Dive Into Okinawa’s Incredible Kerama Islands Marine Park

Discover a New World Only 35 Minutes from Naha by High-Speed Ferry

Map of Kerama Islands

Designated as a national park in 2014, the Kerama Islands are a group of 22 large and small islands and rocky reefs.

A mere 40km (24.8 miles) from Naha, the main Kerama islands of Tokashiki, Zamami, and Aka can be reached by high-speed ferry. Under the national park designation, the three islands are also interconnected by sea routes, making a round-trip tour easy.Take the Naha Airport bus approximately 25 minutes to Tomari Port, where you can board the high-speed ferry to Tokashiki Island. The journey takes around 35 minutes. Getting to Zamami and Aka takes about 50-60 minutes each.

Aside from Tokyo Haneda, all of Japan’s major airports offer direct flights to Naha. During the peak season of July to August, and weekends in September, you can take a flight from Haneda between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. and be relaxing in the utopia of the Keramas by 2:00 p.m.

The Crystal Clear Blue World of the Keramas

The Crystal Clear Blue World of the Keramas

Among the many scenic islands visitors to Okinawa can enjoy, the natural beauty of the Keramas is outstanding. The areas around the Kerama Islands – referred to as “Kerama blue” – are some of the most pristine marine domains on the planet, and a destination for divers the world over.

The waters of the Keramas officially open to public swimming in mid-April, but with an average temperature of approximately 20°C (68°F) even through the winter, you can enjoy aquatic fun almost year-round.

Stand up paddle (SUP) surfing

All kinds of water sports can be enjoyed in the Keramas – snorkeling, diving, sea kayaking, stand up paddle (SUP) surfing and more. Activity tours to the uninhabited islands are popular, too. All the gear and water wear can be rented, with instructors on hand so that even a first-timer can have a blast.

Diving

The Keramas offer a world class scuba diving experience, with around 30 excellent locations. The diverse ocean floor topography and currents can accommodate beginners to advanced divers. Even if you don’t have your diving certification, there are guided activities available. Check the below website and dive right in on your next trip to Okinawa!

Boat, Accommodation and Activity Reservations

As the Keramas are remote islands, reservations for accommodations, transportation, and activities should be made in advance. Summer is particularly busy, so book as early as possible.

Encounters with precious underwater wildlife

Swim with sea turtles

Swim with sea turtles

In the Keramas, the chances of taking a swim with a sea turtle is pretty high. Three species of turtle flourish here – the green sea turtle, the loggerhead sea turtle, and the hawksbill sea turtle. They spawn on the beaches of Zamami Island from May to August each year.

Sea turtles thrive in shallow waters and love to eat seaweed and other plant life. If you want to come face to face with one, low tide shallows of 2m (6.5ft) deep is the best place. Inquire with marine shop staff for more info.

A child plays with a newly-hatched green sea turtle
A child plays with a newly-hatched green sea turtle

Vivid coral an unforgettable sight

Vivid coral and tropical fish.

The Kerama Islands’ delicate coral reef ecosystem has been protected by the Ramsar Convention since 2005, later extended to the entirety of the marine park in 2014. There are approximately 400 species of coral reef in Japan, with 248 varieties – around 60% – found in the Keramas. Venture out from the shoreline just a few meters and you’ll encounter vivid coral and tropical fish. Even first-time snorkelers and children can go on adventures here.

In order to protect the coral reefs, local residents put time and effort into ridding the waters of damaging crown-of-thorns starfish and shellfish.

Coral spawns during the full moons
Coral spawns during the full moons of May and June

Encounter Island Animal Wildlife

Kerama deer
Kerama deer are not afraid of people, but touching or feeding them is forbidden

The protected Kerama deer can be found on four of the islands: Aka, Fukaji, Geruma, and Yakabi. During their breeding period they’re known to swim to other islands! The best time to greet these creatures is just before sunset. You’ll come across them near the shore, or along inland roads.

A Relaxing Sojourn on an Isolated Tropical Island

Aharen Beach (Tokashiki Island)
Aharen Beach (Tokashiki Island)
Furuzamami Beach (Zamami Island)
Furuzamami Beach (Zamami Island)

In the famed Michelin Green Guide Japan you’ll find high praise for the unspoiled beauty of the Keramas’ beaches, such as Zamami Island’s Furuzamami Beach and the 800m (2624 ft) stretch of pure white sand on Tokashiki Island’s Aharen Beach. What could be more luxurious than passing the time with a soft sea breeze blowing over you and the colors of the ocean gradually transforming as day turns to night?

Aka island
Aka island

The islands of the Keramas feature unexpectedly rolling landscapes. The largest of the Keramas – Tokashiki Island – takes approximately two hours to circle by motorbike. Or why not rent a bicycle and make a day out of it? There are scenic overlooks on each island, offering superb views of the Keramas and even the Okinawan mainland on a clear day.

Sabani Sailing Race
Every year, the exciting Sabani Sailing Race sees contestants sail traditional, hand-paddled boats from Zamami Island to Naha Port. The Sabani Sailing Race 2017 starts from July 2nd.
2016 SABANI 17th SS (c)PHOTOWAVE ⁄ K.Soehata

From 1429 to 1879 the Kerama Islands served as a key navigation point along the trade routes between Okinawa and China. Impressive historical remnants are dotted throughout Zamami Island, including stone walls made of coral and traditional red-tiled roofs. These traces of Ryukyuan culture are yet another side of what makes the Keramas absolutely unique.

The islands of the Keramas

The total population of the Kerama Islands is only 1600 people. On these humble islands you won’t find any shopping complexes or luxury resorts, yet people are drawn back again and again. Make the journey yourself, and find out why.