Hooray! Beach season is finally here!

By Bill Charles

Although not yet in full swing, the Okinawa beach season is gearing up, and that means beach parties and all the fun one can have on the prefecture’s numerous beaches.

The water’s getting warm, temperatures are short sleeve shirt weather, and everyone’s tired of being cooped up inside.

Good thing, because the beaches on Okinawa’s main island begin opening this weekend, a week behind the southern Yaeyama and Azama Sun Sun Beach.  Sunday marks the beginning of the water season at Hotel Resonex in Nago City.

The best time to enjoy the beaches is now before they get really crowded in May.

There’s plenty of time to get into some new swim togs or bikinis for the upcoming beach season, as Naminoue Beach in Naha City, Zampa Beach in Yomitan, Okuma JAL Resort, and Miyako Maehama Beach Tokyu Resort all open April 6th.  Also kicking off the season that weekend are Big Time Resort on Ikei Island and Sea Road.  Each will hold official opening ceremonies, after which the splashing can begin.

The weekend of April 5th and 6th sees a bunch more beaches open, with festivities marking the start at Yaebiji Reef on Miyako Island. It’s an annual event and local tradition, although not a beach opening event per se, when the tide is at its lowest ebb of the year, and the huge reef off Miyako Island comes above the surface. Ferries and boats from Hirara Port in Miyako will shuttle hundreds of people to the reef located a 30-minute ride away, where they can walk on the reef, collect shellfish and just look around. The ferry leaves the port at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday, returning at 3:30 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays when the tide begins rolling back. The ferry cost is ¥8,000 for adults and ¥4,000 for children. Smaller boats are also carrying people to the reef operate at negotiated prices.

Tropical Beach in Ginowan City begins the season on April 13th, while Nishihara Marine Park is ready for visitors on the 19th.

Military beaches at Torii Station (http://goo.gl/maps/j5T5A), Okuma Joint Recreation Center (http://goo.gl/maps/p8Lkw), White Beach (http://goo.gl/maps/gIJxY and Oura Wan (http://goo.gl/maps/rPH8q) at Camp Schwab are open, but lifeguards will not be on duty until varying dates in April.   Rental equipment hours on the base facilities are limited.

There are numerous civilian and military beaches on Okinawa, many of which are extremely popular:

Azama Beach hours are 9 a.m. ~ 6 p.m. until June 30th, and from July first 9 a.m. ~ 7 p.m. It has barbeque setups for rent.  Foods are available to barbeque at a cost of ¥1,000~¥1,200 per person.  Reservations are required two days in advance.  To visit Azama Sun Sun Beach, from Kadena Air Base get on the Okinawa Expressway at Okinawa Minami and head south to the Haebaru Minami IC. It’s a simple 20 minutes by car from there, and signs are posted. Azama Sun Sun Beach is at http://goo.gl/maps/An49w

Military beaches at Torii Station, Okuma Joint Recreation Center, White Beach and Oura Wan at Camp Schwab are open, but life guards will not be on duty until in April.

Rental equipment hours on the base facilities are limited.

There are numerous civilian and military beaches on Okinawa, many of which are extremely popular:

Naminoue Beach is Naha’s pride and joy, located between the city’s two primary seaports.  There are actually two beaches—one city owned, one private—available for use.  The city’s Naminoue Beach is small, but safe and secure.  Swimming areas are roped in and protected from water sports enthusiasts, jet skis and kayaks.  Lifeguards are on duty daily from sunrise to sunset.  Food stands are available within a few meters of the beach.  Restrooms and showers are available, and both beaches have smooth, sandy beach. Travel south on Highway 58 to Naha, looking for signs for the right hand turn to Naminoue Beach in the heart of the city. http://goo.gl/maps/dMrdO

Araha Beach is open daily 9 a.m. ~ 6:30 p.m. this season. It’s located in Araha Park Chatanh, close to Hamby areas famous for weekend night markets.  Beachside promenades and a luxurious field are well maintained, and exactly what’s good for children playing beachside.  It’s a popular beach both with families and couples. A full-scale sailing boat is placed in front of the beach, where white sands continue about 600 meters. http://goo.gl/maps/vrDe6

Tropical Beach is located at Ginowan Seaside Park, just south of Camp Foster.  It sits next to the Okinawa Convention Center, and offers a clean beach and breakwaters area, as well as picnic tables.  Barbeques are allowed, and the beach facility offers grill rentals, as well as a host of other beach necessities and tents.  Restrooms are available.  Opening hours are 9 a.m. ~ 9:30 p.m. with swimming 9 a.m. ~ 7 p.m.Travel south on Highway 58 to the Okinawa Convention Center bypass (or north, from Camp Kinser).  The ANA Laguna Garden Hotel and the Convention Center are landmarks for the nearby beach.  Parking is limited at the beach, but ample parking is available about two blocks away. http://goo.gl/maps/Uod32

Sunset Beach is in Chatan, close to both Camps Lester and Foster, and also Kadena Air Base.  The beach and its adjacent pavilion are free, and offer picnic tables.  Sunset Beach has clearly identified swimming zones, marked by ropes. Sunset Beach hours until June 30th are 9 a.m. ~ 6 p.m.  From July first, the beach remains open an hour later. To visit Sunset Beach, travel north (or south) on Highway 58 to Camp Lester.  Beach signs are clearly marked at the Camp Lester Gate #1 intersection. http://goo.gl/maps/h96hl

Toyosaki Chura Sun Beach is open 6 a.m. ~ 10 p.m. daily, but swimming hours through June are 9 a.m. ~ 6 p.m.  The beach is only 15 minutes by car from Naha Airport.  Follow the Oroku bypass south.  A  jellyfish net is installed on this beautiful artificial beach, a full 700 meters in length. http://goo.gl/maps/Jlyl1

Itoman Bi Bi Beach will be open 8:30 a.m. ~ 8:30 p.m. starting March 31st.  Travel south 20 minutes by car from Naha, arriving at the beach in Nishizaki Town, Itoman City.  Parking in front of the beach is ¥500 for a full day.  The beach is white sand, and the sea at the artificial beach is a beautiful emerald green.  The swimming area is established in the beach. Snorkeling is prohibited, but playing with beach balls or rubber rings is permissible.  Since jellyfish invasion prevention nets are installed, families with kids can enjoy the water play in comfort.  Life Guards are always on the beach. http://goo.gl/maps/uDjHZ

Oura Wan Beach is Camp Schwab’s base beach.  Operated by Marine Corps Community Services, the beach offers swimming and a place to sunbath and play. Snorkeling gear and kayaks are available to rent.  No lifeguards are on duty so you swim at your own risk.  Travel north on Highway 329 to Camp Schwab. http://goo.gl/maps/rPH8q

White Beach Naval Station Beach features a beach, a swimming pool, cabins and camping and trailer rentals.  All base facilities are available.  Travel north on Highway 330 from Camp Foster, turning right at the Agena intersection to Route 10.  Be alert as the road quickly veers right and becomes Highway 8.  Travel east to the end of the road, at the White Beach Main Gate. http://goo.gl/maps/gIJxY

Okuma Joint Services Recreation Facility is located on Okinawa’s far northwest side, north of Nago City. A full recreation complex operated by the Air Force, Okuma has everything from cabanas and cabins to camp sites.  Most have been renovated in recent years.  Okuma has beach, boats and even a nine-hole golf course.  Reservations are a must for anything more than a day visit, as the extremely popular beach is often sold out. http://goo.gl/maps/p8Lkw

Courtney Beach is small and compact, and located on Camp Courtney proper.

Uken Beach (http://goo.gl/maps/OjKj4), Gushikawa Beach (http://goo.gl/maps/QU7tw) and Teruma Beach (http://goo.gl/maps/r0cwh) are on the island’s east side, near White Beach.  These Okinawa beaches are far less crowded than many, and are much less developed.  Rest rooms are available.  From Highway 329, travel east on Highway 8 toward White Beach.  Watch for the beach signs.

Ikei Island Beach is in the same area, near White Beach. It is on a small island connected to Okinawa by a bridge.  Travel Highway 10, then 8 toward White Beach. Turn left at Ikei Island signs, cross the bridge, and travel about ten kilometers to the beach.  There is an entry fee for this beach. http://goo.gl/maps/whLsV

Torii Beach is located on the U.S. Army military installation in Yomitan.  It has excellent beach, and facilities are new and plentiful.  Cottages are available for rent, there’s a water park and water slide, sports equipment rental, and free campsites.  Travel north on Highway 58 to Yomitan, turning left onto Route 6.  Enter Torii Station Gate One, then follow signs to the beach. http://goo.gl/maps/j5T5A

The southeast side of Okinawa has a number of secluded beaches with limited facilities and services.  Most offer excellent snorkeling opportunities.  Several worth mentioning are Azama Sun Sun Beach, Komaka Beach, Hyakuna Beach and Mibaru Beach, all located on Highway 331. To reach Highway 331, travel south on Highway 331 to Yonabaru Town, where 331 picks up.

MWR and MCCS offices on bases have island maps which pinpoint these and other beaches on Okinawa.