About Yakushima Island
Why should you visit Yakushima Island? This small subtropical island in the Pacific Ocean south of Kagoshima on Japan’s Kyushu is a dream destination for nature lovers.
The rugged, mountainous interior of the island is covered by dense forest that is home to the Yakushima cedars; trees that have been standing for over a millennium.
The island’s beaches attract nesting loggerhead turtles from late April until early August. With some of the best hiking in Japan, Yakushima is a must for adventure lovers and hikers. It’s no wonder Yakushima has made it onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
Time to read: 12 minutes
Map of Yakushima Attractions
The Yakushima Cedars
Yakushima is famous for its ancient cedar trees that date back almost 8,000 years. The Yakushima cedars are not only some of the oldest in Japan but also in the world! The most famous tree on the island is Jomon Sugi, a type of Japanese Cedar (more information in the hiking section below).
Yakushima Animals – Wildlife Around the Island
The island is home to a vast array of animals including macaques, deer and around 150 species of bird. Turtles come to lay their eggs in the sand during summer (see beaches for more information), and dolphins can be spotted offshore.
Just off the coast, patches of coral attract a variety of tropical sea life. With any visit to Yakushima, you will be sure to spot some interesting wildlife.
Some of the Yakushima animals you may spot:
- Yakushika (type of deer)
- Yakushimazaru (macaque)
- Loggerhead turtle
Yakushima weather can be wet! Locals will tell you that it rains 35 days a month, which is easy to believe given the topography of the island. It is the wettest place in Japan and high on the list of wettest places in the world (move over England, there’s competition).
However, don’t let the chance of precipitation put you off a visit to Yakushima though, because the rainstorms can be short-lived and very local. It may be bucketing down in the interior, but you can be bathing on the beach under the sun a few kilometers away.
The monsoon season usually starts in early June and lasts for around 4 weeks. This can be a great time to visit Yakushima as the island comes alive (rain forests are best seen in the rain), but be aware that sailings and flights may be affected during this time.
Things to see and do on Yakushima Island
Yakushima is a dream destination for nature-lovers, hikers and outdoors enthusiasts. There are many hiking trails and mountain huts where you can camp out.
There are good beaches for swimming and snorkeling as well as sea kayaking. You can also arrange dive trips a little further offshore. For those that want to relax a little after a hard day’s hiking, you can take a dip in one of the island’s onsens, or hot springs.
Yakushima Island Beaches
Yakushima is home to some stunningly wild and beautiful beaches, but not all are safe for swimming due to the strong currents. Some of the beaches are patrolled in the summer months and have changing and showering facilities.
Keep in mind that many of the beaches will be home to nesting loggerhead and green sea turtles and from 1st May to 31st August it is forbidden to enter the beaches at night without a guide. If you would like to book a tour, contact YesYakushima!
The small town of Isso is where you will find a beautiful bay overlooking nearby Cape Yahazu. The clear waters are perfect for snorkeling and swimming and there are changing facilities and showers nearby.
You can only swim here during July and August when the beach is patrolled and should avoid disturbing the nesting turtles that come here in May and June. During the summer stalls will sell food and you can also hire snorkeling equipment.
This beautiful half-natural pool is a great place for snorkeling and safe for kids to paddle as it is patrolled in the summer months. Located 2km south of Anbo Town.
The village of Kurio is home to a beautiful sandy swimming beach and tidal pool where the crystal clear waters of the Kurio River meet the sea. This beach is an important site for nesting turtles so please keep your impact to a minimum and take ALL waste with you.
Inahakama & Maehama
Although the long, sandy beaches here at Nagata are the most beautiful on the island, they are not safe for swimming due to the steep drop-off and strong currents. These two neighbouring beaches are the largest breeding grounds for loggerhead turtles in the Asia Pacific region, so please treat the place with care and pick up any discarded rubbish.
Tashiro Kaigan is a wild and rocky windswept part of the coast and is better for surfing than swimming. This beach is about halfway between the airport and Anbo.
The currents around Yakushima can be very strong. Children should only paddle supervised and it is strongly suggested to only swim at patrolled beaches like Isso and Huruta.
Yakushima Island Waterfalls
At 60 metres tall, Senpiro Waterfall is one of the largest on the island. The rushing water has carved a gorge through the granite and the whole scene can be viewed from a platform.
You can reach Senpiro falls by walking approximately 40 minutes from Tainoukou bus stop.
The Toroki falls come from the same body of water as Senpiro, but here it empties directly into the ocean (one of only two such falls in Japan). You can walk here by following the river from Senpiro. It is also next to the road at Pontan Kan where there is a small gifts shop and café.
At 88 metres high, Ohko is one of Yakushima’s highest waterfalls and is an impressive sight! To get to the falls, take a bus to the end of the line near the village of Kurio.
A pleasant 4-hour round trip hike (level: easy) will take you to the beautiful Janokushi falls. The trail starts and ends at Onaida Onsen (see below).
Yakushima Hot Springs
Yakushima is gifted with a great selection of onsens (hot springs) ranging from beach-side baths to 5* hotel-style hot springs.
Yudomari Seaside Onsen
Address: 1714-28 Yudomari, Yakushima, Kumage, Kagoshima
One hour by car from Miyanoura
Price: 200 yen in (yellow) honesty box
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Hirauchi Seaside Onsen
Address: Hirachi, Yakushima-cho, kamage-gun 891-4406, Kagoshima
Opening Hours: Only accessible at low tide (check Yakushima tide times here).
Price: 200 yen in (green) honesty box
Address: 1299 Onoaida, Yakushima cho, Kumage, Kagoshima
30 minutes by car from the airport or 50 minutes from Miyanoura.
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 07:00 – 21:30, Monday 12:00 – 21:30
Price: 200 yen
JR Hotel Yakushima Hot Spring
Address: 136-2 Onaida, Yakushima, Kumage, Kagoshima
Opening Hours: (guests) 05:30 to 10:30 & 15:00 to 24:00
Opening Hours: (non -guests) 15:00 to 19:00
Price: 1,400 yen
A visit to Yakushima is not complete without tackling one of the many hiking trails. These range in difficulty from half-day hikes to 3-day treks if you combine the routes together. See below for some of the most interesting Yakushima hiking routes.
One of the highlights of hiking the interior of the island is to wander among the Yakushima cedars, trees that have been standing here for thousands of years!
8-hour hike (RT) to the 1,235m summit of Mt Aikodake. Enjoy the solitude of this hike with a rewarding 360-degree panorama of the coastline. The trailhead starts by Koseda Junior School ten minute drive from the airport.
Jomon Sugi – Anceint Yakushima Cedar
A 10-hour hike (RT) to see the oldest tree in Japan. The Yaku Sugi tree is estimated at between 2,200 and 7,200 years old which almost defies belief. This trail can get busy during peak season with many Japanese visitors paying pilgrimage, but if you avoid weekends then it will be a little less so. To get to the trailhead take a bus from the Nature Museum near Anbo. Buses depart early between 04:30 and 06:00 and return between 15:00 and 18:00.
6 to 8-hour hike (RT) to the peak of Mount Mocchomu. It may only be 944 metres, but the ascent is a challenging one as you will be hiking over tree routes and under the canopy for most of the trek. The trailhead starts at Senpiro Waterfall car park.
Yakushima Hiking – Shiratani Unsuikyo
6-hour hike (RT) along a deep ravine to Taiwo Ira outcrop with fantastic views across the interior. You will pass the 3,000-year-old Yaku Sugi tree and hike through primeval moss forest. Entrance to this trail costs 500 yen and includes a map. Buses leave from the port of Miynoura but are infrequent and the last bus leaves quite early.
8-hour hike (RT) to Tenchuseki (Heavenly Pillar) with fantastic views. The trail starts in Yakusugi Land (see below).
Yakushima Hiking – Yakusugi Land
There are 4 circular hikes through this pristine forest that range from 30 minutes to 4 hours. You can reach the trails by bus or taxi from Anbo. Entrance to the park costs 500 yen. Yakusugi Land is one of the most impressive Yakushima hiking locations on the island!
I hiked Shiratani Unsuikyo in winter (late February) and there was still a lot of snow on the ground higher up making it quite difficult and taking a lot longer than the 6 hours it takes in summer.
Hiking some of these trails is best avoided during winter months and if you do attempt it, make sure you have the right gear (sturdy hiking boots are a must).
Yakushima Island Kayaking
Due to its mild climate, you can kayak in the rivers or sea around Yakushima year-round.
River kayaking is an activity that you can do year-round on Yakushima. You can kayak on the Anbo, Kurio and Miyanoura Rivers. YesYakushima can arrange Kayaking tours, or visit the Yakushima Tourist Information Centre.
Sea Kayaking is available from Isso, Kurio and Nagata. You can get more information at the tourist centre in Miyanoura or book a tour with Yes Yakushima.
Because of the clear waters and surrounding coral reefs, Yakushima is an excellent place for diving and snorkeling. The cost of a dive tour is around 10,000 yen for half a day. You will need a diving license (you will need to show it) for boat dives, but there are other options for beginners. Contact YesYakushima to find out more.
A great way to see Yakushima is by bike and you can circumnavigate the whole island in around 8 hours. A mountain bike costs 800 yen per day and can be hired Yakushima Youth Hostel in Miyanoura (a great place to stay too) and Yakushima South Village in Anbo.
Yakushima Island Tourist Information
There is a tourist centre five minutes walk from Miyanoura Port. The tourist office is within the Yakushima Environmental Cultural Center which is also a great place to learn more about the island.
Address: 823-1 Miyanoura Environmental Cultural Village Center, Yakushima-cho, Kumagegun
Phone: 0997 42 1019
Email: [email protected]
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:30 Monday to Friday
Respect the Environment!
The island of Yakushima is home to a unique and highly delicate ecosystem with the slightest damage to plants taking centuries to recover from. Take all waste out with you and use the toilets at the trailheads and mountain huts. Do not camp away from the huts and no open fires. Do not enter the beaches at night when turtles are nesting.
For more information on responsible travel, see thecrowdedplanet’s 7 Responsible Hiking Tips.
Yakushima Food & Drink
Food and drink on Yakushima Island
A visit to Yakushima will reward you with some great dining options, especially for lovers of seafood! You can find supermarkets in Anbo and Miyanoura to stock up on camping and hiking supplies. The island has plenty of options for dining out including Japanese and Western cuisines.
How to get around Yakushima Island
By Car: You can hire a car at Miyanoura port or the airport. Although the island doesn’t have many roads, a car is the best way to reach some of the trailheads and waterfalls. If you already have a hire car in Japan, you can take the car ferry or overnight freighter (see below for details). Alternatively, you can use the islands taxi’s but these can be quite expensive.
By Bus: Yakushima has two bus services, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the island is well covered. There are hourly services from Anbo around the island (with the exception of a portion of the west coast), with less frequent services going into the interior from Miyanoura port.
You can buy a daily pass for 2,000 yen, two-day pass for 3,000 and 3 and 4 day passes for 4,000 yen. Make sure you check what time the last bus departs the trailheads and be sure to allow plenty of time for your return.
Here is the latest up to date bus Timetable for Yakushima.
Where to stay on Yakushima Island
There are a wide variety of accommodation options on Yakushima from hotels to hostels and home-stays. YesYakushima are able to assist with accommodation booking.
I stayed at the Yakushima Youth Hostel which was clean and comfortable and with helpful staff. The hostel can provide information on activities, bus times and arrange bike hire etc. There is a wonderful veranda out the back of the hostel with table and chairs overlooking the ocean.
How to get to Yakushima Island
Air: Yakushima has a small airport with direct flights to and from Osaka, Fukuoka and Kagoshima. There are no direct flights to Tokyo so you would need to change at one of these airports.
Sea: The quickest way to reach Yakushima by sea is by Toppy or Rocket Hydrofoil. There are 8 daily round trips and the journey takes around 3 hours. One way ticket costs 9,000 yen and a round trip is 16,200. The round trip ticket is valid for 7 days.
If you have a car, you can use the Yaku 2 Car Ferry service. The ferry leaves Kagoshima New Port at 08:30 and arrives at Miyanoura Port at 12:30. A one-way ticket costs 4,900 yen. The ferry then departs Miyanoura at 13:30 arriving in Kagoshima at 17:30.
If you want to start your Yakushima Island adventure early or are looking to save money, then consider taking the Hibiscus overnight freight ferry.
The daily sailing leaves at the port of Taniyama south of Kagoshima at 18:00 and arrives at Miyanoura port at 07:00 the next morning. A one-way ticket is 3,800 yen with the return trip costing 7,600.
The freighter departs Miyanoura at 08:10 and arrives in Kagoshima at 14:40. There is a bus stop inside the port and a bus will take you to central Kagoshima at 3 pm.
Ferry Booking for Yakushima Island
It’s also possible to visit Yakushima Island all the way from China by boat and bus/train. You can read about how to get from China to Korea by boat, and from Korea to Japan by boat. You can save up t 40% on ferry bookings to Kagoshima with Direct Ferries.
If you are planning on visiting Japan for the first time, check out this useful guide for first-time visitors to Japan. It includes information on etiquette, food & drink, getting around and more.
Check out this Japan Travel guide for more of this wonderful country!
You might also like
About the author:
Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has traveled to over 60 countries, lived in Armenia, China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.
Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of the world by train, bus and boat. He has been interviewed multiple times by the BBC and recently featured in the documentary Scariest Places in the World. See the About page for more info.
Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲