15 Best Things to Do in Yakushima (Japan)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
Our travel recommendations are based on our personal experiences and research, written by locals and travel experts with deep familiarity with the destination. When you book a hotel or tour that we link to, we may earn a commission.

Yakushima is one of the most special spots in Kyushu as this is an island that is located in the south east. This is actually also a UNESCO World Heritage Site which shows you how beautiful this part of the wider Kagoshima Prefecture truly is, so make sure that you don’t miss it off the itinerary if you are coming to this part of Japan.

This region doesn’t see many international tourists (although it is well loved by the domestic market) so with that in mind it is less touristic than other regions in the country and you can come here to escape the hustle and bustle of some of the bigger cities like Kyoto and Osaka.

Some of the top activities here include hiking and checking out the idyllic scenery and waterfalls in the area, and Yakushima offers you the chance to slow down and enjoy the spectacular countryside of Kyushu in all its glory.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Yakushima

1. Spend time on the beach

Yakushima BeachSource: Sara Winter / shutterstock
Yakushima Beach

Yakushima is known for being an island so of course it stands to reason that it is encircled by seas that back onto pretty beaches.

One of the best known is called Isso-kaisuiyokujo which is a sand beach in the north of Yakushima.

You can walk along this beach which is known for its coarse grains and take in all the beauty of this part of the island, or you can also head to larger and more famous beaches in Nagata or Miyanoura.

2. Check out the waterfalls

Oko-no-taki WaterfallSource: makio kanzaki / shutterstock
Oko-no-taki Waterfall

Yakushima is known for its natural beauty and this also extends to its waterfalls which are some of the most breathtaking in this part of Japan.

One of the best known on Yakushima is called Oko-no-taki and you can get to it by trekking out through the forest.

Once there you can cool off by swimming in the plunge pool at the base and enjoy this serene part of the island where you may well be the only visitor.

3. Sample the famous fruit

Yakushima Fruit GardenSource: KPG_Payless / shutterstock
Yakushima Fruit Garden

Yakushima is an island so this means that it has a huge range of delicious fruit that grows on the fertile interior.

As such, make sure that you don’t miss the chance to try this toothsome local produce when you are here on a trip to places such as the Yakushima Fruit Garden which is covered in hundreds of tropical fruit trees including papaya, oranges, mango and guava.

You can also sample these at the cafe that is attached to the farm and try some of the refreshing fruit smoothies.

4. Go for a hike

Yakushima HikeSource: aido / shutterstock
Yakushima Hike

As you would expect from an island, Yakushima has a huge number of opportunities to go hiking, so if you want to get outside in Japan then this is an ideal place to do it.

If you want to take in the best of the island then you can actually trek right across Yakushima which will take around two days and you can camp along the way.

Here you will find a range of hikes which will take you up mountains located on Yakushima including Miyanoura-dake which stands at a height of 1867 meters and offers you spectacular views over the rest of the island.

You can also go hiking to another peak on the island which stands at 1886 meters called Nagata-dake.

5. Check out Jomon-sugi

Jomon-sugi in YakushimaSource: twilllll / shutterstock
Jomon-sugi in Yakushima

Yakushima is known for its Yakusugi trees and one of the most famous of these on the island is known as Jomon-sugi.

The tree is thought to be between 3,000 to 7,000 years old and is one of the most impressive sights on Yakushima.

To get to the tree you need to hike from nearby from Arakawa-tozanguchi and it takes around eight to ten hours to get there and back again, on a route that stretches for almost twenty kilometers.

6. Tour the Yakusugi Museum

Yakusugi MuseumSource: Patrick Rogers / Facebook
Yakusugi Museum

If you want to know more about the amazing Yakusugi trees then make sure that you don’t miss out on the Yakusugi Museum which will fill you in on all their history and cultural importance.

There are a range of galleries here which will explain how the logging industry has operated on Yakushima for centuries and you can also see a number of dioramas explaining the origins of the trees.

As if that wasn’t enough there is even a piece of a Yakusugi tree which is said to date from 1660.

7. Bathe in the local onsen

Yakushima OnsenSource: wada / shutterstock
Yakushima Onsen

Japan is known for its onsen which are public bathhouses filled with heated waters and you can also soak in one of these in Yakushima.

As this is an island however, many of the onsen are located along the coast and are well known in Japan as they look out to sea, giving you a feeling that you are swimming in an infinity pool.

Some of the onsen also have their own beaches for an even more secluded and magical spa experience.

8. Go diving

DivingSource: Kenji Ichimura / shutterstock

If you like diving then you will be pleased to know that you can dive beneath the waves in Yakushima.

The beaches here are known for their pristine sands which back onto amazingly clear waters, and this means that the visibility for diving is excellent.

Most people choose to dive in the area which is across from Nagata-no-hama as you will find a reef here which is the home of a plethora of different species of fish.

9. Visit Umigame-kan

Umigame-kanSource: Philippe Sonderegger / shutterstock

Umigame-kan is the name for an NGO which is known for its conservation efforts and educational displays about turtles in Japan and the wider world.

Yakushima is famous in the country for its nesting turtle population that comes to shore to lay eggs from June to August.

If you are in Yakushima at this time then you can take a night tour with this organization who will teach you how to visit the turtles safely without disturbing them.

10. Try the local delicacies

Yakushima Fish SoupSource: kaoh jp / shutterstock
Yakushima Fish Soup

When you visit Yakushima you should make sure to spend some time trying the local delicacies that this island has to offer.

As Yakushima is surrounded by sea, it stands to reason that seafood is served on many menus here and you can also try several indigenous species such as flying fish.

The island is also known for its fruits such as ponkan and tankan oranges and you can also try refreshing tankan juice or ice cream at cafes all over Yakushima.

There is also a kind of local spirit here called shochu which is similar to vodka and is known as Mitake in Yakushima.

11. Visit the Yakushima Environmental and Cultural Village Centre

Yakushima Environmental and Cultural Village CentreSource: Vinh Luong / Facebook
Yakushima Environmental and Cultural Village Centre

Yakushima Environmental and Cultural Village Centre is known for being located in Miyanoura and is an ideal spot to learn more about the history of the island.

You can also watch a film here that will tell you about the geology of Yakushima and, as there are not many museums on the island as such, this is well worth a visit when you are in town.

The film is around 25 minutes long and runs every hour.

12. Explore the island by bicycle

View of the coastal road on Yakushima islandSource: Philippe Sonderegger / shutterstock
View of the coastal road on Yakushima island

One of the best ways to see Yakushima is from a bicycle and you can rent a bike or motorbike all over the island relatively cheaply.

This then means that you can get out and cycle along the coastal roads here which offers you panoramic vistas out over the water.

You can also bike along some of the little inroads across the island and as there are not many cars here this is a relaxing and serene way to get up close to the beautiful flora and fauna for which Yakushima is famous in Japan.

13. Stock up on souvenirs

Yakushima SouvenirsSource: jetalone / Flickr | CC BY
Yakushima Souvenirs

Yakushima has a great selection of local products that you can buy which make wonderful souvenirs of your trip to the island.

Many of these are made from wood such as the traditional cedar trees for which the area is famous and artisans fashion these into a number of items.

Just some of these include chopsticks and ornamental cups for drinking sake, and if you choose to purchase these then know that you are also contributing to the local community and helping to support these traditional crafts.

14. Check out the turtles

Sea turtle's foot prints, Nagata-inaka-hama BeachSource: photoNN / shutterstock
Sea turtle’s foot prints, Nagata-inaka-hama Beach

One of the most famous sights on the island of Yakushima is the resident turtles that visit from June when they come to shore and lay their eggs to August when the eggs hatch.

These giant turtles swim up to the iconic Nagata-inaka-hama Beach and then nest in the sand, and you can join a tour to see them in action, or see the baby turtles as they make their perilous voyage to the open sea.

One thing to note however is that you will need to sign up for an official tour here as it is dangerous for the turtles if you walk into their habitat on your own.

15. Hike in the Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest

Shiratani Unsuikyo ForestSource: aido / shutterstock
Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest

Another premium spot on Yakushima is the Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest is which is filled with majestic cedar trees, some of these have been standing on the island for some 3,000 years old.

To get to the forest you can hike along a number of routes which will then take you into the interior so that you can check out the towering trees as well as pass mountain streams and mossy rocks.

You can even go for a dip here in some of the pools along the way and the forest is also the home of resident deer and cheeky monkeys.

15 Best Things to Do in Yakushima (Japan):

  • Spend time on the beach
  • Check out the waterfalls
  • Sample the famous fruit
  • Go for a hike
  • Check out Jomon-sugi
  • Tour the Yakusugi Museum
  • Bathe in the local onsen
  • Go diving
  • Visit Umigame-kan
  • Try the local delicacies
  • Visit the Yakushima Environmental and Cultural Village Centre
  • Explore the island by bicycle
  • Stock up on souvenirs
  • Check out the turtles
  • Hike in the Shiratani Unsuikyo Forest