Often referred to as the “Hawaii of Japan,” the archipelago of islands that make up Okinawa offer plenty of options for travelers. If you are short on time but high on adventure, a camping car expedition to the sleepy island of Zamami is a quick escape with beach camping, snorkeling and paddling the stunning “Kerama Blue” waters.
Whether you are fresh off the plane or spending a few nights enjoying the sights and sounds of Naha, Tomari Port is just a ten-minute taxi or fifteen-minute monorail from the airport or Kokusai Street in the heart of the city. The port is Naha’s gateway to some fun island-hopping adventures. After slowly rolling our RV onto the ferry, the buildings in Okinawa’s biggest city quickly faded into the distance and our island getaway began.
The Kerama Islands (also known as the Zamami Islands) are just 90 minutes away on a slow ferry. We arrived at Aka Island, a popular diving spot, at 11:30 a.m., and after a quick stop we arrived at our destination, Zamami Island, at high noon. The same boat turns around and heads back each afternoon.
The Keramas, designated as a national park in 2014, consist of 36 islands of which only four are inhabited. Zamami Island is a favorite for both locals and tourists from the main island to enjoy fishing, snorkeling or just to get away for a weekend in paradise. The island is home to roughly 550 residents and when you exit the ferry, you’ll arrive in downtown Zamami where most of the locals live and work.
Renting a scooter or bicycle is a breeze with several rental shops located downtown. Grab a bike or scooter and get a quick lay of the land or head straight to one of the gorgeous beaches to soak up the sun, snorkel and relax.
You can go in search of marine life with one of the scuba shops, or try your hand at some sport fishing. And if you get off the boat hungry, pop into Zamami Burger & Pizza, located downtown, for some great pizza, which also hits the spot after a long day adventuring.
Yuji Miyazato was born on Zamami and raised fishing the waters around the islands. He owns and operates Gooddays Standup Paddle as well as his own fishing and whale watching charter. His boat, the Calenda GT, is a 47-foot custom Japanese boat built by Hamagawa Shipbuilding Co. It’s an incredibly nice and comfortable boat—put on some of your favorite tunes and enjoy an island cruise.
And if you fish, Yuji’s a great guide. He’s a passionate marlin fisherman who competes on Japan’s professional fishing circuit and knows these waters well. You can enjoy an afternoon trolling, or if fishing isn’t your thing, he and his team also know the best snorkeling and SUP spots on the island. Yuji is a JSCA/SUPA SUP instructor. We couldn’t have asked for a better guide and spent the afternoon fishing and snorkeling the crystal clear waters—we even caught a glimpse of a humpback whale!
After a big day on the water we made our way to the Ama Beach Campground. The campground is a five-minute drive (or bus) from the port or a 20-minute walk if you are backpacking it. There are great options for everyone from tent sites to cool log cabins and autocamp sites for our RV. The facilities are great as well: showers, tent rentals and even free firewood are available if you didn’t come prepared. Remember to stop by the local market in town to grab some meat and vegetables for the barbecue before you arrive. We hung out by our camping car and enjoyed some time by the fire before crashing out so we could get an early start.
We rose in the wee hours of the morning to go snorkeling on the beach directly out in front of the campground. It turned into a magical morning as we soon found ourselves swimming with sea turtles. The early mornings and evenings are the best time for chance encounters with these beautiful creatures as they come close to shore for feeding. Just look for their heads popping out of the water.
After getting out of the water, we had a hearty breakfast and an espresso back at the RV. It was time to relax and enjoy the real reason we came to Zamami—to detach from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives back home and connect with nature. It’s the perfect place to soak in the island vibes and relax with family and friends with no distractions.
Our favorite times to visit Zamami is late spring (before rainy season arrives in May) and October and November after summer’s peak season, when things cool down a bit but the ocean temperature is still comfortable. Rainy season usually is mid-May to mid-June, but the weather can be unpredictable so always check the forecast, especially during typhoon season in August and September.
If you are taking your car or camping car over to Zamami, the ferry leaves Tomari Port at 10 a.m. and arrives in Zamami at 12 p.m. Be sure to get to the port early and bring your vehicle registration to show proof of the vehicle’s size. If you have any questions, call a day ahead. Another option is the high-speed boat that leaves Naha at 9 a.m. and arrives at Zamami at 9:50 a.m., or at 4 p.m. and arrives in Zamami at 5:10 p.m. Check their website for updates in schedule and pricing at Okinawa Zamami Village’s official website.
Ama Beach Camping and Cabins
Campsites, RV Sites and Cabins
Gooddays Standup and Calenda GT
SUP, Snorkeling, Fishing and Whale Watching Charters (winter)
Located about 50 minutes north of Naha, but ask about pick up/drop off options at Naha Airport.
About the Author
Brian Crawford is an Okinawa-based photographer and videographer who runs Zazen Media. Brian’s wife Izumi runs Okinawa RV, camping car rentals and sales. Follow their adventures and learn more about camping car travel in Okinawa on their YouTube Channel.