okinanwan island hopping

After getting our feet wet on Okinawa’s largest island, we navigated to the tiny isles in the far reaches of the Ryukyu archipelago. Most people don’t make it this far but the Okinawa tourism bureau and Hoshino Resorts are trying to change that. To help spread the word on the unique beauty and culture of remote Okinawa, they invited little ol’ HoneyTrek to check it out. In our island-hopping tour we went to culture-rich Taketomi, adventure-packed Iriomote and the resort-fabulous Kohama. Each offering a little something different, this was the perfect Okinawan mix just a short ferry apart.

luxury hotels on Taketomi

Our first stop was the 9-km long Taketomi or “God’s Island.” Over two centuries ago there was massive tsunami that destroyed neighboring islands and wiped out most of the communities but little Taketomi survived. As legend has it, God floated the island to save it from the storm. It is a deeply traditional and close-knit community and to even dream of building a resort here, the owner of Hoshino Resorts had to work with the island elders for seven years to get their approval. Keeping with the local ways, the hotel is built in the traditional Okinawan style with red clay tile roofs, coral walls, and–the most important fixture of any home in this region of Okinawa–the guardian Shisa (I will explain later).

taketomi japanese suite

Every guest has their own free-standing house, which can either be furnished Western style with high tables, chairs, and a raised bed or in the traditional Japanese style with wall-to-wall Tatami mats, low-profile seating and futon beds. Check out the slideshow for a bathroom that could soak away even the most stressful day at the office.

Taketomi gourmet meal

Without a shadow of a doubt the cuisine at Hoshinoya Taketomi was some of the best we experienced in all of Japan–and that is no easy feat. As you can see in this picture (our Japanese breakfast center, and an American breakfast on the tray off-frame to the right) the food was not only scrumptious, but bountiful.

Taketomi town

After breakfast we borrowed a pair of bicycles to tour the charming 350-person town. Biking along the coral-lined streets, draped with bougainvillea, dotted with Bonsai trees, and with the occasional ox cart was pure postcard material.

okinawa honeymoon

For centuries the ox cart was the only form of transportation around the island. Today you can take rides around the town with an adorable old Japanese man who serenades you with a shamisen. How could we resist?

making okinawan crafts

In Okinawa, you’ll notice that each house has a scary but endearing lion-dog creature snarling from the rooftop. This little guardian can be purchased throughout town or for a bit more fun…self-made at a pottery studio! Anne crafted a big gnarly Shisa (maybe it will protect our Hoboken home), and I made a bunch of Shisa feet for chopstick holders.

okinawa travel tips

Next Stop….The adventure capital of Okinawa: Iriomote. We said farewell to Taketomi and hopped a ferry this tropical paradise.

Best Iriomote beaches

After checking into the beach-front Hoshino Resort Nirakanai Iriomotejima we jumped into our suits and strolled the beach, exploring the numerous inlets and river systems that have carved the second largest Okinawan island into the rugged beauty she is today.

Iromote honeymoon

Kayaking is one of the best ways to explore Iriomote so we paddled to where the massive Nakara river meets the sea and explored its many mangrove and animal-rich channels. Always wanting to push an adventure to the limit, we followed this one stream until we could barley fit or float through the dense trees.

iriomote wild cat

The following day we met up again with our guide Hiro and headed for a jungle trek. En route he described the highly endangered leopard-like Iriomote Cat that can only be found on the island. Needless to say, our heads were on swivels for the entire trek. If the cats look even half as cool as the one on this sign, it might be worth a return trip to Iriomote, just to search one out.

Iriomote waterfall hike

After a short jaunt into the jungle we spotted this gorgeous fall and stopped for a little morning coffee and biscuits.

Kohama island vacations

The island hopping continues with Kohama and our stay at Hoshino Resort Kohamajima. Not only was the hotel on the beach, its rooms and restaurants were built over a network of canals so no matter where you were on the property, you felt the tranquil presence of water. The reflections at night were extra stunning.

 Where to stay in Okinawa

kohama honeymoon activities

With a multitude of activities and tools for relaxation, Kohamajima is the kind of resort you never have to (or want to) leave. We had a massage, cruised the golf course on a mini safari, did a yoga class, and even tried our hand at windsurfing. Kohama is actually one of the best windsurfing/kitesurfing spots in Okinawa which made for an awesome but full-throttle experience for us noobz.

We felt so lucky to delve into the far-flung islands of Okinawa. There are virtually no westerners to be found, just a few Japanese tourists also curious about this remote and pristine part of Japan. The food, landscape, people, and culture is really like no where else in the country or the world.

Okinawa Island Japan

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  1. David Carillet says:

    I didn’t have time to make it down that far when I was there, but would like to when I return. How did you guys get to the Okinawan islands? Is it cheaper by boat or air?

  2. This was so awesome! Loved the pics – the place looks great! No wonder the resort wanted to have you there – now I really want to go!

  3. Travelbllgr says:

    The island looks amazing and travelling by ox cart has to be the best form on transport – we had an ox cart race when we were in chiang mai thailand

      1. Travelbllgr says:

        Lol no not really, turns out ox’s cant run very fast when they have a cart on their back!

  4. Lesley Peterson says:

    Inspiring photos! The hotels look gorgeous. I’d love to pedal around Taketomi on a bicycle and try some pottery making.

  5. Rashaad Jorden says:

    Lots of food pictures 🙂
    Do you have a favorite Japanese food?

  6. Regina Teh says:

    Hi, I am visiting Okinawa with my husband for our honeymoon in June. We wish to go for island hopping but not sure how should I go about it. (eg. which tour guide). Can you give me some advice on it?
    We would like to do trekking/ kayaking (ecotourism). Thank you!!!!

    1. Regina, love that you are taking an Okinawa honeymoon! There is pretty good ferry system…though you have to be careful to time it right since there aren’t that many a day. Ishigaki is the main harbor to get to these islands we talked about. If you are into the outdoorsy stuff we really loved Iriomote for both. if you have more questions, ask us over at TripCoach@honeytrek.com and have fun!

  7. Thanks so much for the wonderful posts. I just stumbled on your blog as I am traveling to Japan for work in late October/November and going to a research station in Okinawa. Just a quick question: I assume prices are very similar to mainland Japan, so even though you can get relatively inexpensive flights it still adds up quickly? Also, how long would you spend on Iriomote (sounds like the nicest option for outdoor activities) – would 2 days be enough or 3-5 days better? I don’t have a lot of extra time as it is a work trip, so trying to estimate how much exactly there might be to do.

    1. Aly, we are so glad you are enjoying our posts! That is so cool you are going to work in Okinawa! Iriomote was definitely our favorite. It was is also pretty far out there so I would recommend three days over two. The ferry system is good so that could possilbly save you some money over all flights. Have a wonderful time!

      1. Anne Wonderful, thanks for the response! I am keen to check out some of your other blog posts, and have just joined your newsletter. Just one more quick question about getting flights to Okinawa – you booked yours while already in Japan? Do you think it is less expensive to buy a package in Tokyo that includes flights and hotels? I am a keen diver so was actually thinking of ISHIGAKI-JIMA, but the airfares from Toyko were crazy-expensive, maybe better to get a charter flight. Hostels/pensions and B&Bs didn’t seem TOO expensive, but for those of us used to traveling in SE Asia on £25 a day for 2 people, it seems crazy expensive! Was just wondering if it was worth it and what you thought about prices, given that you obviously traveled on a budget for most of your trip and kept track of it so we could benefit from that experience 🙂

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