In this post, I will help you to find where to stay in Okinawa for the first time, the best areas to stay in Okinawa for first-timers (with a map), and the best hotels in Okinawa for all budgets (including the hotel where I stayed in Okinawa).
Okinawa is a beautiful region located in the southern part of Japan, and it consists of a group of islands, with the largest and most populous island being Okinawa Island.
Okinawa has a unique culture that differs from the rest of Japan. It has been influenced by various cultures, including Chinese, Japanese, and indigenous Ryukyuan culture. The traditional Okinawan music, dance, and cuisine are distinct and celebrated.
Okinawa was an independent kingdom known as the Ryukyu Kingdom until it was annexed by Japan in the late 19th century. It was also the site of a major battle during World War II, which had a significant impact on the region.
The region is known for its stunning beaches and coral reefs. It is a popular destination for tourists, especially those seeking water sports, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Ishigaki Island and Miyako Island are particularly famous for their beaches.
Okinawa is known for having one of the highest life expectancies in the world. The local diet, which includes a lot of vegetables, tofu, and fish, is often credited for the longevity of its residents.
Some popular attractions in Okinawa include Shuri Castle, Churaumi Aquarium, Kokusai Street in Naha (the capital city), and the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park, which commemorates the Battle of Okinawa.
Okinawa has a significant U.S. military presence, with multiple military bases on the island. This has both positive and negative impacts on the local economy and culture.
Okinawan cuisine includes unique dishes like goya champuru (bitter melon stir-fry), Okinawa soba (a type of noodle soup), and soki soba (noodles with pork ribs).
Where to stay in Okinawa for the first time?
The best areas to stay in Okinawa for first-time tourists are Naha, Onna, Nago, Nakijin, Chatan, Ishigaki, and Miyakojima. These areas offer a wide variety of hotels, resorts, and guesthouses to suit different budgets and preferences.
Naha is the capital city of Okinawa and offers a blend of modern amenities, historic sites, and cultural experiences. You can visit Shuri Castle, Kokusai Street for shopping, and the Okinawa World theme park. Ideal for first-timers who want a mix of urban and cultural experiences.
Onna is a perfect base for travelers looking for a relaxing beach vacation. It is located on the central-western coast of Okinawa and is known for its pristine beaches and luxury resorts.
Nago, in the northern part of the main island, offers beautiful beaches, the Churaumi Aquarium, and proximity to the stunning Cape Manzamo. It is a great choice for nature and marine life enthusiasts.
Nakijin is suitable for those interested in historical and tranquil surroundings. It is famous for Nakijin Castle Ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its peaceful, rural atmosphere.
Chatan is known for its American Village, a shopping and entertainment complex, and Sunset Beach. It is a good base for tourists looking for a mix of shopping, dining, and beach activities.
Ishigaki is one of the Yaeyama Islands, known for its stunning beaches, coral reefs, and a vibrant local culture. Ideal for snorkeling, diving, and exploring the remote islands of Okinawa.
Miyakojima is another beautiful island in Okinawa, offering white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and outdoor activities. Great for water sports enthusiasts and those seeking a quiet island escape.
When I first visited Okinawa, I stayed for 3 nights in Naha at Rembrandt Style Naha. It had a great location in the center of Naha, within walking distance from Naminoue Beach and a 15 mins bus ride to the main shopping area Naha Kokusai Dori. My room was lovely and spacious.
Below is a map of the best areas in Okinawa for first-timers. You can scroll down to view the live map.
7 Best areas to stay in Okinawa for first-time tourists
Naha is one of the most popular areas to stay in Okinawa, especially for first-time tourists. Naha is the capital city of Okinawa, so you’ll have a convenient and well-rounded experience with easy access to various attractions, cultural experiences, and dining options.
Naha is home to Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a significant historical landmark. It offers a glimpse into Okinawa’s royal history and provides excellent views of the city.
Kokusai Street is Naha’s main shopping and entertainment district. You’ll find a wide range of shops, restaurants, bars, and street vendors offering local food and souvenirs.
Naha offers opportunities to experience Okinawan culture, including traditional music, dance, and local crafts. You can attend cultural performances and visit cultural centers to learn more about the unique Okinawan heritage.
Naha is well-connected, with Naha Airport being the main gateway to Okinawa. This makes it convenient for arriving and departing from the region.
Naha has a diverse range of dining options, from local Okinawan cuisine to international fare. You can try regional specialties like Okinawa soba and goya champuru.
If you’re interested in pottery and ceramics, Tsuboya Pottery Street in Naha is a great place to explore workshops and shops selling traditional Okinawan pottery.
Naha is centrally located on the main island, making it a good base for day trips to other parts of Okinawa, such as the Churaumi Aquarium in Nago or the scenic Cape Manzamo in the north.
Best places to stay in Okinawa in Naha:
- Luxury ($$$): Hotel Collective, 5-star hotel, that has a prime location, right next to the bus stop and close to the popular shopping district along Kokusai Street. Easy access to tourist amenities and attractions. It has an Outdoor swimming pool and 24-hour front desk.
- Mid-range ($$): Hotel Aqua Citta Naha, popular 4-star hotel, located in Naha, within walking distance from Miebashi Station, Tomari Port, and Naha Kokusai Dori shopping area. also a short drive from Naha Airport. It has a luggage storage space, and private parking for those who drive.
- Budget ($): Hotel Lantana Naha Kokusai-Dori, great 3-star hotel in central Naha, on the Main Street. Close to Tsuboya Pottery Museum and Public Square. It has a good breakfast, 24-hour front desk, and luggage storage space.
Onna is a popular area to stay in Okinawa, especially for tourists looking for a relaxing beach vacation. It’s especially well-suited for couples, honeymooners, and travelers seeking a laid-back and picturesque setting on the main island of Okinawa.
Located on the central-western coast of the main island, Onna is known for its beautiful white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters. Sunset Beach, Manza Beach, and Moon Beach are some of the well-known beach destinations in the area.
Onna is an ideal location for water sports and activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, paddleboarding, and jet skiing. Many resorts provide easy access to these activities.
Onna is not far from the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu, which is one of the top attractions in Okinawa. You can visit this impressive aquarium to see a variety of marine life, including whale sharks.
A short drive from Onna, you can explore the Ryukyu Village, which offers insights into Okinawan culture, history, and traditional crafts.
Cape Maeda, also known as Maeda Misaki, is a popular spot for snorkeling and diving. The clear waters and coral reefs make it a great location for underwater exploration.
Best places to stay in Okinawa in Onna:
- Luxury ($$$): Halekulani Okinawa, 5-star hotel located right next to the beach, featuring 5 pools and Excellent Breakfast according to around 1000 guest reviews on booking.com.
- Mid-range ($$): Hoshino Resorts BEB5 Okinawa Serakaki, 4-star hotel, located within walking distance from Seragaki Beach, various nice restaurants and a konbini . It provides free bikes, free parking for guests. You can find a bus stop right nearby for the bus to Nago or Naha.
- Budget ($): Odysis Onna Resort Hotel, 3-star beachfront accommodation located just a few steps from Kariyushi Beach, featuring an outdoor swimming pool, free parking, which is a bonus for those who drive. Also close to Inbu Beach, Busena Beach and Nakama Beach.
Nago is a great area to consider for your stay in Okinawa, particularly if you’re interested in exploring the northern part of the main island. It is a more relaxed and nature-oriented destination compared to Naha.
Nago boasts some beautiful beaches, such as Emerald Beach and Busena Beach, where you can relax, swim, and enjoy water sports.
You’ll also be close to the famous Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, and Cape Manzamo, famous for its unique rock formation, offering a stunning backdrop for photos.
Nago has some significant historical sites, including Nakijin Castle Ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Exploring the castle ruins and learning about the history of the area can be a fascinating experience.
Nago is known for its mango farms, and you can enjoy mango picking during the fruit season. It’s a delightful and tasty experience for visitors.
Nago is surrounded by lush forests and offers opportunities for hiking, nature walks, and outdoor adventures. Daisekirinzan, a limestone plateau, is a popular hiking destination.
Best places to stay in Okinawa in Nago:
- Luxury ($$$): Oriental Hotel Okinawa Resort & Spa, great 5-star hotel that features both an indoor and outdoor pool, and free shuttle bus to a private beach. It has spacious family rooms and Wonderful Breakfast. Easy access to the nearby Kariyushi Beach for snorkeling and skiing.
- Mid-range ($$): Best Western Okinawa Kouki Beach, popular 4-star beachfront hotel, offering rooms with sea views and well-equipped kitchenette. Short walk from Koki Bus Station And short drive by car from Orion Beer Factory Nago.
- Budget ($): Green Rich Hotel Okinawa Nago (Artificial hot spring Futamata Yunohana), great 3-star accommodation, located within walking distance from the 21st Century Forest Beach and a short ride from Toue Beach. You can enjoy Good Breakfast at this hotel.
Nakijin is an ideal choice for travelers interested in history, culture, and a quieter, more peaceful environment. Great base for more authentic and traditional aspects of Okinawa.
Nakijin is home to Nakijin Castle Ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It offers a glimpse into Okinawa’s history and provides breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Nakijin offers opportunities to immerse yourself in Okinawan culture. You can participate in traditional tea ceremonies, watch local performances, and even try your hand at traditional crafts.
Nakijin offers quiet and picturesque beaches where you can enjoy solitude and relaxation. Kouri Beach and Bise Fukugi Tree Road are notable spots.
Nakijin Village History and Culture Center is a great place to learn more about the local history and traditions of Nakijin. It features informative exhibits and helpful staff.
The lush and hilly landscape around Nakijin offers opportunities for hiking, nature walks, and bird watching. You can enjoy the scenic beauty of northern Okinawa.
Best places to stay in Okinawa in Nakijin:
- Luxury ($$$): LOISIR Terrace & Villas KOURI, 5-star hotel located in Nakijin, an easy walk from Chigunu Beach and Kouri Beach. It has free private parking, and Family rooms.
- Mid-range ($$): Nagahama Beach Resort Kanon, 4-star accommodation located on the beachfront area close to Sakiyama Beach. Short ride from Nakijin Gusuku Castle and Warumi Bridge. It features an Outdoor swimming pool and free parking.
- Budget ($): Kourijima L’hotels, 3-star accommodation located on the island in Nakijin close to Peace Beach, Teenu Beach, and Tokei Beach. It has free private parking for guests who drive.
Chatan is a popular area to stay in Okinawa, offering a mix of modern amenities, beach access, and a vibrant atmosphere. Located on the central-western coast of the main island, Chatan is known for its American Village and proximity to beautiful beaches.
Chatan is famous for its American Village, a shopping and entertainment complex with numerous restaurants, cafes, shops, and boutiques. It’s a bustling area with a lively atmosphere, making it a great place for shopping and dining.
Chatan is home to Sunset Beach, a beautiful spot to relax, swim, or watch the sun go down. It’s a popular beach destination for both locals and tourists.
Chatan is not too far from Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. This makes it a convenient base for exploring other parts of the island, including Naha’s cultural and historical attractions.
Best places to stay in Okinawa in Chatan:
- Luxury ($$$): Okinawa Prince Hotel Ocean View Ginowan, great 5-star hotel located close to Tropical Beach, featuring an outdoor swimming pool, free parking, excellent Breakfast, and currency exchange.
- Mid-range ($$): Aqua Palace Chatan by Coldio Premium, 4-star hotel located around 15 mins walk from Sunset Beach, a short ride from Zakimi Gusuku Castle and Tamaudun Mausoleum.
- Budget ($): Beach Front Tower Mihama by DSH, 3-star hotel, short drive from Araha Beach and Sunset Beach, which are great places to watch sunset.
6. Ishigaki island
Ishigaki Island is one of the Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa and is a fantastic choice for travelers seeking a remote and naturally stunning destination. It’s known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, coral reefs, and unique local culture.
Ishigaki Island offers some of the most beautiful beaches in Okinawa, including Kabira Bay and Yonehara Beach. You can explore diverse marine life and underwater formations.
Ishigaki is a paradise for nature lovers. You can go hiking in the lush forests, trekking to scenic viewpoints like Tamatorizaki Observatory, and explore the jungle and waterfalls.
From Ishigaki, you can easily explore neighboring islands like Taketomi, Iriomote, and Kohama, each offering its own charm and attractions.
Ishigaki Island is known for its clear night skies, making it a prime location for stargazing and astrophotography.
Best places to stay in Okinawa in Ishigaki:
- Luxury ($$$): ANA InterContinental Ishigaki Resort, an IHG Hotel
- Mid-range ($$): THIRD ishigakijima
- Budget ($): HOTEL Ishigakijima 2020
Miyakojima is another stunning and remote island in the Okinawa Prefecture, known for its pristine beaches, and outdoor activities. It is a wonderful choice for travelers who love beach-centric vacations and exploring vibrant marine life.
Miyakojima boasts Yonaha Maehama Beach, Sunayama Beach, and Aragusuku Beach. The fine white sand and turquoise waters are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.
The island is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. You can go snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, and even try out glass-bottom boat tours to explore the colorful coral reefs.
The island offers lush landscapes, lush forests, and mangrove areas. Higashi-Hennazaki Cape, a beautiful scenic spot, is ideal for nature walks and stunning ocean views.
From Miyakojima, you can also explore nearby islands like Irabu and Shimoji, each with its own charm and natural beauty.
Best places to stay in Okinawa in Miyakojima:
- Luxury ($$$): Shigira Bayside Suite Allamanda
- Mid-range ($$): Allamanda Imgya Coral Village
- Budget ($): Hotel Torifito Miyakojima Resort
In conclusion, Naha, Onna, Nago, Nakijin, Chatan, Ishigaki, and Miyakojima are the best places to stay in Okinawa for first-timers and tourists. Each area has its own charm, you can align with your preferences to pick one and few areas to book accommodations during your holiday.
You can read more about about Japan at:
- Best areas to Stay in Tokyo First Time
- Where to Stay in Kyoto First Time
- Best areas to stay in Osaka First Time
- Best areas to Stay in Hiroshima
There you have it, my recommendations for the best areas to stay during your first trip to Okinawa. I hope you found my article helpful and enjoy your vacation!