Okinawa: Iriomote Island
Iriomote is the second largest island in Okinawa and accounts for the majority of Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park – an area including Iriomote, Ishigaki and the surrounding waters. Around 90% of the island remains undeveloped and is covered by jungle with mangrove forests lining the coast. Rivers open-up the interior of the island to exploration by kayak and river boats or along hiking trails through the jungle. Snorkelling, diving, fishing and sailing are also popular in waters just off the island.
The island is home to the ‘Iriomote Yamaneko’, a wildcat only found on Iriomote. Discovered in 1965, it is an endangered species with an estimated 100 individual cats left in the wild. Crested Serpent Eagles are another drawcard for wildlife enthusiast while large mantra rays congregate in the waters off the island, making it a popular destination for divers. Some of its most popular beaches include Hoshizuma-no-hama and Tudumari-no-hama with the small coral island of Baras easily accessible via a short boat ride from Iriomote.
Travelers headed to Iriomote have a good range of accommodation to choose from with prices suited to all budgets including high-end hotels located in the north of the island, nearby Uehara Port where ferry services operate to and from Ishigaki. Hoshino Resorts Iriomote Hotel is arguably the best accommodation on the island with cheaper mid-range and budget options dotted around the coast with another concentration in the southern Ohara Port.