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Pinaisara Falls is a waterfall located on Iriomote Island in Japan. It is the tallest waterfall in Okinawa and is an adventure in itself to reach.
The two main ways to reach the falls are by jungle trekking and kayaking, both of which offer different pros and cons along the way. Along this route, you’ll get to experience the natural landscape that covers the majority of Iriomote Island and get a fantastic reward at the end.
Pinaisara Falls is one of 7 main waterfalls on the island and this is an outdoor lovers’ dream destination. With so much dense mangrove forest and river trails to explore, you’ll be torn for choice navigating your way through each of the trails.
This waterfall ticks all the boxes. It’s a little difficult to reach which makes the reward of the falls all the sweeter. It gives you views across the forest, beaches and the blue sea, as well as offering unique wildlife around every corner.
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Waterfall Trail Stats
Height of Pinaisara Falls:
55 metres / 180 feet
Time to Complete:
Between 2-3 hours total (1 – 1.5 hours each way)
Pinaisara Falls Main Points
There are a few important “addresses” or location pins along the way to reach the waterfall. Luckily for us, there are a few helpful apps that can help you navigate the trail easily on foot or by boat. If you are joining a guide on a tour, then the guide with be in charge of getting you to each of these locations.
These markers are typically the most helpful if you are trying to reach the falls on your own.
The 2 car parks: In this area, there is space for 9 cars in one section and about 20 more a few metres away on the other side of the hut.
Location: Free Car Park, カヌー業者向け駐車場
This is the exact location of the waterfall itself:
Location: Uehara, 竹富町 Taketomi, Yaeyama District, Okinawa 907-1541
Next is the exact location of the canoe landing. This is along the trail where you will have kayaked through the mangrove forest, and will need to park/leave your kayak in order to continue along the trail on foot.
Location: Pinaisara Waterfall Canoe Landing ピナイサーラの滝 カヌー発着場 Uehara, Taketomi, Yaeyama District, Okinawa 907-1541, Japan
How To Reach Pinaisara Falls
As mentioned above, there are two different ways to reach the towering Pinaisara Falls on Iriomote Island. You can either:
- Hike the entire trail on foot independently
- Join a kayak and jungle trekking tour with a local guide
Below I will outline what you can expect on each journey so you can choose which route is the best for you.
Finding Your Way
I’d recommend using the AllTrails app to find your way. I’ll admit my phone was acting up on the day I tried to reach the falls so I couldn’t route my own journey there, but luckily some travellers I had met earlier that week had sent me the Alltrails route they mapped out when they went and it was perfect!
I followed it exactly and was able to find both sections of the waterfall with ease. Here is the link to follow their exact route below:
Hiking to Pinaisara Falls
The trail will start by the car park and take you through a protected wildlife area with crabs. You have the option to take the raised boardwalk at the start of the trail. However, don’t stay on it the whole way otherwise you will end up on a completely different route.
One of the first corners of the boardwalk will have a clearing to your right that leads back to the shallow river on your right-hand side. Step off the boardwalk here and take this turn along the river trail until you reach the large river that crosses in front of you. There will be pipes that turn right here, you will instead need to cross directly to the other side.
The trail weaves through the trees gradually heading upwards on an incline. You will find a few areas where you will need to scramble over rocks and will gain a few feet in height rather quickly.
You’ll need to pay attention to where you are walking because although you’re following the satellite trail through the app, you also need to watch where you are walking to stay on the pink ribbon route. It is extremely easy to get lost in the dense forest if you don’t pay attention to where you are.
There will be times when you need to use knotted ropes as support to pull yourself up or lower yourself down a few feet when there are tall piles of rocks. Please use caution and go slow around these areas.
Kayaking and hiking to Pinaisara Falls
Be aware: It is no longer possible to rent kayaks independently since the area was listed as a UNESCO site. In order to visit by kayak you will need to join a tour.
When you kayak to Pinaisara Falls you will be following the trained guide through the mangrove forest rivers until you reach the canoe landing area.
This route by kayak can take up to 1 hour one way, depending on the speed of the tour group. What’s great about travelling so far by boat is you won’t have as far to physically hike on foot.
The difference with travelling along the mangrove rover trails is there is much less current or water flow compared to other river types. This means it is a little easier (although takes a while) to make the journey.
To Join a tour, you can consider one of these companies:
Want to visit some other waterfalls across the Okinawan Prefecture? These ones are on the big island:
- Tataki Falls: Beautiful river hike and waterfall on Okinawa Island
- The waterfall With Two Names – Todorono / Todoroki Falls
- Hiji Falls on Okinawa Island & hiking the tropical forest path
- Seven Falls of Kijoka Waterfall: A Spiritual Prayer Site in Okinawa
Reaching the Top of the Falls
Following the trail in Alltrails, I was able to reach the top of the falls first. The last section before you reach what looks like smooth limestone (?) rocks in the centre of the river is rather steep so you might need to use your hands to climb down the stone staircase.
There is an area along the rocks where the stream thins out, making it easier to cross to the other side without getting too wet. Luckily it isn’t very deep here either.
You’ll reach the flat rocks and the river which are extremely slippery so use caution and step carefully. If you walk to your left just a few minutes you will reach a clearing. This is where you will see the breathtaking view from the top of Pinaisara Falls across the island.
From here you can see across the trail below and even as far as the crystal clear ocean that Iriomote and Okinawa are known for.
Be aware: There are no barriers or safety nets at the top of the falls and this is an extremely high cliff. Please do not get too close to the edge. You run the risk of falling.
In order to reach the bottom of the trail from here, you will need to backtrack slightly until you reach the fork in the AllTrails route again. Remember, the pink ribbons will lead the way!
Reaching the Base of Pinaisara Falls
After leaving the top of the waterfall, you will need to head back to the fork in the trail In my mind, I couldn’t be heading to the bottom of a waterfall if I was only walking upwards.
However, the jungle was very deceptive and it did eventually get me to the base of the falls. From the top, it takes an average of 30-40 minutes to reach the pool.
As you follow the rocky terrain down you will eventually reach an area that looks rather swamp-like. There is lots of water throughout the sand and mud here so it is likely you will get dirty. Much of this area is home to protected wildlife such as crabs so make sure to watch where you step!
As you navigate through the swamp-like area, you will get closer to the wide river. You want to loosely follow this river while keeping it on your left-hand side. You will eventually walk past an area with kayaks tied with rope to trees along the water’s edge. This is the canoe landing (address above) where those travelling by kayak will change to the jungle trekking portion.
Continue along the trail and you’ll find yourself climbing over many slippery rocks covered in moss. After about 10 minutes you will find yourself coming through an opening and you’ll instantly be sprayed by the falls just a few feet away.
Caution: There is no lifeguard, so swim in the pool at your own risk. It is not deep enough to jump in. There are large rocks that you can gradually walk along into the water though.
The spray from the falls reaches a far distance so I’d recommend bringing waterproof electronics like a go-pro in order to keep your phones or camera safe from water damage.
It is likely that you will bump into other people at the pool compared to on the rest of the trail as this is the main attraction after all. I must have met around 11 people (all who kayaked in) during my short time at the pool compared to absolutely nobody during the other 2 hours of my hiking journey.
How to Stay Safe While Visiting Pinaisara Falls
When making your way to the famous Pinaisara Falls, there are multiple things you need to be aware of in order to stay safe. The ecosystem in and around Okinawa is very different to what we have back in the UK so it’s worth knowing what to look out for during your time here.
You’ll find dense jungle and Japan’s largest mangrove forest covering most of the island of Iriomote. Of course, when you venture into the thick vegetation there will be animals and creatures all around you. The most dangerous animals in Okinawa to be aware of include the Habu snake and banana (orb) spiders.
Habu mostly come out at night so avoid walking through the forests in the dark and always stay alert. Unfortunately for arachnophobes, these spiders are found in the trees at all hours of the day.
Although less dangerous, you should wear insect repellent before venturing out into the forest as there are many mosquitos found here due to the high humidity levels.
The weather in Iriomote is a little hotter than that of the rest of Okinawa due to the island being located further south.
When hiking in the summer months, the humidity levels are extremely high and can make hiking significantly more uncomfortable. If you want the best hiking experience, consider visiting during the “winter” months when the temperature is much cooler.
Stick to the Trail
Much of the jungle is untouched and dangerous in Iriomote, so it is not advised to veer off of the marked trails. When hiking, you will see pink ribbons tied around trees at average adult eye level.
Where to stay On Iriomote island?
Since the population of Iriomote is so small, there are limited numbers of accommodations for visitors to choose from. The place you stay also depends on the travel style or budget you are working with.
If you are a solo and/or budget traveller, then staying in a guesthouse or hostel might be the best option for you. Depending on which area the activities and tours are that you’d like to take part in, you can either stay in Taketomi (near Ohara Port in the east) or near Uehara Port in the northwest of the island.
To find the best selection of accommodations to suit your trip, check out Booking.com below:
|Day Hike Essentials||Why?|
|Appropriate footwear & socks||Less likely to injure yourself & more comfortable|
|Portable battery pack & wire||To charge your electronic devices|
|Water (0.5L per hour roughly)||To keep yourself hydrated throughout the hike|
|Food||Preferably lightweight but healthy snacks|
|Trail Directions||Phone/GPS device, compass or paper map|
|Mobile OR satellite phone||Helpful in emergencies to call for help|
|Clothing layers||To put on or remove based on changes in weather|
|Hat||To prevent sunstroke or keep warm|
|Sunglasses||To see better without squinting all day|
|First aid kit||To solve minor injuries along the way|
|Multi-tool||Multiple uses for multiple problems|
|Illumination||Torch or phone light to navigate in the dark|