vegetarians may have their work cut out for them. There is, however, a restaurant selling pasta and pizza if you`re not so worried about eating Japanese while you`re here, or you could always opt for the local challenge – the goya-chanpuru. This is a type of bitter melon (goya) cut up and served in a traditional sauce – and when we say bitter, we mean it. Nothing here take your fancy? There`s a food store down the main street selling bread and the bare essentials where you might just be able to pick up something yummy for a snack or a light dinner/lunch.
There are plenty of places to stay on Tokashiki, especially around Aharen village, but if you want to try something different consider staying at the Aharen campsite (pretty much right on the beach!). While you need to make sure to pack your food inside your tent as pesky crows and cats may try to steal it from you, the campsite is a great location and camping in a foreign country is guaranteed a unique experience and not what all of the other tourists will be doing!
Wake up early, stroll down to the beach with a bottle of shiquaasa juice in hand and enjoy your own private beach on Tokashiki!