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Hira Falls – Hiking trail to a waterfall in Okinawa

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Hira Falls is another waterfall with a short forest hike located on the big island of Okinawa, Japan. It’s one of the most famous waterfalls (along with Tataki Falls) so it’s highly likely you’ll bump into other people while visiting. This is a popular spot among travellers who want to enjoy the island’s natural beauty.

The waterfall is 50 metres tall (not nearly as tall as Pinaisara Falls which is Okinawa’s largest) and although it is visible throughout the year, it is at its most impressive during and just after the rainy season. This is between late May to early July which is also part of the hottest season which lasts until early September.

The falls lie at the end of the Aritsugawa River in a small town named Teniya just a 33-minute drive from Nago on the west coast. On a hot day, the falls are a fantastic way to cool down and relax on this tropical island without putting in too much effort to hike there.

Country:Japan
Currency:Japanese Yen / JPY
Do you need a visa to visit as tourists?Check here

Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.


Hira Falls in Okinawa through the trees

Hira Fall Stats

Height of Hira Falls:

50 metres

Length of trail:

1 km (0.6 miles)

Time to complete:

15 to 30 minutes each way (out and back trail)


parking space for Hira Falls Okinawa

How to get to Hira Falls

Location: Teniya, Nago, Okinawa 905-2261 (H4J4+X2C Nago, Okinawa)

It is easy to find the parking area (the red sprayed dot pictured above) with the Google Maps app, if you have a phone compatible with eSIMS I’d recommend getting an Airalo eSIM as they can be downloaded straight onto your device without much effort. This will also allow you to stay connected so you can navigate the island easily.

Driving

As with many of the other waterfalls on Okinawa Island, it is difficult to reach by public transportation.

This means you’ll either need to make friends with a local who doesn’t mind taking you for a ride, or rent a car yourself. If you choose to rent, be aware that depending on which country your licence is from, you’ll likely need to bring an IDP to rent a car in Japan legally.

The two car rental companies I use throughout my trips are below:

Rental Cars and Discover cars

Please note: Okinawa Island is a relatively small place so car rentals can be booked up quickly. Consider planning in advance to avoid disappointment.

You will need a credit card in the driver’s name to rent a car. If you don’t want big fees on petrol/diesel, however, consider getting a card suitable for travelling.

When you need to transfer money or check exchange rates during your overseas trip, consider using Wise. They have competitive rates and make exchanging foreign funds easy. I’ve been using them since 2015.

Tropical jungle foliage in Okinawa

Public Transit isn’t an option

As previously stated it is really difficult to reach Hira Falls with public transit. From the south of the Island (Naha or Chatan for example), It would take you over 3 hours due to not many buses heading out this way and then being required to walk for a large portion down the quiet forest roads. This is not ideal in the hot Okinawan sun.


6 sprayed dots showing the entrance to  hira falls Japan

What to expect on the hike

Hike trailhead

First things first, it can be hard to find the entrance to the hiking trail. The Google location pin above brings you to a bend in the road that is wide enough for two cars to park (pictured) but it’s a few minutes walk from the trailhead (with 6 red dots). Be aware you may need to turn around to find it depending on the direction you came in.

The car park is NOT the start of the trail.

When you reach the location pin, look along the metal barriers for some red dots spray-painted on. These dots are the start of the trailhead and you’ll need to step over the barrier and head down the hill.

The walk will take you quickly down the hill until you reach the flat ground and a small narrow river in front of you.

You will need to cross a large log that is used as a bridge here using a tied rope which is used to assist visitors. Rest assured it is a narrow river so it shouldn’t take more than a few steps to get across.

jungle trails in Japan

You will get wet

As you progress through the trail there are sections where you will need to walk through the water. The water is not deep by any means but you can expect to get ankle deep. I would advise you to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, so maybe don’t wear your favourite white Jordans.

As you walk along the trail you will also see a few blue ribbons tied around the trees which show you the direction towards the falls. After half of the trail, it becomes harder to spot them in the trees, but by this point, it’s very clear where you’re headed.

There is a small waterfall that you’ll see, and many people head over to it to enjoy a dip. Many people stop their journey here because they think this is the main waterfall – but it isn’t! Make sure to turn left and continue past the waterfall along the river, another 6-7 minutes of walking and you’ll reach the much taller one – Hira Falls. You’ll know it’s the right one because it’s located in a dead-end.

There is a deep pool beneath the falls that many people will swim in. It is deep enough to jump into, as many people will climb up the hill to the right side of the falls (where the rope is located) and jump in. However, this is at your own risk and not advised if you’re not a good swimmer.

There are no lifeguards or safety features by this waterfall. Please use caution.

Me at Hira Falls Okinawa, Japan

Tropical jungle walking tracks Japan

Hira Falls: Things to Know

Wildlife

One of the top considerations to think about while hiking this trail is the dangerous animals that call the region home. Due to the thick vegetation on either side of the river, it’s easy for creatures to hide. Think snakes (the Habu in particular) and Golden Orb Weaver spiders which are harmful to humans if bitten by one.

Safety

Aside from the wildlife that you need to be cautious of there are other safety precautions to be made when enduring this short waterfall hike. Since you will be walking along a river and getting your feet wet, be aware that many of the rocks you’ll need to step on and over will be slippery. If you’re not careful you could easily slip and get injured.

Another thing to be mindful of is the weather and temperature when walking through the Okinawa jungle. Although you will be in the shade for 90% of the trail, there is no shade coverage at the end of the trail next to the waterfall. This isn’t much of a problem if exploring outside of the summer months, but between June and August, the sun can be extremely hot and will require more preparation to avoid burning and potential heatstroke.

Rules

Although these rules are not specific to the Hira Falls hike, they are typically standard practice across the islands (and most places that care about the environment, honestly).

  • Don’t litter. Generally aim to follow the “leave no trace” methodology.
  • Stay on the trail. Try to avoid wandering aimlessly through the trees as this is unsafe.
  • Don’t damage plants. void breaking branches and uprooting native plants.
rocky terrain through the jungle with ropes for assistance

a mini waterfall in the tropical Okinawan jungle

Other Things to See in Okinawa

Multiple waterfalls across the islands are worth checking out. The furthest south is near Nago and the rest are on the north of the island. Below are some of my favourites.

Why stop there? Waterfalls are not the only thing to see in the region. There are some great hiking trails (Mt Katsu has a great view for only 40 minutes of walking), plus there are plenty of other activities you can enjoy without leaving the big island.

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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