Dearly remote in Japan’s far-southern isle
By: Text and photos by Brandi Goode | Jul 24, 2012 | No Comments | 2,999 views

Porch view from Hoshisuna restaurant

Iriomote onsen

Box turtles, fruit bats, crested eagles, tree-climbing lizards, and scores of tropical fish. No, this is not the latest Disney feature—but the creatures I saw during a three-day visit to Iriomotejima in Okinawa. Iriomote National Park covers nearly 40 percent of this island paradise, known as home to the rare nocturnal yamaneko (“mountain cat”). Many visitors come from neighboring Ishigakijima for a daytrip, but this unpretentious tropical destination is worth a few days’ admiration.


Iriomote’s number-one activity is a trip up the Urauchi River, Okinawa’s longest, where mangroves and an abundance of lush greenery thrive. Canoes and kayaks can be rented for a more independent journey, and a trek to two waterfalls awaits after the cruise. The second, Kanbire Falls, allows close enough access for swimming. More serious trekkers can continue on for an 18km demanding hike traversing the island.

Package tours can be booked through most hotels for around ¥8,000, but it’s also possible (and cheaper) to turn up at the dock, book your spot on the boat for ¥1,800 and navigate the hike on your own. There are seven boats daily on the hour, starting at 9:30am.

Sunbathing on its varied beaches is another choice pursuit on Iriomote. Hoshisuna is fantastic for snorkeling, and gear can be rented at the store above the beach for ¥1,575 a day. Haemida is a lengthy stretch of sand about 4km west of the last bus stop, Toyara. The only other living creatures you’re likely to find there are a million hermit crabs and a few goats.

For a different kind of bathing, Painumaya Resort is home to Japan’s southernmost and westernmost onsen. Day use runs ¥1,500, which includes three mixed-gender heated outdoor pools (one other, the largest, is out of service indefinitely), a swimming pool, and both indoor and outdoor baths in segregated women’s and men’s areas. All are situated amid a dramatic jungle background beside the river. The resort has a casual café and nice restaurant where you can order craft beers from Ishigakijima.


Other than the Ishigaki beers (the weizen gets top marks, even by German standards), Iriomote has some excellent homegrown pineapple and brown sugar. The former is sold at unmanned stands for ¥100 throughout the island. The tasty brown sugar makes its way into ice cream, yogurt toppings, shaved ice, and just about anything else that can be sweetened. Iriomote beef, though no wagyu or Kobe, is also nice to try. Restaurants near your lodging are usually willing to do pickups for dinner service.


Accommodation centers around the island’s two main ports. To the north, the area west of Uehara is the most convenient because of its proximity to popular attractions. Hoshisuna Pension rents basic rooms above the beach from ¥5,500 per person and offers sunrise and sunset yoga for guests. La Teada has sea-facing rooms on the southern end of the island west of Ohara port and charges around ¥11,000 per spacious room. They rent bicycles too—a perfect way to reach Haemida beach.

Last, several campsites provide cheap or free lodging. Hoshisuna offers grassy space behind the pension for ¥300 per camper and has tents for rent. There’s also a free campground behind Haemida with showers and a large, covered cooking area.


Other than renting a car or scooter, the main transportation on the island is one bus that runs both ways along the island’s main road just four times a day. If you plan ahead, it serves the purpose and will drop you everywhere you want to go. On our trip the friendly bus driver even made special stops to highlight wildlife and his favorite pineapple stand! Most accommodations have their own vehicles and are happy to take you to/from the port.


Both ANA and JAL fly to Ishigaki, often through Naha. From there it’s a 40-minute ferry ride to either port on the island. Tokyo Travelpal ( offers package deals at fair prices.



Email This Post


Print This Post
Rate this
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading ... Loading ...

International Dance School in Tokyo
Contact us for a trial lesson!
24-Hour online reservations for trips!
Last-minute bookings available from all airports
Ebisu Best Color International Hair Salon
Cut: ¥5,940~, Highlights: ¥8,650, -15% off first visit
Toranomon Hills Dental Clinic
English-speaking, American Dental Association certified
Sharehouses located all over Tokyo.
Luxurious accommodation at affordable prices.
Nail, Wax, Spray Tan treatments in Tokyo
English-speaking Total Beauty Salon
Serviced Apartments Azabu Court
Daily, weekly, monthly extended stay studios/suites
Trust Dental Clinic in Harajuku
English speaking dentist with U.S. license
Australian owned/managed hair salon 20%off first visit
Accommodation in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba
Car Accident & Other Legal Problems
Legal advice from English speaking attorney-at-law
REAL ESTATE in Tokyo - Rent & Sale
Best source for expat housing, office, investment
Tokyo Furnished Apartments
No Key money, deposit, agent fee, guarantor!