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Nishibama Beach is located on the northeast coast of Aka Island (Akashima) in the Keramas Islands of Okinawa. It’s one of the most stunning beaches on Aka and is arguably one of the top places to swim with sea turtles without a tour!
This stunning 1-kilometer beach is one of the island’s favourites and it really does live up to all the hype.
White sand, an amazingly vibrant and colourful reef, the bright and appropriately named “Kerama Blue” water and an abundance of sea life right beneath the surface. This is without a doubt the best area on the island to marvel at the majestic shelled creatures that eat the seagrass in the area.
Out of the island group, Akashima is less touristy in comparison to Tokashiki and Zamami, but that doesn’t mean it should be skipped. The lack of tourists just adds to the quiet island vibe the entire island has and the residents are extremely welcoming to visitors. They can pinpoint the best places to eat and the easiest places to experience each of the natural wanders the island provides.
If you want to explore more of the island after seeing the turtles, check out my ultimate guide for the island to see what else you can get up to here.
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How to Get To Nishibama Beach?
Location: Aka, Zamami, Shimajiri District, Okinawa 901-3311, Japan ( 北浜ビーチ )
Depending on whether you are already on Aka Island or not, depends on how straightforward it is to reach this beautiful beach.
If you Are Not On Aka Island Yet
Please book your ferry in advance! During the busy months, (summer) they fill up reservations quickly. If you don’t plan ahead you might not be able to get there.
To get to Aka Island from Okinawa’s capital city of Naha, you can take one of the daily ferries from Tomari Port to Aka Village Port. Depending on which boat you choose to take, depends on the length of the journey.
- Ferry Zamami (slow passenger ferry) takes 1 hour 30 minutes
- Tickets cost 2150 JPY (£11.67 / $14.70 USD)
- Queen Zamami (high-speed ferry) takes 50 minutes
- Tickets cost 3200 JPY (£17.40 / $21.80 USD)
Both ferries will make a stop on Aka and Zamami Islands so make sure you get off at the right stop! Generally speaking, the ferries will make a stop at Aka Island’s Aka Village Port first before continuing on to Zamami Port.
If you stay on to reach Zamami Island instead, the journey will take longer than those listed above.
Want to explore more of the Keramas Islands during your visit? Check out this post to see how you can travel between them.
If you are already in the Keramas but on one of the neighbouring islands, you will need to make a call to reserve a spot on their small passenger boats. 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 to avoid missing out.
If you are already on Aka Island
If you are already on Aka Island you can either walk, cycle or drive to the beach from the main village by the port.
- Walking will take around 25 minutes
- Cycling will take around 15 minutes
- Driving will take 7 minutes
You can head to the beach along two different routes. One path takes you on flatter ground past Aka Beach near the bridge to Geruma, and the other path takes you through the back of the village and up the hill. There is only a 5 minute difference between the two paths so it really just comes down to preference.
You can easily rent bicycles from a small business near the port. Speak to your guesthouse or accommodation and they will be able to point you in the right direction. In many cases, they often have bikes to rent to their guests themselves.
How to swim with sea turtles on Nishibama Beach?
Compared to other beaches with reefs in the Keramas Islands, this could be my favourite with regard to sea life. Nishibama Beach has a reef that starts much closer to the shore than other popular sea turtle spots like Tokashiku Beach (Tokashiki Island) and Ama Beach (Zamami Island). This means you get to see many more fish in the general swimming area!
Although you are unlikely to see as many turtles on this beach as you would on Ama Beach, you still have a pretty high chance to do so. In order to increase your chances a little more, there are a few things you can do.
Try to stay as close to the buoy line as possible. This is where the reef reaches the “drop-off” zone and the water becomes much deeper. Each time I saw sea turtles it was right here along the reefs edge. Plus, if you head to the beach within a few hours of high tide, the turtles do happen to come a little bit closer to the shore to eat seagrass.
If you want to track the tide times, check out this link.
What turtles can you see on Nishibama Beach?
In the general area of the Keramas, you have the chance to see more than one turtle species when you head out to the reefs.
although it can be difficult to determine which species is which without much prior knowledge, the three most common sea turtles you will find in the area are:
- The loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
- The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)
- The hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Each of these turtles can vary in size, are generally harmless to humans and are placid animals. Although they are not known to attack people, if you get too close or try to touch them, there’s nothing to say they couldn’t bite you. So please do not touch them!
Take note: When you are swimming in these vibrant reefs you could find yourself getting close to some dangerous animals found in the area including blue-ringed octopus, sea snakes and more. Always use caution and don’t touch anything.
Rules to follow when visiting Nishibama Beach
First and foremost, the rules for using Nishibama Beach should be followed at all times. This is both to protect you and the natural habitat for the wildlife living nearby.
First, let’s look at the rules for how to keep the turtles safe enough to keep returning to the area.
Rules to follow for the reef
Although all of these rules are for the sea turtles, they should also be followed for the other sea life in the area.
Rules to keep humans safe:
- Only swim within the designated swimming area (inside the rectangle of buoys)
- Don’t go in if the lifeguards tell you not to.
- It is recommended to use a life vest although not mandatory.
- Do not swim while intoxicated.
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
As this is the most popular swimming beach on the island, lifeguards are present every day and can speak both Japanese and English. They usually set up for the day on the Nishibama Terrace which easily overseas the entire swimming area so they can supervise to the best of their ability.
They have an extremely loud warning sound they use to warn swimmers or sunbathers that are breaking the rules so there’s no doubt you’ll be able to hear it if you or someone else is doing something you shouldn’t be.
Amenities on Nishibama Beach
Since this is the most popular beach for visitors to Akashima, there are multiple useful amenities for you to use.
Other than having a safe swimming area marked out with buoys, there is also a large terrace for people to sit in some shade and leave their belongings. This terrace has wifi which is surprising for such a remote island!
Although the terrace is for all users of the beach, the lifeguards also use it to get a clear view of those swimming to keep everyone safe.
If you head up behind the terrace up the stairs and away from the beach, you’ll find an observatory deck and even some public restrooms with showers and a place to get cleaned up after your beach day.
Plus, depending on how you got to Nishibama Beach in the first place, there is a small area to park your bicycles and a bit further down the road there is enough space to park a few vehicles if you drove.
Where to stay on Aka Island?
Since Akashima is a small and remote island, the accommodation options are limited. Like any destination with a small population, the guesthouses can fill up rather quickly so if you don’t plan ahead accordingly, you might find yourself without a place to stay.
Unlike many other destinations I write about for backpackers, there are no hostels available on this island. In this case, I typically use Booking.com to book my accommodations unless I have a specific recommendation.
Be Careful: When searching for accommodation on Aka Island, the booking site lists many of the properties as “Zamami”. I would highly advise using the map feature to make sure you’re selecting a property ON Aka Island and not the neighbouring Island of Zamami.
During my visits to Akashima, I stayed in a mixture of different accommodations. Some traditional Japanese styles and others more of a Western style. Below are two that I can vouch for that I enjoyed.
Hanamuro Inn – A guesthouse with an outdoor terrace and multiple western-style bedrooms all facing into a central veranda. Just a few minutes from the port.
Housei – A collection of rooms made in the traditional Japanese style with futons instead of the Western beds we have in the UK.