Wild dolphins swimming leisurely across the transparent blue ocean. Mikurashima, while small, has a wealth of nature to offer – particularly waterfalls and giant trees. The island, located 190 kilometers south of Tokyo, is popular among tourists for dolphin swims. That said, there are rules put in place to protect the natural habitat of the dolphins as well as the island itself. Below, discover the island’s most popular activities, your best options for getting there, and what to watch out for when you visit.
Table of Contents
1. The Main Attraction – Nature Activities!
2. The flow of making a plan of the Mikurashima trip (Access, accommodation, to book activities)
3. Getting around on the island
4. Tips for traveling around Mikurashima Island
5. Rules to Note while on the Island
The Main Attraction – Nature Activities!
Depart on a large boat from Tokyo’s Takeshiba-sanbashi Pier, and seven and a half hours later, you’ll arrive at Mikurajima – a small but lush island. With a population of just 300 only a small portion of the island is inhabited.
The main draw of the island is the chance to swim with wild Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. (April to November). There are currently around 160 of them living in the waters surrounding the island. If you want to swim with the dolphins, you need to book the tour. In the tour, you will wear wetsuits, goggles and fins. Ride on the boat, find dolphins and swim with dolphins by snorkeling. If you don’t want to swim but want to see dolphins, it is possible to watch dolphins from the boat, no need for wetsuits.
Water falls to the ocean
What’s more, from the dolphin watching boats, you get to see waterfalls that flow directly into the ocean. Don’t be fooled by its size – this island has a lot of nature to offer.
700 Giant trees on the small island
Mikurashima is home to more than 700 giant trees and a diversity of wild birds. While there are some areas accessible without a guide, most areas require that you go with one. However there are some places where you don’t need guides.
Trekking Without a Guide: Tanteiro Course
The only course that you can walk without a guide is the Tanteiro course. On this course you’ll get to see Itajii Chinkapin, a species of giant trees that you will find on Mikurashima. Walk north for half an hour on a public road to reach the tree.
The tree, tall and wide, appears as though it’s reaching its arms out. While walking on the road, keep an eye out for a sign with the number ‘30’ on it. This is a good route if you have an activity packed schedule but you still want to squeeze in a hike.
There are plenty of other courses that require a guide. If you want to save money, but want to enjoy all the other nature activities that the island has to offer, the Tanteiro course is a good option.
The flow of making a plan of the Mikurashima trip
Mikurashima is not a place to just go to on a whim. The reason? You’re prohibited to enter the island without having a proper accommodation booked in advance.
1. Book an Accommodation
First thing’s first, book a place to stay. Accommodation can be found on the Mikura Island Tourist Information Center site.
Accommodation at Mikurashima is limited to seven privately owned inns and five bungalows run by the village, all of which can only be booked by phone or fax.
The dates for when you can start booking varies from one accommodation to the next, some of which are done through a lottery system. Check on the Mikura Island Tourist Information Center site which lists the different dates for each accommodation.
2. Book Transportation to Mikurajima
Once you have your accommodation booked, the next step is to reserve a spot on either a boat or a plane to get you there. There are two ways of getting there. One is to take a large boat from Hamamatsucho in Tokyo. The second is to fly to either Miyakejima or Hachijojima, and transfer to a helicopter to Mikurashima. Below we’ve listed the pros and cons to each option.
Most Affordable: Travel Directly by Boat
If keeping down the cost is your top priority, the large boat is your best option. Takeshiba-sanbashi Pier in Tokyo to Mikurajima is roughly seven and a half hours. The boat departs at around 10PM and arrives at around 6:30AM the next morning. The travel time may be longer but you get to keep down the costs as it’s only ¥7,000 – 9,000 one way. That’s roughly half the cost of flying. Plus, you will reach your destination without the need for any transfers.
The only problem – due to weather conditions the boats servicing Mikurashima aren’t as reliable. In the summer roughly 90% of boats make it to the island, while in the winter it can be as low as 30%. It’s best to go for this option if your schedule is flexible.
Book a trip from Takeshiba-sanbashi Pier in Tokyo to Mikurajima through Tokyo Islands.
If you’re going by boat, make sure to check that the boat is in service on the day of your departure.
Updates are posted on the boat operator’s site, but as it’s only available in Japanese, we recommend calling by phone.
Tokai Kisen: +81-3-5472-9999
Fast and Straightforward: Fly via Hachijojima
If you prefer not to be on a boat for too long, or you’re worried about getting lost on the way, the easiest way of getting there is to fly from Haneda to Hachijojima, and from there switch to a helicopter to Mikurashima.
There are three flights departing from Haneda to Hachijojima every day. The flight time is just 55 minutes – significantly shorter than by boat.
This route is convenient as the flight departs from Haneda, which is easily accessible from the city. Take a train from Tokyo station and you’ll be at Haneda airport in just 40 minutes. The only downside? The flight to Hachijojima alone will set you back ¥20,000.
Book flights to Hachijojima through ANA.
From Hachijojima, get to Mikurashima by helicopter. As boats are easily affected by weather and sea conditions, you have a better chance of reaching the island if you fly.
Book a helicopter ride from Hachijojima to Mikurajima through Tokyo Ai-land Shuttle.
Getting to Mikurashima from Hachijojima costs ¥12,570, totalling to roughly ¥30,000 for a one-way trip.
It’s not the cheapest option, but the ease of getting to Haneda airport, with a total flight time of just one hour and a half, and the fact that there’s a better chance of landing on the island compared to sea transportation make this an attractive way of getting to the island.
Fast and Affordable: Fly via Miyakejima
If you’re looking to cut down on travel time while still keeping down the costs, your best option is to fly out of Chōfu Airport to Miyakejima, and from there switch to a helicopter to Mikurajima.
There are three flights departing from Chōfu Airport to Miyakejima every day.
While the flight time to Miyakejima is a short 50 minutes, Chōfu Airport is farther out of the city than Haneda airport (for access to Chōfu Airport, see here). From Tokyo station, it takes roughly one hour and fifteen minutes to get to the airport. That said, the flight itself is ¥17,200, making it cheaper than the Hachijojima leg. Depending on the season you may find early bird and two-way ticket discounts (see here for details on pricing).
Book flights to Miyakejima through New Central Airservice.
From Miyakejima, get to Mikurashima on a helicopter. As boats are easily affected by weather and sea conditions, you have a better chance of reaching the island if you fly.
Book a helicopter ride from Miyakejima to Mikurashima through Tokyo Ai-land Shuttle.
Getting to Mikurashima from Miyakejima costs ¥5,770, totalling to roughly ¥23,000 for a one-way trip.
While Chōfu Airport isn’t as accessible, the total cost is cheaper than flying via Hachijojima, and the flight time totals to just one hour. The other advantage being that the chance of reaching the island is higher by air than by boat.
When booking your flights to Miyakejima or Hachijojima, be sure to time it well with the helicopter schedule. You may end up having to stay a night for transfer.
3. Book Activities in Advance
For any activities you are interested in, we recommend booking through services that allow you to book both activities and accommodation at the same time.
That way you won’t be left with one without the other.
How to Book Dolphin Swims and What to Watch Out for (April to November)
If you are planning on a dolphin swim, first check the schedule. The activity is only open from the middle of April to the middle of November. Please keep in mind that since the customers are chosen by a lottery 2 or 3 months in advance, the weekends are mostly fully booked. We recommend to come on weekdays.
Let’s start planning by booking a program. The following company can take reservations in English.
The following shop offers trekking tours in addition to dolphin swims. If you wish, they can even help with booking accommodation – ask at the time of booking.
TEL : +81-90-3877-0033
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: Mikurashima-mura Tokyo 100-1301
Getting Around on the Island
There are no car rental or bike rental services on the island. As bicycles are prohibited you cannot bring one in.
Your only options are to walk or hire a guide to help take you around the island by car. In the case that you require a guide’s help, don’t forget to make reservations in advance!
Tips for traveling around Mikurashima Island
For the first time to come to Mikurashima, there must be a lot of questions how to travel. There are some tips for your trip.
Lunch and dinner
If you don’t stay at Japanese inn, you need to eat lunch or dinner outside. In Mikurashima, there are only 3 places for lunch and 2 places for dinner. Most of the restaurants are not big, so sometimes it is better to make a reservation or go earlier.
The list of the restaurants here: http://mikura-isle.com/?cat=5
Breakfast for the first day
If you come by the large ship, the ship arrives early morning. So better to bring what you want to eat for breakfast for the first day. Even though there are some grocery shops there is no guarantee they will be well stocked. So you may want to bring breakfast for the second day as well just in case.
Ride on a boat? Don’t forget medicine for motion sickness
If you have a chance to ride a boat, you better bring medicine for motion sickness. There are no pharmacies on the island so you really must bring your own.
Rules to Note while on the Island
The following are prohibited activities on Mikurashima.
1. Camping (staying in a tent) is prohibited. Stay at one of the bungalows instead.
2. As there are a limited number of accommodations and the boat operation is unpredictable, day trips are not possible
3. The village is a residential area. Be respectful and do not walk around in a swimsuit or naked from the waist up.
4. Bicycles are prohibited on the island. Even if you bring one in you will not be able to ride it.
At Mikurashima, there are plenty of activities both in the ocean and on the mountain. With the wild birds and stag beetles, the many waterfalls flowing from the mountains directly into the ocean, there’s so much nature on this island.
Come and spend a relaxing vacation surrounded by the beauty of nature.