The Urauchi River located in Iriomote Island, is Okinawa’s longest river and offers a different side to the prefecture. Less white sandy beaches and more tropical forest and mangroves is what you’ll get when make the trip to the second last island in the prefecture before reaching Taiwan.
Unless you are staying in Iriomote Island, a day trip to the Urauchi River will start bright and early at the Ishigaki Port. A ferry run by Anei Kanko, which moves travelers around the Yaeyama Islands, makes 10 (varies with season) trips a day to Uehara Port starting at 6:50am, with the last trip at 5:30pm. To reach the mouth of the Urauchi River this is the best option which for 2,060 yen also includes the shuttle bus round trip to the river.
Once at the Urauchi River and after a short walk into the forest, you are greeted by the staff at Urauchigawa Kanko. This riverside touring company is the only one located on the river and if you want to enjoy it safely and to the fullest, this is the place to contact. With these guys you have a long list of tours packages to explore the Urauchi; The River Jungle Cruise (1,800 yen), Mariyudu and Kanbire Falls Tour (1,800 yen), and the Utara River Half-Day Kayak Tour (4,000 yen), to name a few of the common ones. Alternatively, you can also rent a kayak for 1,500 yen per hour or 8,000 for 7 hours and venture out with your group of friends.
The guided tours are definitely the best options as they will get you to places that unless you are acquainted with the area, would be difficult to reach otherwise. You also get to see wildlife along the river such as river crabs which populate this waters. To enjoy the more adventurous you’ll need to set aside a few hours, unless all you want to do is take the river cruise. If time is of the essence but you still want to get in the water to navigate the Urauchi, then renting a kayak for a couple of hours and checking out the mangroves of the Utara River is highly recommended.
At a normal pace, one hour will suffice to kayak under the mangroves, to the end of the Utara River and back to the Urauchi River. With an hour to spare, you’ll have time to explore a few hundred meters further up river and check out the rock formations and the small beaches that form on the river side. After all this relaxing fun with nature, you’ll head back to the dock where a slice of fresh pineapple will be waiting.
Once you are ready to head back to Ishigaki, you can either coordinate with the shuttle bus that brought you to the river, or take the public bus which runs sporadically around Iriomote. To complete your day trip to the Urauchi River and in Iriomote Island, you can stop by Iriomote No Shonen a rustic cafe serving coffee, fresh fruit juices, taco rice, and drinks in a chillout atmosphere, and conveniently located right in front of the port. Iriomote No Shonen also serves a killer breakfast so you might also want make a stop here at the start of your trip.