One Week In Okinawa – The Ultimate Itinerary

One week in Okinawa is not enough to experience the vibrant culture of food and the arts, take in the lush nature on land and in the sea, and its rich history.

Welcome to the tropical paradise of Okinawa, where aqua-blue waters, white sandy beaches, and lush green landscapes await your arrival. This guide will help you spend the best one week in Okinawa

Use this itinerary any way you want – it isn’t a step-by-step guide to walk you through your one week in Okinawa, but rather a guide where you can take what you want and leave what you don’t. There may be more listed for a location than what time allows, and you definitely shouldn’t rush through your trip to Okinawa.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or simply looking for a tranquil escape, Okinawa has something to offer for everyone. Explore the historic Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and delve into the rich history of the Ryukyu Kingdom. 

Take a stroll along the picturesque Kokusai Street, where you can shop for traditional crafts and sample delicious local delicacies. Feel the warm sand between your toes as you relax on pristine beaches or dive into the crystal-clear waters of the Kerama Islands for an unforgettable snorkeling or scuba diving experience. 

With its vibrant coral reefs, breathtaking sunsets, and friendly locals, Okinawa is a destination that will leave you in awe. Get ready to explore a place like no other as we uncover the hidden gems of this tropical paradise in the perfect itinerary for one week in Okinawa.

 

View of Nago city and a bay in Okinawa from Mount Katsudake hike

Table of Contents

Arrive in Naha

No matter where you’re coming in from, you’ll land in Okinawa in the main city of Naha. Here, you’ll see a lot of military personnel, and use this as your starting point whether you continue north on the main island, head over to neighboring Kerama Islands, or take off to any of the other 160 islands in the Okinawa Prefecture. 

You will come to Okinawa and leave from it through Naha, so it doesn’t matter if you stop there first or last! Just be sure not to miss the rich history, lively city sights, and everything else waiting for you in Naha.

Naha - 1 Day

Shuri Castle

The highlight of Okinawa is Shuri Castle. A UNESCO Heritage Site, this is a symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom that used to dominate the area and a must-see in your one week in Okinawa. Although the castle tragically burned down in 2019, you can observe the reconstruction process and learn about its history. 

Surrounding Shuri Castle are more highlights to see, like a traditional Japanese-style home, an old steep stone road, and many shrines, temples, and ancient artifacts. Take some time to walk around the area!

Cost: ¥400 / $2.70 
Time: 
2 hours

Red building of Shuri Castle in Okinawa
Shuri Castle | Image from Atlas Obscura

Kokusai Dori Street

Kokusai Dori Street felt like a mini Vegas. Neon lights, street vendors, trinkets, and tourist stores galore. However, if you head down some of the side streets and the covered market, you’ll get a better taste of local life.

Kokusai Street is a perfect place to try some Habushu, a liquor made with Habu snake venom (with the snake right in the jar)! However, some places can be a bit of a rip-off, so check reviews online first, and don’t be afraid to get off the main strip!

Cost: Free
Time: 1-2 hours

Neon lights and palm trees at Kokusai Dori street in Okinawa's capital city
Kokusai Dori | Imagr from Good Luck Trip

Peace Memorial Park

There is no denying the intense and graphic history that WWII has left in Okinawa. The Peace Memorial Park is the best way to learn and pay remembrance to the Battle of Okinawa, one of WWII’s bloodiest conflicts. Established in 1975, the park honors over 240,000 lives lost through its moving monuments.

Witness the Eternal Flame’s continuous glow ignite a spark of hope for a world free from war. Delve deeper into the battle’s human cost at the Peace Memorial Museum, where artifacts and personal stories paint a vivid picture of the era. Take a guided tour or explore at your own pace, reflecting on the horrors of war and the preciousness of peace. Remember, respect and modesty guide your visit to this significant site.

Cost: ¥450 / $3
Time: 2-3 hours

Green park and a small pond at the Peace Memorial Park in Okinawa
Peace Memorial Park | Image from Ciel Tourist

Thrift Shop!

You may not consider thrift shopping as a fun thing to do on holiday, but thrift shopping in Japan is next level, especially if you know where to go. You can pick up a traditional kimono for less than ¥1,000 / $6.75.

For the best selection, head to “Hard Off / Off House Okinawa Awase”, where they have 3 rows of kimonos of every style, size, color, and material. You can take your kimono to a retail shop that sells them to learn more about the one you bought, learn how to wear it, fold it, and more about its history. Okinawans are very proud to share their culture and kimonos with foreigners!

Where To Eat In Naha

  • Drink Habushu 
  • Conveyor Belt Sushi, whichever one is near you (and has good ratings)
  •  King Taco – they serve Taco Rice which is an Okinawan favorite

Onna - 2 Days

Onna is the best first-stopping place to rest from travel and take in the beauty of the island. Instantly, you’ll see how blue the water is. Onna is a resort destination with soft sand beaches and snorkeling off the coast! Before exploring the rest of this historic and bustling island, take some time at Onna to chill out under the sun and explore the blue water.

Dive Blue Cave

The highlight of water activities is snorkeling or diving at the Blue Cave on Cape Maeda. This area is teeming with travelers in the peak summer months, but a perfect place to explore in the shoulder season. Water temperatures are always comfortable, but the conditions can fluctuate to near dangerous, especially in the winter.

If you’re looking to go on a tour, then you’re in good hands! If you’re more up for traveling at your own pace, then be sure to check out the Cape Maeda website. At the bottom, you’ll find the day’s guidance on whether swimming is allowed or not, with a live cam of a hanging flag.

While there isn’t anyone monitoring the area per se, the cape is known to have a gnarly current and some rough waves so I suggest you heed the advice online. If you can’t swim, it’s still worth some time exploring the area! 

Cost: ¥100/hour for parking
Time: 3 hours

Turquoise water in the Blue Cave in Okinawa, a popular snorkeling destination
Blue Cave, Okinawa

Surfing / Beach Day

Onna is the best place to have a chill beach day. If you stay at a resort, chances are there is a beach right outside! While there are beaches all over Okinawa, they are not all the same. Some have rough coral and rocks, while others are as fluffy as almond flour. The area along Onna and towards Churaumi Aquarium is the best for beach chilling. Also conveniently, a perfect place to watch the sunset. 

There are some expert surf instructors in Okinawa – if you stay at the Tropical Surf House listed below, you’ll be staying with the top surf instructor, and kiteboard instructor in all of Japan! 

Girl on the beach holding a black dog in her lap
The Best Beach Days

Cave Okinawa

A tourist attraction, but also very cool to explore. These limestone caverns are a great way to learn the foundations of these dramatic islands, and fun to do with the whole family! They will often put on light displays, but these geographic features are pretty nifty themselves.

Parking is free and it’s a fun thing to do if you have extra time or a rainy day. If you’re interested but don’t have the time while you’re in Onna, there are a few of these cave excursions around the island!

Cost: ¥500 / $3.37
Time: 1 hour

An underground limestone cavern in Okinawa at Okinawa World
Okinawa World | Image from Japan Travel

Cape Manzamo

Cape Manzamo is the perfect place to see the sunset. The visitor center is modern and nice with a lot of local food options and free to explore. There is a small walking trail that goes out onto the cape for a small fee, but so worth it to see the unique cliffs! 

The area does get a bit busy, so go earlier rather than later. If you’re still up for an adventure then head just 5 minutes south and check out Mermaid’s Grotto on the beach! This area is not for swimming, but it does have cool tide pools to check out!

Cost: ¥100 for small lookout hike
Time: 30 minutes

Head to the 3rd floor of the visitor center (near the escalators) and you'll find a private outdoor deck. There are no signs for it, but you can get impressive views for free!

View of Cape Manzamo at sunset in Okinawa
Cape Manzamo Viewpoint

Where To Eat in Onna

  • Orchid Ryukyu Cuisines – Not the best for food, but it sure is a local experience with a show while you eat!
  • hale’aina HOA – Not Japanese, but the best food we’ve have in a long time (and great for working)
  • Agu Shabu-Shabu and Okinawa Cuisine Kafuu – $$$ but a fun local experience

*Be aware in touristy areas – some restaurants will give you an appetizer or beer you didn’t order.. if you take it, you buy it. Be aware of their sneaky tricks to get more money out of you.

 

Nago - 2 Days

Nago is like the capital of northern Okinawa. A great jumping-off point to both the tourist activities and heading north into the Yanbaru National Park. There are a lot of traditional restaurants in Nago and fun modern things to do. 

Churaumi Aquarium

The Churaumi Aquarium is a must-do for every traveler in your one week in Okinawa, even if you try to skip the touristy stops as we do. This was the most incredible aquarium I’ve ever seen! Not only because of the amount of education and conservation efforts that are taken by the aquarium but also because of the massive Whale Shark that is there.

Although I usually don’t support large mammals in captivity, all of the animals that are there either cannot be released into the wild due to injury or human habituation. The dolphins that are in the show are never forced to perform and only spend a few years in the aquarium before being released (knowing a few extra tricks to show off to their pod).

The owner of the budget accommodation below used to work at the aquarium, so if you stay with him you’ll get the ultimate tour!

Cost: ¥2,180 / $14.69
Time:
3 hours

You can buy discounted tickets at convenience stores close by to save a few dollars!

Whale shark statue outside of the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium during sunset

Hike Mount Katsudake

The best views over Nago and the surrounding peninsula & islands are from Mount Katsudake. There is a network of trails that lead to mountain peaks with incredible views. Parking is free and it is never busy! 

This is one of the best-hidden gems in Okinawa and a great way to explore outside without heading all the way north into the denser rainforest. The trek is free and beautiful any time of year, but don’t underestimate the strength of the sun! 

Cost: Free
Time: 1.5 hours

Girl standing on Katsudake mountain looking out over the city of Nago in Okinawa
Katsudake Mountain View

Snorkel Gorilla Chop

Our favorite snorkeling location was Gorilla Chop, a must-do during your one week in Okinawa. It is an easy drive to get there, and just a few meters from a public bus stop! Parking is free, and once you’re on the beach, it’s only a few meters into the water until you’re in one of the best snorkeling spots in Okinawa! Here you may see turtles, octopuses, unique and colorful fish, and of course, other divers.

This is a popular place since it is sheltered from the wind and waves, and it’s easy to access. Although there are a lot of scuba divers, the depth never got more than 10 meters, so it’s very easy to snorkel! Visiting Gorilla Chop in the morning or shoulder season is the best way to experience it with fewer people and less water disturbance. 

Cost: Free
Time: 2 hours

Do Not feed the fish. The animals were habituated to people as a result of tours feeding them. If you go with a tour group, make sure it isn't one that supports unethical animal encounters!

Underwater footage of Gorilla Chop in Okinawa, some of the best snorkeling in Okinawa
Gorilla Chop Coral Reef

Nakijin Castle Ruins

The Nakijin Castle will take you back in time to the 14th century. Here you can explore a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a testament to the Ryukyu Kingdom’s legacy. Explore the sprawling ruins, imagining the royal court, temples, and defensive structures bustling with life. Climb the observation tower to be rewarded with breathtaking panoramas of the Motobu Peninsula and East China Sea.

Wear comfortable shoes as you navigate the uneven terrain, and remember sunscreen and water during warmer months. Consider this historical gem as part of a day trip exploring nearby wonders like Kouri Island!

Cost: ¥600
Time: 1 hour

Stone wall structure at the Nakijin Castle Ruins in Okinawa
Nakijin Castle Ruins | Image from Japan Travel

Where To Eat in Nago

  • Annetai Chaya Hammock Garden – Incredible views right next to the more touristy Pizza in the Sky
  • Miyazato Soba – One of the oldest Soba restaurants in Okinawa, a traditional meal
  • Sashimi from a fish market – Perfect for a sushi date on the beach, our favorite was at 483 Nakaoshi in Nago. 
  • Orion Brewery – Not really a place to eat, but this is the beer of Okinawa. Take a tour to see where it’s made and try it yourself!

Kunigami & Yanburu National Park - 2 Days

This is the least explored part of the island, but our favorite by far. You can drive deep into the ancient jungle, see more wildlife, and explore on foot. This is the best hiking area and home to most of the island’s waterfalls!

Explore Daisekirinzan & Cape Hedo

The northernmost point of the island has insane views and history. Daisekirinzan is a low-cost way to explore the unique topography of the area and learn about the people who used to live here. There are 3 hiking trails, banyan trees, ruins, and so much natural beauty and spiritual lore which only takes about 90 minutes to walk.

Further north is Cape Hedo, a great lookout and viewing area to see the insane geography of the area you just hiked! Down on the beach is popular for surfers, but waves can get pretty big so beware!

Cost: ¥1,200 / $8.00
Time: 2 hours

View of a steep cliff and jungle from Daisekirinzan in northern Okinawa
Daisekirinzan

Hike Hijio Falls

If you’re going to do any waterfall hikes within your one week in Okinawa, let it be Hijio Falls. It is the biggest on the island and the suspension bridge you cross to get there is so dreamy. If you go early morning or closer to sunset, you won’t have much of a crowd. The park closes at 17:00, with the last entry at 15:30 so don’t wait too long!

Although swimming is not permitted, you can still feel the mist from the viewing area at the base of the falls. There are a few spots to enter the water further downstream, just watch out for Habu! If you want to swim at the falls, then check out Ta-Taki – just as beautiful and with swimming permitted.

Cost: ¥500 / $3.40
Time: 2 hours

A waterfall cascading through the jungle at Hijio Falls in Okinawa
Hijio Falls

Mangrove Kayaking

If you’re keen to explore out in nature, then get up and close with a mangrove kayaking excursion. Located on the eastern coast, the Higahi-son Fureai Hirugi Park is a perfect place to get on a kayak and float among the trees. 

You’ll be amazed at the life that lives in these coastal ecosystems, and your guide will educate you on all the birds, fish, insects, and plants that rely on each other to thrive. Mangroves keep coasts protected from erosion, tsunamis, hurricanes, and everything else that the ocean throws at us… crazy how so many places rip them out for ‘a better view’!

If you don’t want to get in the water, you can still walk along the boardwalk and get a glimpse!

Cost: Free park entry, kayak tour booked privately
Time: 1 hour

Lush magrove trees in shallow water with a kayaker in Okinawa
Okinawa Mangroves | Image from Japan Travel

Where To Eat In Kunigami

  • Emi no Mise – Best traditional options, recommended by many locals!
  • Satsukimaru – Great local food when you’re exploring the far North
  • Agachi Mui – Perfect for a break to take in the ocean views
  • Ogimi Sky Terrace – Incredible views over the bay with a walk-out viewing deck

Getting Around in Okinawa

Okinawa is best traveled by rental car. Especially if you want to explore the northern part of the island where public buses don’t run, you’ll need a car. Many hosts have one for rent, or may know someone that can provide it!

Be sure to have your International Driver’s Permit with you, as driving laws are very strict in Japan. Also, Japanese drivers are extremely courteous… like too kind. So drive slowly, and be courteous in return!

The public bus is useful, but only as far an Nago – anything further north is not accessible. The buses work on a pretty regular time clock, although the drivers barely speak English so be ready to know where you’re going!

Best Time To Visit Okinawa

Okinawa is a beautiful tropical paradise any time of year. However, depending on what you’re looking for out of your perfect one week in Okinawa, some times are better than others.

In general, the best time to visit Okinawa is in the shoulder seasons of April & May, or September & October. These months you will still have ideal weather, but without the intense heat and big crowds. 

Explore the other destinations waiting for you in Asia!

Summary - Perfect One Week Itinerary in Okinawa

You can do so much within this one week in Okinawa. This island has a rich history, incredible food, lush nature, and friendly people.

One week may not seem like enough, we spent 45 days there and still wanted to stay longer!

Between the capital city of Nago’s rich history at the Shuri Castle, WWII memorials, and the northern region’s Yanbaru National Park, there is something for every traveler.

You cannot go to Okinawa without exploring the life under the water in the vibrant coral reefs. Also, be sure to try as much of the local food as you can – that may just be the secret to the Okinawan’s vitality and long-lifespan! 

Posted by Taylor Mallaber

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