Japan might not be the first place that comes to mind when you mention crystal-clear turquoise waters, fantastic diving opportunities or incredible island-hopping adventures – yet all this and more is ready and waiting in Okinawa, the country’s southernmost prefecture.
Whilst we more regularly associate the Land of the Rising Sun with dense neon cities like Tokyo, the cherry blossoms of Kyoto or the sensational skiing in Niseko, Okinawa is every bit as unmissable as all those destinations. Take a short two-hour direct flight from Hong Kong and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by luscious greenery, the smell of fresh sea air and the smiling faces of the Okinawan locals. Aptly named the Hawaiians of Asia, Okinawans are known for their friendly demeanour and peaceful way of life.
Whether you’re a history buff or a beach lover, this subtropical collection of islands (there are 150 to choose from in Okinawa alone) has something for everyone and you’ll swiftly find yourself immersed in a cultural, historical and gastronomical retreat, intermingled with unspoilt islands, amazing diving and stunning sunset cruises.
There is always something to do in Okinawa, regardless of the season. The island’s geographical location results in a beautifully temperate climate that never gets too cold, even in winter. In the summertime, you can bask in the heat at the beach, while autumn and spring’s slightly cooler weather still offers many sunny days for island escapes and water-sport activities. Finally, winter brings whale watching and cooler temperates ideally suited to cultural explorations… whilst scuba diving is in vogue all year round!
Okinawa is also home to nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the stunning Shurijo Castle which overlooks Naha city. Other highlights here include the Churaumi Aquarium, one of the world’s largest aquariums, where you will find yourself dwarfed by the whale sharks. Taking part in a karate lesson is another must, given that Okinawa is the birthplace of this famed Japanese martial art.
If Okinawa was not yet on your radar for 2017, now’s the time to add it your holiday bucket list, even if it’s just for a long weekend – trust me, you will not be disappointed!