The Yanbaru region (山原) makes up the northern part of the Okinawa Main Island. Compared to the urbanized, southern part of the island, Yanbaru is significantly less developed and more rural. The region contains an abundance of subtropical forested hills and endemic wildlife. In 2016, the Yanbaru National Park was established here as the 33rd national park in Japan.

Several endangered species of wildlife exist in the region. Among them is the Yanbaru Kuina (also known as the "Okinawa Rail"), which is a small, nearly-flightless bird only found in the Yanbaru region. Efforts are being made to preserve the species, and several kuina-related attractions have been established in the area.

Most tourist attractions in the Yanbaru region are nature-related and include walking trails through the forest, observation points and small museums devoted to the local fauna and flora. Below is a list of some of the places of interest:

Hedo Misaki (Cape Hedo)

Hours: Always open
Admission: free
Closed: No closing days
Hedo Misaki is the northernmost point of Okinawa Honto. At the cape there is a network of walking trails leading to several statues and scenic views of the coast. On a clear day it is possible to see Yoronjima Island located 23 kilometers to the northwest which is part of neighboring Kagoshima Prefecture.

Hiji Waterfall

Hours: Entry from 9:00 to 16:00 (until 15:00 from Nov to Mar)
Admission: 500 yen
Closed: during extreme weather
Hiji Waterfall is an impressive, 26 meter tall waterfall located at the end of a 1.5 kilometer hike through the forest which takes about 40 minutes one way. The area has a tranquil atmosphere and is probably the best trail for experiencing the undisturbed nature of the Yanbaru forests. A parking lot and campground are located at the trailhead.

Daisekirinzan Park

Hours: 9:30 to 17:30 (entry until 16:30)
Admission: 1200 yen
Closed: No closing days
Located five minutes by car from Hedo Misaki, Daisekirinzan Park is a nature reserve with hiking trails winding through a rocky, eroded limestone terrain. There are four hiking courses to experience, each with its own theme. All four trails start from the same building which is reached by shuttle bus from the parking lot.

Gesashi Bay Mangrove Forest

Hours: Always open
Admission: free
Closed: No closing days
The Gesashi Bay Mangrove Forest is the largest mangrove forest on the Okinawa Main Island. There is an observation deck and 400 meter long boardwalks through the vegetation. Canoe tours are offered by several companies.

Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center

Hours: 10:00 to 16:30
Admission: Free
Closed: Mondays, national holidays (except May 4-5), June 23, New Year holidays
The Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center, not far from the trailhead to Hiji Waterfall, teaches visitors about local wildlife around the region. Built in 2009, the facility has ample information and multiple displays focusing on nature protection and the Yanbaru kuina bird.

Okinawa Rail Ecology Center

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Admission: 500 yen
Closed: Wednesdays
The Okinawa Rail Ecology Center is a small facility dedicated to educating visitors about the kuina bird and focused on its preservation. It features a large cage in which a kuina bird is living and can be observed if you are able to find the bird. The center is located on the east side of the Yanbaru Region and shares a parking lot with a park golf course.

Okuma Beach

Hours: 9:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 November to February)
Admission for daytime visitors: 1000 yen per person, 500 yen for parking
Closed: No closed days
Okuma Beach is an attractive beach located within the Okuma Private Beach & Resort, one of only a few resorts in the far north of the island. The beach stretches over a kilometer along the coast, and many facilities and water activities are available to staying guests and daytime visitors.

Getting there and around

Public transportation in the Yanbaru Region is limited to infrequent local buses along the West coast that do not serve all destinations, while buses along the more remote East coast are even more elusive. For this reason traveling by rental car is recommended.

How to get to and around Okinawa Honto

Hotels around Okinawa Island

Recommended Hotels
Daiwa Roynet Hotel Okinawa Kenchomae
Reliable business hotel within walking distance of Kokusaidori Street and the monorail.
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Hotel JAL City Naha
Conveniently located in the center of Kokusaidori Street in Naha.
Hotel Nikko Alivila
One of the best luxury resort hotels on Okinawa.
InterContinental ANA Manza Beach Resort
One of the most popular beach resort hotels on Okinawa Island.
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JAL Private Resort Okuma
A leading beach resort in the sparsely populated north of Okinawa Island.
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