Tropical jungles teeming with extraordinary wildlife, myth-rich diving and remote beauty – it pays to get off the beaten track in Okinawa. Most forget that there are about 160 islands in Japan’s subtropic archipelago that beg exploration. So, on this 13-day trip, we skip the main island altogether in favor of the wilder and more remote isles to give you our pick of the unmissable, the unexplainable and the under-the-radar. It’s time to discover Okinawa’s tropic wonders.
BLACK PEARLS AND BEACH BLISS
Land in Ishigaki and enjoy your first hit of the islands’ tropical breeze. After your long-haul we think you deserve a little beachside R&R, so you’ll have the next three days to unwind. Take a glass bottom boat over Kabira Bay, keeping an eye out for the black pearls that are cultivated here, or grab your snorkel and drift over the rainbow-hued reefs (you’re in one of the best snorkelling spots in Japan after all). For a little cultural immersion, try your hand at a traditional weaving workstore or indulge in the local flavors (we recommend the Ishigaki beef). Wherever you go, the alabaster shores, crystal blue waters and warm people will leave you feeling serene and rested.
STEP BACK IN TIME
Taketomi is just a 12 minute ferry from Ishigaki’s port but this tiny island feel centuries apart. The main village is a cluster of quaint terracotta-topped cottages – unchanged since Ryukyu Kingdom days – connected by sleepy lanes of crushed coral that glow in the moonlight. You’ll have three nights of tranquillity here in your private pavilion home. Bike around the beaches or, for a truly authentic experience, take a water buffalo-drawn cart and let the driver’s traditional songs and tinkling sanshin provide a soundtrack. Be sure to visit Kaji Beach, nicknamed Star Sand beach for its minute star-shaped sands (the shells of tiny crustaceans) for an enchanting pit-stop.Read more
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
By now you’ll be ready to take on Okinawa’s adventurous side. Tangles of emerald jungle parted by wild brown rivers and ringed by azure waters – Iriomote is a pocket of pristine wilderness. Mangrove kayaking, jungle trekking, river cruises and waterfalls – take your pick and you’ll be rewarded with nature’s raw splendour while at night you can come face-to-face with the island’s nocturnal inhabitants such as coconut crabs, fireflies or the elusive Iriomote Wildcat. If you feel like a lazy day, catch a water buffalo taxi to the lush Yubu island to relax amid its flourishing flora.
RARE ENCOUNTERS AND UNDERWATER MYTHS
For your final stop we’re flying you to the last inhabited island of the south west, Yonaguni. Don’t be fooled by its small stature, this mailage-stamp isle adrift in the open seas is one of Okinawa’s jewels renowned for its spectacular wildlife and diving. While away your last days marvelling at the mysterious undersea ruins, night trekking in search of the majestic Yonagunisan Atlas moths (the largest in the world); and riding along the beaches with the island’s treasured locals, the Yonaguni horses – you can even enjoy a playful dip in the ocean with these chestnut-hued natives…just another extraordinary experience to end your Okinawan island-hopping adventure.