CONTRIBUTED BY STEVE
A relatively short ferry ride from Tomari port in Naha, Zamami is part of the Kerama islands. It’s a popular dive/snorkel/beach destination in the summertime and the main place from which whale watching tours are launched in the late winter and early spring. The round trip fare will vary depending upon which ferry you choose, but keep in mind that neither can transport cars. If you have a SOFA license, though, you can rent a scooter and zip around just like the natives. If you really want to get fancy, there are car rentals available as well.
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 third traffic light – you will see Tomari port on your left. Take your first left into the port parking lot. There are two ferries available there – the Zamami Ferry (transit time ~two hours) and the high speed Queen Zamami (transit time ~one hour).
Tracy and I took the Queen Zamami, whose office will be immediately to your right when you pull in to the Tomari Port parking lot. The Zamami Ferry will cost you about 4000 yen round trip and the Queen Zamami will cost about 5500 yen round trip. Parking is free – just ask the person at the ticket counter exactly where you can park. For timetables for either ferry, click here. Select the links under “Boat Schedule” on the right side of the page. The website is in Japanese, but the timetables are pretty easy to read. If you wish to stay for more than a day, there are small hotels and B&Bs on the island that are quite reasonably priced. Bring plenty of yen with you, as we found that few places on the small island accepted credit cards.
We found Zamami to be absolutely gorgeous with an uber-relaxed feel. The island is small and everything you would want to see or do is within reasonable walking distance. Scuba and snorkel rentals are available all over the island as well. During the high season, you can even rent snorkel gear right on the main beach – Furuzamami. At other times of the year, be sure you rent your gear before you leave Zamami village and head out to the beach. The guy at the rental shop was even kind enough to give us a lift to Furuzamami, about 1.5km outside the village, after we picked up our gear. If I remember correctly, it was about 1000 yen for each of us to rent snorkel gear.
Like I said, the high season for diving and beach going is during the summer, so when my wife was here over Christmas the island was virtually deserted. We could not have picked a better day to go, though. Over the time she was here, every day was rainy and/or overcast, except for that one. The sun was out and the temperatures must have been in the 70s. We spent the day lazily strolling the island, availing ourselves of some of the food unique to Zamami, snorkeling, and stretching out on the almost deserted beach.
On that half-mile stretch of golden sand we saw only two other couples the whole day and nobody seemed to have a care in the world. With crystal clear water and live coral close to the shore, the snorkeling was nothing short of phenomenal. All and all, I could not have imagined a more perfect day.
For more information, check out this English travel guide to Zamami Village, Okinawa.
Note from the Editor: What about you, readers? Have any of you followed up on your desire to see the outer islands? Let’s here it!
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There’s a daily ferry to Zamami (weather permitting) that can carry cars\trucks but it’s not cheap!
Does anyone know if dogs are allowed Zamami Island Camp Ground.
We did Zamami last summer, and LOVED it. We are planning another weekend getaway this summer. The arrangements can be a little tricky, but Zamamienglishguide.com helps, as would (I imagine) a friend who may speak Japanese.
The island is phenomenal, and just a laid back, slow paced paradise. If you are looking for shops, and restaurants, and night life, look elsewhere. But if you want a get away from the 2 million people on the rock, this is it. We did take the van with us, as we had two families and a total of 5 children. It just made it a lot easier to be able to take “stuff” we might need. As such, we loaded a sea bag of snorkeling gear and beach toys, a large canopy type thing for sun shade, and an ice chest of snacks/drinks/etc. I beleive the van cost about $120 to get over, and then the ferry was roughly $40 a person. The Queen Zamami ferry is faster, but doesn’t allow cars. The price difference for the “slower” ferry pretty much made up for the cost of the car, though. So it was our choice. And the “slow” ferry ride, was part of the fun. While the cabin is A/C, we preferred to be topside on the deck. Watching for flying fish, a few dolphins, and the scenery of the other islets passing along the way. Not to mention it usually helps most people with motion sickness. It’s about 90 minutes to the first stop at Aka, where you wait about 15 minutes in an amazingly beautiful harbor for a few to get off, a few to get on, and to set off for Zamami. The harbor is painted in whimsical murals and mosaics, that make you feel like a child again, and the ever present ocean breeze makes it more than tolerable on deck. A horn blast later, you pull out for the 15 minutes or so to Zamami port. As we pulled in, the emerald water below was glistening, and we watched a huge sea turtle float by.
We stayed at the Kerama Beach Hotel. It is (like most Japanese accomodations) a little pricy, but all in all it was worth it. Keep in mind, this is out of the way, if you don’t have a car, however. But motor bikes are available for less than $20 a day, so if you don’t have kids, they would be perfect. The hotel has a french family on site, who runs the kitchen, and your stay includes a full hot breakfast each day, and your choice of a Japanese or French style dinner each night. Which we (mostly) delicious. The kids can be a little picky, so we usually chose half and half at breakfast, and just passed stuff around.
Furuzamami beach became our favorite. The waters were crystal clear, and the snorkeling was amazing. Better than just about anything I’ve ever seen in the Caribbean. And its all within a few (like 5-10) yards of the sand. So its not a long swim, and works great for children, who don;t always have the stamina. The beach has chairs and umbrella set up and for rent Y1000/chair, Y2000/set. Snorkeling gear can be rented for the day for something like Y1000 as well. There is also a small shack overlooking the water here, that serves hot food from to different competing families. The competition keeps the prices more than reasonable, and the yakisoba, curry, soba, yakitorii, and even corn dogs were a great break. This became our favorite lunch spot, even when trying other beaches for the day.
Ama beach was a little bit of a letdown for us. But that was in part because we didn’t plan. It is a big sea turtle nesting ground, so draws people for that reason. However, due to tidal variations, the coral is not as nice. We went randomly on a whim, and happened to hit low tide. Because of this, the water stretched for about 100yds at 6-8 inch depths. And its a little “rockier” than Furuzamami. However, in walking the beach, we did find a spot where a nest had broken out the night before, and we enjoyed all the little turtle tracks to the sea (and saw a few dead babies that didn’t make it). There are some small cabins here, and the place allows camping for like Y300/night. They also have some camp gear available for reasonable prices. We are going to try for the cabins this trip. Just to cut costs.
Both of these beaches are less than a mile from the port. And you can rent bikes, scooters, and even cars at the port. But I’m not sure what the licensing restrictions are, as we didn’t have to do so. As far as the ferry arrangements, it can be done over the phone, but I found it actually easier to go in person, to do them. Since they were booked well in advance, but had to be paid 24 hours prior. When I went in to pay, I realized they had small forms that were in both languages, for all requested information, and a person at a neighboring counter that spoke pretty good English (but wasn’t available on the phone).
We did find a third beach on our last day. We followed the road and the line of overlooks to the east, until the road ended. We parked, and followed a trail about 200 yards through the jungle, where we dumped out on a completely uninhabited beach about 3/4 of a mile long, in a sweeping crescent. Regrettably, we were dressed for the ferry and killing time, and not planning to swim, so I can;t speak for the snorkeling there, but we walked the beach, and the girls found a full bucket of sea glass, including some whole bottles stamped with kanji, and a few blue and white teacup shards. There was nothing available, and no people the 2 hours we walked it end to end, so we had it to ourselves, but I got the feeling it was seldom used. And there were enough palms and such at the edge of the jungle to allow for some shade, if you chose to spend the day there, as we will when we go back.
When booking rooms in Japan, I have also found it useful to do so by email. Most places can find an English speaker to help, but maybe not on the spot during a call. It also allows you to have a running dialogue for questions, while they “hold” your room to find out what you plan to do. Just a few tips we have learned.
“The round trip fare will vary depending upon which ferry you choose, but keep in mind that neither can transport cars.”
Really? Not according to this website: http://www.zamamienglishguide.com/ferries.html
The port does not take card so make sure you get enough Yen to cover your Ferry ride.
Jet – During busy times you should book ahead. So some weekends and holidays for sure. Even still if you show up early enough in person at the counter there are always cancellations and you can probably get on the boat that day…but you have to be there when the ticket office opens, so atleast an hour before that time, to be sure you are early enough in line.
Hi Folks, trying to plan a trip to Zamami. I was just wondering if you need to book the Queen Zamami ferry tickets in advance? Or can you just show up in the morning and buy your tickets on the spot? I’ve tried calling the ticket office and lady there doesn’t speak any English. Thanks!
If anyone needs info for an island hop to Tokashiki Island, just email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post the info on this site too. John
I am planning on an Island hop this or next weekend. I already did one to Tokashiki Island. Wow, great beach there called Aheran. Where is Furuzamami Beach located on Zamami, it’s hard to read the google map. Which beach is more full of people; AKA’s southern Beach or Furuzamami Beach? Thanks, John
Any recommendations for places to stay?
Went there today. One word- AWESOME!! Beautiful beaches and snorkeling. Also rented scooters. Lady at the info desk was helpful in pointing us to right places and super easy to find. Thanks for the great directions Steve. Also- you can rent cabins and camp as well on another beach there, Ama. We WILL be going back again.
any recommendations for hotels on the island?
Went to Zamami for the 3rd & 4th of July. Amazing island. Parking was not free at Tomari port (2500Y for 24-36 hours) like a previous post had stated. Cars are allowed on the ferry for 8000Y and up, depending on size. Best to look at guest house rooms before paying…some are dorm style to include gym style bathrooms/showers. rooms are about 5000Y per person. Rented a car for 3700Y and saw the entire island in 2 hours. Beaches are great…no Americans on the beach we went to…only Japanese.
I HIGHLY recommend going to Zamami island. The visitors center at the port is extremely helpful. They can also set up accomodations for you at different guest houses around the island. Amazing snorkeling and GORGEOUS beaches. We will go again!
This is so great bumping into you on Okinawa Hai. Actually my wife found your article. I am a retired Marine here on vacation from my teaching job in Northern California. My wife and I work out at the Camp Hansen House of Pain nearly every morning.Hope that you got your pick for your next duty station.
In response to Gary’s question – as I recall it now, you park in a garage across the port from the Queen Zamami Ferry. When you pull into the port, pull around to the left, curve right, cross the bridge with rails shaped like a dragon, curbe right again, and the garage will be on your left. On the map above, it’s in the area called “Tomarin Parking.” Enjoy the Keramas!
I hope that you read this and can tell me how you parked at Tomari Port.
Thanks for that post Dasha and Steve. All the info at my fingertips will make me get into gear to get to the outer islands :o)
Great post – this is awesome info. Thanks, Steve!
I’d love to see a post about the islands (I forget the names now) where you ride a water buffalo cart from one island over to the other on the sand bar….I *really* want to do that with my kids!
Beautiful photos!!!!! Goldmine of info is true!!!!!