The Izu peninsula is abundant in nature and wildlife, so much so that it became a designated UNESCO Global Geopark. Izu peninsula has a wide variety of geoparks, ranging from the white sand beaches to rocky caves. The southern end of the peninsula is rich in both education and exploration.
Ryugu Park and the Heart Shaped Cave
The Ryugu sea cave is one of the most popular geoparks in Minamiizu. Located near the water, the cave can be ventured inside and out, with a hidden beach inside the cave. Visitors descend down a paved staircase into the inside of the cave. The eroded hole at the top creates a natural skylight that lets sunlight pour down into the tiny bay. The bottom is filled with stones of all shapes and sizes, gently formed by the passing waves. The opening of the cave with the small beach in the foreground has become a popular photo opportunity. Ryugu cave is especially popular with couples. Over time, erosion has formed the top of the cave into a heart shape. The gradual destruction of the rock is similar to romance, the dissolution and decay is seen as beautiful, not tragic.
Ebisujima Island is the home of Ebisu Shrine, a ritual site during the Kofun-Nara Period and one of Shimoda City’s cultural assets. When explored beyond its sacred features, visitors to Ebisujima will also be treated to a unique combination of white sandstones and dark rocky cliffs, the result of past underwater volcanic eruptions.
A concrete path lets visitor walk around this small island and take a closer look at the stone formations which change in style as the trail covers the area. During the summer, the volcanic-themed stroll can be complemented by a snorkeling session as the water that surrounds the island is one of the best spots for enjoying the underwater beauty of Shimoda City.
The Minamiizu Geopark Visitors’ Center is conveniently located on Aiai Misaki, or Cape Aiai, a tall cliff where visitors can look down into the vast ocean or fields of seasonal flora. The Visitors’ Center is less of an informational spot and more of a rest stop, serving beverages and light snacks. Be sure to arrive in the evening, as the sunset is known to be the best in Minamiizu.
Iro Shrine and Irozaki Cape
Located on the side of Cape Irozaki’s rocky cliffs, Iro Shrine might be one of the most perilous spiritual landmarks in Izu. The ragged cliffs and crashing waves are best seen from a sightseeing boat but hikers are able to take in Iro Shrine’s magic up close. Irozaki is located on the southernmost tip of the peninsula and one of the most identifiable landmarks in all of Izu. Hikers can walk to the edge of the dramatic coastline look into the rough waters. Over time the igneous rock has been fiercely eroded into jagged, dangerous entities, unlike the eroded rocks.
SUP Tour from Yumigahama
If exploring the geoparks during the warm months, a stand up paddle tour is the best way to witness nature up close. Tours start from the calm, sandy beach of Yumigahama and head towards the geoparks, in whichever direction the tour is focused on. There are a variety of packages, from 5,000 yen to 25,000, and range from two hours to two days for the geopark courses. The tour is popular with couples and families. Children over twelve are eligible to participate. Participants are given a lesson on the basics of stand up paddling and are led by a guide through caves and rivers. The tour is the best way to experience the best Minamiizu has to offer.