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Know Before You Go
- Okinawa is home to some of the world's best diving conditions. The archipelago has a number of coral species and marine life that even rivals the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. You can spend a whole day diving here for JPY 12,000 to JPY 17,000.
- If you decide to rent your own car to get around, beware of Okinawa's strict road rules. If you break the speed limit, you'll have to pay a fine of JPY 25,000, and if you're in an accident, the penalty will be even higher.
- Visit Yanbaru in the north of the island. It's one of the best well-preserved rainforests in Asia and is the perfect location to spend a day hiking, canoeing or bird watching.
- Take a few karate classes while visiting the islands. Okinawa is the birthplace of karate, and there's no better place to learn this ancient martial art.
- Don't spend all your time on just one island. Okinawa is made up of more than 160 islands with 49 of them inhabited. Buy the Okinawa Island Pass and fly between five of the main ones for JPY 10, 200 or charter a boat to the more remote outliers.
Getting Around Okinawa
- Due to the island's poor public transportation system, the best way to get around is to hire a car. You'll be able to see more of the island's sights outside of central Naha without having to rely on expensive tours. You can find rental companies at the airport or in the main cities, and you'll need to have your International Driver's License.
- There is a bus system on the island, but service can be infrequent. Times and routes are usually in both English and Japanese at each bus stop and terminal. Prices aren't cheap, and it costs around JPY 2,000 to go from Naha to the island's famous Aquarium.
- With such high rates, it sometimes works out cheaper to take a private tour instead. Do your research ahead of time to see which is the better option. You could also hire a taxi to drive you around the island for JPY 13,000 for four hours.
- In central Naha, the other option to get around is with the Okinawa Monorail. It runs 20 meters above the ground and gives passengers a beautiful view of the Kerama Islands on a clear day. It departs from the airport with 13 stops on its route and is an affordable way to get to Naha's key sights. Tickets cost between JPY 100 to JPY 300 one way.
- If you want to visit the other islands of Okinawa, hop on board one of the ferries. There are many departures throughout the day, making it easy to island hop. But you will need to buy your tickets in advance to ensure your spot on board.
When is The Best Time to Visit Okinawa?
The best time to visit Okinawa is during spring. From late March to April, the temperatures start to rise, and the island is still free from the summer crowds. Prices are affordable, but if you want to save money avoid Golden Week. It's a succession of national holidays at the end of April, and it gets busy on the main islands during this time.
If you are looking for the best sunbathing weather, visit Okinawa between June to August. The weather is hot and humid with a number of festivals to take part in throughout the season. But it's not the best time of year if you are on a budget. The summer months are peak tourist season, and the increase in visitors means hotel rates and flight prices will be higher.
The winter months (January to February) see temperatures dropping to a cool 18°C. It's not the best weather for sunbathing, but you'll have the islands to yourself. Hotel rates are also cheaper during these months, and you'll be in time to watch the humpback whales start their annual migration.
Airports in Okinawa
Naha is Japan's seventh busiest airport and the main terminal for passengers travelling to the Okinawa Prefecture. It handles international flights to and from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and China. The airport is a hub for Japan Transocean Air and is a focus city for Skymark Airlines.
Getting To and From
The best way to get from the airport into central Naha is with the monorail. It takes 27 minutes and costs between JPY 230 to JPY 330 depending on your final destination. The trains run every day from 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
There are also Airport Limousine Buses that you can use to access the main resorts. You will need to buy a ticket in advance from the bus counter at the arrivals terminal.
There are also four different local buses that stop at the airport. Check online before you leave to see which route will be the best for you and to find out departure times. Or if you are still unsure, ask at the information desk upon arrival.
Taxis and car rental services are available at Naha Airport as well. It should cost you JPY 1,000 to JPY 1,500 to get into Naha and take about 15 minutes. For car hire, you'll find several companies in the arrival terminal that you can choose from.