By Plane -- JAL flights from Tokyo's Haneda Airport take 2 hours and 50 minutes and cost ¥40,900 for a regular one-way flight to Naha Airport (OKA; tel. 098/840-1151), though tickets bought 28 days in advance can fall as low as ¥16,300 for selected flights. Flights from Osaka's Kansai Airport take 1 1/2 hours and cost ¥34,200 one-way; from Fukuoka it takes 1 3/4 hours and costs ¥27,500 one-way. After stopping by the Visitor Information Center in either the international terminal (tel. 098/859-0742; daily 10:30am-7:30pm) or the domestic terminal (tel. 098/857-6884; daily 9am-9pm), head to Naha Kuko Station in the domestic terminal, where the Yui Rail monorail delivers you to Kencho-mae Station in downtown Naha in 12 minutes for ¥230. There are also Airport Limousine Buses that travel to major resorts throughout the island; it costs ¥1,860 and takes 2 hours to travel to Busena on the northwest coast.
By Ferry -- Ferries travel to Naha from various ports on Honshu and Kyushu, including Tokyo, Osaka, and Kagoshima. Most frequent are those from Kagoshima, which depart every day or two and take about 25 hours, with prices starting at ¥13,200 for the cheapest class.
Island Hopping on a Discount -- If you plan to visit at least two Okinawan islands in addition to Okinawa Island, you can save money by purchasing an Okinawa Island Pass, valid on five specific routes within the Okinawan island chain, including flights from Naha to Kume or Ishigaki, on Japan Transocean Air (a subsidiary of JAL). A minimum of two flights, at ¥9,000 each, is required. Note: Tickets must be purchased from JAL before arriving in Japan.
In addition to the Visitor Information Centers at the airport, you'll find the Naha Tourism Information Center on Okiei Street, just off Kokusai Dori, at 2-1-4 Makishi (tel. 098/868-4887; www.naha-navi.or.jp; Mon-Fri 8:30am-8pm; Sat-Sun 10am-8pm), where you can pick up city maps and brochures. Be sure, too, to get the free Okinawa Island Guide, with information on sightseeing, marine sports, dining, accommodations, events, and more, along with maps.
Orientation & Getting Around
Naha, in the south part of Okinawa Island, is home to Naha Airport and the island's major attraction, Shurijo Castle. Its most famous downtown boulevard is Kokusai Dori (Yui Rail stop: Kencho-mae or Makishi), lined with souvenir shops, department stores, hotels, restaurants, and bars.
For the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Shurijo Castle, you'll have to take the Yui Rail monorail. It runs from Naha Airport through downtown Naha to Shuri Station, the last stop, in 27 minutes for ¥290. In operation daily 6am to 11:30pm, trains depart every 6 to 15 minutes and start at ¥200. One-day passes with unlimited rides cost ¥600; children pay half fare.
Also in the southern part of Okinawa are sites relating to World War II, as well as Okinawa World, a theme park with a cave and restored Okinawan homes housing galleries and exhibitions. U.S. military bases are located mostly in central Okinawa Island, where you'll also find Okinawa City, the island's second-largest town, and Chatan, both with many establishments, shops, and services geared toward military personnel and their families. Chatan is especially trendy, with its American Village shopping mall, dive and surf shops, international restaurants, beaches, and other amusements. North Okinawa Island, the least populated, is a hilly region with resorts, golf courses, beaches, snorkeling and diving spots, and Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.
For destinations outside Naha, you'll have to take a bus from the Naha Bus Terminal (tel. 098/867-7386; Yui Rail stop: Asahibashi). The Tourist Information Centers have pamphlets with bus information (those with numbers 20 and higher service outlying areas). Take a ticket upon boarding (fares, which increase with the distance covered, are posted up front) and pay when you get off.
If you have an international driver's license, you might wish to rent a car. There are many rental agencies, with locations at the airport, in Naha, at hotels and other locations. Prices start at ¥2,800 for 24 hours in a subcompact, plus ¥1,575 per day for insurance and an extra ¥1,050 in high season. For more information contact ABC-Rent-A-Car (tel. 0120/703-701; www.abc-car.net/en), Budget Rent A Car (tel. 0120/130 543); or Okinawa Tourist Rent-A-Car (tel. 0120/34-3732).
Otherwise, you can hire a taxi (tel. 098/831-9007) for ¥3,150 per hour or ¥21,300 for the whole day. Mr. Takara is an English-speaking driver who knows the island well; make a reservation and negotiate the fare at tel. 098/868-7508.