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Time to heed the alluring call of beaches

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2009-03-27

The sun is shining, temperatures are warm, and so is the water.

The favorable omens of Spring signal the start of the beaches season on Okinawa. While the early birds were Ishigaki City and Uruma City, which opened beaches last weekend, there’s just over a week to go before the public begins packing the lunch boxes, grabbing the swim togs and beach balls, and heads to a many of the region’s more popular beaches.

A balmy 27C was the order of the day last Friday when Ishigaki kicked off the season at the city’s Kawahira Bay. It was a day of special significance, as the Michelin Green Guidebook had just been released, choosing the island for a three-star rating. Taketomi Town and Iriomote Island were both awarded two stars by the new Michelin Green Guidebook. Ishigaki City’s mayor, Choshio Ohama, pledged to “keep this beach always clean,” and made the appeal “for the world’s people to come as tourists.”

Children turned out in large numbers for the chance for their first swim of the year. As they splashed in the water, the kids made a pledge to “swim safely, and keep the ocean clean.”
Naminoue Beach in Naha City and Zampa Beach on the main island open for business beginning Sunday, April 5th, along with the beaches of Miyako Island. Miyako Island’s Yonaha Maehama Beach is free, as is Naminoue. At Zampa Beach, some activities are free, while others have leisure activity fees.

The Searoad Festival in Yonashiro, Uruma City, kicks off April 5th with a Half Marathon beginning at 9 a.m. The 10km and 3.8km trim marathons begin at 9:50 a.m. and 12:10 p.m., while beach activities take place along the roadside beach. Entry fee is ¥2,500 for the half marathon, ¥2,000 for the 10km run, while the 3.8km trim marathon fee is ¥1,000.

Admission to the opening of the Hotel Resonex Nago private beach is free April 5th. Opening day activities include bingo, a treasure hunt for kids, and free marine leisure rides, including jet skis and snorkeling. Okuma’s Kariyushi Beach opening also taks place April 5th at the JAL Private Resort Okuma, next to the Okuma Military Recreation Area.

The Big Time Resort beach opening on Ikei Island is set for 10 a.m. April 12th, Nishiharaa Marine Park’s Nishihara Kirakira Beach, a man-made 550-meter long sandy beach complete with barbeque and picnic areas, opens for the season April 18th. Bibi Beach at Nishizaki, Itoman City, opens April 25th. The man-made beach opened in 2006 has barbeque and picnic areas, a marine goods rental area, and free marine leisure activities on opening day.

Seemingly, there’s a beach no matter which way you turn on Okinawa. Some of the more popular civilian and military beaches are showcased here:

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 vailable, 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.

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. 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.

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. 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.

Oura Wan Beach is Camp Schwab’s base beach. Operated by Marine Corps Community Services, the beach offers swimming, fishing and boating activities as well as snorkeling. Sailboats, power boats, jet skis, windsurfing boards and kayaks are available to rent. There’ s also a fishing bait and tackle shop at the beach, and there are charter boat rentals. Lifeguards are on duty daily. Travel north on Highway 329 to Camp Schwab.

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.

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. Okuhma 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.

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

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 equiment 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.

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 Sunsun Beach, Komaka Bach, Hyakuna Beach and Mibaru Beach, all loated 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.

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