Travellers expecting the quintessential Japanese experience are in for a surprise when visiting the Okinawa prefecture and its capital city of Naha. This collection of islands in the East China Sea is separate from mainland Japan in more ways than one. With the added influences of their westerly neighbours, Taiwan and China, Okinawans have developed their own distinct culture and even a unique language.
Okinawa has long been a favourite beach holiday destination for people in Japan’s more northerly prefectures; only more recently has it seen a surge in popularity amongst overseas tourists. Viewing vibrant sea life is a core activity for visitors to enjoy. Get up and close and personal with the fish by snorkelling or diving in the island’s coastal waters, or keep dry and discover the wonderful world of Japan’s marine creatures at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.
Naha and the rest of Okinawa have an interesting and complicated history, which is reflected in many of the sites you will see. For example, the beautiful Shurijo Castle is a relic of Ryukyu Kingdom, and its restoration is a testament to the many conflicts the area has hosted over the years.
With its fascinating blend of modern living, historical importance, and natural beauty, Okinawa is a favourite port of call for many cruise passengers. Lines with itineraries that stop here include Star Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, and Oceania Cruises.
Cruise ships make port at Naha New Port in the prefecture’s capital city. The port’s location puts downtown Naha about a 20-minute walk away, though shuttles are often available for disembarking passengers. Taxis usually queue up at the port to take visitors to their desired locations too.
Facilities immediately available at the port are somewhat limited. However, it is only a short trip to downtown Naha and the tourist hub of Kokusai-Dori, where you’ll find all the modern amenities you might need.
Facilities available in Kokusai-Dori include:
Cafés, bars and restaurants
Shops and boutiques.
How to Get Around
A taxi is quite likely your best option for travelling in Naha. Note that your door in and out of the taxi will be opened and closed remotely by your driver. It is rude to do this yourself and tipping the driver is also unnecessary.
Travel times from the port:
It is a 20 minute journey to Kokusai-Dori
It is a 25 minute journey to Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum.
It is a 9 minute journey to Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum
It is an 11 minute journey to Kokusai-Dori
It is a 19 minute journey to Shurijo Castle
It is a 41 minute journey to the Southeast Botanical Gardens
It is a 50 minute journey to Seifa Utaki
It is a 1 hour and 35 minute journey to Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.
Currency – The currency used in Okinawa is the Japanese yen (¥). Many ATMs in the city will accept international credit cards, but not all. Some shops and establishments will only take cash, so make sure to have some yen handy. Tipping is not a common custom in Okinawa and may come across as discourteous. Japanese banknotes come in ¥1,000, ¥5,000, and ¥10,000 denominations, while the coins come in ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100, and ¥500.
Time Zone – Clocks in Okinawa are set to Japan Standard Time (JST), which runs 9 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Weather – Unlike mainland Japan, Okinawa’s climate is generally subtropical with warm and humid weather. The temperatures get particularly hot from June to September, where the average high hovers around 30 degrees Celsius, but cooling breezes are common. The prefecture’s temperatures in winter vary from 13 to 22 degrees Celsius.
Shurijo Castle – Amazing architecture and helpful staff make a visit to Shurijo Castle a wonderful experience. This building merges Chinese influences with Japanese culture while also combining a rich history with modern restorations, making it one of the country’s most popular and most beautiful constructions.
Southeast Botanical Gardens – Treat all your senses by exploring the sensational Southeast Botanical Gardens. Lotuses, palm trees, and Ryuichi-ju are the highlights of the plant life here, though the natural wonderland is also home to capybaras, squirrel monkeys, and fish.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium – Though getting here requires a bit of a trek to the north, this is an aquarium well worth travelling to see. Dazzling coral, whale sharks, a recreation of the intriguing seas around the island, and the first manta ray successfully bred in captivity all contribute to making this one of Okinawa’s must-see attractions.