Akajima island (or Aka to those in the know) lies off the coast of Okinawa, which itself lies off the coast of mainland Japan. Home to 250 people and a whole lot of wildlife, it’s the perfect paradisal place to chill away from the Okinawan tourist traps.
An easy, 50-minute ferry from Tomari port in Naha (book online in advance), the island feels a lot further-flung. The aquamarine, beautifully-clear waters are surrounded by coral reefs and the abundant marine life that comes with them. Unable to dive, we went snorkelling through our hotel (Marine House Seasir) and saw a veritable rainbow of fish and a stunning sea turtle wafting lazily through the waters. The divers on our boat saw sharks (the friendly-kind) and the ‘world’s biggest lobster’. Indeed, Aka is often described as an island for divers, but as a non-diver, I can assure you that it offers a lot more.
Pristine beaches, composed of crushed-up coral and jewel-bright shells, nestle in the island’s folds. Nishibama beach is the famous one – as a long white stretch with stunning views, great body-boarding opportunities, and a beach shack selling food/drink, it’s not hard to see why.
But my favourite, was Hizushi beach – a five-minute walk from the village down a steep winding path, it feels even more untouched and enclosed. Marc and I walk down there for sunset one evening and whilst staring out at the lilac sky, a huge manta-ray jumped, dolphin-like, out of the water. We stayed there till darkness set in, hoping it would reappear and had to use our torches to find our way back.
Beyond beaching and diving, the island offers a few lovely lunch spots (our favourite sold surprisingly delicious pizza and pasta, considering we were in Japan not Italy, and fresh fruit smoothies) but these tend to close at night and on Sundays. It’s therefore very much an island to chill, let yourself sink into early nights and catch up on great books. There’s also no ATMs so get cash out in advance.
We stayed at Marine House Seasir – a comfortable hotel with breakfast and lunch included, English speaking staff, Western-room options and bikes (albeit pretty old and stiff) to rent. You can only stay there if you book onto snorkelling, diving (or whale-watching in the Dec-April months) with them, but that appears to be the same across the island’s handful of accommodation options.
Aka is the type of place where the mind can truly rest, so, if you’re in Okinawa and want an-even-more-remote escape, Aka should be on your list.