With crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches and colourful coral reefs, the Kerama Islands offer a wonderful respite from the busy-ness of Japan’s mainland cities. Whether you choose to explore charming Zamami [Google Maps location] on foot or by bicycle, join a whale watching tour off Tokashiki [Google Maps location] or snorkel among vibrant marine life off Aka island [Google Maps location], our travel guide to the Keramas will help you plan a getaway that leaves you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.
Download your Sustainable Travel Checklist and show the world you care
As travellers, we should all be aware of our travel behaviour and its environmental, economic and social impact; and make conscious decisions about it. Too often, we hear negative stories in the media about tourists behaving badly.
Here is your chance to tick some boxes and check out what it really takes to travel with a sustainable mindset.
Map of Recommended Points of Interest, Eateries, Transport Hubs, and Accommodation
Below is the map of the points of interest, eateries. transport hubs and recommended accommodations mentioned in this article.
What and where are the Kerama Islands?
The Kerama Islands are an island group off the southwest coast of Okinawa Hontō, the largest island of the archipelago that is Japan’s southernmost prefecture. The Keramas (as they are also called) comprise a total of 36 islands and islets. Only four are inhabited: Tokashiki, Zamami, Aka and Geruma (the latter two are connected by a bridge).
Which of the islands should you choose?
While theoretically, you could visit all four inhabited islands in a day, it would be very rushed – Quality over quantity! We’ve put together a summary on each of the islands, so you can choose the one (or two) you’d like to spend time on.
And if you’ve got more than a day to spend – even better: you’ve got all the information you need to plan a multi-day island adventure.
How to get to Zamami and/or Aka (from Naha)?
There are two types of ferries servicing Zamami and Aka:
- the Queen Zamami 3, a passenger only high-speed catamaran (reaching the first of the two islands in 50 minutes), and
- the Ferry Zamami, a passenger and vehicle ferry (reaching the first of the two islands in 1 hour 30 minutes).
Note that ferry services may be cancelled if the weather makes it unsafe to operate. Services are confirmed at 0800h on the day of operation, so make sure you check the website before you head to the ferry terminal.
Speaking of ferry terminal: Both ferries leave from Tomari Port in the centre of Naha, albeit from different piers:
- the Queen Zamami departs from the northern pier [Google Maps location]; and
- the Ferry Zamami from the southern pier [Google Maps location].
Ferry tickets can be booked in advance online or purchased no more than one hour before departure from the ticket office at the northern pier (Queen Zamami) or the ticket office at the southern pier (Ferry Zamami).
How to get to Tokashiki (from Naha)?
As with Zamami and Aka, there are two types of ferries that service Tokashiki:
- the Marine Liner Tokashiki, a passenger only high-speed catamaran (reaching the island in 40 minutes), and
- the Ferry Tokashiki, a passenger and vehicle ferry (reaching the island in 1 hour 10 minutes).
Both ferries also leave from Tomari Port, though from different piers:
The ferries from Naha arrive at/depart from Tokashiki Port [Google Maps location], which is located on the north-eastern side of the island. Note that ferry services may be cancelled if the weather makes it unsafe to operate.
Ferry tickets can be booked in advance online or purchased no more than one hour before departure from the ticket office at the northern pier (Marine Liner Tokashiki) or the ticket office at the southern pier (Ferry Tokashiki).
Extra Tip: There are modern and informative visitor centres at the ports of Zamami [Google Maps location], Aka [Google Maps location] and Tokashiki [Google Maps location], so make sure you pop in as soon as you arrive, grab a handy map of the island you’re visiting, check out the information boards and ask the staff for any recommendations.
Can you travel between Zamami, Aka and Tokashiki?
Apart from the ferry services from Naha, there is also an inter-island boat, the Mitsushima, connecting Zamami with Aka and Tokashiki:
It is worth noting however:
- The Mitsushima service to Tokashiki requires advance booking.
- The Mitsushima arrives at/departs from Aharen Port (in the south-west of Tokashiki Island). You will have to take the bus (or walk) from Aharen to Tokashiki Port if you want to take the ferry back to Naha from there.
Are there organised day trips from Naha to the Kerama Islands?
If you prefer to leave the logistics of organising a day trip to the Keramas to a professional, you may want to consider joining an organised tour from Naha.
Here are a few recommended options:
How to stay safe when visiting the Kerama Islands?
Crime is not really something to be worried about when visiting the Kerama Islands, but do use common sense and don’t leave any valuables laying around.
How to swim and snorkel safely
- Only swim in designated areas (to avoid dangerous undercurrents).
- Wear a life jacket when snorkelling.
- Don’t swim or snorkel at low tide.
- Wear sandals when walking in the water and don’t step on corals or sand in the vicinity of reefs.
- Don’t touch any marine life.
- Wear a long-sleeve swim shirt or wet suit to protect yourself from the sun and stings or bites from marine animals.
- If you get bitten or stung: Squeeze out the venom and get to the nearest hospital immediately.
Sunburn and snake bites are other risk factors to be mindful of. Avoid sunburn (yes, even in winter) by wearing sunscreen with SPF50+, a hat and sun glasses.
How to avoid snake bites and what to do when you get bitten?
While Okinawa has eight venomous snakes, most of them are not dangerous. Those to watch out for are habu (pit vipers) - which are most active between March and October. They hibernate over winter in a sheltered place, so it's unlikely you encounter one during the coldest season. If you do: move back and leave them alone. Also, wear long pants and closed shoes, and stay on hiking/walking trails.
If you do get bitten, follow the instructions in this brochure.
Which island/s have you explored? What time of the year did you visit? And what was your favourite experience?
I wrote this Kerama Islands travel guide based on our own experience. If you have been to the Kerama Islands as well and you have something to add to this list of affordable things to do, please feel free to contact me. If you liked my Kerama Islands tips and found them helpful, I would appreciate if you could share them with your friends and family via the Share buttons below. Even better, link to the page from your personal blog or social media platforms.