A Month-by-Month Guide to Okinawa (2023)

Thanks to its year-round warm weather, Okinawa is a fantastic destination to visit at any time. The best season for you will depend on exactly what you want to do on the island, so here’s a monthly guide to help you choose.

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The southernmost prefecture in Japan, Okinawa is a gorgeous island chain home to stunning beaches, abundant marine life and fascinating historical sights from its time as the independent Ryukyu Kingdom. Its main island – also called Okinawa – is where most of the popular attractions are located, however there are also numerous smaller and more remote islands you can explore.

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Although often considered a summer destination, Okinawa’s subtropical climate means a trip here is worth taking any month of the year. As with the rest of Japan, each season brings its own special highlights and activities. Here, Culture Trip sets out what you can expect from each month, so you can decide exactly when to visit this pristine paradise.

January-March: balmy weather, early cherry blossoms, obon and whales

The winter season in Okinawa is one of the quieter times to visit, and tourists benefit from smaller crowds and lower prices. The mild and mostly dry weather brings temperatures of around 15-20C, so you can enjoy some time at the beach even if it’s not quite hot enough for sunbathing.

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The climate also means that Japan’s famous cherry blossom season arrives earlier in Okinawa than on the mainland. Here, the sakura (cherry blossom) generally bloom between mid-January and mid-February, and several hanami (flower-viewing) festivals take place across the island during this time. Many of the cherry trees in Okinawa are of the kanhizakura variety, which bloom a deeper shade of pink than many species elsewhere in the country, giving the season a special Okinawan twist.

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Another major event during this time is the New Year holiday, with lots of domestic travel and closure of shops, restaurants and other attractions at the beginning of January. If you travel at this time, don’t miss the celebrations at Shuri Castle. This traditional three-day event features music and dance performances showcasing Okinawa’s unique history and culture.

While all the usual tourist attractions remain open during the winter, there’s one activity you can only do during this season: whale watching. Humpback whales migrate across the Pacific Ocean to Okinawa’s warmer waters to breed, and daily boat tours run to the nearby Kerama Islands, where you have the best chance of spotting these majestic mammals up close.

(Video) Okinawa Japan: 23 Things to DO & KNOW! | Watch Before You Go!

April-June: fireworks, dragon boat race and Golden Week

As winter fades into spring, temperatures rise and the beach season in Okinawa officially begins. April is one of the most pleasant months for sightseeing, as the temperature reaches around 25C without too much humidity. It’s also when the spectacular Ryukyu Kaiensai fireworks display takes place in Ginowan. This festival combines music with thousands of breathtaking fireworks to light up the night sky in an event you’ll never forget.

In May the annual Naha Dragon Boat Race, known as the hari, captivates audiences with competitions between narrow, elaborately decorated Okinawan boats. As well as Naha, hari take place in other cities and islands across the prefecture, and are held to pray for safety at sea. There’s a short rainy season from early May to early June, when temperatures and humidity also increase. The end of June can be a great time for scuba diving and other water sports, after the sea gets warmer but before the influx of summer tourists.

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If possible, it’s best to avoid travelling during Japan’s Golden Week, which runs from the end of April to early May. This series of consecutive national holidays sees domestic travel (and prices) jump astronomically.

July-September: watersports, Eisa and island hopping

The summer in Okinawa is the hottest time of year, with temperatures pushing as high as 35C. Naturally, this is the peak time for visitors, and attractions can get crowded. This is particularly true during the Obon holiday in August, when lots of Japanese travel. The glorious weather makes it the best time of year for hitting the beach – head out to one of the lesser-frequented islands in the prefecture to find a more secluded spot.

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Summer time is festival time in Japan, and Okinawa is no different. One of the largest celebrations is the Eisa dance festival in August. Eisa is a traditional Okinawan performing art, and during the festival 10,000 dancers come together to honour the spirits of their ancestors. They parade through the streets, dancing dynamically in authentic costumes, and accompanied by taiko (drums) and sanshin (stringed instruments) in one of the island’s liveliest displays.

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The warm sea temperatures Okinawa experiences in the summer also make it an amazing time to get out in the water, whether that’s scuba diving, snorkelling, paddle boarding, surfing, or any of the other water sports on offer. Be aware that this is also typhoon season though, which can occasionally wreak havoc with travel plans.

October-December: Shuri Castle Festival, illuminations and cooler weather

As summer blends into autumn, we approach another of the best times to visit Okinawa. The peak season ends, bringing tourist numbers down, but the weather remains pleasantly warm (between 20-25C) and less humid. As the end of the year approaches the weather gets cooler and the island quieter, with the exception of the busy New Year holiday period. It’s still possible to dive and snorkel at this time of year. Though the water won’t be as warm as in the summer months, the crystal-clear waters mean there’s plenty of marine life to admire.

The Shuri Castle Festival – one of Naha’s biggest and most impressive – takes place at the end of October. It celebrates the legacy of the Ryukyu kings of old through a procession in full period costume, plus music, dancing and other cultural performances. After dark, the castle park is beautifully illuminated with hundreds of candles. And this isn’t the only light-up event taking place. End-of-year illuminations are common across Okinawa (and mainland Japan) from late November. Some of the highlights include those at the Southeast Botanical Gardens, Itoman City’s Lights of Peace, the Ryukyu Lantern Festival and Kanucha Resort’s Stardust Fantasia in Nago city.

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How many days in Okinawa is enough? ›

March, April, and October are the best months to visit Okinawa. Shoulder season is almost always the ideal time to travel; in this case, hotels are cheaper, but the main attraction of Okinawa should all (still) be open then. How many days in Okinawa? 3 to 5 days is good.

Which month is best to visit Okinawa? ›

You will want to avoid the rainy season in Okinawa, which usually lasts from early May to early June. In addition, typhoons can be a problem in Okinawa in July and August, and even occasionally in September. All things considered, the best time to visit Okinawa is from March to early May or late September to December.

Is it easy to get around Okinawa without a car? ›

On the main island, public transportation such as monorail, buses, and taxis make traveling between destinations quick and convenient. But rental cars, bicycles, and motorcycles are a great way to get off the beaten path and explore at your own pace, especially on Okinawa's more remote islands.

How much money should I bring to Okinawa? ›

You should plan to spend around ¥15,896 ($112) per day on your vacation in Okinawa, which is the average daily price based on the expenses of other visitors. Past travelers have spent, on average, ¥3,525 ($25) on meals for one day and ¥1,429 ($10) on local transportation.

Is 14 days in Japan too much? ›

If you have 2 weeks in Japan to spare, consider yourself pretty lucky. The country is filled with so many different cities, activities & attractions, and 14 days is a great amount of time to spend exploring it all.

How common is English in Okinawa? ›

Japanese is the main language spoken in Okinawa, but some people can speak English, too. Most large hotels and tourist facilities have English-speaking staff or can provide assistance in English using multilingual information or communication tools.

How long is typhoon season in Okinawa? ›

Due to the frequency and severity of these storms, typhoon season in Okinawa starts on June 1st and continues through November 30th each year. This is the most likely time for typhoons to occur, but they can occur at any point throughout the year if the right conditions are present.

Can you swim in Okinawa in October? ›

With an average water temperature of 27 degrees Celsius, marine sports like snorkeling, swimming, and diving are still possible in October. Beaches throughout the islands offer visitors the chance to try parasailing and stand-up paddleboarding too.

Do I need cash in Okinawa? ›

The currency in Japan is the Japanese yen (¥). Credit cards and contactless payment methods are generally widely accepted in urban areas, but many small shops and businesses in rural areas and on small islands will only accept cash.

Can a US citizen move to Okinawa? ›

Americans need a Japanese visa to live in Okinawa as it's governed by Japan.

Is Okinawa closer to Japan or China? ›

At the nearest points, Okinawa is about 640 km south of the main island of Kyushu and the rest of Japan while it's only 500 km north of Taiwan.

How much US dollar should I bring to Japan? ›

For our tours, we usually recommend $60 USD per person per day for spending money in Japan, and that'll cover meals, entertainment, and light souvenir shopping. If you're not on our tour, we recommend a little bit more per day to cover things like entrance fees.

Does Okinawa accept US dollars? ›

*Multi-currency exchange ATMs are located at some of the major tourist attractions. Convenience stores: All convenience stores accept yen and major credit cards. U.S. dollars are also accepted at convenience stores in the central part of Okinawa.

Do you tip in Okinawa? ›

Tipping is not customary in Okinawa. Saying thank you, or “arigato” in Japanese, is enough to convey your gratitude and will be well-received by your server. Some restaurants and accommodations offer buffet dining.

Is 4 days in Okinawa enough? ›

I certainly hope so! I put a lot of thought into creating the best Okinawa itinerary for anyone travelling in Okinawa without a car. You can see the best highlights in two days, but I highly recommend staying for 5 days to get a feel for the rest of the island.

How long does it take to go around Okinawa? ›

How Many Days To Spend in Okinawa. If you're planning on only seeing the main island, Okinawa is good for 5 days or so for a comfortable pace of driving around and seeing the various sights all over the island. Bear in mind that while Okinawa island itself isn't huge, driving north to south takes up to 3 hours.

Is it worth it to go to Okinawa? ›

Whether you're looking for an expedition into the jungle, a place to laze on the beach before, during or after the rest of your Japan trip, or appreciation of unique vegetation and geological formations, Okinawa is worth a trip.

How long does it take to get around Okinawa? ›

Getting there and around

It takes about three hours to drive across the main island from end to end. However, if you're planning to travel without a car, there are other options. The monorail can get you around Naha, while the Okinawa Tour Bus can get you to most of the top sightseeing spots.


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