Skip the Crowds and Dive into Okinawa Beaches
Japan’s beaches, and more specifically those of Okinawa, are second to none. These world-class beaches with white sands and clear-blue waters entice travelers from around the world. Many who visit come to find rest and relaxation along the many miles of peaceful shoreline, while some feel called to explore the numerous vibrant coral reefs.
Beach season typically takes place from July through September, however, most beaches in Okinawa open as early as mid-March or early April and stay open through October—with some of the more remote islands open year-round. This timing makes it possible to enjoy the Japanese coastline without typical summer crowds.
The main island of Okinawa is home to about 100 beaches, but the coastline adventures don’t end there. Stretching across more than approximately 400 km from north to south and 1,000 km from east to west and surrounded by the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Okinawa consists of 160 islands — of which Okinawa itself, Ishigaki, Iriomote, and Miyako are considered the main islands. The smaller islands vary in ease of access, development and habitation, but they all share in the region’s immeasurable beauty.
Aside from pristine beaches, Okinawa also offers a rich food culture. While travelers may know to try Okinawan soba noodles, don’t miss Grouper fish, or mibai. Okinawa is home to numerous species of grouper, however, the Malabar grouper is perhaps the most popular and is often found in nabe, or hot pot dishes. Its mild, sweet flavor is truly highlighted when served as sashimi. Umibudo is another must-try food when visiting the islands. This edible type of seaweed is often referred to as green caviar or sea grapes. They are grown in aquaculture farms on the island and can be eaten as they are for a crisp burst of flavor or found in seafood dishes—a perfect meal after a day spent on the beach.
10 Beaches to Visit in Okinawa
With so many beaches to choose from narrowing down the list to find the perfect spot for your trip can be overwhelming. The beaches listed here are known for their exemplary beauty and each offers unique can’t-miss characteristics. Your perfect Okinawa beach is waiting, which will you choose?
Araha Beach has bright white sands and is popular with international travelers for its accessibility and beauty. A plethora of nearby shops and restaurants make it an inviting place to spend a day or two. Ahara Beach is a 20-minute car ride from the Okinawa Airport and can also be accessed by bus.
Emerald Beach is a man-made beach perhaps best known for its truly incredible and vibrant waters. Listed as one of Japan’s best spots for swimming, its water was given an A grade by the Japanese Ministry of Environment. Located nearer to Ie Island, Emerald Beach is an hour’s drive or two-and-a-half-hour bus ride from Okinawa Airport.
Furuzamami Beach is the best-known beach on Zamami Island. Home to some of the best coral reefs in Okinawa, a visit is ideal for snorkelers. The beach is not particularly developed, with its main service offering being a small shop selling snacks, drinks and shells — which only adds to its pristine nature. Accessing Furuzamami Beach requires a ferry from Naha, which takes about an hour and runs twice daily.
Kouri Beach is iconic because of two heart-shaped rocks that stand in the water on the north side of the island. Soft sand and shallow water make it an ideal beach for families with children. Located on Kouri Island, the beach is accessible via the scenic Kouri Bridge. As Kouri Island is located in the northern part of Okinawa, the beach is about an hour’s drive or a two-hour bus ride from Okinawa Airport.
Manza Beach, which is part of the ANA InterContinental Manza Beach Resort, is also open to the public. While the beach itself is replete with inlets to explore, the resort offers activities like canoe and kayak rentals, paddle boarding and parasailing — as well as an inflatable water park. Close to swimming pools, restaurants and shops, the area has something for everyone. Manza Beach is a forty-minute drive from Okinawa Airport and takes just shy of two hours by bus.
Mibaru Beach is less trafficked by tourists — a hidden beach marked by impressive rock formations and surrounded by coral reefs. For a relaxing day spent appreciating nature, head to Mibaru and book a glass-bottom boat tour to take in the reefs. Located on the Pacific coast of southern Okinawa, Mibaru Beach is a 20-minute drive or two-hour bus ride from Okinawa Airport.
Sesoko Beach, which is located on Sesoko Island, is connected to the main island of Okinawa by bridge. The beach’s shallow waters make it popular among families with children, especially since the coral reef can be accessed by foot at low tide. Set in the northeastern part of Okinawa, Sesoko Beach is a one-hour drive or two-hour bus ride from Okinawa Airport.
Zanpa Beach is popular largely because of the iconic Cape Zanpa lighthouse. The beach itself offers white sands in large coral reefs, but the most popular activity at Zanpa Beach is taking in the picturesque sunset. Crowds often begin to build in the late afternoon as locals and travelers alike stake out a spot to watch the sun sink into the ocean. Located in the central part of Okinawa Island, Zanpa Beach is about a half-hour drive from Okinawa airport. It is also accessible by bus which takes about an hour and 40 minutes.
Sunayama Beach is located on Miyako Island and is accessed by foot — taking you along trails through beautiful vegetation before opening up to white sands. It is best known for its large natural coral and stone arch formed by centuries of erosion. Just four kilometers from the Hirara district of Miyako, it is a must-see for those wanting to explore an outer island. The island is a one-hour flight from Okinawa Airport.
Yonaha Maehama Beach is also located on Miyako island and is the most easterly of the Yaeyama Islands. It is said to have the whitest sand in the Pacific. Given that access requires a flight to Miyako airport from Okinawa Airport, it is ideal for people who want to invest time exploring the Yaeyama islands or want to find solitude on a tropical beach.
Okinawa’s many beaches offer more than crisp sands and pristine waters — they entice beachgoers from near and far with a sense of serenity and an opportunity to appreciate the wonder of nature. With each one seemingly more beautiful than the last, these beaches exemplify the wonder of a Japanese beach vacation.