I remember learning years ago that people travel from across the globe to Japan for ski vacations. It was surprising to me, though I’m not sure exactly what I expected the destination had to offer outside of the bustling metropolis of Tokyo.

Turns out the country continues to surprise me, this time with Okinawa – a group of 160 sub-tropical islands in the county’s south, appealing because of its stunning scenery (above and below water), culture and experiences.

 Made up of 160 islands, Okinawa is playing off of its status as a “hidden gem” in a new video series titled The Secret is Out, which showcases the destination through the eyes of travellers from around the world. 

Here’s a glimpse of a place I only just realized I want to visit:

The coast

Okinawa's beautiful waters

From Kabira Bay to Kume Island, Tatami Ishi to Kariyushi Beach, the options for stunning beach settings along equally breathtaking ocean fronts are endless. Doesn’t this picture say it all?



Sea kayaking in Okinawa
Credit: Roger Braunstein

Visitors can opt for rest and relaxation, or spend their time exploring the destination from the water via sea kayak, canoes, banana boats or flyboarding. Famous for its 200-plus coral reefs, Okinawa’s Kume Island and the Kerama Islands are known to divers worldwide. Looking to keep your feet on the ground? The subtropical forests of Yanbaru, stretching across the northern area of Okinawa Main Island, provide the perfect backdrop for hikers.


The culture & communities

Sights of Okinawa

As the heritage of the Ryukyu Kingdom continues to influence aspects of Okinawa (such as art and music), there are many cultural experiences to be had throughout the destination. For example, Taketomi Island – spanning just nine kilometers round – is a unique setting, with its quaint homes with garden walls set alongside white sand-covered roads. For something a bit less tranquil, shopping is a main draw to Naha City, where traditional and modern craft shops can easily be found.


Events & festivals

The Great Tug of War in Okinawa, Japan
Credit: "Naha Matsuri Giant tug rope" by Mitsuru Ogino - Photo taken by Mitsuru Ogino. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Whether you’re looking to partake in a marathon or beer festival somewhere on the other side of the Pacific, Okinawa is always busy with major events to keep visitors entertained. Among my favourites from research? The Worldwide Uchinanchu (Love) Festival and the Great Tug of War, usually hosted in September or October.