Okinawa’s Minnajima, or Croissant Island, a quick, satisfying getaway
By AYA ICHIHASHI | Stars and Stripes | Published: July 11, 2019
Hawaii is probably the most iconic and popular vacation destination for people around the world. And yet, I was not surprised to hear that Okinawa welcomed more tourists than Hawaii for the first time in 2017, according to Japan’s Nikkei news service.
No doubt the countless beautiful beaches around Okinawa are the biggest attraction for many visitors.
Minnajima, with its beautiful white-sand beach and an ocean layered in greens and blues, is one of my favorite islands to visit.
Minnajima is about a 15-minute ferry ride from Toguchi Port in Motobu town. The island is very small, about 3 miles in circumference, and shaped like a crescent moon, earning it the nickname Croissant Island.
The island’s population is around 50, and there are no convenience stores or ATMs there, so bring enough cash and snacks/drinks before heading over.
Due to the island’s popularity, seats on the ferry sometimes sell out in the summer, so be flexible with your schedule as you might have to catch a later ferry.
Tickets may be purchased at the ticketing counter from 8 a.m. at Toguchi Port; reservations are not available. I usually try to catch the 10 a.m. high-speed ferry, and I’ve never had an issue. It departs every 45 minutes during the high season (July 20 to Aug. 31).
As the ferry approaches the Minna port, I am astonished by the beautiful view. There is a designated swimming area on the right side of the port with lifeguards and jellyfish nets. It is a very family-friendly beach.
I usually walk to the other side of the beach for more privacy. However, I do not recommend snorkeling there because of the Jet Skis, and they are usually towing banana boats in the area.
If you would like to swim farther than the designated swimming area, a snorkeling tour is available for about $50. You can sign up at rental shops near the beach area.
What I love about Minna Island is the snow-white, powdery sand. It might surprise people that most of Okinawa’s beaches are a beige-orange color, but the sand on Minna reminds me of Caribbean or Maldives resort beaches and their crystal-clear water.
After a splash on the beach, I usually walk around the tiny island; but be mindful of the residents. Walking around in bathing suits is frowned upon in the neighborhood, so cover yourself with T-shirts and shorts.
Walking up the hilly main street from the port, you can find a food stand, Tida, that offers curry rice (600 yen), Okinawa soba (600 yen), taco rice (600 yen) and shaved ice (200 yen) to refuel before hitting the water once again.
At the end of the road lies a nameless, horseshoe-shaped beach. Usually, not many people are there, and some trees provide good shade. You can bring a book and beach towel to relax and listen to the waves for a few hours.
Minnajima is definitely great place to visit when you want to go somewhere — but not too far.
DIRECTIONS: A 15-minute ferry ride from Toguchi Port, 29-92, Tancha, Motobu, Kunigami-Gun, Okinawa Japan 905-0213. GPS coordinates: 26.6586567, 127.89027599999997
TIMES: The island is open year-round; however, shops and eateries may not be available during winter.
COSTS: Ferry fare (round trip): 1,710 yen for adults, 860 yen for children younger than 12. Toguchi Port offers free parking.
FOOD: There is no restaurant, but a snack food stand and tiny information center sells a limited selection of drinks and snacks. They close during the winter season.
INFORMATION: The ferry schedule varies depending on the season. The first ferry takes off at 8:30 a.m. from Toguchi Port to Minnajima throughout the year, except July 1-19, and the last ferry departs from Minna to Toguchi at 5 p.m.
Tips: Bring a canopy umbrella, a small camping tent or a pop-up tent for shade. Pack some snacks and sandwiches.