Road Trips to Cross the Diverse Izu Peninsula
One of our favorite destinations with its white sand beaches and rugged coastlines, divided by a green mountainous interior that offers a variety of contrasting experiences and new discoveries in between.
Part of the Shizuoka prefecture, the Izu Peninsula is best discovered in sections, the West (nishi), South (minami), East (higashi) and Central inland. Whichever direction your compass, you’ll find a variety of beaches, scenic drives, waterfalls, hot springs, outdoor activities and daily fresh local produce.
What will surprise are the majestic campsite views, diversity of scenery and quiet towns in between.
Here are our recommended Izu Peninsula road trips that will have you coming back for more.
Time: approx. 2.5–3.5 hours (depending on traffic and final destination)
Nishi Izu is known for its scenic rugged coastline with clear day views of Mt Fuji over Suruga bay, as well as picturesque driving, delicious fresh seafood, romantic sunsets, short hikes, fishing, SUP, snorkeling and kayaking. There is a variety of local fishing towns offering a rich history, sea caves and even ocean hot springs to enjoy.
South & East Izu
Time: approx. 3–4 hours (depending on traffic and final destination)
South & East is known for its subtropical ambiance, as well as offering a variety of white sand beaches perfect for swimming, snorkeling and surfing. There are refreshing coastal hikes, rich geo-sites, modern historical sites and even an extinct volcano to explore.
Time: approx. 2–3.5 hours (depending on traffic and final destination)
Central Izu is known for its lush waterfalls, as well as offering a variety of onsen hot spring towns. There are also Zen buddhist temples, riverside walks and mountains hikes to take in a different perspective.
The Old Bus (google maps) | Website | Instagram
Imagine a very cool rusted out old bus perched up along the coastline that opens on request, serving you drinks where you can camp parked alongside. Mt Fuji can be seen on clear days in the distance. A passionate couple run this business with a mind for sustainability and clean living and booking are required for both camping and stopping by. Camping is a little expensive and the bathrooms can be a bit of an adventure. If not for camping, it’s a good place for a break, sunset picnic or drink.
Darumayamakogen Camping Ground (google maps) | Website | Instagram
Smaller laid-back campground high up in the mountains with simple facilities and a quiet forest feel. A great place for star-viewing on clear nights and glimpses of Mt.Fuji over Suruga bay in the distance on clear days. Sites #16 and #19 have the best chance of seeing Mt. Fuji.
Yuuhi Shiosai (google map) | Website | Instagram
Spectacular sunset colors, breathtaking rugged coastline views high up on the cliff with glimpses of Mt Fuji in the distance. There is also a hot bath which you can schedule and use privately that overlooks the coastline below. We like the camping car spot, top left, closest to the hot bath. Reverse park to face the coastline. Please note it can be very windy and the road leading up to the campground is very narrow so please drive very carefully!
Minami Izu Yuhi Gaoka Camping Ground (google maps) | Website | Instagram
Very popular, well designed campground with panoramic viewpoints looking south/west into the pacific ocean. Very good facilities and you need to book in advance for the best camping spots. Please note that it can be very windy and the management who run the campground can be a little uptight.
Other Camp Grounds we like or want to try;
Camping Terrace; has just opened in 2022. Ground site 3 might be the only option for our campers
NishiIzu Auto Campgound
Futo Coast Car Park (might be able to free camp here and public toilets are nearby with cold showers – a fantastic place to explore)
Irumi Fishing Port Parking (might be able to free camp here and public toilets are nearby – we think the evening stars would be amazing here)
KAISUISO (we have heard this little silver airstream BBQ & Kayak shop is renting out his ocean front car spots to our campers for 3,000yen per night)
Camp Mountain House; we recently heard about this very quiet and unknown camp site. We believe Site A is the best for our campers. There is a great little chill-out cafe near by called Cafe Zazenseki
Kisami Ohama Beach Car Park (might be able to free camp here and public toilets and coin hot water showers are nearby – a beautiful beach popular with early morning surfers)
Midaka Picnic Road (might be able to free camp here between the trees along the ocean – be careful of the trees above when opening the roof tent)
Kawazu Nanadaru Camping Ground
Free-Camp can not be guaranteed and has risk.
Remember to be discreet and no open fires. If you are asked to move along, please move along. If the location is a popular beach or river car park, it is likely that it is not possible to camp overnight during the Summer period of June to August.
Splash & Fun Favorites:
Futo Coast; a beautiful scenic rocky coastline offering clear water swimming, snorkeling, SUP & diving. There are some short hikes and caves to explore. Toilets & showers are available. Summer months is very busy with paid parking, but might be possible to free park & camp during off season months.
EAST (shimoda area)
Kisami Ohama Beach; our favorite beach in the Shimoda area. A quiet white sand beach with open areas for surfers & swimmers. There are caves and rocks pools to explore. Toilets and hot coin showers are available. Paid parking during summer, but might be possible to free-camp during off season months. Very close is the White Beach Hotel bar & restaurant.
Tatadohama Beach; a beautiful white sand beach offering separate surfing and swimming areas. There are a few shops and public toilets and showers are available. Paid parking during summer months.
Tsumekizaki Beach & Kujuppama Beach; both quite close to each other offering calm waters for safe swimming for families and good snorkeling. There are also inspiring coastal walks, picnic spots, a lighthouse, flower gardens & unique rock formations to explore in the area.
Kawazu Seven Waterfalls; a series of 7 impressive and powerful waterfalls ranging from 2M to 30M high all woven together with a moderate 1 hour hiking tail. Here you can also find the incredible Amagiso onsen and Nanataki Chaya for all things sweetly strawberry and savory.
One place we want to explore is the hard to reach Otaki, an undeveloped inland waterfall in the central/west area.
The entire coastline of the Izu Peninsula is painted with an incredible variety of ocean and inland river experiences. The west and south coast is generally more rocky with stunning cliffs, while the east coast has sandy beaches and the central inland has the rivers. Find new places is part of the experience, and remember tell us about it too!
** The popular summer season months is generally June to the end of August. This is also the period where paid parking is usually enforced at popular locations
West Izu Skyline; is a 40km stretch of road that winds through the mountain highlands connecting the central north with the western coastline. A windswept beautiful driving experience that is dotted with viewpoints and short mountain hikes to enjoy that offer glimpses of Mt Fuji in the distance.
Lover’s Cape; is a little bit of a tourist trap, but cute none-the-less. Follow the very scenic cliffside wooden walkway to an observation point where you can declare your love by ringing a large bell . There is also a little cafe that serves up a variety of sweet snacks.
Koganezaki Park; a pitstop for a scenic coastal walk especially at sunset offering majestic sweeping coastal views. Bring your imagination as it’s believed the headland rock formation resembles that of a horses head.
Dogashima Park; an immersive coastline marine park that resembles somewhere you might see in Vietnam, offering coastal walks & cave boat tours. There are also nearby cafes. Hold on to your hat on windy days and climb to the top for the best views.
Cape Aiai; a simple place for a pit stop to take in the vast views of south Izu. There is a little cafe that sells ice cream and a short walk to an observation point.
Perry Road; a uniquely Japanese street reminiscent of somewhere in Kyoto. Willow trees and stone pavements with antique shops and cafes are found. It shares an interesting history as the location where the infamous US black ships landed 1853 that eventually one year later demanded Japan to end it’s isolation and open trade.
Benten no Yu; a tattoo friendly semi open public hot bath, located on the 2nd floor of an older building that has been renovated inside. The view is not the best as it faces across diagonally but you can mingle with some of the locals. From 500yen+ and is open until 8pm
Sawada Park Open Air Bath, a very simple facility on the coast with a great view, especially nice for sunset. The onsen bath can be really hot so it is perfect for wet or cold days. Only 6 people can go in at the same time and the cost is 600yen per adult.
Nagisa Foot Bath, a free simple hot bath along the coast, overlooking a small fishing port. More like a small foot bath. Swimming clothes are required and the foot bath is closed during winter months.
Ideyu-so, an open air mixed onsen located at an older Ryokan where you can visit the onsen as a day guest. There are a couple of friendly cats that often visit the change rooms. The road to the Ryokan is very narrow so please drive carefully. Day use is 500 yen+
Kannon Onsen: an upmarket onsen hot bath facility located in a natural mountain view setting about 25 minutes drive from Shimoda. The natural hot spring water has an alkalinity of Ph9.5 which gives the water a slimy but healing sensation. There is also a hot bath jacuzzi and sauna available. Day use is 1500yen for one hour and is open until 5pm
Amagiso Onsen; is a multi open air hot bath facility located in a stunning riverside setting. The setting is surreal as you can enjoy poetic views of the 30m high waterfall before you. You need to wear swimwear and you can rent if you forget to bring with you. Day use is 2000yen+ and is open until 7pm
Hokkawa Onsen; is a quiet open air onsen hot bath facility located on the coast that offers sweeping ocean views and crashing waves as a soundtrack. There is no toilets, shampoo, soaps or rental towels available. From 600yen+ and is open until sunset
Akazawa Foot Bath; is a very simple public onsen hot bath set along the ocean. The bath is small and is not maintained. The temperature can fluctuate and moss can be growing on the bottom making it a bit slippery. It’s free and always open so, it’s good for a bit of an adventure.
Fujiyoshi; is a very tastefully Japanese designed onsen hot bath facility in a local town setting. There are 4 private onsen baths you can select one to enjoy privately. The onsen water comes direct from the source and some baths have ocean views. Day use is 1,500yen+ for 3 hours with yukata (11:00am – 7:00pm)
Hotel Powell; is a onsen hot bath facility located in an older modest hotel. The hot bath is small and has an infinity pool type view over the ocean. Day use is XX
Favourite Food & Drink
Here are some places we have heard good things about. Remember if you find something special, do tell us so we can share the love.
Sakanaya Uosei さかなや魚清 is a Japanese teishoku restaurant specializing in Japanese spider crab. They have a large pool filled with live crab in the restaurant so you can eye pick your meal. The meals can get a little pricey, so maybe best for a lunch treat. Open everyday (11am – 8pm)
Tihal; is a great roadside Thai / Nepalese curry restaurant offering indoor or terrace seating. It’s nice also to take away and enjoy the nice viewpoint across the road. They have a little shop of various Asian inspired trinkets there too. Open 10am – 6pm (12pm – 3pm wednesdays & thursdays)
Cafe Zazenseki; is a boutique cafe set in beautiful tranquil settings found down a very narrow road away from the coast. There is seating both inside and outside with a gallery to winder through. A great place to unwind and nearby to camp ground Mountain House. Open daily (11am – 7pm)
White Beach Hotel; is a western style cafe/restaurant inside a hotel across from stunning Kisami Ohama beach. A very popular hotel for expats offering beer on tap, woodfired pizza, pasta, burgers and a good breakfast set. Open in Summer (8am – 10am / 11:30am – 2:00pm / 6pm – 10:00pm) however, often the kitchen closes if there are no guests.
FermenCo; is a trendy pizza & wine cafe located across from beautiful Irita beach. The natural sourdough pizza, relaxed ocean views and atmosphere feels outside of Japan. Closed mondays & tuesdays (11am – 2:30pm weekdays, 11am – 2:30pm / 5:30pm – 8:30pm weekends)
IRIE Coffee & Sea; is a local surfers cafe nearby the very busy Shirahama beach. We like the jerk chicken set. You can also rent surfboards here. It has a relaxed hawaiian feel & service can be a bit slow, so maybe check out the shrine across the road while you wait. Closed tuesdays (9am – 7pm)
Zen Kitchen; is a cute terrace cafe overlooking the ocean that offers a range of exotic shaved ice deserts (kakigori) & Japanese teishoku meals. The menu changes each seasons using the best local produce available. It can get very busy on weekends, so call ahead or be prepared to wait. Closed wednesdays & thursdays (11:30am – 2:30pm / 6pm – 9:30pm)
Returning to Tokyo in the afternoon or evening, especially on Sundays or public holidays can take longer than expected due to traffic. Be sure to check traffic conditions as you go.