Become one with nature and the heavens on Iriomote Island
Secluded Iriomote Island is a diverse subtropical environment, with a mountainous jungle core giving way to mangrove forests and flashes of pristine sands at the coast. By day explore the heart of the island on a guided trek or kayak tour, at night enjoy cool coastal breezes and the crystal-clear night sky.
- Explore thriving mangrove forests by canoe or kayak, or trek dense jungle trails
- See Yaeyama fireflies in spring
- Amble across shallow straits to Yubu Island
About Iriomote Island
Iriomote is Okinawa’s second largest island, but the vast majority of the landmass remains uninhabited and untouched. The island is one of four areas in Okinawa and Kagoshima that UNESCO added to its Natural World Heritage list in 2021.
Iriomote is also the largest of the islands making up the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, the southernmost national park in Japan. At over 200-square-kilometers, the park is home to distinctive plants and animals, some found nowhere else in Japan.
Explore by water
The island’s geography invites you to become intimate with the wildlife. Canoeing and kayaking are popular choices to explore the maze of verdant mangroves; quietly drifting through the untouched forest offers the chance to become fully immersed in the wilds of the island.
If you do not feel like paddling, experience the forest’s charm on an early-morning boat ride along the Urachi River. The chatter of birdlife breaks through the morning mist on the water as the upstream river cruise meanders from the mangroves into thick jungle waterways.
Hit the trails
Head off the beaten track to see all the island has to offer. The upper streams of Iriomote Island’s rivers are home to two waterfalls, Pinaisara and Mariyudu, which can be reached on guided tours. Kayak tours operate to Pinaisara, with a short trek at the end. Mariyudu tours involve a boat ride followed by a trek.
Pinaisara (55 m) is the highest waterfall in Okinawa. The top of the waterfall affords a commanding view of the island, while the natural pool at the base is a perfect chance to refresh with a relaxing post-trek dip.
Mariyudu is a sprawling waterfall in the northwest of the island, in the upper stream of the Urachi river. Although it is only 16 meters high, it is the largest waterfall in Okinawa by water volume: the two-tiered waterfall navigates a natural kick in the landscape which creates a large basin.
Trekking is also the best chance to catch a glimpse of the island’s shyest resident, the Iriomote cat. With only around 100 of this leopard cat subspecies left in the wild, any sighting is one to be treasured.
Iriomote Island at night
When the sun dips below the horizon, the island takes on a different character. After sunset from around late February to late April, endemic Yaeyama fireflies light up the forests of Iriomote Island, making for impressive displays. Tour operators on the island offer trips to see these and other varieties of firefly.
Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park is renowned for the quality of its stargazing, and is registered as an International Dark Sky Park. Gaze up at the heavens on Iriomote Island to see planets, constellations, and the Milky Way contrasted against the pich-black sky. Join a stargazing tour to visit some of the best locations on the island and learn about the constellations from a knowledgeable guide.
The beauty of Yubu Island
A few hundred meters off the coast of Iriomote Island, Yubu Island is a great place for nature lovers. Visit a butterfly garden and a bougainvillea garden, or simply stroll around the island, which is itself a large botanical garden.
Where to stay
There is a range of accommodation on Iriomote Island, from cozy family-run guesthouses to upscale resort hotels. Most accommodation is concentrated near Uehara Port and Hoshizuna Beach in the north, and Ohara Port in the south. A single main road runs along the coast and connects the two ports.
Getting to Iriomote Island
Iriomote Island is accessible by ferry from Ishigaki Island. Depending on the season, regular high-speed ferries run every 30 to 60 minutes to Ohara Port, and every hour or two to Uehara Port. Expect the trips to take 35 to 40 minutes and 40 to 50 minutes respectively.