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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: boats depart only during high tide
Closed: No closing days
Fee: 1850 yen

Kayak River Tours

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

Pinaisara Falls

Fee: from 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: from 5500 yen for a half day snorkeling tour

Other Attractions

Yubujima Suigyu Cart Ride

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Closed: No closing days
Fee: 1760 yen includes entry to the islands botanical garden

Yamaneko Museum (Iriomote Wildlife Conservation Center)

Hours: 10:00 to 16:00
Closed: Mondays (or following day if Monday is a national holiday), national holidays, June 23 and Dec 29 to Jan 3
Fee: 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 (35-40 minutes, 1600 yen, departures every 1-2hours) on the south end of the island and Uehara Port (2090 yen, 40-50 minutes, departures every 1-2 hours) in the north. Additionally, slower car ferries operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Ohara (80 minutes, 1120 yen one way), on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays to Uehara Port (110-130 minutes, 1450 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 five 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, within 450 metres of Fusaki Beach and 8 km of Yaeyama Museum, Little Mermaid Hotel Ishigakijima features accommodation with a garden and free WiFi as well as free private parking for guests who drive. The property is set 27 km from Tamatorizaki Observation Point, 5 km from Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory and 6 km from Ishigaki Yaima Village. The property is 7 km from Banna Park and 14 km from Kabira Bay. The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms with a wardrobe, a kettle, a microwave, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV, a balcony and a private bathroom with a bidet. Little Mermaid Hotel Ishigakijima offers some rooms with sea views, and each room has a terrace. At the accommodation rooms are equipped with bed linen and towels. An Asian breakfast is available each morning at Little Mermaid Hotel Ishigakijima. The area is popular for fishing, and car hire is available at the hotel. Ishigaki Island Limestone Cave is 7 km from Little Mermaid Hotel Ishigakijima, while Ishigaki Public Market is 7 km from the property. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 16 km from the accommodation.
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    • HOSTEL SunTerrace Ishigaki
      Budget-friendly
      HOSTEL SunTerrace Ishigaki in Ishigaki Island provides adults-only accommodation with a shared lounge, a garden and a terrace. This 1-star hostel offers a shared kitchen and luggage storage space. Free WiFi is available and private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. At the hostel rooms are fitted with air conditioning and a safety deposit box. Maezato Beach is 2.7 km from HOSTEL SunTerrace Ishigaki, while Yaeyama Museum is 300 metres from the property. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 16 km from the accommodation.
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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
      Featuring a terrace, Guest House Yun Terrace is located in Ishigaki Island in the Okinawa region, 2.4 km from Maezato Beach and 600 metres from Yaeyama Museum. With a shared lounge, the 2-star guest house has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a shared bathroom. Private parking is available on site. Tamatorizaki Observation Point is 21 km from the guest house, while Ishigaki Public Market is less than 1 km away. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 11 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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    • Shiraho Friends House
      Budget-friendly
      Just a 2-minute walk from Shiraho Beach, Friends House features a free-use kitchen, free parking and free Wi-Fi throughout. Simple air-conditioned private rooms and dormitory-style accommodation are offered. A shuttle service is available from New Ishigaki Airport at a charge. Guests at Shiraho Friends House can enjoy a private room with a TV that looks out on local greenery, or sleep in a bunk bed in a room shared with other guests. All rooms have shared toilets and bathrooms. The property is a 4-minute walk from Shiraho bus stop and within a 5-minute walk from Shiraho Coral Reef Conservation and Research Centre. Guests must reserve in advance to use the chargeable shuttle from New Ishigaki Airport, which is a 5-minute drive away. You can sunbathe or barbecue at the rooftop sun terrace or use the free-use internet PC at the air-conditioned dining room. There is an outdoor weight-lifting area, and the property has a free-use washing machine and a coin-operated dryer. No meals are served.
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    • Alaise De Bale Ishigaki
      Luxury
      Situated in Ishigaki Island, 11 km from Tamatorizaki Observation Point, Alaise De Bale Ishigaki features accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a bar. 23 km from Yaeyama Museum and 22 km from Banna Park, the property offers a garden and a terrace. The accommodation provides room service and free WiFi. At the hotel, the rooms include a wardrobe. Complete with a private bathroom fitted with a bidet and slippers, 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 can enjoy a continental breakfast. Guests at the hotel will be able to enjoy activities in and around Ishigaki Island, like hiking. Ishigaki Yaima Village is 22 km from Alaise De Bale Ishigaki, while Ishigaki Public Market is 23 km from the property. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 12 km from the accommodation.
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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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    • Guest House Chura Cucule Ishigakijima
      Budget-friendly
      Situated 1 km from Yaeyama Museum, Guest House Chura Cucule Ishigakijima features rooms with air conditioning in Ishigaki Island. Among the facilities at this property are a shared kitchen and a shared lounge, along with free WiFi throughout the property. Private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. The rooms have a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. Tamatorizaki Observation Point is 29 km from the hostel, while Ishigaki Public Market is 800 metres from the property. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 17 km from Chura Cucule Ishigakijima.
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