Say you have 5 days to travel in Okinawa, how would you spend these days in the best possible way for an unforgettable subtropical island holiday? Okinawa consists of more than 160 islands, so in order to minimize travel time and costs and maximize your fun time, this 5 days Okinawa itinerary is concentrated on the Main Island* and the small islands nearby. It is good to note that the itinerary below works best between April and October, because the weather and water temperature is best for swimming in the warmer months. You can, however, still travel to Okinawa between November and March and enter the ocean with a wetsuit but many people will find it too chilly. Let us present to you the perfect 5-day trip plan for Okinawa that includes various activities, culture, nature, and restaurant recommendations!
*Check out this article if you’d rather go island hopping to Okinawa’s more remote islands.
Day One: Arrival – Naha
There are several flights per day leaving for Naha from most major airports in mainland Japan. Of course, if you want to make the most of your time in Okinawa we recommend that you take a morning flight. If you don’t want to wake up at (or even before) the crack of dawn, staying in an airport hotel the night before is definitely a good idea. After arriving in Naha, drop off your luggage in the lobby of your chosen hotel first so you can go around Naha with your hands free.
Assuming you still have most of the afternoon left, let’s head for Shuri Castle first to learn more about the region’s history. You will have an amazing view of the city from the observation areas of the castle, and while the castle itself will still be under construction for a while after the tragic fire in 2019, you can get an idea of how grand this center of Okinawa used to be. If you want to know more about the history, Hime Yuri Museum is also recommended. Okinawa is known for its beautiful beaches but it also has a sad war history.
Kinjo Stone Road, a picturesque old road that visitors of the castle used to take and has been well-preserved, is also nice to visit. It’s full of colorful flowers and if you walk from the castle’s direction it is all downhill. The pottery street of Tsuboya Yachimun, this atmospheric street has many cute little pottery shops where they sell Okinawa’s traditional kitchen wares. End your day in the famous Kokusai Dori, or International Street for some good shopping and people-watching.
Stay: in Naha (central)
Eat: Soka noodles in Inaka Kosetsuichiba Minami-ten (lunch or dinner)
Day Two: a Trip to Tokashiki Island
Today you will make your first acquaintance with Okinawa’s gorgeous blue ocean! You will take the 9 am ferry (Marine Liner Tokashiki) to this small island that is part of the Kerama Island National Park. It is a good idea to book the ferry ahead of time as it fills up quickly in the summer season. You can either book a diving tour with one of the diving companies if you want to go scuba diving, or you can relax on the beach and snorkel by yourself. Diving tours are great for those who want to experience scuba diving and don’t want to worry about anything, as the company will take care of your transportation and equipment. Tokashiki has incredibly clear, deep blue water where you can meet sea turtles, small sharks, octopi, and all kinds of tropical fish. It will be one of the most unforgettable experiences in your life.
If you want to enjoy Tokashiki by yourself, upon arrival in the harbor you can take the bus to Aharen Beach. On the beach, you can rent all kinds of equipment such as snorkeling wear, beach umbrellas, and other stuff that makes your stay more fun. They also have a service that transports you to the uninhabited island Hanari, which is simply one of the best snorkeling spots in the world with a soft white sand bottom dotted with coral formations. You can easily spend a whole day here if you love snorkeling, but in that case, you need to make sure to bring your own lunch with you as there are no shops on Hanari. If you’d also like to discover other parts of the island, you can rent bicycles, scooters, and cars in the harbor area and in the Aharen Beach area (you need a Japanese or international license for scooter and car rental). Because the island is rather small, you can’t really get lost. Make sure to catch the ferry back to Naha at 5:30 pm, and enjoy your dinner in Naha.
Stay: in Naha (central)
Eat: Okinawan izakaya food in Aguncha (dinner)
Day Three: Yomitan – Nago
If you can drive in Japan (you need a Japanese or international driver’s license), today is the day to rent a car (Niconico). Otherwise, you will have to take the bus and use taxis* for shorter distances as trains don’t go up north so far. Your first stop will be the Banta Cafe of luxury hotel Hoshinoya Okinawa. You can enjoy their funky signature drinks and a snack if you’re hungry (go for the spam onigiri!) with an amazing ocean view in this gorgeous outdoor cafe. Then it is time for some active exercise in Forest Adventure Onna. You can enjoy fun zip lines and other large climbing equipment and challenge yourself physically. If you still have energy left, we recommend checking out the nearby Blue Cave, a popular spot to go snorkeling. You can rent equipment on the spot, or you can book a snorkeling tour with a local company. Also, Nago has the famous Henoko beach with U.S. base issue. Okinawa has amazingly beautiful beaches and rich nature that local people in Okinawa have protected for a long time. And the effort has continued still today. Henoko beach is really beautiful and you can often communicate with locals there. It is worth visiting for anyone caring for this planet.
If you’d prefer doing something a bit less active and like making your own stuff you can check out Onna Glass Workshop. They don’t only offer the opportunity to create your own Ryukyu glassware, but you can also experience their cool illuminated glass labyrinth. At the end of the day, head to Nago for dinner and check in at your hotel.
*if you are not renting a car, we recommend sticking to a maximum of 2 activities on this day
Stay: in Nago
Eat: The Bros Sandwich Stand (lunch) and hamburgers at Warren’s Place 2.1
Day Four: Motobu
Today will be a day full of ocean fun, so wear your swimsuit underneath your clothes and bring your towels and a few bottles of water for showering. First, head to Sesoko island’s Anchi Beach. You can rent snorkeling equipment on the beach, the shallow, clear waters here are perfect for floating around while enjoying the underwater view and above the water with a long bridge spanning the distance between Motobu and Sesoko. Alternatively, you can also book a SUPping tour to the same beach for some relaxing stand-up paddling on the relatively calm water. Enjoy your lunch in the open air on Sesoko before heading north to Bisezaki Kaigan. This lush green seaside area features shadow-rich lanes lined by tropical fukugi trees that you can enjoy by rental bicycle or ox cart. Here, you can take another dip in the sea in a shallow area teeming with fish and with a gentle stream that you can ‘ride’. Enjoy your time here leisurely before heading back to Nago.
Stay: in Nago
Eat: Taco Rice at Shimahiro or Fuu Cafe (lunch) and Okinawan home-style food at Chura-hana
Day Five: Tataki Falls or Yambaru – return to airport
It is already your last day in Okinawa, but let’s wake up early and enjoy it to the max! Your schedule of the day will depend on which time your airplane leaves, hopefully, you were able to book a return flight that leaves after 7 pm. If you have less time, a trip to Takaki Falls is recommended. This lovely short hike via a streaming river (around 30 minutes one-way) brings you to a paradise-like waterfall where you can take a refreshing dive in the small lake. The drive back to Naha airport will take around 1.5 hours if you take the toll road.
If you have a bit more time on your hands (and a rental car at your disposal), you can go to Yambaru, the jungly northern part of Okinawa. Stop by the Yambaru Adventure Farm for a dirty but fun ride on an ATV on their mud course and taste their delicious local coffee afterward. Then, drive to the Okinawa Rail Learning Center to meet the rare and endangered rail (bird) that can only be seen here. Keep in mind that the drive back to Naha airport will take around 2.5 hours if you take the toll road and longer if you take the scenic coastal road.
Eat: coffee and curry at Matayoshi Coffee Farm
Traveling in Japan
Did reading this itinerary spark your interest in traveling to and in Japan? There is so much to see, do, and experience in the Land of the Rising Sun that it can be hard to choose which activities and cities to include in your travel plan! If we may give you a small hint, booking a private tour with a fun local guide is always a great addition to your Japan itinerary. A private guide can always adjust the itinerary to fit your interests and needs, and they offer valuable extra information about the places you visit throughout the tour. Your local expert guide is also always happy to give you insider tips on restaurants and sightseeing in their city. We offer various tours in many cities in Japan including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Kanazawa, so make sure to have a look at our homepage before your trip begins!
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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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