So after a rather urban experience in Naha, I boarded a morning fast ferry at Tomarin Port to Tokashiki, an island 35 minutes west of Naha. Tokashiki actually consists of 10 islands, of which only two – Tokashiki and Maejima – are inhabited. The Tokashiki group of islands is part of the bigger Kerama Islands group, one of four major island groups in Okinawa Prefecture. The others are Ie-ijma, Kume and Okinawa Island, where Naha is.
I knew I wanted to island hop while in Okinawa. After doing some research – and there’s not really much out there on the Internet – Tokashiki was the outright choice for sun, beach, hikes, and convenience. Ishigaki, part of the Yaeyama Islands, would have been great too, but it requires a rather pricey domestic flight to get there. Maybe next time.
Tokashiki is tiny. In fact, the Tokashiki Marathon takes place there this weekend, and I wonder how they’d manage to accumulate 42.195km along the very few village roads. The island itself is just 9.6km long and 1.6km across, and there’s really only one main road that kinda forms a figure of eight around the island. The course will definitely be hard on the legs though – there’s hardly any flat road on the island, just long climbs (or descents, if you’re going in the opposite direction) that reach up to about 200 metres. The highest point on the island is Mount Akama at a paltry 227 metres, but the island is dotted with peaks, and that’s why it will be an undulating and challenging course.
There are a few accommodation choices on Tokashiki, and via TripAdvisor I found Seafriend, a cosy little lodge at Aharen Beach. For about 13,000 yen for two nights, I got a comfy twin room, daily buffet breakfast and daily scrumptious dinner of local catch, produce and meats. With the beach just about 100 metres away, Seafriend is a great based from which to enjoy Tokashiki. They also provide free shuttle service during your arrival and departure, which is a big plus because there really isn’t any other way to get around on the island unless you rent a bike or a car, or walk.
Stretching about 800 metres, Aharen Beach is the No. 1 attraction on Tokashiki, according to TripAdvisor. It’s pristine; clear blue water and a relatively deep white sandy beach. It is known as the Mecca of snorkeling and diving among other marine sports. Unfortunately I don’t dive, but if you do, I think you’ll be spoiled for choice all over the island. In fact, tourism – driven by diving – has overtaken farming and fishing as the island’s main income.
An overcast sky greeted me upon my arrival at Tokashiki port, but by the time I got to Seafriend, the sky had cleared and the sun shone brightly. It was warm – warm enough to finally dust off that bikini and restore my summer tan. Without a planned route in mind, I set off to explore the island with some food, drink and extra clothing in a running knapsack. I headed north towards the neighbouring Tokashiku Beach, along the way passing through Shinrin Kouen (Forest Park), a big family camping ground. In the middle of the park is Mount Teruyama, with a viewpoint at its peak that offers a splendid view of many capes and beaches to the right and left.
Tokashiku Beach had flat blue waters and was more sheltered than Aharen Beach. It also seemed a bit cleaner, given Aharen Beach had the Aharen Fishing Port adjacent to it. There’s only one hotel on Tokashiku, however, and no shops nor restaurants, so it’s a lot more inconvenient than Aharen. The beach itself is also coarser, covered with lots of small corals, rocks and shells. But I was there and it was warm, so I stripped down to my bikini and enjoyed the beach – entirely to myself. It’s low season in Okinawa at the moment, and Tokashiki, usually a hotspot for sun-and-sea-seekers, was totally quiet. I was the only one on either beach on both days.
After a little picnic at Tokashiku, I headed back up to the main road and onto a forest road that winds its way through the eastern coast. There are capes and deserted beaches here, but none with any developments or inhabitants. I also couldn’t find a way to get down to the sea, so for most part the main reasons why you’d be on this road is to be among thick greenery and to look out to sea. If you’re a runner or cyclist, it’s a perfect road. There wasn’t a single car that passed me for over an hour.
The forest road finally spits you out at a T-junction, where left would take you to Aharen Park, the southernmost tip of the island, and right would return you to Aharen Beach. With nearly 14 kilometres in my legs, I decided to take the right and call it a day, watching a beautiful sunset on Aharen Beach.