CONTRIBUTED BY JOY BARNES
My husband and I were feeling the itch to set out on another vacation, but we were looking for a weekend family get-away, close to home. And on a recommendation from our neighbor, we set our sights on Tokashiki Island.
Tokashiki is one of the Kerama Islands off the coast of Okinawa and is accessible by a 35-minute express ferry or a 70-minute large ferry (with the ability to transport vehicles). We opted for the longer ferry to bring our car because we enjoy the freedom of exploring on our own. However, I’d recommend the express ferry to others who prefer simply being a “beach bum”—which is a perfectly respectable past-time in the Keramas! (Just as a word of caution: I’m not a person who normally gets motion sickness, but I’ll politely say, I lost it on the trip over. It was a very windy day, so be prepared if the seas are not looking calm!)
We stayed for two nights — but a day-trip, using the express ferry, would be easy to do. There are over two dozen small hotels and hostels to choose from on the island. Most appeared to be small, run-down beach inns, but this actually adds to the laid-back feel of the island. We stayed at the Tokashiku Marine Village Hotel, directly on Tokashiku Beach. What the hotel lacked in amenities and room aesthetics, it made up for in the hospitality of its staff, and above all, the beauty of the location. Tokashiku Beach was spectacular. It’s about a half-mile stretch of sand, carved out between mountains, and at the risk of sounding trite, it had crystal-clear blue waters.
The other main beach on Tokashiki is Aharen Beach which was larger than Tokashiku and appeared to be a little more commercialized. The majority of the inns and dive shops were also located in the village of Aharen. So, if you’re looking for a little more action, Aharen would be the place to go. In addition to Aharen and Tokashiku, the only other village on the island is Tokashiki Port. Outside of these 3 small villages, the island mostly consists of undeveloped mountain landscape. That was perhaps the most surprising feature of the island. We were just a short ferry ride from Okinawa, yet the landscape was dramatically more mountainous.
Because we had our car, we explored the “sights” of Tokashiki, which mostly consisted of three small WWII memorials, the largest roller-slide we’ve ever seen, and multiple scenic overlooks. The highlight of these was definitely the scenery. The brochure of the island says, “Enter the world of endless panorama,” and that sums it up much better than I can. The vistas were remarkable and it was beautiful to see the other islands of the Keramas on the horizon.
However, most people don’t visit the Keramas to simply drive around and look at the ocean. They visit the to go under the ocean! The Keramas are known for world-class diving and snorkeling. I bravely got over my fear of sea creatures and tried snorkeling for the first time. Just off the shoreline I saw a beautiful 2 ½ foot silvery-blue fish. (I know that’s not the scientific name, but remember, I’m a novice!) After that first encounter, I was hooked. Further off shore I was amazed at the coral and bright colored tropical fish. However, the piece de resistance was the giant… I’m talking HUGE… sea turtle I saw. It was truly remarkable to see this graceful creature in its own habitat. I can now understand the appeal of scuba diving here in Okinawa and our surrounding islands.
Our getaway to Tokashiki turned out to be a nice little escape when we were starting to feel a little restless here on Okinawa. It proved to be easy to get to and the low-key, relaxed atmosphere of the island was just what our family needed.
Get a sneak peek of Tokashiki Island on this video by Wandering Waffle Heads:
Details: There is a basic website for Tokashiki Island which has a few details about the island. It also contains the very important ferry information regarding, schedules, pricing, and reservations, etc.
I would highly recommend booking a reservation for the ferry, especially during peak seasons. (I saw the Americans in line ahead of us, turned away because the ferry was full. What a disappointing way to start out your adventure.)
Directions: The ferries for Tokashiki leave from the Tomari Port in Naha, just north of the airport. (The following directions to the port were taken from a past Okinawa Hai post about Zamami, another of the Kerama Islands.) Tomari port is very easy to get to. Head south on Route 58 toward Naha past Camp Kinser. Cross the bridge after Kinser and take a right at the forth traffic light – you will see Tomari port on your left. Take your first left into the port parking lot.
Prices: The Marine Liner Tokashiki is the express ferry and a round trip costs 4620 yen/adult and 2320 yen/child. The Ferry Kerama is the longer, automobile ferry and costs 3080 yen/adult and 1540 yen/child, plus the cost of your car which is determined by length of your vehicle (one adult is included in the price of the car).