Kokusai Dori | Photo by kuremo via Shutterstock


1. Visit Shuri Castle. Tragically, the main hall and surrounding buildings burned down in a 2019 fire. However, a lot of the gates, walls and other historical monuments remain on the expansive castle grounds.

2. Take a stroll down Naha’s Kokusai Street. It’s the city’s main artery, great for shopping, restaurants and bars, among other things.

3. Shop for yachimun, a style of Okinawa pottery. You can find it in various crafts shops around the prefecture, or you can visit Yachimun no Sato in northern Naha.

4. Hike the Yambaru National Park on the main island. You can also go on a night tour to see the wildlife after dark.

5. Drink awamori, Okinawa’s signature alcohol. One recommended shop for really special awamori in Naha is Karakara to Chibuguwa.

6. Explore Makishi Market in as much detail as you can. It’s brimming with great eateries and shops.

7. Visit the massive Churaumi Aquarium and Ocean Expo Park. Here you can have coffee and food while fish and manta rays swim by.

Okinawa soba

Okinawa soba

Food and Drink

9. Try umibudou, meaning “sea grapes.” This type of seaweed feels like you’re eating vegetable caviar, popped with a salty, refreshing flavor. One of Okinawa’s most popular dishes, it’s originally from Miyakojima, so we recommend trying it there.

10. Look out for goya chanpuru, Okinawa’s stir-fry with the bitter gourd goya that’s believed to be a superfood contributing to Okinawans’ long lifespans. Try it at Goya in Miyakojima.

11. Eat peanut tofu, known as jimami tofu or dofu. It’s rich in flavor and dense in texture with a sweet sauce. Try it at Yunangi, a highly rated restaurant that excels at all Okinawan cuisine.

12. Try tofuyo — fermented tofu with awamori and red koji malt, often described as a sharp aged cheese. Note that it’s not recommended for those sensitive to strong flavors.

13. Dig into a bowl of Okinawa soba, a noodle dish that resembles both udon and ramen. It’s available everywhere in Okinawa and at some locations around Japan, but here’s one recommendation: Kamekame Soba. A small unassuming place that’s garnered rave reviews from locals and tourists alike.

14. Eat rafute pork, a slow-simmered pork belly that is fall-apart tender. Your best bet is an izakaya, where it’s often served with spicy mustard on the side.

15. Treat yourself to beni imo tarts, Okinawan purple sweet potato delicacies. Try the ones at Okashi Goten, where you can book a workshop to make tarts of your own.

16. Eat ice cream from Blue Seal, Okinawa’s most famous producer. The salt-flavored ice cream is a must.

17. Try some sata andagi, Okinawan fried dough sweets, at Kaboten. Many sata andagi places don’t use pure kabocha pumpkin flour, but this place does.

18. Sample all the local Okinawan citruses such as shikuwasa. At the Shikuwasa Park in Ogimi Village, there is an all-you-can-drink shikuwasa juice tap.

19. If you’re extra brave, try habushu, a type of awamori that has a whole Habu snake in its jug. The viper is indigenous in Okinawa, while the drink can be found in most bars.

20. Indulge in a bowl of taco rice, an Okinawa dish infused with Tex-Mex flavors. One place to try it in central Naha is at Charlie’s Tacos.

21. Another fusion food that Okinawans have invented is the spam musubi, an unusual onigiri filled with spam and eggs. You can find it in every convenience store or, for a highly rated one, go to Pork Tamago Onigiri in Makishi Market, Naha.

22. Drink extremely fluffy Buku-buku tea at Koto Shuri Kari Buku-buku Tea House.

23. Sample some Ishigaki wagyu, the island’s own type of beef.

24. Eat British fish and chips from a Scot (open only between April and the end of October). Dishes from Bonnie Blue Ishigaki are made with produce and ingredients sourced in Okinawa.

25. Buy cheese from John Davis, also known as The Cheese Guy, who makes western cheeses with Okinawan flavors.

Ryukyu glass

Art and Culture

26. See a sanshin (traditional Okinawan three-string musical instrument) performance at the National Theater Okinawa.

27. Learn about Okinawa’s traditional Ryuso costumes or try one on at Oguri Kimono shop.

28. Admire some Ryukyu glass and try making your own at Ryukyu Glass Village.

29. Watch traditional Okinawan Kumi odori performances — a type of musical theater consisting of words, music and dance. You can catch a show at the National Theater Okinawa, among other places.

30. Alternatively, watch Eisa folk dancing. Ideally, you should catch the 10,000 Eisa Dancers Parade, an annual summer event held on Kokusai Street.

31. Visit Kume Island and learn about traditional weaving.

32. Paint your very own figurine of a Shisa lion, Okinawa’s spiritual guardian deity. Try it at Murasaki Mura.

33. Channel your inner karate kid. Karate tourism is flourishing in Okinawa and the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau (OCVB) suggests a whole range of different activities to try while visiting.

34. Architecture fans should check out the unique Brutalist buildings in Okinawa.

35. While we’re on the topic of Brutalism, the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum is a must-see both for its architecture and its educational exhibits.

36. Visit Tamaudun, the royal family’s mausoleum, located close to Shuri Castle.

37. Check out the recently opened Kariyushi Aquarium close to Chura-Sun Beach.

38. Pop by Umikaji Terrace, filled with cool hipster cafés and shops, overlooking the blue sea. It’s on Senagajima, a small island connected to the land by a bridge.

39. Visit the impressive Gyokusendo Cave (inside Okinawa World). The limestone cave system is complete with underwater lakes. They stretch out for hundreds of meters.

40. Make time for the Valley of Gangala too, it’s just across from Okinawa World. Archeologists are actively working on this site as they have been discovering important artifacts and remains from millennia ago.

41. Go to the legendary jazz bar Scarecrow in Ishigaki.

Nakagusuku Castle


42. Go to Shikinaen Garden. This gorgeous nature spot belonged to the royal family of the Ryukyu Kingdom and comes with more than 200 years of history.

43. Another garden to visit is Fukushuen Garden. It’s a Chinese-style garden built to commemorate the sister city relationship between Naha and Fuzhou in China.

44. Hike the Mount Ishikawa loop in Uruma for a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean.

45. Check out the Tamagusukujo Ruins, the oldest castle ruins in Okinawa.

46. Visit Katsuren Castle remains, which is another great example of old Ryukyu architecture.

47. Complete the castle set and also go to Nakagusuku Castle. It’s a designated World Heritage site for a good reason.

48. Visit Cape Manzamo, a famous natural site that happens to look like an elephant.

49. See the Arakawa Falls in Ishigaki.

50. Another picturesque location in Ishigaki is Kabira Bay.

51. Go out at night for some stargazing. Ishigaki and the other Yaeyama Islands in the group are some of the best places for it, as the light pollution is negligible.

52. Visit Taketomi Island, close to Ishigaki, and look at the star-shaped sand.

Ishigaki Island | Photo by Jihun Sim

Ishigaki Island | Photo by Jihun Sim

Beaches and Oceanside Activities

53. For more plane-spotting and relaxing on the beach, go to Chura-Sun Beach.

54. Visit the beautiful Blue Cave Beach in Ishigaki, accessible at low tide.

55. When in Ishigaki, visit the mangroves. There are a few, but you can start with the Fukidogawa Mangrove and the Lone Mangrove.

56. Stop by Yonehara Palm Grove nearby.

57. Visit the Ishigaki stalactite cave and tropical orchard.

58. See the coralline rock formation in the shape of a heart on Kouri Island.

59. When in Kabira Bay, dip your feet in or take a ride on a glass-bottomed boat.

60. Go whale watching near Tokashiki and Zamami islands. The best season for it is January to March.

61. When in Okinawa, snorkeling and scuba diving are a must. There are many locations to do it, but if we must recommend one, go to the beautiful island of Miyajima.

62. Alternatively, dabble in water sports such as SUP and water gliding. The best place to do so is on Ishigaki Island.

63. Swim with turtles on Zamami Island.

64. Go canoeing in the mangroves on Iriomote Island.



65. Go to the remote Yonaguni Island and see some cute horses.

66. Right next to Iriomote Island, visit the tiny Yubu Island and see the water buffaloes. You can also ride on a cart drawn by buffaloes. It’s said they are treated as well as any worker, with plenty of rest and a retirement plan.

67. Pass through the American Village in the Nakagami District on the main island. It’s surprisingly authentic and makes you feel like you’ve teleported outside of Japan.

68. Visit a salt factory to see how Okinawan salt is made.

69. Go to a beach café, such as Natural Garden Cafe PuffPuff on Ishigaki.

70. Soak in an outdoor hot spring at Ryukyu Onsen Senagajima Hotel and watch the airplanes fly by. This hotel is right above Umikaji Terrace.