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The Best & Worst Times to Visit Okinawa in 2023

The Best & Worst Times to Visit Okinawa in 2023

Frequently referred to as the “Hawaii of Japan,” Okinawa should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Whether you wish to escape the cold northern winters, see what this hidden gem has to offer, or you’re simply looking for a not-so-mainstream holiday getaway idea, Okinawa will be one of the most memorable destinations you’ve been to.

But when is the best time to visit Okinawa? Let’s find out together in this detailed Okinawa-themed guide.

Not only do we cover the best time to visit Okinawa but also other things worth considering, but we’ll also as FAQ questions and events worth attending. Read on to learn all you need to know!

Why You Should Visit Okinawa in 2023

Low-shutter image of Naha in Okinawa featuring the Tomari Port at night with boats floating on the still water

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

First and foremost, Okinawa is much more than just its magnificent beaches. From pristine nature spots and mesmerizing waterfalls to vibrant jungles and tropical landscapes, Okinawa is a true magnet for nature enthusiasts.

Add the laid-back Okinawan vibes and the pleasant year-round weather to the mix, and Okinawa sounds like heaven on Earth. Then, there’s its rich history and interesting culture.

Having been influenced by many other countries (more about them in a minute), Okinawa has emerged with a unique style, authentic cuisine, and memorable heritage.

In terms of landmarks, there’s always something new to be seen, explored, or even heard.

Regardless, if you don’t know where to start, here are our favorites: Shurijo Castle Park, Katsuren Castle Ruins, Nakijin Castle Ruins, Cape Manzamo, Southeast Botanical Gardens, Kouri Bridge View Point, and Nakagusuku Castle.

While Okinawa’s land is stunning, its underwater is even more breathtaking. Be it the vibrant reefs or the unbelievable marine biodiversity, diving into Okinawa’s waters will open new horizons in ways you never imagined.

Okinawa’s neighboring, smaller islands also offer plenty to see in this regard as well.

For instance, Yonaguni Island is ideal for coming across hammerhead sharks, the Yaeyama Islands are famous for the underwater hot springs, Kume Island provides diving opportunities for divers at all levels, and Kerama Islands abound with sea turtles and whales.

Frequently described as the healthiest place on Earth, back in 2002, Okinawa had 34.7 centenarians, which represented the highest ratio in the entire world.

It’s alleged that locals are able to live this long due to a combination of several factors, such as their diet, activity, spiritual practice, and low-stress life.

In essence, heading to Okinawa would be like discovering the elixir of life. Now that it’s clear why Okinawa should be on your wanderlust radar, let’s see when the best time to visit is.

Overall Best Time to Visit Okinawa

Calm morning during the overall best time to travel to Okinawa with an elevated monorail making its way down the tracks above the street between modern apartment buildings

Okinawa, Japan – October 14, 2015: Morning landscape of the city of Okinawa/Mei Yi/Shutterstock

The best time to visit Okinawa is anytime in March, April, and/or October, months that are specifically out of the typhoon season, relatively speaking.

In March and April, the temperatures in Okinawa range between averages of 76°F and 62°F. The months are ideal for hitting the beach and avoiding the big summer crowds.

Weather-wise, March is also suitable for hiking, golfing, or enjoying the fresh flower blossom. In March, there’s also the Higashi Village Azalea Festival, where you can soak in more than 50,000 azaleas in shades of pink, purple, red, or white.

Then, there’s the Okinawa Zoo & Museum Flower Festival, where floral arrangements and numerous performances provide visitors with a mesmerizing experience.

Lastly, March hosts the notable pottery bazaar at the yearly All-Okinawa Yachimun Pottery Market. April weather begins enticing visitors even more, and there’s excitement in the air.

The month’s perfect for beach-wandering, biking, as well as engaging in dynamic marine sports, such as paddleboarding or parasailing. April’s fun continues long after the days are over with firefly watching after sunset.

Do factor in that, in April, locals pay respect to their ancestors by going to the graveyards and engaging in a ritual called “shimi.” This ritual means busy roads, especially those north of Naha.

Don’t be surprised if you experience delays, so be ready to be flexible with your travel plans. In terms of festivals and April events, mark your calendar for the Ryukyu Kaiensai Fireworks Festival.

Watching the night skies light up in shimmering colors as fireworks explode one by one will be one of the most remarkable Okinawa experiences you can tick off of your bucket list.

For a fancy night out, head to the Okinawa International Movie Festival and choose some of the available local and international movie screenings.

Cheapest Time to Visit Okinawa

The cheapest time to visit Okinawa is in the December–February period. These three months see temperatures varying between average highs of 71°F and average lows of 59°F.

As winter is a slow season in Okinawa and beaches and hotels aren’t crowded, certain businesses may have shorter working hours, while others may be completely closed.

Still, this is the time when you can find affordable hotel rates and cheap airfare tickets, so if you’re trying to stick to a budget, by all means, go for it. Although it’s winter, Okinawa enjoys a subtropical climate, and there’s rarely any snowfall.

As a result, you can still find plenty of enjoyable activities to take part in, such as sightseeing, biking, and the festive holiday atmosphere. With Christmas approaching, most resorts organize live music events.

To take the holiday atmosphere to the next level, consider attending the Ryukyu Lantern Festival. As a side note, if you’re a fan of running, join the Naha Marathon and race with more than 30,000 fellow runners.

January is all about whale-watching and starting the year with cherry blossoms (yes, the Sakura season begins early in Okinawa). To properly honor the arrival of the Sakura season, enjoy the blooms at the Motobu Yaedake Cherry Blossom Festival.

Water-based activities are still on, but you’ll need a wetsuit to make sure you’re comfortable. If you get chilly, you can always rely on indoor activities such as visiting aquariums or heading to local museums or pottery villages.

In February, the cherry blossoms are pretty much at their peak bloom, which makes Okinawa and its sites that much more beautiful (if that’s even possible).

This month allows for exploring castles, sacred sites, and villages without worrying about scalding and humid weather. Lastly, Being part of the Okinawa Flower Carnival, the Bougainvillea Fair paves the way for the spring flower celebration.

Least Busy Time to Visit Okinawa

Dusk view of the Mihama American Village shopping district pictured during the least busy time to visit Okinawa

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

The least busy time to visit Okinawa is from late May to June and in September or October. In May and June, the temperatures vary between an average high of 86°F and an average low of 72°F.

One exception — while these shoulder months are generally not crowded as other periods, note that if you go during Golden Week, plan your itinerary well beforehand, as Okinawa gets quite busy.

Otherwise, May welcomes tourists with a plethora of culture-themed festivals and evenings that are neither cool nor hot. This makes nights in Okinawa perfect for night jungle tours, which are exactly as enchanting as they sound.

The Okuyambaru Carp Streamer Festival is all about flying carp streamers and engaging in traditional singing and dancing events.

Being the largest of all dragon boat festivals in Okinawa, the Naha Hari festival promises exciting races, playful boats, fireworks, food, and a lot of singing and dancing. Oh, and you can embark on a dragon boat if you wish to do so, too!

To avoid June’s rains, head to museums, do some shopping, and marvel at local traditional crafts. You might even opt for Okinawan dyeing workshops and learn all there is to know about bingata, an Okinawa-specific dyeing technique.

Don’t skip Okinawa’s traditional dance — eisa, organized each weekend beginning mid-June to August, accompanied by live drums. In September and October, the temperatures are much the same, ranging between 87°F and 74°F.

October invites visitors to hit the hiking trails, go kayaking, or celebrate karate’s official day (October 25) by taking part in a karate session or heading to the Okinawa Karate Kaikan.

Although Okinawa soba noodles are finger-licking any time of the year, in October, you’ll enjoy them much more, as October 17 is the official Okinawa Soba Day. So, relax in soba restaurants or join a soba-making workshop.

Encompassing days filled with traditional arts performances, the Tanadui Festival has been classified as an “Intangible Folk Cultural Property” of Japan by the government.

Finally, to wrap up October’s festival season, keep in mind the Shichi Festival. From stick fights to lion dances, guests can marvel at the abundance of performance ideas and fun activities.

Worst Time to Visit Okinawa

The worst time to visit Okinawa is during the typhoon season, which runs each year from July to September.

July and August see temperatures fluctuating between an average high of 89°F and an average lof of 80°F. The temperatures generally soar, and together with typhoons, they stand a chance of ruining the Okinawa plans you’ve been looking forward to so much.

That said, there’s nothing that a little flexibility in your itinerary can’t solve. Being open-minded and doing something as simple as opting for indoor activities when the weather’s bad goes a long way.

Honoring summer, the Nago Summer Festival awaits visitors with food stalls, live performances, and fireworks.

With more than 10,000 distinct fireworks exploding in the sky, the Ocean Expo Park Summer Festival is the largest fireworks festival in Okinawa. Those keen to enjoy Okinawa by night should head to the Festival of the Southern Island Stars.

Resembling the summer season, September is less about the upcoming autumn and more about allowing visitors to have that ideal late-summer trip they planned, bad weather notwithstanding.

You can still enjoy the sunshine and engage in outdoor recreational activities, such as horseback riding, hiking, and exploring the forest if the weather allows for it.

If you find yourself in Okinawa in September, head to the Itoman Great Tug-of-War contest and take part in an exhilarating competition. Celebrating the Okinawa LGBTQ+ community, Pink Dot Okinawa honors diversity and promotes solidarity by hosting many dance and music events.

Things to Consider

Cherry blossoms in full bloom in a park with a steep staircase leading down the hill, as seen during the best time to go to Okinawa

Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock

Okinawa is majestic even if you go without a plan or know nothing about it, but to ensure you have a stress-free stay and make the most of your trip, consider the following things:

  • If you’re planning on renting a car, note that driving is on the left side. While this makes it easy for UK and Aussie drivers to get around, if you’re used to right-hand side driving, we suggest relying on other means of transport (more about it in a minute).
  • Note that festivals and events may be called off due to unfavorable weather conditions, so make sure to check for the latest updates either by following website announcements or consulting locals.
  • If you go to Okinawa in June or July, you can take advantage of longer daylight hours.
  • You’ll come across free WiFi in many places.
  • Invest in passes such as the Okinawa Fun Pass, the Okinawa Main Island Enjoy Pass, or the Churaumi TokuToku 5 Pass. Great value for money!
  • While renting a car may not be expensive, the tolls can get quite pricey, so avoid the expressway whenever possible. Also, if you’re staying in a hotel, check whether there’s free parking, as not all of them provide it. Parking can also get expensive, so double-check such matters before you arrive to avoid unpleasant situations.
  • Most markets have microwaves at the entrance or near the exits so that buyers can heat their takeaway food. Pretty thoughtful, don’t you think?
  • Don’t forget to not only bring an SPF cream (50SPF or higher) but also reapply it numerous times during the day.
  • Okinawa is a very safe location — applies to solo female travelers as well!
  • Although most credit cards and contactless payment methods are accepted in Okinawa’s urban region, note that smaller remote areas accept only cash.
  • Make sure your devices’ chargers are compatible with the Japanese voltage requirements and electrical sockets: the plugs are A type, the frequency 60Hz, and the voltage 100V.
  • While finding accommodation during the shoulder months is way easier than during Okinawa’s peak season, we still suggest booking early, regardless of when you may go. This secures better prices and best availability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Shuri Castle in Okinawa as seen at night

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

What are some facts and details about Okinawa?

Here are some interesting facts and details about Okinawa:

  • The word “Okinawa” means “a rope in the open sea,” which roughly refers to appearance of this stretch of islands on a map.
  • Okinawa is the birthplace of karate.
  • You can do water-based sports in winter (if the weather permits). While it may not be as ideal as going in summer, at least you won’t have to deal with the peak holiday crowds.
  • Okinawa’s main food doesn’t revolve around sushi. Being a melting pot of cuisine and different cultural influences, Okinawa has a bit of everything foodies may be on the lookout for.
  • Okinawa wasn’t always Japanese — it used to be part of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

How do you get around Okinawa without a car?

If you’re not planning on renting a car, you can navigate Okinawa via buses, taxis, monorail, bicycles, or motorcycles instead, depending on what matches your itinerary best. Ferries are great for inter-island travel too.

The Tui Rail monorail links 19 stations in just about 40 minutes, and it’s ideal for reaching well-known sightseeing locations from the Naha Airport.

Choosing some of the discounted tickets secures you unlimited monorail rides in a particular time frame, which makes this a great solution for budget-minded folks. To learn more about this option, check out the Okinawa Urban Monorail, Inc. website.

Renting bikes is great for those who wish to explore urban areas. Taxis come in handy when you want to reach a specific place fast.

Then, there’s the Okinawa bus network that links most of the popular beaches — hands-down one of the most budget-friendly options. Ferries should be best used when traveling from one island to another, and it can be much more affordable than flying.

How much money should I bring to Okinawa?

We can’t tell you exactly how much money you should bring to Okinawa, as travel expenses are subjective. That said, we can provide valuable insights into past travelers’ expenses during their stay in Okinawa to help you plan your budget better.

  • On the whole, you should expect to spend around ¥15,896 ($118) per day during your vacation.
  • Set aside ¥3,525 ($26) per day per person for meals and ¥1,429 ($11) for local transportation.
  • Average hotel prices for a couple are ¥22,080 ($165).
  • If you travel with a family of three or more, note that prices go down due to sharing hotel rooms, and kids’ tickets tend to be cheaper than adults’.

Overall, depending on your travel style, you’ll need:

  • ¥7,130 ($53) per day per person if you’re trying to explore Okinawa on a budget;
  • ¥15,896 ($118) per day per person if you identify with being a mid-spender;
  • ¥28,526 ($213) per day per person if you have zero budget restrictions planned.

Last but not least, keep in mind that all these figures are simply approximations and can very well change over time.

Is Okinawa tourist friendly?

Yes, Okinawa is a tourist-friendly destination — locals are polite and welcoming and expect the same in return. Okinawa takes great pride in this hospitality etiquette, so rest assured you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the residents’ warm approach.

Is English spoken in Okinawa?

Yes, many people have no problem communicating in English in Okinawa. The majority of tourist locations and hotels have English-speaking personnel that can easily interact with visitors and provide the necessary information.

Why is Okinawa so different from Japan?

Street in a modern area in Okinawa pictured with cars making their way down the street and clouds in the sky above

Jihun Sim/Shutterstock

There are many reasons why Okinawa is different from Japan. First of all, Okinawa is much closer to Taiwan than Tokyo and pretty much “detached” from what would be considered Japan’s mainland.

Besides its geographical location, Okinawa is also heavily influenced by Taiwanese cuisine. The proximity to other countries, such as China and The Philippines, is a notable influence as well.

Older practices from the Ryukyu Kingdom are still very much relevant today, and locals often see themselves as “separate” from the Japanese. Next, there’s the American influence coming from the US military infrastructure after World War II.

Besides the American culture, Americans brought their food, which adds a further unique touch to Okinawa’s cuisine.

This American influence is mostly felt in central Okinawa — you might even head to the American Village, an American-themed entertainment mall including a cinema, shops, and restaurants, and see it yourself.

Also, Okinawa’s traditional wear may resemble the kimono, however, upon taking a closer look, you’ll see that the differences are quite striking.

Finally, there’s the language situation — while younger Okinawans are said to speak Japanese, the older generations allegedly speak “Uchinaguchi.” Although treated as a Japanese dialect by the Japanese government, linguists regard Unchiaguchi as a separate language.

Does Okinawa have nightlife?

Yes, Okinawa provides excellent nightlife and entertainment options. Below we share some cool suggestions to spice up your stay:

  • For most residents, a night out begins with an Okinawa soba. Others end up going to an izakaya, which falls between a bar and a restaurant.
  • The local Orion beer is the king of all drinks. That said, if you wish to try something stronger, try awamori. If you’re not into alcohol yet want to enjoy a night out, stick to sanpicha, which is basically jasmine tea.
  • If you head to Naha, note that the Sakaemachi Arcade boasts a plethora of small bars where you can interact with locals.
  • Those who wish to paint the town red can check out Club Queen, Live Music Bar Jet, Bar Spade, Nightclub Epica Okinawa, and Salsa Caliente.
  • If you’re not into partying or going to bars, consider going to Chatan. There, you’ll find an abundance of versatile restaurants, including Italian, Indian, Mexican, Greek, Turkish, and Thai food.
  • If you’re more interested in having a luxurious night out during your Okinawa stay, consider heading to the bar of the Hyatt Regency Okinawa. Ritz-Carlton Okinawa is another great option for stunning ocean views and neat drinks. Miyako Island is proud of the Miyakojima Tokyu Hotel & Resort, where you can enjoy some fine service and stellar views.

What food is Okinawa famous for?

We already made it clear that Okinawa’s food differs from typical Japanese cuisine as a result of the many influences. So, here are some typical Okinawa dishes you should try during your stay:

  • Okinawa soba, hands down the most famous regional dish
  • Goya champuru, which features tofu, meat, and vegetables all fried together, accompanied by katsuo dashi, shoyu, and some additional flavors
  • Umi budo, literally denoting “sea grapes”
  • Taco rice, invented in Okinawa
  • Ishigaki beef, a must-try for real foodies
  • Rafute, which is, in essence, braised pork belly
  • Tebichi, or boiled pork leg
  • Sashimi, raw goat meat
  • Beni imo, or purple sweet potatoes
  • Jimami tofu, one of the tastiest Okinawan desserts
  • Sata andagi, consisting of flour, sugar, and eggs

What natural disasters occur in Okinawa?

Rain clouds from a potential typhoon above the famous Paradise Beach in Okinawa during the worst time to visit, the rainy season

Artem Pachkovskyi/Shutterstock

Okinawa experiences frequent typhoons followed by high waves and heavy rain, which may result in disasters such as shore, property, or road destruction. Flooding and landslides are common side effects too. When joined by harsh winds, they can even ruin signboards or turn cars over.

While Okinawa is generally said to be an earthquake-free zone compared to Japan, earthquakes do occur periodically and should be taken seriously, as any other natural disaster, really.

If an earthquake does happen, a tsunami may follow. If such an event appears to be taking place, and you’re near the seacoast, leave the beach area right away and head to a safe area.

While tornadoes are a rare occurrence in Okinawa, 2007 saw 13 and 2008 18. This is because Okinawa’s topography is considered an ideal ground for tornadoes, with many flat terrains surrounded by water.

To ensure a safe stay in Okinawa, follow local advice, check the weather forecast, and be on the lookout for any potential warnings.

How many days in Okinawa is enough?

In general, three to five days should suffice. That said, it all depends on what you wish to see, where you want to go (after, all the prefecture provides a plethora of possibilities), and your budget. Many opt for more days, for example, 10, to fully get a taste of what Okinawa has to provide.

So, When Should You Visit Okinawa?

We covered a lot of Okinawa-related particulars in this detailed guide, so let’s briefly recap the most important pieces of information to help you organize your trip in a way that works for you.

  • All in all, the best time to visit Okinawa is in March, April and/or October. Okinawa is buzzing with events, crowds head to the beaches in summer, and the temperatures allow for any recreational activity you can think of (apart from the heavy rain periods).
  • If you’re trying to save some money, consider going in the December–February period. Tourism’s slow these months, which translates into affordable accommodation and budget-friendly airfare deals compared to high-season ticket prices.
  • The least busy time to visit Okinawa is from late May to June and in September or October. These months are the shoulder season and are ideal for travelers looking to have a more secluded island experience and enjoy events and activities in more peace and quiet.
  • We believe that the worst time to visit Okinawa is during the typhoon season, which runs each year from July to September. If bad weather messing up with your plans is a big no during travels, then avoid heading to Okinawa in any of these months. That said, if you do find the courage to face any potential typhoons and be determined to have an awesome stay, chances are that’s precisely what’s going to happen.

Finally, whenever you decide to visit Okinawa, you’re in for a wild island ride, and the seasons’ diverse climate and enticing temperatures will certainly reveal a charm on their own. Happy travels!