Tropical Okinawa and the southern islands are without doubt home to many of Japan's best beaches. Surrounded by warm clear water and often fringed with exotic coral reef, the white sand beaches of Okinawa seem to have been largely overlooked by the rest of the world.
Also known as the Ryukyu Islands, the Okinawa archipelago is made up of over 20 islands of varying sizes. All are located in the far south of Japan, but as you head southwards from the main island of Okinawa Honto things become increasingly tropical and much less developed.
Okinawa Island itself is home to a wealth of good beaches although many have been developed into resorts and others are in urban areas. The best of Okinawa's beaches are located on the smaller islands such as the Yaeyama, Miyako and Kerama Islands. Here the features which make Okinawa's beaches so appealing are magnified and many have a pristine, untouched feel with jungles and mangrove forest spilling down to the beach. The southern Okinawan beaches also offer world class diving with dolphins and sea turtles regularly seen along with bigger fish such as Manta rays and Whale sharks.
Whilst the beaches of the Ryukyu island chain are a tropical paradise, with this come a couple of things to be aware of. Firstly, time your visit; whilst it is never cold here October is Typhoon season and things can get a little hairy. The other thing to watch out for at Okinawa's beaches is the Habu Jellyfish - a small box jellyfish. These are more prevalent in the summer months and can deliver a dangerous sting.
JordyMeow / <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0">CC BY</a>
Akajima, pronounced Akashima, is an island forming part of the Kerama Islands group in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture. Nicknamed "Aka", this is a popular holiday destination from both Okinawa and the mainland. Situated roughly midway between the northern tip of Taiwan and mainland Japan's southern-most point, Aka enjoys a near tropical climate. It has... read more »
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Maehama is often cited as Japan's best beach and it is easy to see why. The fine white sand of this beach stretches seven kilometres around the south west coast of Miyakojima island. Here the water is warm, calm and crystal clear with a hint of brilliant green / blue. Despite its tropical appearance this is not a desert island beach and there are... read more »
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Emerald beach is located on the tip of the Motobu Peninsula in the north of Okinawa's main island, Honto. The name comes from the beautiful greeny-turquoise colour of the clear waters here which are every bit as clean as they look. Emerald beach is actually part of the Ocean Expo Park which extends for 3km along the coast containing such things as... read more »
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Aharen Beach is situated on the west coast of Tokashiki Island, part of the Kerama group an hour's boat trip from Okinawa's main city, Naha. The curving white sand bay here is backed by high hills covered in lush vegetation leaving little doubt that you are in the tropics. Just off the shore, under the clear, aquamarine water is coral reef making... read more »
Sunayama is situated in the north of Miyako-jima Island which is part of Japan's tropical Okinawa Prefecture. This pleasant little white sand beach is immediately identifiable by the rock arch at the southern end of the beach. The arch was formed by the exposed coral reef being eroded by the sea over the centuries.
Besides the arch, Sunayama... read more »
Located just around the corner from Yoshino Beach is the lesser, but equally lovely, Aragusuku Beach. This beach is yet another Okinawan gem with white sands gently sloping into the shallow tropical sea before yielding to colorful coral reefs. This makes it a popular spot with tourists and locals alike who come here to take advantage of the... read more »