Hachiojima is the perfect subtropical beach getaway that’s just under an hour from Tokyo by plane. A young volcanic island with black sand beaches in the middle of the Pacific, it feels very much like the little sister of Big Island in Hawaii, with a lot of Japanese culture and flair thrown in. For a truly blissful two-day itinerary of beach, jungle, waterfalls and hot springs, read on for the complete guide on things to do in Hachijojima.
Getting to Hachijojima
All the information on how to get to there (flights and ferries) and around (car, bus, bikes) can be found in our general Hachijojima guide.
The first flight arrives on Hachijojima at 9:00am—a good start time for the long day of exploration ahead—so hop off the plane and drop your luggage at the hotel. Luckily, most places in Hachijojima will pick you up from the airport. If you are staying in town, close to Sokodo Pier, have a wander around. The streets are lined with hibiscus flowers and of course there is the island’s only sand beach—black sand that is—right in front of the pier.
Why not dive right in and have truly local lunch. One of Hachijojima’s specialities is ashitaba—a green leafy plant that grows in the jungle. The leaves are eaten tempura style and the stems are powdered and used in a variety of foods. Besides its refreshing, herby taste, the nutritional load is also impressive and makes other so-called super foods like kale look rather meager.
At the cute Coco Moon Cafe you can try ashitaba pasta (¥1,470), which comes with a pesto made from the plant and is a delicious twist on the Italian staple. Open from 11:30am.
After lunch, get into adventure mode and either take the local bus or your rental car up into the mountains to the meeting point for the tree fern forest hike, Nakatashoten-mae bus stop. This two-hour jungle tour takes you right into a primary rainforest and your guide can explain all the local and endemic plants. If you are lucky, you might even see some newts squiggling around in the gentle stream next to the path.
After the jungle hike, go and take a look at Uramiga-taki Waterfall. It’s a two-minute car ride or 10-minute walk from the jungle hike meeting and drop-off point (Nakatashoten-mae bus stop), and you’ll see English signage. Crystal waters cascade over lush green rocks into a series of pools, making the scene a tropical photo op not to be missed (pro tip the best shots are taken from behind the falls).
Checking out the waterfall won’t take much more than 30-45 minutes, which gives you plenty of time for one more highlight in the area: Uramiga-taki Onsen next to the waterfall. This natural hot spring is free and mixed—but you must wear a swimsuit! So hop in and relax with a lush green view after your hike.
There are a couple of exciting options for the darker hours on the island too as another part of it comes alive. If you are staying in town, head to Nanbara Senjojiki for the most beautiful sunsets on the island, overlooking Hachijo-kojima, the island’s smaller sister isle, and the iconic black-lava fields.
Unfortunately, the public bus doesn’t stop here, so you’ll have to drive—or ask your accommodation staff, they might be willing to give you a lift!
If you want to have the best food on the island, yet still at reasonable prices, there is only one place to go to: Ryozanpaku. Famed by Japanese food magazines, this the place to experience two of the island’s most delicious specialities: shimasushi, a local way of preparing raw fish, and ashitaba tempura. The bill will be reasonable: between ¥3,000–¥4,000 per person for dinner with drinks. Bonus: they have an English menu.
If you visit in summer, after dinner, venture out for a stargazing and luminescent mushrooms night tour. With lack of light pollution you can clearly see the enchanting Milky Way spanning the sky. Hachijo is also known as a good spot for seeing shooting stars! So keep that smartphone in your pocket, you won’t want to miss the stars in real life.
The glow-in-the-dark mushrooms are really one of a kind. Previously thought to only exist on Hachijojima and the Ogasawara islands, more relatives of the mushroom species have now been found deep in the woods of the main island of Japan, but you won’t find them anywhere as accessible as here. They grow from June to September.
Make sure to pre-book breakfast at your accommodation as options on the island are limited. Alternatively, grab something from one of the local stores.
Then, wait for your pick-up for the snorkeling with sea turtles tour, definitely the highlight of any Hachijojima trip. The marine reptiles gather on the coral reef sheltered by a big breakwater right in front of Sokodo. They come in to sleep, relax and be groomed by small reef fish known as cleaner wrasse on the reef, so look out for turtles with closed eyes floating in the water as they enjoy their spa treatment.
The snorkeling tour includes all the gear, wetsuit and is an easy beach entry, making it ideal for beginners or those a bit worried about entering the ocean.
For lunch, there are several places that serve fresh seafood from the island. I like the fact that their selection often excludes endangered tuna species, and rather focuses on locally abundant species like Japanese flying fish. Try Han for a home-cooked style set lunch that is reasonably priced. It is also not too far to walk/bike from the pier for those staying in the town center.
For your afternoon, there are two options: chill out or power up.
For those that prefer to laze around town and hit the beach, pay a visit to the locals’ favorite ice cream parlor, Jersey Cafe, famous for its soft ice cream. It is located right next to Asanuma supermarket.
For those with a car or the internal drive to make the most of their trip, ascend the mountain one last time and go to Miharashi-no-yu, an amazing onsen overlooking the island’s coast and the boundless Pacific. Entry is ¥500 or included for free in the two-day bus pass. If you are taking the bus, make sure to check the schedule in advance so as not to miss your flight!
Before it is time to say goodbye to Hachijo Island, pop into the souvenir shop at the airport (there is only one, you can’t miss it). They really have everything you might want to take away from here. My favorites are the passionfruit candy and the XXX facial refresher spray with natural essences from island plants.
The last plane to Tokyo leaves at 5:20pm. Try to grab a seat on the right side of the airplane. Why? Seeing all the ground staff of the airport lined up and waving the last plane of the day goodbye as it leaves for Tokyo was one of the most heartwarming farewells I have had in Japan.