One of the most underrated towns near Osaka in the Kansai region is Wakayama City. However, not only does the city and its Wakayama Castle have plenty to offer, there are at least 20 amazing things to do in Wakayama prefecture as a whole!
To help you out with travel tips, check out the following Wakayama travel guide, including directions and activities. Plus, most of the Wakayama attractions listed are free of charge, too!
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Top 10 Attractions Wakayama City
Wakayama Castle (和歌山城)
The main reason to visit Wakayama City is Wakayama Castle, which towers high above. It’s only a 20-30 minute walk from the main train station (you can take a local bus too) and hard to miss.
Walk the grounds of the castle, including the garden and then make your way up. The views are spectacular!
It is possible to enter the restored castle as it is a museum, offering glimpses into the past of Japan. There is an entrance fee of 400yen. What you will find inside is an exhibition of local historical photographs, weapons and other artifacts.
Don’t expect decked rooms and interior furniture as Wakayama Castle – like other Japanese castles – mainly served defense not residential purposes.
Address: 2-10 Shin-Wakaura, Wakayama City 和歌山市新和歌浦2-10
Momijidani Teien Garden
When you are walking up to Wakayama Castle you might already walk by Momijidani Teien Garden. If not, find it below the North Tower.
It’s a well kept traditional Japanese style garden enclosed by a white wall. Follow the wooden signs around Wakayama Castle if you can’t find it.
The garden is free to visit and well worth it especially if you love travel photography. With every well laid stone path, tranquil pond and a tea house. Its exceptionally pretty!
Address: 3 Ichibancho, Wakayama City (in the grounds of Wakayama Castle), 〒640-8146 和歌山県和歌山市一番丁3 (和歌山城 敷地内)
Tomogashima Lighthouse (友ヶ島灯台)
The four little islands of Tomogashima just off of (but still part of) Wakayama city make for a refreshing afternoon out.
Tomogashima Lighthouse dates back to the late 19th century and was designed by the “Father of lighthouses”, Richard Henry Brunton. The idea was to make the shoreline safer for foreign ships.
Nowadays, the islands belong to Setonaikai National Park and are protected. But are said to have been used for Shugendō religious practices by Buddhist monks. Hence, the nickname “The island of shugendo”.
Address: Kada, Wakayama, Wakayama Prefecture 640-0103, Japan
Next to Momijidani Teien and below Wakayama Castle you can access Wakayama park for free. It is a great place to take photos of the castles and you can cross the historical Ohashi Roka bridge. It is 27 metres long and entirely covered.
A little further lies the Okaguchi-mon Gate and Koshoan Tea Room, both of which are super cute and make for a nice photo. You can even enjoy a cup of freshly brewed matcha tea at the tea room for 460 yen.
Address: Japan, 〒640-8146 Wakayama Prefecture, 和歌山市一番丁３
Even though Marina City belongs to the old city of Wakayama, it looks entirely different with its pseudo European vibe.
It was built on an artificial island and has become a major tourist magnet as there is a small theme park to be enjoyed as well. It’s called Porto Europa.
Address: 1527 Kemi, Wakayama, Wakayama Prefecture 641-0014, Japan
Wakanoura Onsen Manpa Resort (和歌浦温泉 萬波)
Are you an onsen fan? Onsen are Japanese hot thermal springs and are super popular for their relaxing and healing qualities.
The Wakanoura Onsen Manpa Resort has both outdoor and indoor onsen. You can even rent them privately. The resort has its own bus stop so you can easily reach it from Wakayama Station.
From inside, you can enjoy the wonderful seaside views at any season and dine in comfort or stay the night if you want to explore Wakayama some more.
Address: 2-10 Shin-Wakaura, Wakayama City 和歌山市新和歌浦2-10
Bandoko Teien Garden
Another nice little park, this time by the seaside in Wakayama City. It sits on top of a cliff and used to be fortress. This was because of its proximity to Wakayama Castle and could help with defence along the shoreline.
Entrance to the gardens is ¥600 and it is open from 9AM to 6PM from April to August and 8AM to 5PM from September to March. Sadly, this means you will miss the sunset. But it still makes for great picnics.
Address: Bandoko-no-Hana, Saikazaki, Wakayama City
Wakayama City Museum (和歌山市立博物館)
The Wakayama City Museum opened in1985 to celebrate the city’s 400th anniversary and as such chronicles local history. On show are artifacts excavated as well as original documents.
The museum is open from 9AM to 5PM and entry costs ¥100. It is closed on Mondays and during New Year holidays.
Address: 3-2 Minato Honmachi, Wakayama City和歌山市湊本町3-2
Fusion Museum (フュージョンミュージアム)
Are you into arts and crafts? Check out Fusion Museum (which is located in a mall). It is entirely dedicated to knitting as Wakayama has a long standing knitting heritage.
Here, you can learn more about the skill and trade of knitting and how it is connected to sportswear. Plus, you get to knit your own scarf on a bicycle-powered machine.
The quirky museum is free of charge and open from 10AM to 7PM and closed only during New Year holidays.
Address: 3F 2-1 Forte Wajima, Honmachi, Wakayama City和歌山市本町2-1 フォルテワジマ３階
Wakayama Prefecture Kii-fudoki-no-oka Museum of Archaeology and Folklore
Could there be a longer museum name than Wakayama Prefecture Kii-fudoki-no-oka Museum of Archaeology and Folklore (県立紀伊風土記の丘資料)?
The actual site is much larger than this museum as it is next to over 430 ancient tombs belonging to the Iwase Senzuka burial site. Not surprisingly then, at the museum you can learn more about ancient burial customs and what life way back in the day was like in Japan.
Entry is ¥190 and the museum is open from 9AM to 4:30 Pm and closed on New Year holidays and Mondays.
Address: Japan, 〒640-8301 Wakayama Prefecture, Wakayama, 岩橋１４１１
Top 10 Attractions for Wakayama Prefecture
Mount Kōya (高野山)
Mount Kōya is actually not a mountain but a temple complex south of Osaka.
It sits among eight peaks on an 800m elevated plateau. For this resemblance of a lotus flower, the monk Kūkai chose this location for settlement in 819.
The temple belongs to the “Koyasan Shingon School” and its head temple is Kongōbu-ji (金剛峯寺). You can get a train from Osaka to Gokurakubashi Stationand then take the cable car up.
Address: Koyasan, Kōya, Ito District, Wakayama Prefecture 648-0211, Japan
Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route
Since Wakayama City is part of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, why not walk it a little way and pray at its religious sites? Or maybe even all the way?
The Kodo pilgrimage route will lead you through wonderfully untouched nature and over the Kii Peninsula. Check out the hiking trail map here.
The pilgrimage route Kumano Kodo has been walked by all kinds of people, regardless of their rank in society or age, for over 1000 years. Since 2004, the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route has been officially assigned UNESCO World Heritage status.
Kumano Nachi Taisha (熊野本宮大社)
As part of the Kumano Kodo, you get to visit and worship at the three Grand Shrines of Kumano, which are Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha.
You will find the Kumano-Hongu-Taisha-shrine after ascending a long stone staircase among cedar and cypress trees. Entry to is free. However, if you want to see Homotsuden Treasure Hall, entry costs 300 yen ($3).
Address: 1 Nachisan, 那智勝浦町 Higashimuro District, Wakayama Prefecture 649-5301, Japan
Kumano Hongū Taisha (熊野本宮大社)
When in Japan you really should visit a Shinto temple and in Wakayama, it is Kumano Hongū Taisha that needs to top the list.
It sits snug within nature and you can really feel the tranquility and relaxing quiet settle over you when you visit. The main deity of the shrine is Kumano Gongen (熊野権現), who is said to be a kami incarnation of Buddha.
If you want to see the original site of the shrine, before a massive flood destroyed its buildings, walk to the Oyunohara sandbank. Three of the pavilions were rebuilt.
Address: １１１０ Hongucho Hongu, Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture 647-1731, Japan
Kumano Hayatama Taisha (熊野速玉大社)
The third of the Grand Shrines of Kumano is Kumano Hayatama Taisha and yes, part of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route as well.
Onsite you will find the grand 800 year old Nai-no-Ki tree, which is just as integral a part of the shrinte’s precincts as are the Kumano-gawa River.
Each October 16, the Mifune Matsuri festival is held in which men in nine boats race up the river to Mifune-jima island.
Address: 1番地 Shingu, Shingū, Wakayama Prefecture 647-0003, Japan
Wakayama has the advantage of both pleasant seaside climate and fertile soil, meaning there are orchards all over the prefecture, such as at Arida Kyoho-grape Village or Kinokuni Farm.
This in turn means you can pick you own fruit! For strawberries, peaches, plums, oranges and more you just need to drive up to the farms in the North and central western regions.
If you rather not work too hard to get the fruit of your labour (pun intended), just buy fresh produce and products, such as marmelades, at market stalls, souvenir shops or farmers markets in the region.
Koyasan Shukubo (宿坊)
Ever heard of temple stays? They are a big thing in Japan and an obligatory part of any longer pilgrimages, like the Kumano Kodo.
One of the best places to experience such a shukubō (宿坊), is Koyasan. This little town boasts more than 50 temples that offer shukubō!
If you are anxious to score a place, reserve your stay online in advance*. But don’t forget to bring enough cash as credit cards aren’t usually accepted. But breakfast and dinner are normally included as well.
Traditional Log Rafting (筏下り)
White water rafting has become super popular. But are you daredevil enough to do it on logs AND standing up? Well, here in Wayakama is your chance to try it out. It’s the only place in Japan that offers this cool outdoor activity.
The log rafting is performed on the rapid currents of Kitayama River and date back to the lumber transportation days on the area. This makes log rafting an over 600 year old practice!
Sure, wakayama ramen isn’t technically a location but a great thing to do in Wakayama so it oes on the list! Ramen is a staple comfort and budget food in Japan and differs from region to region and town to town.
What makes Wakayama ramen Chuka Soba so special is its rich pork broth and slices (tonkotsu) and medium thick noodles. For extra thick sauce, take a seat at Seino restaurant in Arida City.
Nachi Falls (那智滝)
If you want to plan a day trip from Wakayama, head down the coast to Nachi Falls in Nachikatsuura. They are one of the most popular waterfalls in all of Japan thanks to their height of 133 meters and uninterrupted drop.
At the top of the falls, take a closer look at the two rocks. These are said to be the guardian kami of both the falls and the Shinto shrine.
Sadly the Buddhist temple doesn’t stand anymore. Another sad thing: many star crossed lovers have lept from the top of the falls in hopes of being reborn into paradise.
Bonus: Bansho Garden
If you want to admire gorgeous seaside views from a beautiful garden, take a stroll around Bansho Garden. Just don’t count on sunset as the gardens usually close earlier than that.
Address: Japan, 〒641-0062 Wakayama Prefecture, Wakayama, Saikazaki, 番所ノ鼻
Is Visiting Wakayama Worth It?
Wakayama was one of the most underrated places I went to during my travels in Japan. From Osaka, there are many other more popular or well known places you can reach in a day so I only made it there on my second Japan visit. It totally didn’t disappoint.
If you have a JR Railpass and know which attractions you want to see in advance, you can totally pack your day full of exciting adventures.
Don’t forget to order your railpass before your trip as delivery takes a few days. Order it now*.
Essential Wakayama Travel Tips
Best Time to Visit Wakayama
As with most places in Japan, spring and autumn are ideal. No need to tell you about the epic sakura season in Japan, you will know that the pink cherry blossoms make everything just so much more scenic.
There are plenty of other flowers blooming in Japan throughout the year, so even if you miss peak times, it’s still worth a visit.
In autumn, it’s not the flowers that explode in colour but the autumn leaves, making especially pilgrimage trails and forest hiking super attractive in Wakayama Prefecture.
Just know that those two seasons are also peak season and therefore you should book flights, accommodation and tours way in advance to get those you desire.
Where to Stay in Wakayama
Low Budget Places to Stay in Wakayama
For a more traditional hostel/guest stay experience in Wakayama City, try Guesthouse RICO. It boasts charming, rustic Japanese design with modern minimalism and décor elements.
Hostels are generally great for connecting with fellow travellers but also offer private rooms in case you want to retreat on a budget. Check rates here*.
For a truly traditional Japanese experience, get yourself into a Wandtrip Wakayama Japan Style apartment. This way, you can almost feel as if living in Japan for a while.
That’s what I love about apartment rentals. Here, you can take advantage of a shared common room and laundry facilities, which is great if you travel longer and don’t want to wait in front of coin laundrettes. Book here*.
I don’t even know where to begin escribing Cafe and Guest House Kaede. It is like a hostel but set in a colourful dreamland with colourful building units, actual plants hung up as paintings and comely common room areas.
It is located in Wakayama City and just two minutes from Isono-Ura Station. This way, you can easily explore Wakayama Prefecture. Check rates in advance* especially during cherry blossom and autumn leaf season.
Mid Range Hotels in Wakayama
If you want to stay close to the shore and Porto Europa theme park, then Wakayama Marina City Hotel is absolutely ideal!
Rooms are modern, clean and have ocean views, and staff are exceptionally hospitable. If you don’t travel solo, the double rooms are really great value. Check current deals here*.
Do you love onsen as much as I do? Then you gotta check into Wakayama Kada Onsen Kada Kaigetsu. From here, you can reach Awashima Shrine in 5 minutes and Wakayama City within 30.
Kansai airport is only an hour drive away. The hotel is a constant bestseller on booking sites, so if you see it available during your preferred period of visit to Wakayama, snatch it quick. Check availability before your trip*.
One of the quirkiest hotels in the region certainly is the Wakayama Little Chapel Christmas. This is for adults who always carry Christmas in their hearts and love to go all out in Christmas decoration.
Just pick your favourite colour – such as pink, gold or red – and live your Christmas wrapper dreams. I mean, the rooms are decked in Christmas themed décor and wallpaper!
That being said, if you find a wacky hotel like this, it’s most likely a love hotel. Due to the intimate hotel size check hotel room availability in advance*.
Best Luxury Hotels in Wakayama
If you really want to treat yourself, check into the Wakanoura Nature Resort Epicharis. At this Greek style hotel, you will be treated to delectable breakfast and dinner.
The stunning ocean views will easily make you think you are at Mediterranean shores for a second.
All rooms include a private bathroom with bath and a big flat TV screen. Porto Europa and the City Zoo are only a little over 4km away. Check current deals here*.
Blending traditional design with modern sleekness and keeping with the renowned Japanese hospitality, Ryokan Fudoguchikan in Izumo-Sano really is high end.
Plus, it has its own onsite open-air hot-spring bath, which is gender separated. On top of that, there is a lounge, shop as well as yukata rentals. Why not check current prices now?*
In case all rooms are booked with the previous ryokan, try the similarly amazing Ryokan Inunakiyama Onsen Minamitei in Izumo-Sano.
There is a hot spring onsite, rooms look out over a shaded river and you can also take advantage of the sauna. It’s a perfect location for hikes, too! Check room availability here.*
How to Get to Wakayama from Osaka
You can rent your car from the airport and hack Wakayama into your GPS for easy guidance. Route maps can be downloaded here. Don’t forget your national as well as International Driving Permit (IDP) to legally drive on Japanese roads. And also drive on the left side!
If you have a JR Kansai Railpass, take the train straight to Wakayama Station. Check timetables and prices online if you don’t want to use or don’t have the railpass.
It takes around 90 minutes from Osaka to Wakayama City and regular one way prices range between $10 to $26.[su_note note_color=”#f7f0e5″ radius=”0″]Kyoto to Wakayama: 1.5h Nagoya to Wakayama: 2 hours Tokyo to Wakaya: 3.5h Nara to Wakayama: 1.5hours More connections here[/su_note]
Top 5 Items to Pack for Wakayama
Portable wifi* – You can’t get a regular sim card in Japan. It’s a complicated process that involves speaking Japanese and having a Japanese address.
There are tourist sim cards available at airports but if you want to skip those queues after your long flight and really just need wifi, get a portable hotspot. I use my skyroam device for any country in th world but if you just care for wifi in Japan, try a pocket wifi in advance.
Travel insurance* – This is a must for any trip abroad. You should always cover your bases – both travel as well as health wise. You never know when things go wrong. Japan is a super safe country but accidents can even happen at home. So better be safe than sorry.
Travel guides* – There are so many more off the beaten path destinations and insider restaurants all over Wakayama Prefecture, it’s impossible to list them all in this post. That’s why I love Lonely Planet guides because they just cover so much ground and also have helpful phrases in them.
Lens cleaner* – I wear glasses and they dirty up quickly as I go about my day – especially if I’m near the seaside. Sometimes I can’t be bothered and use general liquid soap and tap water to do the cleaning job.
But in Japan the soaps on public toilets are just so sticky, they make everything worse.
So if you wear them as well or just want to clean your camera lens, you would need a special lens cleaner fluid and soft fibre cloth to do a good job. Most convenient drug stores offer one time use wipes but they can cause some streaks in case you forget your cleaning set.
Face masks* – Visiting Wakayama (or Japan in general) during flowering season might be quite the challenge if you struggle with allergies. (By the way, I have some travel tips for allergic people like me.)
In Japan, the way to go is to wear masks to prevent pollen from being inhaled and to not sneeze in other people’s faces when you are triggered. They might feel awkward if you’re not used to them but they are super common.[su_highlight background=”#d3b691″]Read next: The full solo female travel packing list for Japan[/su_highlight]
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