How to live it up in Okinawa

A new wave of luxury hotels are giving the once laid-back beach getaway a glamorous makeover.

Halekulani Okinawa
  • Cheong Kamei
  • May 2019

Okinawa has long been a popular vacay spot for mainland Japanese. But in recent years however, the increase in cruise ships making port calls from Taiwan and China, and new direct flights from areas out of Japan such as Singapore have resulted in a surge in international tourists. In fact, the “Hawaii of Japan” took over Hawaii in tourist numbers for the first time in 2017.

Okinawa’s dramatic coastlines
Okinawa’s dramatic coastlines, subtropical climate and stunning beaches make it the perfect getaway.

The prefecture’s goal is to attract 12 million people by 2021, so get ready for a spate of luxury properties that will cater to discerning travellers who are accustomed to the five-star resorts of Bali and Phuket.

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is one of the most popular attractions with over 3 million visitors a year.

Halekulani Okinawa opens in new window, which is opening in July 2019, is highly anticipated. The first international outpost of the famous Honolulu hotel will become Japan’s third member of The Leading Hotels of the World, a collection of the world’s most exclusive luxury establishments.

Halekulani Okinawa
Halekulani Okinawa faces 1.7km of pristine coastline.

And the SGD $543 million development of Four Seasons Resort and Private Residences Okinawa across 100 acres of beachfront land is another sign that luxury might have come late to Okinawa but it’s here to stay.

Here are three luxury hotels to consider:

1. Iraph Sui

Iraph Sui, Okinawa
Iraph Sui’s suites come with their own private pool.

Located on an elevated headland on the southwestern coastline of Irabu, a small island in the Miyako island group, the resort opens in new window has only 58 guest rooms including dog-friendly rooms.

2. Hyakuna Garan

Hyakuna Garan, Okinawa
The rooftop of this exclusive resort features an open-air bath with stunning views of the sea.

This resort opens in new window is designed for people seeking tranquillity. No children under 13 years old are allowed, there are no other hotels in the surrounding area and there are only 14 executive rooms and three suites — all of which are oceanfront, of course.

3. The Ritz-Carlton Okinawa

The Ritz-Carlton Okinawa
The Ritz-Carlton Okinawa offers experiences for guests such as learning how to cook Okinawan dishes and making Ryuku herbal soap.

All rooms opens in new window feature elegant Ryukyu design elements but if you’re looking to pamper yourself, opt for the Cabana Room. It comes with a 30-square-metre private outdoor terrace and a whirlpool.