Okinawa is a famous tropical islands in japan, each of which has a different feature. And some of you would like to enjoy both mountain trekking and beautiful beach and probably good food, too. Iriomote island is an ideal place for such people.
You must fly from Honshu (the main island) such as Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka to Ishigaki island first, which is a hub island to get around Yaeyama archipelago.
When you arrive at the airport, catch a bus to Ishigaki ferry terminal. (You can find a direct bus called Karry Kanko at the airport).
The ferry goes to Iriomote island every couple of hours. Just keep in mind that sometimes they might cancel the boat service due to the weather (so check the weather of the day you come back as well before you go, otherwise you might be stuck in the island another few days!).
There are 2 ports in Iriomote island, Uehara in the west and Ohara in the east, and make sure which side of the island your hotel is located on.
Also keep it in mind that sometimes the ferry goes to only one of the ports due to the weather condition (in that case catch a local bus going to the other side, taking about 1 hour).
There are several beaches on the island and around there. These below are famous ones.
Hoshisuna beach : If you stay on the west side of the island, this beach is easy to be reached. Hoshisuna means star sand, and when you look at the sand there, you can literally find some star-shaped ones. The water is clear and it’s an ideal place for snorkeling.
Haemida beach : If you prefer a bigger scale beach, Haemida beach is great to visit. The beach is quite shallow and kids can also swim. The area doesn’t have coral so much that it’s not the best place for snorkeling. Also the beach is located on the south side, in the end of the island main road (actually the island has only one main road, running on the 60 % of the island only and the rest of the area cannot be reached by car), and you must rent a car to get there.
Barasu island : This island shows up only during the low tide time. There is nothing but only the beautiful white sand and clear water, and it disappears as the tide comes up. And only the way to get there is taking any local tour. You can book a tour at your hotel or on the internet.
Snorkeling is one of the best activities when staying in Iriomote island.
You can either just rent equipment from your hotel or join any snorkeling tour.
Kayaking and SUP: Iriomote island is also famous as a mangrove island. And it’s really cool to explore the mangrove jungle by kayaking. Another way to explore the jungle is by SUP. Both are available by joining a tour on the island.
Trekking : This is one of the biggest island in Okinawa archipelago. While most of the islands are pretty flat with only few river (sometimes not at all !), Iriomote island is rich in both mountains and fresh water. If you would like to see more than just by getting on a river cruise, hop off the boat with enough equipment and start excursion to find a waterfall.
Yubu island : It’s a small island just 500 away from Iriomote Island, and the only way to get there for tourists is riding a buffalo carriage (it’s not impossible to swim technically but nobody does it, and buffalos stool must be everywhere in the water on the way).
After a big damage on the island by a typhoon in 1969, most of the residents decided to move to Iriomote Island while one old couple left there to revive the island as a beautiful tropical botanic garden.
The island itself is not so big and a few hour visit gives you another fun of island trip.
Meeting special creatures : There are some creatures living in only this area of the world and Iriomoteyamaneko (wild cat) lives only on this island. Actually it’s super rare to find one as its’ a nocturnal animal living in the forest, and it’s assumed there are just less than 100 living left. So you will see many cat caution sign on the road and you must drive carefully as it might pop up suddenly (it could be occurred even on the daytime). And there are no domestic cat to protect the endemic animals.
Iriomote Island produces sugarcanes, pineapples, and many other tropical fruits and sometimes you find a place to sell those fruits (there is often nobody and just leave the money as it’s written on the product bags, and this works without any problem in Japan, how safe!!).
When visiting a restaurant or izakaya (Japanese style pub) on the island, most of them offer a fresh fish by sashimi, grilled, simmered as they recommend. Also there are wild boars living in the island and when they get fresh ones, it’s possible to try boar sashimi… !!
Brown sugar sweets and some different types of Okinawan products such as adan (pineapple looking plant) and sea grapes are also must try food there !
How Many Days Needed in Iriomote Island ??
It really depends on what you would like to do in the island.
The island itself is not very big and 2 hours drive will be enough to travel from one side to the other while trekking needs one day trip, and if you would like to try several activities, 2 full days + traveling days (totally 4 days) are minimum days to explore the island.
Also the weather condition must be considered as the ferry service can be changed or canceled under the bad weather.
Still, if you look for any island adventure, Iriomote cannot be missed during your trip in Japan!
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