This sunny, tropical island chain draws crowds for sun, surf and swimming

For most visitors to the sunny tropical islands of Okinawa, the main draw is the surf and sand. With dozens of small islands to choose from, sun chasers can catch some rays on big resort beaches, deserted stretches of sand and just about everything in between. But beyond to lounge chairs, diving and water sports, Okinawa boasts an indigenous culture known as Ryukyu with a language, culture and cuisine that distinguishes it from the rest of Japan. Get a taste of it by trying awamori, the powerful native liquor, watching a performance of shishi-mai, a traditional lion dance set to drums and a local three-stringed instrument, or by swinging by Shuri Castle, home of the Ryukyu kings.