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Water Buffalo Cart Ride

The preserved village on Taketomi Island doesn’t allow cars, so visitors have a choice of getting about by foot, by bicycle, or by suigyūsha (water buffalo). This last choice is very popular among travelers who want to get a unique tour of the island. During the ride, which lasts about a half hour, the guide will both inform you about the island and the village and will entertain you by singing and playing local music on a sanshin (traditional stringed instrument). The guide will be free to do this for you, as the water buffalo are highly skilled in finding their way around.

Mariyudo Falls

On Iriomote Island sits Mariyudo Falls, a magnificent waterfall that is accessible by a 40-minute walk from Gunkan-iwa Rock, a stone that sits next to the boating docks of Urauchi River. After docking, visitors walk to an observation area that overlooks the falls from 16 meters (53 feet) above the water (a little further and visitors can see and touch the waterfall firsthand). The falls are named for the sediment pool at the bottom of the rapids. Mariyudo Falls is noted as one of the most beautiful falls in Japan and the largest one on the Okinawa Islands.

Hoshizuna no Hama

A picturesque name for an equally charming panorama, Hoshizuna no Hama, which translates to Star Sand Beach, is one of two beaches in Japan that has grains of sand that are in the shape of stars. What is even more fascinating, is that the asterisk-shaped grains are actually skeletons of mono-celled organisms (Baclogypsina sphaerulata to be exact).The water can get a bit too shallow (depending on the tides) for swimming, but a scenic leisurely outing is always a sure thing at this destination.

Pinaisara Falls

Pinaisara Falls’ name describes its resemblance to an old man’s beard, although in the case of the tallest waterfall in Okinawa, those would be some long 55-meter (about 181 feet) whiskers. Located in Funaura Bay on Iriomote Island, there are three ways to reach this natural attraction: 1) by foot, 2) by canoe, or 3) by sightseeing boat (in order of most to least rigorous). No matter which way you choose to reach this beautiful natural scene, there will be walking involved, so this is definitely not an activity for those who will have difficulty with this. Another thing to note, as with all falls, is the changing water level at the base pool.

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