While technically part of Tokyo, Izu-Oshima has a very different feel, with beaches and much hotter weather. It doesn't get as hot as Okinawa, but a trip here in the summer will require lots of sunscreen.
Most of the island is covered in forest, with Mount Mihara in the centre. Therefore most people live or stay around the coast.
Izu-Oshima has a population of 9000, with most people living or staying in Oshima Town to the north west or Okata in the north, as these places have the ferry, air and jet ferry (super fast ferries) connections to Tokyo city. Habu Port in the south east also has a small community of old, traditional buildings. Izu-Oshima has one main road going all around the coast, plus a few heading to the entrance of Mount Mihara.
As it can take a while to get to Izu-Oshima and the smaller islands around it, most people come here for at least a day. There are plenty of hiking routes, water sports and hot springs so it's best to give yourself lots of time to enjoy this spectacular island.
Izu-Oshima's Mount Mihara is a must-do hike on the island. This dormant volcano has a summit at 758m and the hike up is not too steep. The trail from the entrance to the summit takes about 90 minutes, while walking around the crater takes around 20 minutes.
Along the trail you will see some of the eerie remains of the 1986 eruption, while at the top you are given a spectacular view over the island. It's a 20 minute bus ride from Oshima Town to the entrance.
Motomachi, also known as Oshima Town, has some big souvenir shops plus the occasional festival. It's worth getting a map from your hotel, then taking a stroll around to see how island people live in Japan. The area is scattered with interesting buildings and architecture, reflecting the island's rather independent and colourful attitude.
Motomachi Hama-no-yu is a great open-air hot spring a short walk from Oshima Town port, providing stunning views over the sea. Swimsuits are required as this is a mixed bath.
A few more minutes walk up the coast is Gojinka Hot Spring, more of a hot spring complex, with saunas, many types of baths and massage services. There is also a traditional Japanese restaurant.
Tokyo Municipal Oshima Park is Japan's largest camellia garden. There are some relaxing coastal walks as well as a small zoo. For those on a budget it also has a campsite. Take the bus from Oshima Town and get off at Oshima Park.
Senba Stratum Section is a section of road, about 700 metres, that provides a cross section of volcanic rock from Mount Mihara. The layers of sediment are clearly visible and make for great photos. Take the bus from Oshima Town and get off at Chiso Danmen.
Izu Oshima Volcano Museum tells the story of Mount Mihara's eruption in 1986, as well as lots of interesting information about other famous volcanoes around the world. Take the bus to Kazan Hakubutsukan-mae (Volcano Museum).
Kobo-hama Beach is a large beach in Oshima Town with a few nice beach bars and restaurants, plus a lively atmosphere with lots of music.
Noda-hama Beach is about 10 minutes by bus from Oshima Town and offers a much quieter experience. Diving is also possible.
Hinode-hama Beach (Sun Beach) in Okata is a great beach for families and children with gentle waves and interesting, colourful fish.
Places to stay on Izu-Oshima
Izu-Oshima has a range of places to stay, from cheap hostels to high class hotels. Hotel Palm Beach is very central and next to the beach, Yado Asano is a quiet, little ryokan and the Mandarin Island Hotel is good for those that want a bit of luxury.
Access - Getting to Izu-Oshima
ANA operates daily direct flights to Izu-Oshima from Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Book well in advance to get a good discount. If coming from other countries or cities, you will need to transfer here.
Ferries from Oshima Town are operated by a company called Tokai Kisen (they have an English version of their web site). From Tokyo, they offer standard slow ferries (several hours, overnight) and more expensive jet ferries (2 hours). Online reservations are only in Japanese, so if you can't speak Japanese it's best to book from a Japanese tourist agency such as HIS or JTB. The ferries depart from Takeshiba Ferry Terminal, near Hamamatsucho Station on the Yamanote Line and Takeshiba Station.
From Tokyo boats call at Oshima, Toshima, Niijima, Shikinejima and Kozushima. A different sailing from Tokyo calls at Miyakejima, Mikurashima and Hachijojima.
Transportation on Izu-Oshima
There are buses every hour or two that can take you around the coast (apart from the east coast), as well as a few buses that take you to the entrance of Mount Mihara. Prices start from 240 yen, going up to 860 yen depending on the distance.
Make sure you take note or a picture of the bus times when you arrive on the island, as they can finish rather early depending on the season.
Cycling is a possibility but the mountain is very hilly and wide, so it's not an easy island to explore on a bicycle.
Matthew is a blogger and writer living in Tokyo, Japan. He writes for Super Cheap Japan, a travel guide dedicated to budget travel in Japan. You can read more of his work at www.supercheapjapan.com