With scores of dive sites around Okinawa-Hontō – and many more around the outer islands – one of the best reasons for visiting Okinawa is to go diving. There are plenty of dive shops, but only at a few will you find instructors who speak English. PADI courses are available on Okinawa-Hontō from Maeda Misaki Divers House and the American-run Reef Encounters. Once you have your certificate the islands are yours for the taking. To rent equipment, you should know the metric readings of your height, weight and shoe size.
There are great diving opportunities every way you turn on the islands, but the following sites are particularly notable.
Fantastic hard corals, more reef fish than you could count in a week and lots of big fan corals. Head to Zamami-jima, a particularly laidback spot from which to organize a dive with the instructors at Joy Joy.
There are over fifty different dive spots to choose from around Miyako-jima, with cave dives being particularly popular: start off by hooking up with Good Fellas Club.
Dotted around the Yaeyamas are 360 species of corals and sea anemones, including the rare blue coral reefs off Shiraho-no-umi on Ishigaki-jima. Among the thousand-odd species of fish you can expect to swim with are barracuda, butterfly fish, redfin fusiliers, spadefish and manta rays in the waters between Iriomote-jima and Kohama-jima.
There’s easily accessible coral in the waters surrounding this enchanting island. Both youth hostels can put you in touch with local diving operations.
For the ultimate dive experience consider lugging your gear out here to see sea turtles and hammerhead sharks, and to explore the enigmatic rocks that some claim are the remains of a sunken civilization.