Japan’s subtropical island prefecture of Okinawa is a paradise of golden sunshine, white beaches and turquoise ocean. But the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Here are some of the best bars, pubs and clubs where you can relax, chat, drink or dance the night away.
Far south of mainland Japan, Okinawa has its own distinctive culture that’s both laid-back and vibrant – a combination that also extends to its bar scene. The main island is dotted with chilled-out beachside bars and lively nightclubs that cater to the mix of locals, tourists and US Army personnel who visit.
The region has a number of famous brews you won’t want to miss, from the ubiquitous Orion – a light and refreshing rice beer perfect for the island’s hot weather – to unique and varied craft beers. And you can’t go drinking in Okinawa without trying awamori. This traditional spirit dates back over 600 years and is an important part of the prefecture’s culture. Distilled from long-grain rice, you’ll find it served in pretty much every bar here, and it can be enjoyed neat, over ice, with soda water or as part of a cocktail.
Located right on the seafront just a few minutes’ walk from American Village, Chatan Harbor Brewery is a bar and restaurant that also brews its own range of craft beer on-site. They have five year-round brews – a lager, a weizen, a pale ale, an IPA and a stout – plus a couple of specials that change with the season. If you can’t decide, go for a tasting set for a sample of all five standard beers. Cocktails, wine and spirits are also on offer, plus a selection of bar snacks (a full food menu is available in the restaurant section). The bar itself is spacious, with a wide terrace out the back offering stunning views across the East China Sea.
The Bar at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the north of Okinawa can’t be beat for a sophisticated night out. Dimly lit, with plush counter and table seating, the refined atmosphere lends itself perfectly to a date night. The menu is just as elegant as the surroundings, with over 20 varieties of vintage awamori and an extensive whisky collection from around the world. There is also an impressive number of signature and classic cocktails, featuring local ingredients like awamori, Okinawa brown sugar and shikuwasa citrus fruit. For something a bit special, go for a tasting menu of awamori or Japanese whisky, which can be paired with appetisers (for the awamori) or Okinawa brown sugar and chocolates (for the whisky).
You’ll find this lively and welcoming gay bar between Miebashi and Makishi stations in Okinawa’s capital city of Naha. Run by a friendly international gay couple, 8men is proudly LGBTQ- and foreigner-friendly. There’s cosy bar and table seating, and also an outdoor patio area illuminated with fairy lights. The fun and open atmosphere makes it a great place to meet people, with a catchy pop music soundtrack and even a karaoke machine for when you really want to get the party started! Drink prices are very reasonable, especially if you go during happy hour or take advantage of the all-you-can-drink offer between 7-9pm on weekends.
This intimate jazz club is an oasis of calm in the bustling hub of Naha. Just north of Kokusai Dori (International Street), it welcomes talented jazz musicians from across Japan and around the world to play live sets four nights a week. The bar is chic, with low lighting, wood panelling and comfortable seats where you can sit back with a fine wine, whisky or cocktail and savour the fantastic music. Bars snacks are also available if you get peckish. There’s usually a cover charge of around ¥2,000 (£14) to enjoy a show, but drink prices are reasonable.
In the narrow lanes south of Naha’s Kokusai Dori, you can find all sorts of hidden delights, and one of the best among them is Taste of Okinawa. This bar and restaurant showcases local craft beers from the main Okinawa island – as well as smaller islands in the prefecture – on its five frequently changing taps. They also have a selection of bottled beers from all across Japan. The food menu is packed full of local ingredients like beni-imo (purple sweet potato) and has been specifically designed to pair with the beer. So take a seat at one of the large communal tables, chat with fellow beer lovers and enjoy the very best flavours of Okinawa.
This popular Naha nightclub is a party hotspot, with friendly bar staff, a frequently updated playlist and funky decor. The drinks are cheap and strong, with a mix of cocktails, spirits and draft and bottled beers on offer. The bar is located beneath a hostel, so it tends to attract a young, international crowd looking to make friends. To help with this, they have plenty of games you can play for free, including darts, Jenga and billiards. It also provides a good option for somewhere to stay if you miss your transport home. Alternatively, Bar Spade stays open until 5am, so you really can dance until dawn!
Helios is another popular Okinawa brewery, with its own pub located right in the heart of Naha on Kokusai Dori. They serve a selection of their own craft beers, including a fruity white ale made with shikuwasa, a local citrus fruit, and the hoppy Goya Dry lager, made with local bitter melon. The pub is spacious and has plenty of seating, with wooden flooring and furniture and shiny brass beer taps, making it reminiscent of a British-style pub. This bar opens a little bit earlier than many other places on the list, making it a good option for day drinking as you shop in the city centre.
Tucked away on an isolated peninsula next to the breathtaking beauty of Manza Beach, it’s easy to see why this hotel is consistently rated as one of the premier resorts on the island. To get a taste of what makes it so special, head to Bar Wavy on the lobby floor. With a colour scheme inspired by the blue sky, white sands and aquamarine ocean that surround it, it’s impossible not to feel relaxed here. For the ultimate luxury experience, sip a signature cocktail, glass of champagne or local awamori as you watch the sun slowly set over the sparkling bay.
This bar is perfectly located right in the centre of American Village, just moments from Sunset Beach. It has a huge range of craft beers on 24 taps, including both their own brews and those from well-known Japanese and American breweries. If that’s not enough, there are also several well-stocked fridges of bottled beers, plus a food menu featuring pub classics such as pizza, fish and chips, and buffalo wings. Outdoor seating is available on the terrace at the front, as well as booths, tables and counter seats inside. Check out the merchandise emblazoned with their colourful sea turtle logo for a great souvenir of your trip.