I can confidently say that Nagannu Island is my favorite place in the vast expanse that comprises the whole of the Japanese archipelago.
The island’s natural beauty, with its pristine white sand beaches against an endless backdrop of azure, crystalline water is undoubtedly a major factor in my partiality toward this particular slice of paradise, but other elements also play a role.
Merely a twenty-minute boat ride away from Naha, the island is a twenty-first-century hybrid between Robinson Crusoe and the conveniences of modern life.
As a matter of fact, on my visit to the island only 6-7 guests stayed overnight.
Even including the maintenance crew and restaurant staff, that’s still only about a dozen people.
Realistically, you’ll never run into the staff unless you actively seek them out, so the island is, for all intents and purposes, the domain of the guests.
Even then, the only interaction I had with people outside our group was when I saw someone flying a drone overhead, so peaceful seclusion is virtually guaranteed.
After nightfall, very few artificial light sources remain, so making a bonfire at the campsite is a good way for visitors to connect to their primal, ancestral past.
Kindling is provided in the form of neat, rectangular cuboid-shaped pieces of wood, and so is a tent, as well as every utensil imaginable to facilitate the camping and/or sky-gazing experience.
Same-day Round Trip or Overnight Stay?
Guests also have the choice between camping outside or retreating to one of seven wooden cabins.
Each cabin comes with its own air conditioning unit and accommodates the needs of guests who might want to enjoy nature without having to rough it out outside.
During the first day, we experienced intermittent spells of rain accompanied by strong winds, so I can say I was glad to know I’d be staying inside a solid structure capable of providing full, 360-degree shelter.
There is also a same-day round trip plan, but you’ll notice how I only refer to the overnight-stay package.
This is because the two are not even comparable: sure, you can still partake in activities like diving or snorkeling, but the round trip plan is restrictive in that the time actually spent on the island is capped at a maximum of around 6 hours.
What’s more, throngs of people on the beach and in the restaurant area make less for a private island experience, and more for a ‘Coachella on the beach’ type of ordeal.
On the bright side, Nagannu has good conservation policies in place, with sections of the island even being cordoned off as a nature preserve, and rules forbidding the use of most types of soaps and shampoos by guests, out of a concern for the environment.
In light of the above, while I personally wouldn’t be too keen to take part in the diving and snorkeling tours, or any of the other marine activities available to visitors, at least I have reason to believe these are organized in a manner that is not excessively disruptive to surrounding habitats.
Once the last vessel leaves the island – around 4 p.m., but sometimes as early as 1 p.m. in some cases – Nagannu essentially turns into a private beach.
With an area of only 0.29 square kilometers – 0.11 square miles – some of which inaccessible due to its status as a nature preserve, exploring every nook and cranny is a relatively trivial undertaking, albeit one that is very worthwhile.
Adan Trees and Hermit Crabs
The flora on the island consists primarily of ground-hugging vegetation, but one particular species of tree stands out – the Adan tree.
Adan is the Japanese name for members of the flowering plant family Pandanaceae.
These trees produce pineapple-looking fruit, or what I suppose could be called ‘ersatz’ pineapples: the shape closely resembles that of the spiky tropical fruit, to such a degree that one might be tempted to pick one up and eat it as such.
However, the fruit’s appearance and scent is where the similarities end.
People describe the outer layer as being too fibrous and hard, the only tasty portion being the seeds contained in the core.
In light of the above, culinary uses of the Adan fruit are understandably not widespread – even in Okinawa – and on the rare occasion when it is used as an ingredient, soft sprouts are preferred over the fully-matured fruits found in the wild.
In terms of fauna, those partaking in recreational diving activities can come into contact with a variety of sea creatures, but the undisputed representative of the island is the hermit crab.
These ten-footed creatures are the renters of the animal world, borrowing the shells of sea snails and other mollusks for protection.
Despite the name, the hermit crabs found on Nagannu Island don’t seem to be at all solitary, freely strolling about on the wooden railings delineating the perimeter of the Casa di mare nagannu restaurant, apparently unbothered by the presence of large groups of humans during the lunch rush hour.
In fact, hermit crabs are a ubiquitous sight throughout the island: hardly surprising given their predilection for Adan fruit.
Once you’ve done a reconnaissance tour of the island, why not either go for a swim or stretch out on one of the beach chairs facing the ocean?
I opted for the latter option, and settled down for a lazy pre-dinner YouTube viewing session, while at the same time contemplating the beauty of my surroundings.
Nagannu has full cell coverage (at least for KDDI), so this does open up a number of online entertainment options, although, for most, the desire to explore will likely eclipse the potential for extended periods of media consumption.
After nightfall, the moon provides very little natural illumination and there are really only a couple of artificial light sources on the island, Casa di mare nagannu being the main one.
Catching a Glorious Sunrise
Lighting a campfire is a good option at this point, but make sure you don’t stay up too late because the real crowning experience is watching the sun rise the following morning.
The exact time of sunrise can be calculated down to the minute, so I suggest looking that information up online and setting your alarm clock for around that time.
As the saying goes, the early bird does indeed catch the worm, but beyond the initial effort of getting up around 6 a.m., you can rest assured that pretty much any point on the island is virtually guaranteed to deliver a stunning view.
I recommend you make your way from the cabin area, past the restaurant, eventually reaching the vantage point from the dunes overlooking the pier.
Describing the view as idyllic would be underselling its majestic beauty.