Nanki Shirahama in Wakayama prefecture is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Japan. This scenic area is home to beautiful beaches, an exciting theme park, refreshing hot spring experiences at Japanese Ryokan and ancient pilgrimage routes listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The resort town is loved by people especially from the Kansai region as a perfect getaway to spend a memorable time away from the bustle of everyday life. Here we’ve rounded up some of the best things to do in the Nanki Shirahama!
1. Adventure World
Adventure World is a popular theme park in the Nanki Shirahama which opened in 1978. It combines a safari park zoo, an aquarium and an amusement park, which offers a wide range of experiences and wildlife encounters to everyone. Their zoo area is home to more than 1,400 animals of 140 different species, including lions, cheaters, dolphins, giraffes, birds and much more from every corner of the world. They are probably best known for the largest giant panda family in Japan which includes 6 adorable pandas born and raised there. At the play zone, you can enjoy a variety of thrill rides and attractions with your kids. The Big Ocean area entertains visitors with exciting dolphin performances and shows. The Dolphin Friendly Pool allows you to get up close to the adorable dolphins and directly feed them with your hands!
10am – 5pm
4,800 yen (adult)
4,300 yen (65+)
3800 yen (aged 12 – 17)
2,800 yen (aged 4 -11)
2. Shirahama Beach & Shirahama Onsen
If you want to unwind and relax while in the Nanki Shirahama area, nothing can be better than visiting their great beaches and soaking in hot springs! Shirahama Beach is an incredible 600-meter stretch of beautiful white sand imported from Australia. During the summer season, this scenic beach draws more than 600,000 people from around Japan every year. The landscape of crystal-clear water and the sparkling beach with lovely palm trees offers a laid-back atmosphere that is simply perfect for a refreshing holiday. Shirahama Onsen is widely known as one of the three oldest hot springs in Japan with a history of over 1,300 years. This historic hot spring resort boasts plenty of accommodation options ranging from traditional Japanese Ryokan to modern hotels.
3. Toretore Market
Toretore Market is the best spot to enjoy the high-quality fresh seafood in the Nanki Shirahama area. Widely known as the largest seafood market in western Japan, they serve top-quality local specialties delivered straight from the nearby sea. You can try a wide range of delicious seafood served in various ways such as sashimi, sushi and seafood rice bowl. You can also choose and buy your favorite ones at shops and grill them on your own in a large BBQ area. Toretore-no-yu is a spacious and clean hot spring facility, while Panda Village is an accommodation area full of panda-shaped guest rooms which allow you to stay overnight!
8:30am – 6:30pm
4. Senjojiki & Sandanbeki Rock Cliff
Senjojiki is a must-see natural wonder located along the rugged coastline of the western Nanki Shirahama area. This scenic spot is located only a short walk from Shirahama Beach. You can stand on and walk around a unique rock platform that has been naturally formed by erosion by waves for over centuries. The giant platform consists of countless rock layers which look like one thousand Tatami mats gently sloping toward the beautiful ocean. It is also known as a perfect spot to see and capture the amazing view of the sunset. Sandanbeki Rock Cliff is another scenic spot that is a 50-meter rock oceanside cliff offering a dynamic landscape. You can take an elevator that travels 39 meters down to the bottom of Sandanbeki Cave.
Opening hours (Sandanbeki Cave)
9am – 5pm (last entry at 4:30pm)
1,300 yen (adult)
650 yen (child)
5. Engetsu Island
Engetsu Island is the Nanki Shirahama’s symbolic island off the south coast of Rinkai Bay. Although the official name of the island is “Takashima Island”, it is better known by its nickname “Engetsu”, which describes the iconic hole in the center of the small island. When the sun goes down the sea, many photographers flock there to capture the stunningly beautiful sunset that can be seen through the hole. The best visiting time to enjoy the beautiful sunset is around 6:30pm in summer and 4:30pm in winter. Free parking is available nearby and you can also take public transport such as a local bus from JR Shirahama station.
6. Shirahama Energy Land
Shirahama Energy Land is a unique theme park that is particularly popular among families with small children. This tourist attraction can be divided into three areas and each of them features enjoyable experiences for all ages. Surprise Picture Area offers visitors a great opportunity to learn about renewable energy and dinosaurs through informative exhibits, including a 3D theater. Wonder of the Forest area has a variety of optical illusion art that tricks your brain. The Labyrinth Experience area is also fun to visit with your kids, and there is also a relaxing free foot bath.
Please check their official site as opening hours may vary depending on the day.
2,000 yen (adult)
1,800 yen (60+)
1,400 (junior high school/ elementary school student)
7. Banshoyama Park
Officially designated as part of Yoshino-Kumano National Park, Banshoyama Park is a lovely small park overlooking the beautiful coastline of the Nanki Shirahama area. This peaceful park is home to tropical plants as well as three observation decks that offer panoramic views of the surrounding areas, including Engetsu Island. It is a perfect spot for a picnic or taking a relaxing stroll in nature while feeling the comfortable sea breeze. Minakata Kumagusu Museum is also found in the park which displays a large collection of achievements of Minakata Kumagusu, a renowned Japanese biologist back in the late 19th century. Admission is free and free parking is conveniently available.
9am – 5pm
8. Kumano Kodo
Kumano Kodo is probably the most famous tourist attraction in Wakayama prefecture among international hikers. Officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this pilgrimage route consists of multiple trails running through sacred mountains across the Kii peninsula in the southern part of Wakayama prefecture. Tackling these trails allows you to immerse yourself in the untouched nature while walking around the beautiful mountains. They are home to some historic shrines which have been visited and worshiped by Japanese people since ancient times. The Nanki Shirahama is a perfect gateway to some of Kumano Kodo’s best trails, including Nakahechi Route and Ohechi Route.
Daruma Temple, also known as Kozen-ji is a small temple that belongs to the Rinzai sect of Buddhism. The history of the temple is believed to date back as old as 1,200 years ago and it is best known for the symbolic giant Daruma Statue built-in 1973. Walking around the peaceful temple grounds is perfect for spending a relaxing time. Their Japanese-style garden also fascinates visitors all year round with seasonal flowers such as Azalea in spring and colorful autumn leaves in fall!
Here are our popular private tours that take you to the best places to visit in the Kansai region!
From major cities in the Kansai region, JR and other private railway lines are conveniently available to the Nanki Shirahama area. If you travel from the Kanto region, including Tokyo and Kanagawa, taking the Shinkansen is probably the best and fastest way to get there. Top tourist attractions in the Nanki Shirahama such as incredible beaches and scenic spots are particularly beautiful and easy to visit from spring to fall when the climate is comfortable.
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Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with traveling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. Also love to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.
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