Visitors to Akajima are treated to beautiful uncrowded beaches, array of local wildlife

The white sands and clear blue-green waters of Akajima's Nishihama Beach might take your breath away.


By AYA ICHIHASHI | Stars and Stripes | Published: February 11, 2021

Akajima is one island of Okinawa’s Kerama archipelago and only 25 miles from the Tomari Port of Naha.

Zamami, its sister island, is a more popular destination, and nine of out 10 ferry passengers disembark there before reaching Akajima.

I’m secretly happy with that, and happy, too, with Akajima remaining under the social media radar and never becoming as crowded and popular as its sister island.

One of the reasons I favor Akajima is that it’s much less touristy than Zamami. Its population is just 260 and it is connected by bridge to Geruma and Fukaji islands.

As soon as I step off the ferry, I go straight to rent a bicycle from Tatsunojo Mart, a five-minute walk from the port. Akajima has no public transportation, and biking around the island is better than walking. Rental fee is 1,000 yen, or about $9.50, for a day. The bike is usually rusty and squeaky, so make sure to check the brakes and tires before taking off.

Akajima Beach is right next to the port and is a great spot for snorkeling. There are no lifeguards in the area, so make sure to swim with a flotation device for your safety.

The water gets very shallow during the low tide, and the sea turtles swim out to the deeper waters, so hit the beach during the high tide to protect the corals and yourself. The sea turtles are super friendly and keep snacking on the seaweed no matter how close you get. But be mindful not to touch any marine animals.

Nishibama Beach is the most popular beach in Akajima, and it’s incredibly beautiful. The sand is so fine and as white as snow; the water is many shades of blue and green. I have visited more than a dozen times, but it always takes my breath away.

There is a newly built oceanfront seating area, a cozy, shaded terrace where visitors can eat their packed lunches or snacks. Lifeguards will be on duty from mid-April to late November. The current can be a little tricky there, so stay within the swimming area.

Akajima Bridge connects Geruma and Akajima islands, and the view from the bridge is astonishing. There are many beautiful sites on Okinawa, but I consider this view to be in the top three. This amazing view is the reason I’ll keep coming back. You can also cross the bridge to bike around Geruma and Fukaji islands.

Maehama Beach is right next to the port and bridge, and it’s a family-friendly beach with fine white sand. Parents with small children can easily walk to this beach from the port. Since there are no shaded areas there, it’s better to bring a small pop-up tent to keep little ones out of the direct sun.

Wild Kerama deer can be seen on the beach or road at Akajima. Kerama deer are indigenous to Aka and Geruma and are very timid. So please be mindful when you see them as they are federally protected.

Under current coronavirus restrictions, visiting Akajima is a treat for me. There are fewer tourists on the ferry, and I can stay on the deck while spotting humpback whales on the way.

I could not ask for a better way to spend a weekend than snorkeling around Akajima, watching its beautiful underwater world and listening to whales from afar.

Twitter: @AyaIchihashi

Directions: Aka Island is 60 minutes by express ferry from Tomari Port in Naha. The round-trip fare for Queen Zamami is 6,080 yen for adults and 3,040 yen for children.

Costs: Credit cards can be used at the ferry ticketing office; however, you’ll need cash for renting a bicycle.

Food: Dining options are very limited at Aka, so it’s a good idea to pack a lunch or buy something at a convenience store in Tomari Port. Be mindful to bring back all the trash with you as trash disposal is very limited in Aka.

Ferry information: Phone: 098-868-4567; Online: yoyaku.vill.zamami.okinawa.jp/zamami_web/enlog0101!doFormOpenLogin.action

Snorkeling off Aka Beach at Akaijima may offer your best chance to spot a hawksbill sea turtle on Okinawa.