Japan is an island country surrounded by the sea. It's little surprise that Japan has had a deep relationship with the sea since ancient times. Located at the southernmost tip of Japan's territory, Okinawa is a top destination for swimming and marine sports thanks to its year-round warm climate. The sea of Okinawa is popular for its highly transparent emerald green water and white sandy beaches. The secret to its vivid colour? Coral! The photosynthesis of coral triggers a purifying effect, which keeps the seawater clean. The dazzling white sand is made up of coral fragments made of limestone. Check out the best beaches on Okinawa and the surrounding islands.

    1

    Naminoue Beach (Main Island)

    Naminoue Beach is a short walk from Kokusai-dori (International Street), which is something of a hub for travellers and tourists. Naminoue Beach is one of the most accessible and enjoyable seaside destinations you're likely to find. There isn't a huge area for swimming, but there aren't many waves either, so children can swim here with nothing to worry about. There are facilities such as hot showers and toilets too, and with its proximity to the city, its convenience is a key advantage. There are also activities such as snorkelling and diving, and there's a park around the beach where you can take a walk. This is a clean beach where you can relax, swim, read a book, or sunbathe. Whatever takes your fancy.

    Location: 1-25-11 Wakasa, Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture 900-0031, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    2

    Chatan Sunset Beach (Main Island)

    As any beach-lover will tell you, sunset is the most magical time of the day. Chatan Sunset Beach, located on the west side of the island, is one of Okinawa's greatest sunset spots. The blue sea, the white sands, and the bright red sunset falling on the horizon are breathtakingly beautiful, producing unforgettable memories. The waves are calm in the swimming beach area of the artificial bay, so children can swim in peace here. It's also possible to have a BBQ on the beach. And you don't need to bring your own equipment either, because everything you need (even foods to barbecue) is available right here. Locals and tourists love the fact that there are also shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas, hot springs and other amusement facilities nearby.

    Location: 2 Mihama, Chatan Town, Nakagami District, Okinawa Prefecture 904-0115, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    3

    Miibaru Beach (Main Island)

    Miibaru Beach means "new beach" in the Okinawa dialect. Although it's a 40-minute drive from Naha Airport, it's well worth checking out as this is a special place that really captures Okinawa's nature at its best. The beach is 500 metres long, the waters are shallow and the waves are calm, so it's hugely popular with families with children. Another reason for its popularity with the younger crowd is that you can walk offshore at low tide and observe crabs and starfish. In addition to swimming in the sea, you can speed across the water in a banana boat, see fish swimming in the water from a glass-bottom boat, or take a tour of the famous "Blue Cave". This is a natural beach where you can enjoy the open Okinawan seascape with your friends and family.

    Location: Hyakuna Tamagusuku, Nanjo City, Okinawa Prefecture 901-0603, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    photo by inf_supTJ (CC0 1.0) modified

    4

    Ishigakijima Sunset Beach (Ishigaki Island)

    Of the many beaches on Ishigaki Island, one of the most beautiful has to be Ishigakijima Sunset Beach. This untouched beach is lined with blue waters and white sands, and in fact it's so beautiful that it's even been used a film location. Visitors are amazed by the transparency of the water. Although it's something of a hidden beach, there are plenty of activities to enjoy, such as snorkelling and banana boating. There's also a net to prevent habu jellyfish from entering, and of course there's a lifeguard too, so families with young children have nothing to worry about. You'll also find facilities such as showers, toilets, changing rooms, and shops, making this beach a good choice for those who want to spend their time in comfort.

    Location: 234 Hirakubo, Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture 907-0331, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    5

    Kabira Bay (Ishigaki Island)

    Kabira Bay has been selected as one of the 100 Landscapes of Japan and is the number one tourist attraction on Ishigaki Island, having received a three-star rating in the Michelin Green Guide Japan. The waters here are so clear that the colour of the water changes depending on the amount of light there is, producing a sea surface with multiple shades of breathtaking blue. Nine uninhabited islands are scattered throughout the bay, and you can easily spend hours just looking at this photogenic scene. Swimming is prohibited in Kabira Bay because the tide is strong and tourist boats are constantly coming and going. However, on a glass-bottom boat departing from Kabira Bay, you can see coral reefs, sea anemones, clownfish, tropical fish, and sometimes even sea turtles.

    Location: 1054 Kabira, Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture 907-0453, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    6

    Yoshino Kaigan (Miyakojima)

    Located at the eastern end of Miyakojima, Yoshino Kaigan is famous for its clear water and coral reefs. Once you step into the sea, you can see coral reefs everywhere. Visitors often say that they've never seen such beautiful coral reefs in shallow water and you'll typically encounter tropical fish as soon as you go into the sea. Miyakojima is said to have one of the largest populations and varieties of tropical fish. You can enjoy swimming and surfing here, but it's best known as a snorkelling site. However, the waters are shallow, so it's best to avoid low tides and check the tide level in advance before visiting. Yoshino Kaigan is also one of Miyakojima's important spawning ground for sea turtles, so you'll have a very good chance of meeting sea turtles here during the spawning season from May to August.

    Location: 15-38 Aragusuku Gusukube, Miyakojima City, Okinawa Prefecture 906-0102, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    7

    Maesato Beach (Ishigaki Island)

    Maesato Beach is the only artificial beach on Ishigaki Island. It features a smooth sandy beach without any rugged coral fragments, so it's great to walk on. Maesato Beach is popular as a highly safe beach where small children can play without any risk of injury. It also features the Maesato Ocean Park where little ones can enjoy playing on seaside trampolines, see-saws and slides. This is the perfect places for kids to let off some steam. Plus, the shallow and super-transparent water quality is ideal for snorkelling and sea walks. With banana boats, jet skis, diving experiences and more, Maesato Beach will entertain children and grown-ups alike.

    Location: 354-1 Maesato, Ishigaki City, Okinawa Prefecture 907-0002, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    8

    Akahaka Beach (Main Island)

    Akahaka Beach is a beautiful location in the northern part of the main island of Okinawa. It's not a swimming beach, which means there are few visitors, so you can enjoy the quiet, pristine location more for its aesthetic qualities. The name Akahaka means "red tomb" and is derived from a tomb situated close to the beach. It's said that red stucco was used to represent nobility and dignity when burying Uema Ochika, the younger brother of Sho En, the first king of the Ryukyu Kingdom. As a rural beach with few visitors, the locals who really know their sea are particularly full of praise for the transparency of Akahaka's waters. With coral rocks extending offshore, the beach turns bright light blue when exposed to light. It's indescribably beautiful. With little footfall, this is one of those beaches where the concept of time simply fades away as you take in the beautiful gradations of blue against the white sand.

    Location: Nakijin Village, Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture 905-0426, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    9

    Kariyushi Beach (Main Island)

    Looking for a beach that the whole family can enjoy? Then it's time to visit Kariyushi Beach! The swimming area has a net to prevent jellyfish from entering, the waves are calm and there are beach staff on hand to help out, so even small children can enjoy swimming here with confidence. There are plenty of activities too, such as marine sports like jet skiing and dragon boating as well as water programs including sea walks where you can walk on the seabed wearing a snorkel or helmet. And if you don't want to get wet, simply hop onboard a glass-bottomed boat to see the tropical Okinawan fish below. Beach umbrellas and chairs can be rented, so there's everything you need to relax. Kariyushi Beach is a great day out for children and grown-ups alike.

    Location: 1996 Kise, Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture 905-0026, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    10

    Maehama Beach (Miyakojima)

    Maehama Beach on Miyakojima is regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Orient. A fine, pure white sandy beach contrasts gloriously with the highly transparent sea known as "Miyako Blue". The natural beach, which is about 7 kilometres long, has no pebbles, coral fragments, or rubbish, so you can enjoy those southern island vibes by walking barefoot. This is the leading beach on the island, so of course there are also facilities such as hotels, car parks, toilets, showers and shops. The sea here doesn't have any coral reefs, so as well as swimming you can also enjoy marine activities on banana boats, jet-skis and more. There are also huts where you can have a BBQ on the beach. As Maehama Beach is located in the southwest of the island, the sunsets here are beautiful.

    Location: 1199 Yonaha, Shimoji, Miyakojima City, Okinawa Prefecture 906-0305, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    photo by Ken Yamaguchi (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

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