Southwestern Kochi: Surfing Safari

Explore and test Japan's best surf beaches where the Pacific rolls into the picturesque bays of Kochi Prefecture.

3 days
Kochi

Highlights

  • Visit four iconic beaches on Kochi Prefecture's southwest coast
  • "Touch base" pre-visit session with local surfers to cover what to watch out for
  • Rental car, surfboards, selection of cool places to stay, including the classic Kaiyu "hippy" hotel at Oki Beach

Description

Not many people equate Japan with surfing paradise, but in fact some parts of the country, like the long south-facing coastline of Kochi, are dotted with beautiful horse-shoe shaped beaches with great waves. This tour provides you with all the logistics you need to have a fun exploration of Japan's surf conditions and surf culture at your own speed. We include a date with four of the top surfing beaches in southwestern Kochi, including the famed Niyodo rivermouth and Hirano. What you get is 3 days and 2 nights staying at a centrally-located hotel, a rental car, surfboard(s), and some pre-visit discussion with a local expert about beach conditions and what to watch out for. We also throw in a visit to the Toyocho "Umi-no-eki" – a humorous take on the many michi-no-eki markets scattered around Japan. Be there at midday and you will get some of the freshest katsuo tataki (seared bonito) in Kochi. Our carefully designed southwestern Kochi surfing safari will be one of the highlights of your Japan travels. 

Details

Kochi Prefecture has the longest coastline in Japan exposed to the central Pacific Ocean and the powerful Kuroshio current welling from the equator and swirling up past the shores of the northwestern rim nations. As a result, Kochi's coast is studded with sandy bays rising from the large continental shelf that is the Tosa Bay. Furthermore contributing to the wave action, weather in the summer and shoulder months also comes from the southeast, meaning that swells hit Kochi at a perfect angle to create some beautiful left and right breaks that are long and smooth. These conditions combine to give Kochi some of the best waves in all of Japan - sufficient that big city surfing nuts in Kobe and Osaka will drive all night to get to their favorite beach. Yet, the beauty of the western beaches in particular is that they are just far enough away that only the most earnest fans show up - leaving you with plenty of room to grab a wave without 10 other people to compete with for it. In fact, during weekdays you may even have the beach to yourself.

In the evenings, you can drive to nearby towns for restaurants, bars (non-alcoholic brews for the driver), and even hot spas and massages. Local hotels are generally a bit basic, however, we have been able to arrange a variety of stays, from a luxury ocean-view resort, to a selection of economy stays, and even camping. Our pick is a class hippy-styled hotel right next to Oki Beach, which includes a wonderful onsen and cafe-style meals. And in case you are wondering, Kochi is one of the nicest prefectures in Japan to drive in. For a start, with a population of just below 700,000 and a land area of approximately 7,100 km2, many of the roads are low-traffic and it's not unusual to have the scenic mountain roads entirely to yourself for periods. Further, thanks to the low population density, the scenery is in pristine condition.


Tour Itinerary

Day 1
Arriving at Kochi Airport, your first port of call is to claim your rental car. Although vendors speak little English, we prepare all the logistics for you, and provide the rental details needed. Note that Google Maps works perfectly well for Kochi roads, in English, so a working cell phone is recommended (we can also supply local SIMs). After signing the rental documents and stowing your luggage, you will drive to our local partner to pick up your rental board(s), then it's time to hit the road for a short drive 30 km west to the Niyodo river mouth. Much of this drive will be along the coastline, so you can check out the general surf conditions along the way. If you're eager to get out and try the waves, you'll see that there is a parking area on the west side of the river. Follow the locals and you should be in good shape. This parking area also has a store, cafe, and most importantly, public toilets.

After you finish your first surfing session, if it's not yet time to check in (Japanese hotels typically receive guests from 3pm onwards), then we can recommend a 2-3 hour drive north up the banks of the Niyodo River. Extremely picturesque and easy enough to park on the side of the road to get some photos. Then, as evening draws closer, we have you staying at either a local hotel or a guest house. When we provide your final itinerary, we will formalize the level of accommodation and what meals are provided. Generally speaking you will at least get breakfast included in the tariff rate, and if no evening meal, we will suggest some local restaurants for you to try out. Be sure to let us know your budget and dietary preferences. The Niyodo area is a countryside location, but there are some good Japanese and Italian restaurants within 10-15 minutes drive.


Day 2

Depending on the wind and swell conditions, today you have a choice of staying all day around the Niyodo area, surfing the Niyodo river mouth or Komuro beach (shown on Google as Okitsu) about 65 km to the southwest, or you can drive down to Shimanto and try the two locations there. The best known of these is Hirano beach, which gets the easterly swells even while the other beaches are not working. In the spring of 2020, Hirano is getting 1.2 m swells while the other locations along the coast were half that height. In summer, the winds do of course change, which is why we have selected a range of beaches to try out.

Your accommodation for the second night will be in the Shimanto area and south. We can offer a selection of budget and luxury stays and this tour allows you to choose accommodation within a given price range. Since you will probably want to get the morning swells before the wind kicks up, we have chosen one location that is right next to Oki beach. This is a slightly zany hotel that would be right at home in a hippy-surfer town, the Kaiyu. The owner is a nice guy and the son of the original founder. Now be prepared: the hotel looks like it badly needs maintenance on the outside, and this is definitely a case of not judging a book by its cover. However, on the inside the owner has redecorated each room in a kind of Balinese or "other-island" style, and is quite comfortable. Further, he has built (literally he built the boiler section) a hot spa facility for the hotel that is unique in the area and will be most appreciated during the colder spring and fall months. Each room at Kaiyu has a partial view of Oki beach, about 100 m up the road, and so you can check the surf conditions by either leaning over the balcony or simply walking across the road. Kaiyu does breakfast, and in season, an optional dinner.


Day 3

Time for one last early morning surf, then it's time to pack up and get ready for the drive back to Kochi. Our recommendation is that you should leave the Shimanto area around 10:00 for a 16:00 flight in the late afternoon. Why? Because we have a surprise for you for lunch! We will arrange a visit to the Kure-based Tanaka fish market, where you can meet the owner Tanaka-san and taste his famous straw-seared katsuo-no-tataki (seared bonito) fillets. If you like seared tuna, the straw imparts a flavor that takes seafood to a whole new level of flavor. You will want to show up in Kure (about an hour and a half northeast of Oki beach) just before lunchtime. Tanaka's is always full at the stroke of midday. Then, after pigging out on bonito, head for the airport, which is about an hour north east. Please take note of your flight time, and leave enough time to drop off the surfboards, the vehicle, and do a local flight check-in. Our suggestion is that with a 1 hour prior check-in, you will need at least another 1.5 hours to take care of the rental returns. We do offer a service for additional cost to take care of your rental returns for you. Let us know if you need this.

Important information

Included in price

  • Pre-visit consulting with one of our travel experts
  • Pre-visit consulting with a local surfing expert about beach conditions
  • Rental vehicle (2-3 persons: compact; 4-8 persons: van)
  • Rental board per person on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 (let us know if not everyone is surfing)
  • Economy or luxury hotel stays, per your budget (list price is for economy)
  • Dinner at the hotel on Day One, breakfast on Day Two at the hotel, dinner (optional) Day Two at the hotel, breakfast at the hotel on Day Three
  • Chat and voice support in English

Not included

  • Tolls, gas, parking, fines/penalties for vehicle
  • Insurance for vehicle or yourself and passengers
  • Admission to any additional attractions that have gate/entry fees
  • Vehicle accessories such as child seat, freezer box, etc.
  • WiFi Router or phone SIM unless purchased separately, as recommended
  • Guides or other persons in attendance
  • Equipment for any other activities you may plan to do independently (unless booked separately with us)
  • The "wara-yaki katsuo-no-tataki" lunch at Tanaka's in Kure. This is self pay, but we will do the booking.

Other Important Information:

  • Hotel availability will vary depending on your travel dates, and we may substitute a nearby hotel of similar grade if not available.
  • Most meals in Japan are either meat or fish-flavored. If you have dietary restrictions, we can organize other cuisine, but be sure to let us know well in advance. Also, let us know if dashi stock is OK or not.
  •  You will need a working cell phone for navigation. If you need a WiFi Router, we have high-performance, reasonably priced units in stock. We also have SIMs should you need one.
  • Some parts of the route may be modified depending on weather and seasonal conditions.
  •  Japanese traffic laws are quite strict about parking, so please use car parks provided, or seek permission of land owners before leaving your vehicle for any period of time.
  • Traffic in Kochi is generally pretty good, but can get heavy from 17:00-19:00 each day, so if you are taking a late flight, factor in the extra time to get to the airport.


Know before you book:

Cancellation

  • 4 weeks prior to the day of your trip - 10%
  • 2 weeks prior to the day of your trip – 40 %
  • 1 week prior – 50 %, On the day – 100 %
  •  No-show – 100 %

Japan is a safe country and this tour is low-risk, however, we advise you to consider personal and third-party travel insurance out of abundant caution.
If you are renting a car, we recommend you buy the car rental company's insurance policy.


What you need to bring :

  • Your driver's licence! Be sure that licences from your country are recognized in Japan. Licences from Brazil, China, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia are NOT recognized.
  • Wet-suit during the spring and autumn months. Although Kochi's sea water temperature is quite warm year-round (even during winter, around 16 degrees C), the surrounding air and wind can be very col
  • Spare set of clothes even on same day. It rains a lot in Kochi, so you're going to get wet
  • Working cell phone (usable in Japan) or apply for our WiFi Router or SIM rental
  • Battery extender/charger
  • Any pre-purchase passes, route maps, and other information
  • Sunglasses, water bottle, and other personal accessories

Meeting point

The starting point of this trip is a rental car service in the vicinity of Kochi Ryoma Airport. 

View Directions

Organised by Japan Travel KK

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