Observe Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms in Okinawa have two special traits. Firstly, cherry blossoms in Okinawa are the first to bloom in Japan! The warm climate allows cherry blossom flowers to begin blooming in mid-January, which is the earliest in Japan. Secondly, cherry blossoms in Okinawa are different from those on the main island. Yoshino cherry trees are commonly found on Japan's main island. However, Okinawa has a large percentage of Kanhizakura trees. In comparison to Yoshino cherry trees, cherry blossom flowers of Kanhizakura trees have deeper shades of pink and bloom in a downward direction.
Hanami celebration here begins in mid-January and can be enjoyed till mid-February. It is really great to see breathtaking sakura throughout the prefecture; meanwhile, it hosts many cherry blossom festivals in various locations.
Go Whale Watching
If you are visiting Okinawa then one of the best things to do is go whale watching. From January to March the area is known for its humpback whales which swim in the waters off the southern coast have migrated to Japan from Alaska. One of the best places to see the whales is around the Kerama Islands and you can book a whale watching tour which allows you to go out in a boat and get as close to these spectacular animals as possible.
Go Spelunking at Okinawa World
Okinawa World is located on Okinawa Honto and is a theme park that also encompasses the Gyokusendo Cave. The chamber spans almost 900 meters and is filled with stunning stalagmites and stalactites. Outside the cave, you will find a number of souvenir stalls where you can pick up some local trinkets including snake liquor which is one of the delicacies in Okinawa. To see the snakes before they got turned into liquor, you can also visit the neighboring snake exhibition which is close to the cave.
If you like surfing then Okinawa is widely said to be one of the best places in Japan to take to the waves. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the waves here usually break over reefs which means that they tend to be shallow and can be dangerous if you are not an experienced surfer. Many people surf the beaches around Okinawa Honto but you can also surf off the coast of some of the smaller islands depending on your experience levels.
Have an Adventure on Iriomote
If you want to get the most out of a visit to Okinawa and like to be active while you are on holiday, then make sure you head to Iriomote. This island is close to Ishigaki Island and it is known for having an interior that is covered in thick jungle. On a trip here you can trek through the jungle as part of a hiking tour, or you can also choose to kayak around the island. As a result, this is the best island to choose if you want to see a bit more of the rural side of life in Okinawa, as some of the other islands are better known for their beaches and diving options rather than bushwhacking.
Dive at The Underwater Ruins of Yonaguni
The island of Yonaguni is known for its amazing underwater ruins, so if you are in search of some exceptional diving in Okinawa then this is the place to come. Many of the underwater ruins here are made of solid rock and some experts have put the pieces at around 8,000 years old. Legends even abound that some of the ruins are part of a lost continent called Mu, and you will find rock formations that look like staircases as well as rooms and walls. One thing to note is that the currents around the ruins can be strong and changeable so diving here is mostly recommended for intermediate and experienced divers.
Take in The Views at Akajima Island
If you have a little time to explore Okinawa then one of the most picturesque islands is Akajima Island which is often simply referred to as Aka Island. The island is relatively small, but it is well known for its observation towers which you can scale and which give you unparalleled vistas across the islands and across wider Okinawa. This is also the place to come if you want to take some spectacular photographs of Okinawa and you can also go swimming here or hike across the island as part of a day trip.
Try Ocean Walking on Nagannu
Nagannu Island is part of the southern island chain in Okinawa and you can get to it from nearby Naha if you take the ferry across. This island is known for its delightful and clean sandy beaches, so if you just want a relaxing beach holiday then this is a good choice. The sands beneath the sea, however, are equally pretty which is why Nagannu is now known as one of the best places to come if you want to try ocean walking in Okinawa. You can strap on some weights here as well as a helmet and then walk along the ocean floor and take in all the colorful marine life here as it swims all around you.
Explore The Local Villages on Taketomi
Taketomi Island is one of the smallest islands in Okinawa so it is a good choice if you want to see a lot in a short space of time, as you can get around most of the island quite quickly. If you choose to trek around the entire island, then you only need to leave a few hours, but you will also be able to take in the little traditional villages here at the same time and see how people have lived and worked in this part of Japan for centuries. To that end, you can even choose to travel according to the traditional form of transportation here which is on a cart pulled by a lumbering local buffalo.
Try The Local Food
One of the great delights of Okinawa is that it has a completely different cuisine to many other parts of Japan. Many people will tell you that Okinawan cuisine is similar to that of Taiwan and pork is a staple of many dishes served here. You will also find that many dishes use ingredients such as purple yams and bitter melon and, as this is a tropical part of Japan, you can also sample a range of delicious tropical fruit such as papaya, dragon fruit, calamansi and papaya. Make sure that you try the Yaeyama soba which are different from traditional soba noodles in Japan and is made of white wheat. They are then cooked in a pork broth and topped with more pork, fish cakes and aromatic ginger. Do not forget to try the local tipple for which this island is so well known, which is named awamori, made from distilled long grain rice.
Shop at Makishi Market
Makishi Market is located on Okinawa Honto and has the nickname ‘The Kitchen of Okinawa’ which tells you all you need to know about the array of produce on sale here. The market dates back to the Second World War and now there are some 400 shops here where you can browse and pick up some of the most famous products in Okinawa such as preserved sea snake and seaweed. There are also a number of cafes and restaurants here which serve traditional Okinawan dishes made with local ingredients not found in other parts of Japan, so it is well worth a visit for this alone.