There’s a wonderland off the coast of Japan where the water is gloriously turquoise, the sand is perfectly white and you can lie on a beach with few neighbors besides the friendly sea turtles beneath the surface.
Behold the Ryukyu Islands, an archipelago that stretches from the southwestern tip of Japan to Taiwan. You may hear buzz about them soon, because they just landed a spot on the New York Times’s famous annual roundup of 52 places to go this year. While they’re last on that list, the Ryukyus are certainly first on ours:
The Ryukus are made up of multiple island groups. One of the most majestic is the Kerama Island group, where whales roam from January to March and a slow pace of life comes with top-notch diving and quaint villages that earn an impressive amount of rave reviews from visitors.
The Okinawa Islands are studied for their unusually high population of centenarians, who thrive thanks to healthy island diets and a vibrant community life that’s well worth a look. Inns, dive shops and traditional gastropubs known as izakayas are just a few of the archipelago’s other offerings.
And then, of course, there are the beaches. The Ryukyus are home to some of best diving and whitest sand in the world. The ideal time to visit is in spring or fall, and you could very well have the beaches to yourself if you go in winter, though of course the water will be cooler.