sea turtle grazing on Ama Beach in Okinawa

How to Swim with Turtles on Ama Beach, Zamami Island, Okinawa

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Ama Beach is a stunning beach on Zamami Island in beautiful Okinawa. It’s one of the two top beaches on the island (after the Michelin star-rated Furuzamami Beach) and is the top place to spot majestic sea turtles in the area.

You can see turtles almost daily grazing and swimming close to shore while enjoying seagrass along the edge of the reef. They are best found during high tide but occasionally you can be lucky and spot them in the shallows too.

Since sea turtles are so popular here, the island has taken some measures to help keep the reef, turtles and locals protected to the best of their ability so that future generations can also enjoy the turtles who live nearby.

Zamami Island is an island paradise just a ferry ride away from Naha and can be visited on both an extended holiday and a quick day trip. It’s one of my favourite places in Okinawa (which is already one of my favourite destinations around the world) and really shouldn’t be missed if you want to guarantee seeing some turtles!

So let me show you how you can find them.

Currency:Japanese Yen / JPY
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A large sea turtle dived back down to the sea floor after taking a breath

What’s so Special About Ama Beach in Okinawa?

Okinawa is well known for having many beautiful beaches that encapsulate the tropical landscape of this southern prefecture. So what makes Ama Beach on Zamami Island so much more special than the thousands of others in the region?

Ama Beach is one of the 3 best beaches in the Keramas where you can see sea turtles right off of the coast without needing to join a tour. The Other beaches are:

Of course, you do have the option to participate in a guided tour with a professional guide that takes you out to the reef and gives you a higher success rate of finding them. I just want to show you how you can experience swimming with them independently!

One tour you can join is booked through the “Kerama Kayak Centre” which is located a few minutes from the Zamami Island Port. You can book a sea turtle snorkel tour here.

Ama Beach on Zamami Island in Okinawa
Ama Beach

How To Reach Ama Beach, Zamami

Location: Ama, Zamami, Shimajiri District, Okinawa 901-3403, Japan

Ama Beach is located on Zamami Island in Japan’s tropical Okinawa Prefecture. It’s part of the Keramas Islands Group and Protected National Park.

You can reach Zamami Island from the other islands in the group or from Naha on Okinawa Island.

If you’d like to see how to travel around and between the islands check out this post.

When travelling from Tomari Port in Naha, the journey will take approximately 2 hours by passenger ferry or 1 hour by the smaller, high-speed ferry to the Zamami Village Port on Zamami Island. Both of these will make a stop at Aka Island’s Aka Village Port along the way to drop off and pick up new travellers.

  • Passenger Ferry costs 2150 JPY (£11.67 / $14.70 USD)
  • High-Speed Ferry costs 3200 JPY (£17.40 / $21.80 USD)

Please use this link to book your ferry between Naha and Aka and Zamami Islands

If you are already in the Keramas and on Tokashiki Island, you can travel from Aharen Port in the south of the island. To book a ferry along one of these routes (Tokashiki to Aka &/or Zamami) you need to call this number: 098-987-2614. Please book at least one day in advance,

If you’re coming from Zamami Village Port (which is in the centre of town) it takes just 20 minutes to reach the beach when walking.

A turtle enjoying some seagrass on Ama Beach

How To Swim With Turtles on The Beach

What I love about Ama Beach, (compared to other beaches where you can swim with turtles like Tokashiku Beach) is that you can see them without needing to join a tour.

Ama Beach in Okinawa has a large swimming area in the centre of the beach which is marked out by buoys. These buoys are there to help protect the reef by not allowing swimmers too close to the marine plant life. This helps to preserve the reef and in turn, keeps the sea turtle habitat safe for longer.

So if you want to swim with sea turtles and see them close up yourself, what’s the best way to do so?

When to Visit Ama Beach?

Well, you should make sure to head out at the right time of day to increase your chances. HIGH TIDE.

Since the water is so much deeper at high tide, the turtles come much closer to the shore which means you’re much more likely to spot them while swimming inside the buoy line.

The best time to see the turtles, is 2 hours on each side of high tide. You can check the times here.

If you’re unsure what I mean by 2 hours on each side of high tide, I’ll give you an example:

If high tide is at 11:30 am, you should be out on the water between 9:30 am (two hours before high tide) and 1:30 pm (two hours after high tide). This is when the water on Ama Beach will be at its deepest and is without a doubt the best time to look for sea turtles on Zamami Island.

Be aware that every day the high and low tide times move slightly. This means if you are staying in the area for a week the times could be quite different from the start of the week to the end. In order to give yourself the best chance to see the turtles here on Ama Beach, you should certainly keep up to date with the tide schedule.

Top tip: Most accommodations in the area will have this information updated for guests on a daily basis. So if in doubt, ASK!

I Recommend Snorkelling

The easiest way to try and swim with turtles on Ama Beach is with a snorkel and fins. You can either purchase and bring your own from elsewhere or if you would prefer, you can often rent this equipment from local accommodations.

When I stayed at the Zamamia International Guesthouse, I was able to rent a snorkel mask and fins from them for 500 JPY each for one day. So if you needed to rent both for 1 person, it would cost you just 1,000 JPY (£5.50 GBP/$6.60 USD). Other accommodations may have different prices and offers available*.

A Large sign near the beach entrance with instructions on how to keep the turtles safe
One of the signs showing how to keep the turtles safe at Ama Beach

Rules to Follow when Swimming at Ama Beach, Zamami

When swimming at Ama Beach there are a few rules to follow here (similar to most other beaches in Okinawa).

Rules To Keep People Safe

Firstly, there are rules you need to follow to keep yourself, the swimmer, safe. This includes staying within the approved swimming area of the beach and not going outside the buoy markers. In one or two places outside of these markers, there can sometimes be a current under the water which can cause difficulty to some swimmers.

Plus, there is a lifeguard on duty who can keep people safer if everyone stays in the correct area.

Rules To Keep Sea Turtles Safe

As with all wildlife, people should be extremely careful not to disrupt or disturb them by getting too close. Not only could these animals cause you harm if provoked, but you could also cause them stress which could prevent them from staying in the local area. Neither scenario we want to happen.

– Don’t get too close and remember to keep a distance.
– Do not touch any of the turtles.
– Do not feed them.
– Do not follow the sea turtles, always give them space.
– Approach the turtles carefully if they are eating seagrass.
– Do not tread water near them in case you kick them by accident.

Amenities on the Beach

Ama Beach is one of Zamami Island’s main attractions so there are quite a few amenities located close by. There are a few accommodations in this area, and a few residential homes so visitors to the beach should make sure to act respectfully when travelling through the street to and from the beach.

There is a small area to park bicycles before heading onto the sand as this is one of the main ways travellers get around the island.

There are some public restrooms and showers near the “roundabout”. It’s not a traffic roundabout where cars can drive around, but a pedestrian roundabout near where people can park their bikes. They’re very close to the safety signs about the sea turtles. The showers cost 300 JPY for use and are only warm during the winter.

If your accommodation doesn’t have any snorkel gear to rent you can rent some from the campsite just outside of the beach by the campsite. You can also store your luggage here instead of taking it to the beach for 200 JPY per item.

In the centre of the beach itself, there is a lifeguard tower, however, they are only on duty during daylight hours (9 am – 5.30 pm). If you choose to swim outside these hours you should do so at your own risk.

You should also be aware of the wildlife around the island both on the beach and elsewhere. Although not common this close to shore, it is not unheard of to find venomous animals in the reefs you’ll be swimming near. Be aware of the dangerous animals in Okinawa.

a sea turtle swimming low to the reef in Okinawa
A sea turtle swimming on top of the rocks and reef near Ama Beach

Where to Stay on Zamami Island?

Another small island in the Keramas Island Group with a small population, so there are not too many accommodation options available. This can make it tricky to find a suitable place to stay within your price range during the busy seasons if you do not book ahead of time.

Zamamia International Guesthouse – This guesthouse-style hostel is located in the centre of town only a short walk from the ferry terminal. They offer both dorm rooms and private rooms for their guests and have a bar and restaurant on site. From this hostel, you can reach Ama Beach in 20 minutes on foot or quicker when you rent one of their bicycles.

If a hostel is not your style and you’d prefer to stay in a different type of accommodation, has a collection of guesthouses and hotels for you to choose from which might be more suitable to your trip requirements

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations. – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

Have you visited Ama Beach on Zamami Island? did you manage to spot any sea turtles during your visit? Was there anywhere else on the island you saw them? Let me know!

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  1. Hello. We are going to okinawa in march. Do you know if it’s possible to see the turtles at that time? Is the beaches closed?

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