Japan

Tantalising Okinawa hotels for a stay by the sea

Sea views from your hotel room window, white sandy beaches and days exploring historical landmarks, it's hard to resist a trip to picturesque Okinawa.

Okinawa, an archipelago of white-sand islands, is known as the Hawaii of Japan, courtesy of its tropical climate, lush vegetation and crystal clear waters. Stop over in Naha, the capital of Okinawa and home to historic landmarks like palaces, shrines and ornamental gardens (not to mention the shopping streets!). Or head straight for the coast, staying in swanky Okinawa hotels featuring pools, private beaches and hiking trails into the rolling hills.

Whatever you choose, you’ll want to treat yourself to a luxurious spa treatment or soak in an open-air cedar tub over the sea. Make sure to sample local delicacies to get a taste for the lifestyle that sees Okinawans live longer than nearly anyone else on the planet.

Glamorous Okinawa hotel in the centre of Naha

Snug in the lively area of Sakurazaka, Hyatt Regency Naha Okinawa is both cushy and a convenient launching pad for getting out into city and the nearby islands. On arrival, grab a reclining sunlounger on the rooftop terrace and soak up some sunshine, or freshen up from your journey with a few laps in the 15-metre open-air pool. And when the sea breeze calls? It’s a 10-minute drive to Tomari Port, where you can catch ferries to teeny islands like Kumejima and Miyakojima for snow-white sand and technicolour coral reefs.

The gleaming tower at the Hyatt has nearly 300 modern guest rooms and suites, all decorated in neutral tones with works of art inspired by the indigenous Ryukyuan culture. With pillow-top mattresses, 300-thread-count sheets and black-out curtains, you’ll be eager to turn in for sound slumbering.

Treat yourself to a soak in the Japanese-style bathtubs or luxuriate under rain showers stocked with Acca Kappa bath products. Come dinnertime, be sure to take in panoramic nighttime city views from Milano, the hotel’s signature Italian restaurant on the 18th floor – that’s if you can take your eyes off the flame-filled theatrics on display in the open-air kitchen. After dinner, retire to The Bar next door for a nightcap. Cuddle up in a loveseat to listen to the live piano performances with a craft cocktail in hand.

What to do:

Window shop down Kokusaidori

Naha’s famous shopping street is brimming with fun boutiques and glitzy department stores, is just moments away.

Visit a UNESCO Heritage site

A 15-minute drive will take you to UNESCO World Heritage site Shuri Castle. Don your most photo-worthy outfit and pose beneath the ornamental pillared gate, then spend a sunny afternoon strolling the vermillion painted grounds.

Hyatt Regency Naha Okinawa

Top rated
8.8 Excellent (1228 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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A luxury beachside retreat on Cape Busena

On Cape Busena in Nago, The Busena Terrace is a luxury island getaway with a 760-metre private beach and a host of water activities. Take off on a catamaran cruise to explore the island, or get closer to nature with an underwater seabed walking tour through coral reefs. If you could do with even more open-ocean excitement, you can dive right in with an introductory diving course (or head out for open-sea diving if you have a valid certification card).

With your appetite well and truly built up, head to one of the eight on-site eateries and feast on local delicacies from land and sea. Watch your fresh prawns and abalone prepared with sakura butter at the teppanyaki restaurant, or head to Rumble Fish, based on the concept of an oceanside market, for a plate of the daily catch while you gaze at the sparkling East China Sea.

You’ll find two outdoor swimming pools connected by a waterfall, and kids can delight in the waterslide at the lower-tier pool. Soak up some Vitamin D poolside, or head to the spa to give your skin a different kind of treatment. The Ryukyu Herbal Detox uses extracts from Indigenous plants like mugwort and light galangal, as well as juniper berries, sage and oregano.

Guest rooms and suites are decorated with a casual beachy vibe in tones of stone and cream, and sliding doors open out onto ocean views or lush gardens. For ultimate luxury and privacy, upgrade to the Superior Cottage Suite for two storeys, a private plunge pool and your own garden.

For a fun-filled day in the water

Adrenaline junkies, listen up!

If you’re after an adrenaline rush, rent one of the X-Jetpacks to skim across the ocean surface.

The Busena Terrace

Top rated
9.1 Excellent (1694 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.1 / 10
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Downtown Naha hotel with sweeping views

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If you’re wondering where to stay in Okinawa, you’ll be in the heart of the action at Rihga Royal Gran Okinawa. Choose a room on the Premier Floor (11–13th) for sweeping views across the bay and Kerama Islands, or look out onto the East China Sea from your bathtub in a Premier Bayside View Bath Twin room.

At Dining 19, try the signature roasted Angus beef carefully prepared by the executive chef. For seafood aficionados, there’s a seafood bouillabaisse made from the island’s freshest catch. Perch at the bar and watch the city lights shine at night with a glass of Awamori, a local liqueur made from fermented rice. Or try a non-alcoholic Hibiscus Squash made from hibiscus extract, cranberry juice, mint and soda.

In the morning, feast your eyes and stomach at the jaw-dropping buffet set with local and continental options. You’ll try creamy yushi tofu, mimiga (pork ears) with complementary sauces and refreshing shiri shiri (finely sliced vegetables). Or if you’re more the toast-in-the-morning type, you’ll find 13 kinds of freshly baked breads. Whatever your choice, you’ll be treated to panoramic views from your breakfast chair.

After breakfast, wander across to Kokusai Dori to explore the colourful shopping arcades and try to catch a street performance with traditional Okinawan music and dance. Or travel by train out to Shuri Castle, once the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom and dating back to the 14th century.

Rihga Royal Gran Okinawa

Top rated
9.1 Excellent (2967 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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Indulgent escape for adults in Okinawa

Hyakuna Garan is a luxury adults-only hotel set in secluded tranquillity and only 30 minutes by car from Naha Airport. Surrounded by mountains and right on the waterfront, you’ll be treated to 220-degree views ideal for watching golden sunrises and sunsets. Wander the grounds to find a seven-metre Buddha statue, a garden filled with tropical plants and a huge courtyard. If you’ve had a long journey, take a moment for yourself in the Zen room to practice meditation or yoga to the symphony of the breeze moving through banyan trees.

Head straight up to the rooftop sundeck to check out the six houjouan (open-air baths). They’re free to hire, so you can soak in the tub while gazing out over traditional Okinawan red-tiled rooftops and the sea beyond. If you’re lucky, on a clear day you’ll be able to see the sacred Kudaka Island, inhabited by Amamikiyo, the goddess who created the islands of Ryukyu according to local folklore.

From your ocean-view room, spot schools of fish in the waters below. Choose from a Western or Japanese-style guest room, each with a living area and spacious balcony. Or for complete solitude, upgrade to the standalone Garan Annex: you can breathe in the views from your private garden or balcony, or even from your rooftop bath.

Come dinner, you’ll feast on traditional dishes like fig marinated in sesame sauce or Okinawan-style fermented tofu with Awamori liquor. For something heartier, opt for the Ishigaki-Wagyu beef fillet steak roasted on a stone from Kume Island with three kinds of salt and Okinawan pepper.

Hyakuna Garan

Top rated
9.2 Excellent (139 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.2 / 10
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A seaside Okinawa hotel for fun in the sun and surf

Okinawa Marriott Resort & Spa is home to the island’s largest pool – complete with water slide, waterfall and children’s shallow end. You can hop on the free shuttle and be at Kariyushi Beach in a few minutes, where you’ll find water activities from dragon boats and water skiing to flyboards. For adventures straight on the seas, book a blue cave snorkelling trip or dive with majestic whale sharks.

If you’re after a more relaxing option, you can rotate through the five spa baths in the on-site Aesthetic Salon. Start with the whirlpool and aroma baths, followed by a steam in the dry sauna before finishing with a refreshing dip in the cool bath.

You’ll want to try some local Okinawan delicacies at the hotel’s own Ryu-bin-ka, a kaiseki-style restaurant (traditional multi-course Japanese dinner) where you’ll be served a long list of beautifully presented dishes. Or head to on-site Ryu-Sen for char-grilled meats and vegetables, all sourced locally. Evenings end well with a poolside cocktail at Crescent Moon Bar.

Just before heading to bed, take in one final view across the ocean from the comfort of your sofa and watch the moon reflect across the water. Or sit out on your private veranda or balcony and breathe in fresh air from the East China Sea.

Okinawa Marriott Resort&Spa

Top rated
8.8 Excellent (2514 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.1 / 10
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A tranquil Okinawa hotel in the forest

The unofficial mantra at Atta Terrace Club Towers is connectivity to nature, with a setting that has views over Atta Beach and backs onto lush forest. Guest rooms are open-plan and flooded with natural light, each with a private balcony or terrace. Choose a Deluxe Forest Villa surrounded by woodlands or a Club Deluxe suite where you can watch the sun set over the sea while soaking in your bath.

Learn more about the Okinawan way of life with a chef’s cooking class, or join a bukubuku tea ceremony to try the foamy tea unique to the islands. At on-site restaurant, Fine Dining, where you’ll taste garden-grown herbs and heirloom tomatoes straight from the vine. For mains, savour fusion dishes like Okinawan crab tagliatelle with garden-grown Indian spinach and grilled Okinawan beef loin with Japanese-style grated ponzu vinegar sauce.

In the morning, wake up with a yoga class or head to the infinity pool for laps overlooking the sea. Next to the resort is an 18-hole golf course with panoramas of the Onnadake highlands and ocean, but you might just opt to bliss out at the spa in the Forest Villa. We recommend a Blessing of Nature treatment featuring all-natural marine products and botanicals. End the evening with a poolside drink at Library Lounge and Bar, snacking on fish carpaccio or Okinawan sausage washed down with local craft beer.

The Atta Terrace Club Towers

Top rated
9.0 Excellent (302 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.1 / 10
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An Okinawa hotel with a touch of tradition

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Part resort, part ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), Mahaina Wellness Okinawa offers the best of both worlds with modern facilities mixed with traditional touches. The on-site communal rock bath is filled with mineral-rich waters collected from rain that has soaked into Ryukyu limestone – ideal for relaxing after your journey.

Change into your yukata robe and explore the rest of the grounds: think lush gardens, a tropical 30-metre-long pool flanked by palm trees and a glass-enclosed indoor pool. Head back to your Ocean Floor suite with views across the sea, or choose the Superior Family suite with traditional tatami flooring and a futon bed for the full Japan experience.

You’ll dine buffet-style at Marsen restaurant – be sure to try the signature Peking Duck with crispy skin. Or choose from a macrobiotic menu at Shinka Restaurant and watch your food grilled in front of you on iron plates. Stop off at Karahai Bar for some live piano music and a glass of Awamori.

You can discover the local sites with a visit to the remains of Nakijin Castle, or wander through 20,000 Fukugi trees along the one-kilometre-long Bise Fukugi Tree Lane. Just a few minutes’ walk away is Ryugujo Butterfly Garden, where you can be awed by the black and white ‘paper-kite’ butterflies with a wingspan of up to 15 centimetres.

Mahaina Wellness Okinawa

8.1 Very good (3666 reviews)
Excellent Service 8.6 / 10
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Be in the heart of the action at this Okinawa hotel

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Just a five-minute walk from Asahibashi Monorail Station, Okinawa NaHaNa Hotel & Spa provides a relaxing haven among hotels in Naha. In the traditional Kume district, you’ll be close to historic sites like the clifftop Naminoue shrine and walking distance from the Naha City Museum of History and Fukushu-en Garden. Or hop across the river and you’ll be in Kokusai Dori, the hottest shopping street in town.

For a truly authentic stay, choose a Japanese-style room with tatami mats and rice-paper screen doors. Continue the traditional experience with a steaming bowl of silky Okinawa noodles for dinner at Bar Ren overlooking the city skyline. After your meal, you can give in to relaxation in one of the three Jacuzzi baths made from Japanese cypress trees at Kotoran Spa. Take in a revitalising body scrub, or steam up in the sauna before heading down to the Lounge to re-hydrate with a cup of deliciously tangy hibiscus tea.

In the morning, you’ll enjoy a sumptuous breakfast buffet in the hotel’s light-filled restaurant, Kuninda. You’ll find both Western and Okinawan dishes, all served with a side of Japanese hospitality. Afterwards, browse the shops in the lobby for souvenirs like Ryukyu glass, Awamori and traditional crafts.

Okinawa Nahana & Spa

8.3 Very good (4124 reviews)
Excellent Location 8.8 / 10
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