The Ultimate Guide to Zamami Island in Okinawa: Exploring Hidden Gems and Unforgettable Experiences

japan guide zamami

When it comes to picturesque destinations, Okinawa in southern Japan takes the cake. This stunning prefecture boasts breathtaking oceans, lush mountain ranges, and an array of thrilling watersports. Among the many captivating islands in Okinawa, Zamami Island stands out as a haven of tranquility and natural beauty. Having personally experienced the wonders of Zamami, I am excited to share with you why this island is so special, what activities you can enjoy, and some hidden gems you won’t want to miss.

Where is Zamami Island?

Zamami Island village

When you think of Japan, images of bustling cities and historical landmarks may come to mind. However, Japan is also home to stunning beaches and coastal areas that will leave you in awe. Zamami Island, part of the Kerama Islands and a national park of Japan, is renowned for its beautiful coral reefs. This idyllic island offers a wide range of activities, including whale watching, sea turtle observation, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, hiking, and a chance to indulge in delicious local cuisine.

Situated about 40 km west of Naha City, the capital of Okinawa prefecture, Zamami Island is easily accessible by ferry. With a population of approximately 600 people, this small island has a rich history dating back to the days when it was the Ryukyu Kingdom, a separate kingdom from the rest of Japan. The island also holds a significant place in World War II history, as it was the site of one of the first landings by the US military during the Battle of Okinawa.

Where to Go on Zamami?

Popular spots

Furuzamami Beach

Ocean zamami

Furuzamami Beach, the main beach on Zamami Island, is a true paradise. Its white sandy shores and emerald green waters create a scene straight out of a dream. Snorkeling here is a must-do activity, as you can spot tropical fish in the shallow water. Even beginners can enjoy this experience, as the water depth is less than 1 meter.

Ama Beach

Sea Turtle on Zamami Ama Beach

Ama Beach is famous for its sea turtles. You have a high chance of encountering these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, especially during high tide. The abundance of seaweed in the area attracts the sea turtles, providing a unique opportunity to witness them feeding just meters away from the shore. Remember to admire them without disturbing their mealtime.

Marilyn Statue

Marilyn Statue

The Marilyn Statue is a symbol of love and devotion. The statue commemorates the story of Marilyn, a dog, and her lover, Shiro. Despite being separated by 3 kilometers, Shiro would swim across the ocean every morning to see Marilyn. This heartwarming tale inspired the movie “I Want to See Marilyn.” Standing near the statue offers breathtaking views of the surrounding islands, adding to the enchantment of the experience.

Underground spots

Unaji No Sachi Tenboudai

Observatory on Zamami Island

One of Zamami’s hidden gems is the Unaji No Sachi Tenboudai observatory. Surprisingly, this stunning viewpoint is not widely covered on English websites. To reach the observatory, you’ll walk along a picturesque sidewalk from the parking lot. Every step brings you closer to the breathtaking view of the powerful waves crashing against the island’s shores. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of whales and their playful offspring during the whale-watching season.

Chishi Observatory

View from observatory on Zamami Island in Okinawa

Nestled in the middle of the island, the Chishi Observatory offers a unique experience away from the tourist crowds. A 10-minute walk from Asa village brings you to this hidden gem, where you’ll be surrounded by towering cliffs and invigorating sea breezes. On clear days, you can even catch a glimpse of Aguni Island across the sea. The breathtaking scenery of the rugged rocks juxtaposed with the crystal-clear Kerama Blue sea is truly awe-inspiring.

Inoo Beach

Beach on Zamami Island

For the adventurous souls seeking secluded spots, Inoo Beach is a hidden gem worth exploring. Accessible after a forest hike, this pristine beach offers tranquility and solitude. Inoo Beach, which translates to “the shallow and calm sea surrounded by corals” in the local Okinawan dialect, is teeming with various species of fish, shellfish, and seaweed. Snorkeling here is a unique experience, as you may encounter marine life rarely seen in other areas.

What to Do on Zamami?

There is no shortage of water activities to enjoy on Zamami Island. Whether you prefer snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, or kayaking, the island offers something for everyone.

Diving

Okinawa zamami view

With its calm ocean and diverse marine life, Zamami Island boasts an array of incredible diving spots. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a beginner, there are options for everyone. Joining a diving tour ensures you have well-equipped gear and experienced guides to accompany you to different dive sites. Immerse yourself in the vibrant underwater world surrounding Zamami and witness the beauty of its coral reefs and marine creatures.

Whale Watching

Whale watching in zamami

Visiting Zamami Island in winter offers a unique opportunity for whale watching. The waters around Zamami Village serve as breeding grounds for humpback whales. From January to the end of March, these majestic creatures migrate to this area to breed, give birth, and spend the winter. The village’s whale-watching activities are well-known for their high encounter rate. Staff members stationed at the village observatory meticulously search for whale activity each morning to ensure favorable conditions before embarking on whale-watching tours. To preserve the whales’ natural habitat, the tour guides take great care to maintain a respectful distance and avoid disrupting their behavior.

Where to Eat on Zamami Island?

Zamami Island offers a variety of restaurants, most of which are concentrated in Zamami Village. Here are two standout dining establishments that should not be missed:

Restaurant Marumiya

Karafe

Restaurant Marumiya is a hidden gem among the culinary offerings on Zamami Island. Though it may appear as a casual cafe, the dishes served are simply exquisite. During my two-week stay on the island, I had the pleasure of dining at Restaurant Marumiya six times, each time savoring a different delectable creation. This unassuming restaurant, overlooked at first glance, offers a truly extraordinary dining experience.

One dish that stands out is Rafute, braised pork ribs topped with a sweet sauce. The tender meat melts in your mouth and pairs perfectly with rice, especially when accompanied by some sake. Another must-try is the homemade Jimami Tofu, a local Okinawan specialty made with peanuts. Although it may sound unconventional, the rich aroma and unique flavors of the peanuts make this dish addictive. For a twist, try the deep-fried version of the Jimami Tofu, where a crispy outer layer enhances the overall texture and taste.

Adding to the charm of this restaurant is the owner, a lively and attentive grandma who personally takes care of both the kitchen and the customers. She, despite being in her 60s or 70s, attentively memorizes orders and warmly interacts with guests. Her effort to learn English enables her to communicate with foreign visitors. During my visits, she showered me with extra discounts, free coffee, and even two additional servings of Jimami Tofu as a parting gift. Restaurant Marumiya offers lunch specials for under 1,000 yen (approximately $10 USD) and a dinner experience with a variety of signature dishes and drinks priced at around 2,500-3,000 yen (approximately $25-30 USD) per person. Whether you’re on Zamami Island for a single day or several, a visit to this heartwarming restaurant is sure to be a highlight of your stay.

Wayama Mozuku

Okinawa soba noodles

Wayama Mozuku is another memorable dining spot on Zamami Island. This charming restaurant features a small menu highlighting their signature dish, Mozuku Soba. Okinawa Soba is a must-try when visiting the region, known for its light broth and plain noodles. It is considered a healthy choice due to the minimal use of salt and the incorporation of seaweed in the broth.

Zamami Island takes Okinawa Soba a step further with Mozuku, a type of seaweed known for its health benefits. Although its slimy texture may seem unappetizing, Mozuku is surprisingly flavorful. At Wayama Mozuku, the owner cultivates his own Mozuku and prepares the soup with bonito flakes and kelp. The soba noodles, kneaded with Mozuku, are served with a slice of Rafute, the sautéed pork mentioned earlier. The restaurant also offers a terrace where guests can relax and enjoy their simple yet satisfying meal after a day of water sports. You can enhance your bowl of noodles with extra toppings or sides according to your preference.

How Long to Stay on Zamami Island?

Zamami Island cycling

During my initial visit to Zamami Island, I only had a single day to explore. Arriving in the morning and departing in the late afternoon, I managed to have a delightful lunch at Wayama Mozuku and visited the west side of the island. Highlights of my day included snorkeling at Ama Beach alongside the sea turtles and visiting two observatories, including the Unaji No Sachi Observatory. This short day trip allowed me to get a taste of the island’s beauty and experiences.

However, after falling in love with Zamami Island, I knew I had to return for a more extended stay. I was fortunate to find short-term work with a local business, which provided accommodation for a two-week period. This allowed me to fully immerse myself in the island’s wonders and explore every hidden gem at a leisurely pace.

If you have limited time but still want to experience the essence of Zamami, a day trip can provide a satisfying glimpse into the island’s offerings. On the other hand, if relaxation and complete immersion are your priorities, I highly recommend staying on the island for at least one or two nights. For those seeking a complete getaway and the chance to fully embrace the island’s atmosphere, a few weeks on Zamami Island will surely leave you with unforgettable memories.

How to Explore Zamami Island?

View of Zamami Island

To make the most of your exploration on Zamami Island, renting an electric bicycle or a motorbike is highly recommended. The island’s terrain is characterized by numerous hills, making an electric vehicle the ideal mode of transportation. As someone who made the mistake of riding a regular bicycle across the island, I can assure you that the convenience and ease of an electric vehicle will significantly enhance your experience. However, if you prefer walking, keep in mind that the island’s steep hills may pose a challenge. Alternatively, you can rent a car if you have limited time and wish to cover the entire island quickly.

In Conclusion

Zamami Island in Okinawa offers a slice of paradise that will captivate your senses and leave you yearning for more. From its stunning beaches and vibrant marine life to its charming hidden spots and delectable cuisine, the island has something for every traveler. Whether you choose to embark on thrilling water activities, immerse yourself in the island’s intriguing history, or simply relax and soak in the breathtaking views, Zamami Island will undoubtedly create memories that last a lifetime.

Stay tuned for more information about Japan travel, Japanese culture, moving to Japan, living in Japan, learning the Japanese language, and beyond.

Find out more about Japan travel

Related Posts

© 2024 themedipia - WordPress Theme by WPEnjoy