Picturesque lakes, waterfalls, rugged cliffs and onsen, Shiretoko West Coast is accessible by public transport from Shari throughout the year. Most attractions are family-friendly and gets crowded in the summer months.
Highlights Furepe-no-taki, Shiretoko Five Lakes
Tourist Information Shiretoko Nature Center (see below)
01 VISITOR CENTER
Shiretoko Nature Center
知床自然センター / Shiretoko Shizen Center / 531 Onnebetsu / 8am-5.30pm 20 Apr-20 Oct, 9am-4pm 21 Oct-19 Apr / Closed New Year’s holiday / FREE / center.shiretoko.or.jp/en
About 5km northeast of Utoro Onsen, this center has a temporary exhibition on wildlife photos, latest information on trails and bear activities. The DynaVision (Adult ¥500, child free) theater shows a 20-minute worth watching film with English and Chinese subtitles. There is also a shop and a food court, and you can borrow binoculars, boots and snowshoes.
Two trails for old reclaimed lands start from here.
02 SCENIC FALLS
フレペの滝 / Onnebetsu / 24hrs / FREE
Known as the Otome-no-namida (Maiden’s Tears) to locals, this 60m-high, neat waterfall flows out from the crack in a cliff to the Sea of Okhotsk. From the Shiretoko Nature Center, a 1km-long (40-minute return) trail leads to the viewpoint. Furepe-no-taki is accesible on foot during the winter, too.
03 LAKES & SCENIC VIEWPOINTS
Shiretoko Go-ko (Five Lakes)
知床五湖 / Shiretoko Goko / Tel 0152-24-3323 / 7.30am-dusk late Apr-early Nov / www.goko.go.jp
Shiretoko’s most popular place, the Five Lakes (called Go-ko) offer two types of trails from the bus stop: an 800m-long elevated wooden path to the lakeside observatory of Ichi-ko, and a 3km-long ground pathway runs around the Five Lakes.
During the high-season, the ground pathway can be only accessed by authorized tours (10 May-31 July / from ¥2500) or after attending a short lecture (1 Aug-20 Oct; ¥250). You can book a tour on the website. All pathways are closed in winter.
04 ONSEN WATERFALLS
カムイワッカ湯の滝 / Onnebetsu / Jnn-Oct / FREE
Kamuiwakka is a hot springs fall (yu-no-taki) flows into the deep valley. You can walk in the stream to the ichi-no-taki (1st fall), bring your own sandals or socks. If you try to getting into the hot springs pool (30C), you need to wear a bathing suit (there is a changing room near the bridge).
You can purchase safety socks (¥1100) at the michi-no-eki (roadside station) Utoro Shirietoku, the Shiretoko Nature Center or the Five Lakes. Yu-no-taki is accesible from June to October and it is a 10-minute walk from the bus stop.
From 28 April to 31 July, and from last Monday of August to 31 October, six buses daily run between Utoro Onsen and Shiretoko Five Lakes (25min), via Iwaobetsu and the Shiretoko Nature Center. The Shiretoko Shuyu Kippu (知床周遊きっぷ) allows unlimited travel on the above section, it sells at Utoro Onsen bus terminal.
From 1 to the last Sunday of August, there are shuttle buses between Utoro Onsen and Kamuiwakka Yu-no-taki (53min). A round-trip ticket is available to get off and on the all bus stops (on one-way). It sells at Utoro Onsen bus terminal or on a bus (note: it can’t be purchased at Shiretoko Five Lakes).
From mid June to early October, both Akan and Shari buses operate between Utoro Onsen and Rausu (4 daily / 50min), stopping at Shiretoko Nature Center and Shiretoko-toge.
A road between Shiretoko Go-ko and Kamuiwakka (Jun-Oct) is closed to private cars during the shuttle bus season.