For many reasons, Okinawa sees crowds of tourists—both local and foreign alike—every summer. Its serene beaches and vibrant markets give Okinawa a laid-back, tropical charm that’s made it such a popular destination and earned it the moniker of "Hawaii of Japan”. 

Before you embark on your first visit, prepare ahead of time by checking out our list of things to do in Okinawa. That way, you’re sure to hit all the must-see and must-do checkpoints and leave without regrets.

1. Explore Shuri Castle

things to do in okinawa island shuri castle things to do in okinawa island shuri castle

Resplendent in red, Shuri Castle was the seat of the Ryukyu Kingdom from the 15th century to 19th century. While the castle is under renovation until 2026, there’s no shortage of things to do around it thanks to its central location in the prefectural capital city of Naha.

Prior to being a part of Japan, Okinawa used to be an independent country for many centuries till 1879. It was known as Ryukyu Kingdom from the 15th century to 19th century, of which Shuri Castle was its symbol. 

The castle used to serve as the royal family’s palace, and it looks as lavish as one would expect a palace to be—the tiled roofs a stunning vibrant red, and the gorgeous wooden architecture. 

The famous Shureimon Gate and Sonohyan Utaki Stone Gate are also quite an amazing sight, the latter of which was used by the king himself whenever he entered and left the palace. 

However, the UNESCO World Heritage site has quite the story to tell, with many ups and downs throughout its long history. It was decimated once during World War II, rebuilt, and destroyed again in a fire in 2019. 

It’s currently undergoing reconstruction and is scheduled to finish by 2026, but the park around it is still open to public visits. Visits support the rebuilding of the castle, so that’s all the more reason to go check it out. 

Address: 1-2 Shurikinjocho, Naha City, Okinawa 903-0815, Japan
Opening hours: 8:00am to 6:30pm

2. Dive in Yonaguni Island

Atlantis isn’t the only lost city under the water. Towards the west end of Okinawa is Yonaguni Island, where the mysterious ruins of Yonaguni Monument lie among the fishes. If you want to go diving in Okinawa’s outlying islands, you’ve definitely got to make Yonaguni Island a stop on your itinerary.

There are four different dive sites around the island to visit, depending on what you’d like to see and what your experience level allows you to do . 

White World and Sabachi are both good for beginners and are teeming with fishes like tomato clownfish and blue striped snappers. Experienced divers can swim with hammerhead sharks in the Hammerhead Rock zone, though the undercurrents tend to be rather swift.

Of course, you can’t leave Yonaguni Island without diving down to the ruins of Yonaguni Monument. These megalithic structures remain one of the most mysterious dive sites of all time — no one knows for sure whether they’re man-made or natural. 

(Psst, achieved all the dive sites on Yonaguni Island? Even more sensational dives await on Zamami Island, Miyako Island, Kume Island, Kouri Island, and plenty of the other outlying islands surrounding the main Okinawa Island!)

3. Relax at Okinawa’s many beaches

top down aerial shot of okinawa best white sandy beaches top down aerial shot of okinawa best white sandy beaches

What could be better than sinking your toes into a white sand beach and feeling the balmy breeze of the salty sea air? Well, that’s just what you’ll get when you visit just about any of Okinawa’s beautiful beaches!

There’s a reason why the Japanese flock to Okinawa in the summer, and that’s for its gorgeous sandy beaches. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with heading to just any beach in Okinawa.

There are over 100 stunning beaches in Okinawa, all with powdery white sand and clear blue waters. The sun is never too hot (roughly 21 to 30 degrees all year round) and coupled with a cool ocean breeze, it’s perfect for lying back, switching off, or gearing up for kayaking, snorkelling, and other water sports

Some of the most popular beaches include Emerald Beach (a beach within a lagoon), Yonaha Maehama Beach (the most beautiful and pristine beach), and Mibaru Beach (off-the-tourist-path). 

If you’re visiting a beach on the west side of the island, specifically the ones near Onna Village, it’s highly recommended to make a pit stop at Seaside Drive-In for some local fusion food. The best part? It’s open 24/7.

4. Visit the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

okinawa churaumi aquarium in japan okinawa churaumi aquarium in japan

See whale sharks, manta rays, and more up close at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world!

The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is the biggest aquarium in Japan and one of the biggest in the world—it’s also home to a majestic 8.8 metre-long whale shark. 

You don’t have to be a child to enjoy this. We’re quite certain anyone would be at a loss for words when they see all that marine life up close. 

The aquarium doubles up as an educational display too, with plenty of interactive information boards about not just the ecology, but also the region’s conservation efforts. 

It’s recommended to allocate around two hours for the aquarium, but in our opinion, that’s not enough. It also happens to be conveniently located within the Ocean Expo Park, which includes the Sea Turtle Museum and a dolphin show. 

With so much to see, you might as well allocate a day in the park before finally heading off to dinner. 


Address: 424 Ishikawa, Motobu, Kunigami District, Okinawa 905-0206, Japan
Opening hours: 8:30am to 6:30pm

5. Wander through Makishi Public Market

Of course, you can’t leave Japan without indulging in seafood, and especially not when you’re in Okinawa. 

Fresh seafood and tropical fruits are the name of the game in Okinawan cuisine, and there’s plenty of that to find at Makishi Public Market. 

While it’s called a market, it’s a little different. It runs on a mochiage system, where you can basically buy fresh produce on the first floor (directly from the farmers and fishermen!) and have them prepared, cooked and served to you at the restaurants on the second floor. Most restaurants have English and Chinese signages, so you won’t have to worry about the language barrier when ordering your food.

Okinawa is particularly known for its goya (bitter gourd) dishes and sata andagi (Okinawan  black sugar doughnut), both of which you can easily find here. 

Souvenirs are aplenty here too, so bring deep pockets and tote bags ready to help you bring a reminder of Okinawan culture home. Travellers who love a tipple should look out for bottles of pineapple wine, one of the most unique wines from around the world.

Address: 2 Chome-10-1 Matsuo, Naha City, Okinawa 900-0014, Japan
Opening hours: 8:00am to 9:00pm

6. Stroll (and race) along Kokusai Dori Street

Also located in Naha City is Kokusai Dori Street, a bustling and vibrant area that’s the main street of the city's downtown. 

Here’s where you’ll get to do plenty of shopping: shops along the street sell traditional Okinawan crafts, souvenirs, electronics, and cosmetics, among others. Specifically, traditional crafts can include pottery, glassware, textiles, and traditional snacks. Ask the shopkeepers and they’ll be able to pack these fragile items so you can bring them home safely. Just be polite!

You can also find Okinawan food served in restaurants here. Make a note to try out Okinawan soba noodles (noodles in a savoury broth), rafute (braised pork belly stewed in soy sauce and brown sugar), taco rice (a fusion dish combining taco ingredients with rice), and various types of sushi and sashimi. 

Also, if you see people in wacky outfits driving along Kokusai in go-karts, don’t be alarmed: you can try it for yourself at Street Kart Okinawa! This popular attraction’s leisurely race course passes through Kokusai and along Naha Airport, offering a compact tour of the city with a little side of road thrills. Be sure to bring along your Singapore driving licence—you’ll need it in order to hop into their little vehicles.

Address: Street Kart Okinawa, 7-1 Higashi-Machi, Naha City, Okinawa, Japan

Opening hours: 10am-10pm, daily.
Contact: Visit their official website or contact them at


Okinawa promises a delightful blend of adventure and relaxation, so pack your bags, hop onto the next flight to Okinawa and get ready to make memories that will last a lifetime in this enchanting paradise!


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Best time to visit
The best time to visit Okinawa is during the spring months of March to May when the weather is mild and the cherry blossoms are in bloom, providing a breathtaking backdrop for your travels. Alternatively, autumn from September to November is also ideal due to the comfortable temperatures and vibrant fall colours. Both seasons offer great opportunities for outdoor activities without the intense heat and humidity of summer or the sporadic rainfall of the typhoon season (May to October).

The official currency of Okinawa is the Japanese Yen (¥/JPY). You can buy currencies at real-time exchange rates and collect your currencies at Changi Airport using Changi Recommends FX

Okinawa is well-connected by a network of buses and the Yui Rail monorail system that extends within and out of the capital city of Naha. The Yui Rail connects directly to Naha Airport as well, making it easy to kickstart your Okinawan adventure the moment you land.

Renting a car, motorcycle, bicycle, or RV are also popular options for visitors, as it offers you the freedom to explore the island at your own place. This also makes it easier to spend more time at less accessible but incredibly scenic areas like the northern part of the island, or even smaller surrounding islands like Miyako Island and Kume Island. You may need to combine your vehicle rental with a boat or ferry ride to get to outlying islands, so do research on the respective transportation options to ensure you won’t be stranded!

Taxis are likewise readily available across most islands but can be expensive for longer distances.

Book Now
You can get to Okinawa from Singapore via a direct flight on airlines such as Jetstar or Scoot, which operate several flights a week to Naha Airport, the primary international gateway to Okinawa. 

Alternatively, you can choose full-service carriers like Japan Airlines, ANA, Korean Air, or China Eastern that have a connecting flight to Okinawa. Book your tickets to Okinawa now!