Okinawa needs no introduction. It is widely known as one of the best places in the world to enjoy the warm weather and friendly locals. Visitors can also enjoy fun activities such as scuba diving, swimming, and snorkeling. Okinawa has nearly 20 islands of different sizes.
This includes the Kerama Islands, which are surrounded by coral and are just a few kilometers away from Naha, the capital of Okinawa. Check out these beautiful islands, which can be reached within an hour in a super fast speedboat and boast some spectacular diving spots!
Many tourists visit the Kerama Islands to experience the beauty of turquoise waters and to see the abundance of marine life such as sea turtles, humpback whales, and more. Because of their popularity, there have been many tour agencies, hotels, restaurants and so on that have popped up on many of the inhabited islands.
The region is rich in coral life and that is why it was officially named as Japan’s 31st National Park in 2014. The formation of these parks is crucial in safeguarding the coral reefs and for biodiversity in general. Okinawa is a big geographical area spreading over thousands of square kilometers from north to south. Because of this, there was a need to divide up the former Okinawa Kaigan Quasi-National Park which covered all the islands.
The Kerama Shoto National Park now covers 90,475 hectares of ocean area surrounding two major islands of Kerama, which are Zamami and Tokashiki. This comes after an initiative by the Japanese government to protect coral regions. This has also resulted in March 5 being declared as Sango Day (Coral Day) in Okinawa.
There are only a few islands that are inhabited in the Kerama Archipelago including Tokashiki and Zamami, which now constitute a marine ecological park. These two islands are by far the best islands to observe the diversity of marine life, and thus attract many divers from around the world.
Being the major island of the Kerama Group, Tokashiki Island has become an important hub for all levels and abilities of divers. You can easily reach the island from Tomari, a major port in Naha, via a Marine Liner in approximately 35 minutes. Some of the notable beaches to relax on in Tokashiki and Zamami are Aharen and Furuzamami which boast beautiful translucent water and shiny coralline sand.
If you want to chill out near colorful water or go whale watching, Zamami is the ideal place to go as it has wonderful beaches such as Ama Beach. There are also many boats on the island which can take you to nearby populated islands such as Kahi or Amuro.
Also known as the best island for campsites, you don’t want to miss Zamami when you visit Kerama or Okinawa in general. There are other smaller inhabited islands such as Aka that have fewer tourists but equally beautiful crystal clear waters and aquatic life. The Kerama Shoto National Park region is definitely a great place not just for diving with turtles and sub-tropical fish, but also for coral watching. There are nearly 248 different species of coral in and around the Kerama Islands.
As mentioned earlier, Tomari Port is the best place to start your Kerama Islands trip as it has plenty of ferries running all the time. However, if you want to reach your destination quickly to avoid seasickness, you should look for express ferries such as Queen Zamami which can take you from Naha to Zamami within an hour for 3,140 yen.
People buying a round trip or group tickets can save some money on the total fare. During the holiday season, there are usually more frequent ferries for you to access the islands. For more details on fares and schedules of getting to Zamami, click here.
Tokashiki, on the other hand, is a bit closer to Naha and costs less by ferry to reach than Zamami. For more information on the prices and the dates of the express boat Marine Liner, click here.
Do not miss the opportunity to see the beauty of Japanese coral when you are in the holiday paradise of Okinawa. Once you reach the Kerama Islands, getting around to nearby small islands is very easy and is fairly inexpensive!