If you fancy a break from the city buzz or you've done as many pilgrim walks as you can, then your next stop should be to Shirahama, a coastal town between Shingu and Wakayama city. This lively town is a family-friendly seaside resort, boasting a large stretch of white sand and clear blue seas. Shirahama beach, which is also popular for surfing, stretches around the bay and usually attracts families and groups of friends. The white sand beach makes for beautiful photos since and is another option to the beaches of Okinawa. The landscape around Shirahama makes for wonderful sight-seeing, the combination of rocky formations and the brilliant blue water means you'll take home great images of your travels.
There's lots to do in Shirahama, once you're satisfied that you've gotten your tan: Toretore Market is a great place to explore, especially if you love sushi! Toretore Market is a combination of a fish market, souvenir shop and restaurant. This market is popular with visitors from all over, including Japanese. You can purchase fish from the market sellers and then take it to the restaurant to be prepared so you can eat it as fresh as possible, maximizing the great taste! Enjoy the day tasting samples and discovering the local specialties. If you're lucky you might even catch the tuna filleting show.
Another great experience which Shirahama has to offer is Adventure World. True to its name, Adventure World has a lot to offer its visitors, from exotic zoo animals, an interactive safari experience and a dolphin show to roller coasters. You're guaranteed a great day out. Popular with families and couples, Adventure World offers lots of opportunities for participation, with animal feeding times including opportunities for visitors to help feed giraffes, rhinoceros, and African elephants. Of course, the less friendlier animals aren't an option for the feeding activities, however the safari train will take you right inside the lion's den, which is definitely something you won't forget anytime soon!
After a long day of adventure, what better way to relax than to soak yourself in a hot spring. Shirahama area is known for its hot springs and many of the hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese style hotels) offer both public and private hot spring facilities. There's something so magical about watching the moon and stars reflecting on the bay as you relax in the outdoor bath. For an authentic Japanese experience staying at a ryokan offers a great opportunity to experience traditional hospitality. Some ryokans offer special stylized rooms to make sure that you get the most out of your Japan experience. But staying at a ryokan has more to offer than the comfortable rooms and relaxing hot spring baths. If you have the time you can also try the traditional ryokan style dinners, which consist of private table service and a meal which spans multiple courses. Each dish is prepared with careful consideration for the guest and an emphasis on presentation, taste and harmony between the different courses. The server will pay particular attention to showing you the correct way to enjoy the dishes, as well as timing each course perfectly so you don't have to wait between bites.
But if ryokans or hotels aren't your thing, you can also try out a very unique camping experience. Just a few minutes away from Toretore Market, there exists a special Panda Village where you can rent your own panda pod and have an indoor camping experience. Complete with private bath and toilet, the room has the potential for sleeping six people, with bedding and futons provided. There is also an on-site shop and hot springs, meaning you don't have to compromise on the luxuries while you live the camp-style life.
Overall, Shirahama is a great place for pampering yourself at the beach and hot springs, enjoying some of the freshest seafood Japan has to offer, and getting close and personal with exotic animals. It's the perfect place for a fun getaway with family or friends, with a variety of accommodation options to suit your taste.
For more information, check out the official website here.
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Irish photographer based in Kichijoji, Tokyo, since Feb. 2018. Just writing about my daily adventures and crazy discoveries in Japan. You'll usually find me working in a tourist information centre, right in the heart of Tokyo or curled up in a cafe with a nice coffee as I work on my latest article.