The beauty and splendor of Okinawa are not confined to the main island alone. There are plenty of outlying islands that you should consider visiting to enhance your travel experience.
My first visit to one of the Ryukyu Islands was Iejima (Ie island), which lies not too far from the Northern part of main island of Okinawa. You can get there by ferry from Motobu Port and reach Iejima in about 30 minutes. The island of 23 square kilometers is small enough to explore on foot (I did) but needless to say, traveling on a vehicle would be more convenient. You can bring your car onto the ferry if you make reservations in advance (call the Vessel Department of Ie Village at 0980-49-2255 or Motobu Port at 098-047-394 for more information), or you can rent a bicycle or scooter when you arrive on the island.
The most prominent feature of Iejima would be Mount Gusuku. The panoramic view at the top of the 172-meter “mountain” is worth the hike if you’re up for it. Considered sacred to the locals, you will notice worship sites as you make you way to the peak.
The island has a population of less than 5,000 and a lot of farmland; quite a sight if you are used to an urban landscape like I am. If you’re all about the sea, Iejima is also known for its diving sites and other marine activities. The Lily Festival (Yuri Matsuri) happens on the island from late April to early May, so be sure to look it up if you are planning to visit around that time.
Besides nature and places of spiritual significance, Iejima also holds reminders of World War II. Look for the pawnshop ruins or the abandoned runway which was used during the war. There is also a monument built by the Okinawa chapter of the American Legion to honor war correspondent Ernie Pyle who died on Iejima in 1945. The description near the monument says he “became famous during World War II for his emotional firsthand accounts of the war from the GI’s point of view. His tools of war were his notebook, his pen and typewriter.”
You should be able cover all of the history and nature spots, and scenic beauty on Iejima in a day but if you can’t get enough of it, camping and lodging facilities are also available on the island.