Island hopping in Okinawa: A Guide to the Kerama Islands

It was one of these impulsive trips. We had some days off, a desire to escape from the crowds and to explore a new destination. A 3.5h flight and a ferry ride later, there we were, lost on a stunning desert beach, alone with ourselves -and a few wild deers.

Island hopping in Okinawa: A Guide to the Kerama Islands

The islands of the Kerama group are a world away from everything you know. An archipelago surrounded by coral reefs and unbelievably transparent seas where time has stopped years ago. A place where you live in close communion with the ocean, in a unique atmosphere. It consists of 22 small islands, southwest of Okinawa's main island. It's picturesque, with few people and an incredible wildlife. 

Pack your bags and get ready for an journey out of time with our Guide to the Kerama Islands...

A guide to the Kerama Islands

Grouping many beautiful islands, there are plenty of options regarding a trip to the Keramas. With a population of only 300, Aka-jima is the island to go to if you want beach, sun and isolation. This 2 km diameter island and its two sisters Geruma and Fukaji hold a sweet laid-back vibe. 

Arriving in Aka-jima

We arrive in the Kerama Islands without any booking, in low season. First challenge: find a place to stay. The woman at the tourist information barely speaks English but somehow we manage to communicate. She calls all the hotels, guest houses and even some locals on Aka-jima to find us a place. An hour later, good news, we've got a roof -a simple guest house with traditional Japanese style tatami bedrooms. Sounds perfect! 

Island hopping in Okinawa: A Guide to the Kerama Islands

Exploring the picturesque KErama Islands

Next mission: find two bikes. The island is so small, it's easy to find anything you want -everybody knows everybody on Aka-jima. We spent three days exploring the surroundings on our bikes, in this picture-perfect outpost of tranquility, riding along beaches, in tiny little alleys, up the hills, and all the way to Geruma and Fukaji islands. There's only a few cars so the roads are always quiet. 

This trip in Japan will stay one of the most INCREDIBLE we've had. On so many levels!

What to do in the Kerama islands? 

Depending on the season, there are plenty of things to do in the Kerama Islands -and by that I mean discovering glorious beaches, friendly people and water activities, all within walking distance.

  • Snorkel and dive in one of the clearest waters on Earth, with incredible underwater sights
  • Explore the islands by bike, from Aka-jima to Fukaji, where stands a nice tiny little airport
  • At dusk, spot the wild Kerama deers on the beach
  • Go whale watching during humpback whale migration
  • Kayak and/or swim in the clearest, bluest waters
  • Hike! Hiking trails here are wonderful, you're always rewarded for your efforts with incredible views
  • Go island hopping on a boat tour
  • Eat delicious gourmet food for 20$ (scroll down for more infos ;))
  • Enjoy the sunset from Nakadake on Aka-Jima 
  • Meet the locals and learn some Japanese words in local cafes and restaurants
  • Drink great cocktails and Japanese whisky in Yonamine House
Island hopping in Okinawa: A Guide to the Kerama Islands
Island hopping in Okinawa: A Guide to the Kerama Islands

flowers & gourmet food in trattoria bar GNON

In Yonamine House, around some great Japanese cocktails, we meet the only native English speaking of the islands, a lovely British teacher. He tells us about a fantastic restaurant we HAVE to try: Trattoria Bar Gnon, on Geruma Island. The chef doesn't speak English and you have to call to be sure he opens the restaurant for you -so the guy calls him, books us a table, and the next day, we pedal all the way to this tiny island for a fabulous lunch.

We discover a beautiful bright orange container hundred meters from the turquoise sea, with a beautiful flowery terrace. It's simple, creative, yet delicate. The menu is unique and made only with fresh local ingredients -including lots of colorful flowers!

Like most good things, our lunch starts with two glasses of bubbles, then comes a series of delicious dishes worth a gastronomic restaurant. We are amazed by the refined food. The atmosphere makes it even better -we feel so lucky being here, eating scrumptious food lost in the middle of nowhere. 

Eating in Trattoria Bar is A MUST if you travel in the Kerama Islands. Book in advance: / 098-987-2650.

When to go and how long should you stay in the kerama islands?

The one thing that made our trip so special is that we went during low season! The Kerama Islands are a top destination for Japanese people, so if you go during the golden periods, you might be disappointed by the crowds. We went beginning of April, just before the Easter vacationers. From the ferry ride to the deserted beaches, we felt like we were the two only lucky explorers on these wonderful islands. So think ahead and check if there's any Japanese public holidays to avoid tourists.

We stayed 3 days - 2 nights on Aka-Jima, and it was perfect. Most people stay overnight on Tokashiki or Zamami, not on Aka, so it's very quiet. If you want a more “remote” feeling, then Aka would probably be your best choice. It really is a perfect destination if you need a break from the city (yes I'm talking to you, Hong Kong folks ;)).

Island hopping in Okinawa: A Guide to the Kerama Islands

Getting there

From Naha's Tomari Port to the Kerama Islands, two ferry options:

High-speed ferry (1-2 trips a day), 50 minutes ride

- Regular ferry (1 trip a day), 90 minutes ride