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Iriomote Island (西表島, Iriomotejima) is Okinawa's second largest island. It is largely undeveloped, with nearly 90 percent of its land covered by dense jungle and mangrove forests. Wide areas of the island are part of the Iriomote Ishigaki National Park, the southernmost of Japan's national parks and one of the country's most unique.

The island's attractions are based around tours to Iriomote's abundant nature including sea and river kayaking, fishing and sailing. Other activities can be enjoyed either on tours or individually such as beaches, snorkeling and various hiking trails, the most challenging of which is a 20 kilometer path through the interior of the island which should only be tackled by experienced and well prepared hikers.

Iriomote is also a popular scuba diving destination especially at Manta Way, the strait between Iriomote and nearby Kohama Island, where schools of manta rays congregate in spring and summer. Diving tours are available for all skill levels.

The island is also home to the Iriomote Yamaneko, a type of wildcat, which was discovered in 1965 and is only found on Iriomote Island. The chances of encountering an Iriomote Yamaneko are low as the nocturnal, house cat sized animal is an endangered species that is thought to number less than 100 individuals.

River activities

Most of the island's interior is covered in dense jungle accessible by a number of rivers that head inland from the sea. Jungle boat cruises are organized on the island's two longest rivers, the Urauchigawa (Urauchi River) and Nakamagawa (Nakama River), and guided kayak tours operate on both of those as well as many of the smaller rivers around the island.

Urauchi River Cruise

Boat Departures: 9:00 to 15:30
Closed: No closing days
Fee: 2200 yen

Nakama River Cruise

Boat Departures: At least 1-2 boats per day
Closed: No closing days
Fee: 2000 yen

Kayak River Tours

Fee: around 8000 yen for a guided 3-hour tour

Pinaisara Falls

Fee: around 9000 yen for a half day tour

Omisha Road Park

Admission: Free

Beaches

Iriomote has its share of beautiful beaches which offer swimming, snorkeling and diving opportunities. Most of the beaches around Iriomote do not have any public facilities, and some of them can only be reached by boat as the island's coast is only partially accessible by car.

When using the beaches always beware of strong currents that can pull you out to sea and poisonous creatures such as Habu Jellyfish, a type of box jellyfish, that are most prevalent from June to October. Signs in English inform about the dangers while some beaches have netted off swimming areas. Although stings are rare, if stung you should pour vinegar over the sting, remove any tentacles, and seek medical help as it may become life threatening.

Hoshizuna no Hama

Admission: Free, no parking fees

Tudumari no Hama

Admission: Free, no parking fees

Barasu Island

Fee: around 8000 yen for a half day snorkeling tour

Other attractions

Yubujima Suigyu Cart Ride

Hours: 9:30 to 16:00
Closed: No closing days
Fee: 1760 yen (round trip and entry to the botanical garden)

Yamaneko Museum (Iriomote Wildlife Conservation Center)

Hours: 10:00 to 17:00
Closed: Mondays (or next day if Mon is a holiday), Jun 23 and Dec 29 to Jan 3
Admission: Free

Getting there and around

Ferry companies operate high speed ferries, as well as an infrequent car ferry, between Iriomote and Ishigaki Island.

High speed ferries depart Ishigaki for Ohara Port (1830 yen, 35-40 minutes, departures every 1-2 hours) on the south end of the island and Uehara Port (2390 yen, 40-50 minutes, departures every 1-2 hours) in the north. Additionally, slower car ferries operate on selected days of the week to Ohara (80 minutes, 1350 yen one way) and Uehara (110-130 minutes, 1750 yen one way). Online reservations can be made through Direct Ferries.

There is only one main road on Iriomote, running along the coast from Shirahama to Ohara. A public bus runs between Shirahama and Ohara four times per day. The complete journey takes about 90 minutes and costs 1410 yen. A one day bus pass is available for 1050 yen while a three day pass costs 1570 yen.

Besides the public buses, there are shuttle buses, operated by ferry companies and by the various diving and sightseeing companies on the island. Lastly, it is also possible to rent a car from one of several outlets near the ferry terminals.

How to get to and around the Yaeyama Islands

Hotels around Yaeyama Islands

Top rated on the Yaeyama Islands
Budget:
    • Little Mermaid Hotel Ishigakijima
      Mid-range
      Situated in Ishigaki Island, 400 metres from Fusaki Beach, Little Mermaid Hotel Ishigakijima features accommodation with a garden, free private parking and a terrace. This 3-star hotel offers luggage storage space and free WiFi. The property is non-smoking and is set 2.3 km from Shanishani Beach. All rooms are fitted with air conditioning, a fridge, a microwave, a kettle, a shower, free toiletries and a wardrobe. The hotel offers some rooms with sea views, and rooms are equipped with a balcony. All units have a private bathroom, a hairdryer and bed linen. Guests at Little Mermaid Hotel Ishigakijima will be able to enjoy activities in and around Ishigaki Island, like fishing. Yaeyama Museum is 7.2 km from the accommodation, while Tamatorizaki Observation Point is 27 km from the property. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 18 km from Little Mermaid Hotel Ishigakijima.
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    • Matsukaze The Guest House Ishigaki
      Budget-friendly
      Featuring free WiFi, Matsukaze The Guest House Ishigaki is located across the street from the bus stop and a supermarket. The property is 1 km from Yaeyama Museum. Property staff can assist guests with creating their travel plans and give advise on nearby areas. Featuring a terrace, this 2-star guest house has air-conditioned rooms with a shared bathroom. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen and a shared lounge for guests. The living room features tatami (woven-straw) floors and a seating area where guests can relax. A washing machine is provided for guests during their stay for their comfort, while detergent is available for an additional fee. Guests can rent a bicycle to explore the nearby areas or go snorkeling with a rental snorkeling set available on site. Ishigaki Port Ritoh Terminal is a 8-minute drive or a 15-minute walk from the guest house. Kabira Bay is 13 km from the guest house, while Yonehara Beach is 13 km away. New Ishigaki Airport is 10 km from the property.
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    • Guesthouse Asibina
      Budget-friendly
      Boasting a terrace, Guesthouse Asibina is a guest house situated in Ishigaki Island, a 15-minute walk from Yaeyama Kanko Ferry Terminal. The guest house with free WiFi is 13 km away from Yonehara Beach and Kabira Bay. Attractions in the area include Sukuji Beach, 15 km away, or Tamatorizaki Observation Point, set 21 km from the property. All guest rooms are fitted with air conditioning. Each dormitory rooms has an electrical outlet and fan. Shared bathrooms have free toiletries. Guests can benefit from a shared kitchen with a fridge and kitchenware. A washing machine and tumble dryer can be used for a fee. Ishigaki Sunset Beach is 28 km from the guest house. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 11 km from Guesthouse Asibina.
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    • Guest House Yun Terrace
      Budget-friendly
      Guest House Yun Terrace, a property with a shared lounge, is located in Ishigaki Island, 1.1 km from Painuhama Artificial Beach, 2.2 km from Tadahama Beach, as well as 3 km from Maezato Beach. Featuring a terrace, the 2-star guest house has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a shared bathroom. Private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. Yaeyama Museum is 700 metres from the guest house, while Tamatorizaki Observation Point is 25 km away. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 13 km from Guest House Yun Terrace.
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    • Lulaliya
      Budget-friendly
      Set in Ishigaki Island, 300 metres from Kabira Bay, Lulaliya features air-conditioned rooms and free private parking. The bed and breakfast has a barbecue and sun terrace, and guests can enjoy a drink at the bar. Some units feature a seating area for your convenience. Extras include slippers, free toiletries and a hair dryer. Lulaliya features free WiFi throughout the property. There is a shared lounge at the property. Sukuji Beach is 1.9 km from Lulaliya, while Yonehara Beach is 5 km away. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 13 km from Lulaliya.
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    • Ishigaki Sunset Cove
      Luxury
      Situated on the secluded West Coast of Central Ishigaki Island, 18km from Ishigaki City, 5km from Yonehara Beach, Ishigaki Sunset Cove is set along the beach and rooms with free WiFi access. Among the various facilities of this property are an outdoor swimming pool and a garden. At the resort, the rooms come with a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Selected rooms here will provide you with a kitchen with a microwave, a toaster and a fridge. The units at Ishigaki Sunset Cove come with a seating area. An alternating Western or Japanese breakfast is available daily at the property. The accommodation offers a sun terrace. The area is popular for cycling, and a limited number of rental cars are available at Ishigaki Sunset Cove. Tamatorizaki Observation Point is 5 km from the resort, while Kabira Bay is 10 km away. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 10 km from Ishigaki Sunset Cove.
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    • Alaise De Bale Ishigaki
      Luxury
      Situated in Ishigaki Island, 90 metres from Idona Beach, Alaise De Bale Ishigaki features accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a garden and a terrace. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, room service and luggage storage space, along with free WiFi. Guests can make use of a bar. At the hotel, the rooms include a wardrobe. Complete with a private bathroom fitted with a bidet and free toiletries, the rooms at Alaise De Bale Ishigaki have a flat-screen TV and air conditioning, and certain rooms come with a balcony. At the accommodation rooms are fitted with bed linen and towels. Guests at Alaise De Bale Ishigaki will be able to enjoy activities in and around Ishigaki Island, like hiking. Tamatorizaki Observation Point is 11 km from the hotel, while Yaeyama Museum is 23 km from the property. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 13 km from Alaise De Bale Ishigaki.
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    • HOSTEL SunTerrace Ishigaki
      Budget-friendly
      Situated in Ishigaki Island, 1.3 km from Painuhama Artificial Beach, HOSTEL SunTerrace Ishigaki features accommodation with a shared lounge, private parking and a terrace. With a garden, the 1-star hostel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a shared bathroom. The accommodation provides a shared kitchen, and luggage storage for guests. A safety deposit box is accessible to all guests, while certain rooms are equipped with a game console. The rooms have bed linen. Tadahama Beach is 2.7 km from the hostel, while Yaeyama Museum is 300 metres from the property. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 13 km from HOSTEL SunTerrace Ishigaki.
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    • Guest House Chura Cucule Ishigakijima
      Budget-friendly
      Situated in Ishigaki Island, 2.3 km from Painuhama Artificial Beach, Guest House Chura Cucule Ishigakijima features air-conditioned accommodation and a shared lounge. The property is set less than 1 km from Yaeyama Museum, 26 km from Tamatorizaki Observation Point and 2.6 km from Ishigaki Island Limestone Cave. Private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. With a shared bathroom fitted with a bidet and a hairdryer, rooms at the hostel also boast free WiFi. At Guest House Chura Cucule Ishigakijima rooms are fitted with bed linen and towels. Banna Park is 3.2 km from the accommodation, while Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory is 5.9 km from the property. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 15 km from Guest House Chura Cucule Ishigakijima.
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    • Glamping Resort Yokabushi
      Luxury
      Featuring free WiFi and a restaurant, Glamping Resort Yokabushi offers accommodation in Ishigaki Island, 400 metres from Tamatorizaki Observation Point. Free private parking is available on site. A flat-screen TV is offered. Enjoy a cup of tea while looking out at the mountain or pool. Rooms have a private bathroom fitted with a bath. Extras include slippers and a hairdryer. The resort also offers free use of bicycles. Ishigaki Sunset Beach is 9 km from Glamping Resort Yokabushi, while Yonehara Beach is 10 km from the property. New Ishigaki Airport is 11 km away.
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Experiences around Yaeyama Islands

Top rated in Yaeyama Islands