5 Best Okinawa Diving Spots: Underwater Bliss for all Levels
25 July 2016
Best Okinawa Diving Spots
The breathtaking Japanese island chain of Okinawa is known as one of the greatest scuba diving destinations on earth. With underwater horizons featuring pristine coral reefs and countless other tropical wonders, the chain of islands stretching from Okinawa Honto to Yonagunijima boasts a tremendous diversity of dive sites suitable for divers of all levels of skill and experience. So throw on your scuba gear, jump in, and discover the best Okinawa diving spots for yourself.

 

Best Okinawa Diving from the Main Island to Miyakojima

Okinawa Main Island
 

Okinawa (Main Island)


Some of the best Okinawa diving destinations can be found on the main island, which features numerous well-known dive sites, many of which are accessible either from shore or by a short boat ride. Perhaps the most famous destination on the main island is Maeda Point.  Beginners can watch the local dive masters feed massive batfish in the shallows, while more seasoned divers can venture into the deeper waters at the bottom of the drop-off to search for sharks and turtles. The one downside to Maeda Point is that it can become extremely crowded. If you plan to go, particularly on a weekend, make sure to claim your parking spot before 8:00am—or you might end up waiting in a long line of cars just to get in.

Another shore site which is gaining in popularity is Sunabe Seawall. Located along the coast of the northern part of Chatan Town, the seawall features one of the most bountiful soft-coral gardens imaginable. After a short swim over the top of the reef, divers can descend along a steep drop-off to a sandy bottom at a depth of 60 ft. In addition to scores of colorful reef fish, look for cuttlefish, barracuda, nudibranchs, a variety of crustaceans and even the odd turtle or ray. And don’t mind the plentiful sea-snakes. While venomous, they are extremely docile and so awe-inspiring to behold that many diving in Okinawa venture out specifically to see them.

 
Kerama Islands
 

The Kerama Islands


Of course, Okinawa diving opportunities extend far beyond the main island.  
About one and a half hours away from it by boat are the Keramas, a group of 22 islands, only four of which are inhabited. The clear waters around these islands feature some of the best diving in Okinawa and are a popular destination for dive charters which go there daily. Besides turtles, rays, sharks and numerous reef fish, the Keramas are home to garden eels, green morays and a variety of exotic reef creatures. The plentiful ocean life to be found around the Kerama Islands is well worth the long boat ride there and back, which can take anywhere from one and a half to two hours depending on the boat and route. Even while taking in the scenery of Nago Bay to the north and Itoman to the south, keep an eye out for the wild mountain goats of Kuroshima, staring curiously as your boat drives past.

 
Ishigakijima
 

Ishigakijima


Ishigakijima’s coastal waters offer a great deal of variety, its prolific hard-coral reefs teeming with surgeon fish, butterfly fish, anemone fish and more. Though there are many dive sites around Ishigakijima, the island is best known for “Manta Scramble,” a site north of the town of Kabira on the west side of the island, where mantas congregate near the coast to feed and be cleaned by the remoras that frequent the reefs. Divers of all experience levels should rest assured, because mantas are gentle giants that pose no threat to people at all. Almost any time when the conditions are good, divers can hover in the blue as the graceful creatures arise from the deep and cruise effortlessly around them.

 
Yonagunijima
 

Yonagunijima


It would be impossible to mention Yonagunijima without discussing the famous submerged monument, which is certainly one of the most mysterious Okinawa diving spots. The subject of both intense study and wild speculation, the stone structure’s remarkably even lines give the impression that at least part of it was carved that way by human hands. Though we may never know for sure, it remains one of Okinawa’s most popular underwater attractions. But the monument is not all there is to diving in Yonaguni. Every winter, hammerhead sharks congregate by the thousands in the blue waters around the island and divers lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time might find themselves swimming amid a school of hundreds of them! Although there is very little risk of injury from a hammerhead, the shark dive is not for beginners—do take caution when deciding to dive here. While there are plenty of places for beginning divers on this island, the above attractions are what truly set it apart.

 
Miyakojima
 

Miyakojima


While not widely known among Okinawa diving aficionados, the underwater attractions of Miyakojima are nothing less than world-class. In addition to an incredible variety of ocean life and some of the clearest waters in the East China Sea, Miyakojima is home to Yabiji, the largest cluster of coral reefs anywhere in Japan. Comprising a total of more than 100 coral mounds and pinnacles and running for a total of 17 km north to south, Yabiji boasts a breathtaking medley of hard corals. Known as “Phantasmal Island” because of the way the top of the coral shelf becomes visible above water a few days a year when the tides reach their lowest point, Yabiji is considered one of the best diving and snorkeling spots around the island. The site is only accessible by boat, which departs from a port on Ikemajima, the northernmost island of Miyakojima, easily accessed by car via the causeway. 

Of course, Yabiji is far from the only Miyakojima dive site worth investigating. Beginner divers can also try Gakeshita (“under the cliff” in Japanese), a domed cavern accessible only by an underwater swim-through, famous for the mist that hangs in the air inside it, formed by changing pressure gradients caused by the rise and fall of the ocean. Divers describe the deep blue vapor as a mystical sight unlike any they’ve ever seen. Divers with a bit more experience can take in the wonders of Satan’s Palace, an underwater passageway named for the demonic shape formed by its silhouette. But don’t be fooled by the name: Divers describe the site as so stunningly beautiful they could hardly bear to leave it.

 

Diving in Okinawa is just the Beginning of a Larger Journey


Given such exotic surroundings - all in such close proximity - a scuba diving excursion makes the perfect day trip especially when visiting Miyakojima. That said, even if some people in your group are not divers, it won’t be difficult for them to find other marine sports to enjoy. Or, if a lazy day at the beach is what they’re looking for, Miyakojima is home to some of the most beautiful natural beaches in the world. All this and more is easily accessible from Shigira Resort, Miyakojima’s foremost luxury destination.

 

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