Minna-jima: 水納島

Minna-jima 水納島 is a small crescent-shaped island off the Motobu Peninsula in Okinawa. There is a ferry service that runs between Toguchi Port and Minna-jima, and takes approximately 20 minutes (it is actually fairly close to Okinawa main island, not so remote). During the off-season (Oct-June), the ferry service only runs 2-3x per day; during peak season, July-Sept, the frequency increases to 6-12x. We showed up on a Sunday in November (off-season), and there the ferry was almost completely empty… only about 12 other people (the ferry capacity is over 100). So even on a weekend day with gorgeous weather, it was easy to get a seat on the ferry during non-peak times. We took the first ferry of the day at 10am. I suppose during the peak summer season, it would be better to reserve in advance since I hear it gets quite crowded though. Also, there was a lot of parking at the Toguchi port ferry terminal (and it is free).

The population of the island is very few (maybe 100 residents). There is not much to the island except for the marine activities (scuba, snorkel, boating, swimming). The entire islands coastline is less than 4km; the whole island can be walked in about an hour.

During the peak season, a few food stands are open, as well as coin lockers, coin showers and a changing room. As we confirmed NOTHING except for the marine sports rentals and one soba stand was open during the off-season. Nope, not even the showers/changing room! There are, at least, bathrooms available in the ferry terminal, as well as 1 drink vending machine (albeit sold out of about half the drinks)… okay, there were 2 but one was broken, so I didn’t count it. So, basically, if you are coming to Minna-jima during any time other than peak season, BRING your own food and drink! Which, luckily, we packed a lunch, some snacks, and drinks after reading the scant few “reviews” of Minna-jima (we almost didn’t).

Since the island was fairly empty, we ended up leaving our lunch bag and snorkel/swim gear in a shady spot on the beach right next to the ferry terminal building. And because this is Japan, no one messed with it. We walked to the “secret” beach past the tiny elementary/middle school and some small farms, then over towards the marshy lagoon area, next crossing some diving shacks towards the lighthouse, and back to the main beach. It was pretty, while not terribly exciting, still a nice way to spend a Sunday.

Back at the beach we sat on the wooden porch of the ferry terminal building and had our packed lunch, looking over the water. At this point, I was ready to get in the water a bit, even though it was a little chilly. So we made our way across the entirety of the tourist beach in the direction towards the lighthouse. If you swam out, you could see some interesting things by the reef edges, otherwise towards the water by shore itself was not very exciting. I also recommend wearing your water shoes (of course I did not, and my feet are answering for it), as the beach is not that sandy and filled with lots of sharp little shell and coral bits. I saw dark spot in the water near the shore, to realize it was a crazy swarm of minnows. Around the curve of the island brought us to some large rocks, so at this point, figured it was time to head back.

The showers and such were locked up (grr), but there were 2 foot showers that were outside of the building at the very least. Not ideal, but better than nothing. We cleaned up a bit, until the 1pm ferry to go back to Okinawa main island. For the off-season, 3 hours was more than enough time to explore this tiny island– during peak season, it might be nice to enjoy some food and beer at one the small stands if you can get extra time. Just keep in mind during peak season, this places gets packed and the beach turns into a sea of parasols from people trying to get a bit of shade. You can bring your own breach umbrellas or small shade tents, which from what I understand is almost a necessity during the summer months.

If you want to stay overnight, there are maybe 2-3 minshuku (inns) and 1 log house (managed by Marine Sports Mermaid); these places typically provide meals. You can also book snorkel and diving tours, which will take you on a boat so you can enter further from the shoreline (also, as a bonus, during the off-season, they have their own changing and showering facilities). There are also a few other marine leisure activities available.

**the nickname of the island is “Croissant Island.” For some reason, I find this funny.