The Shimanami Kaido is a famous cycling route that passes through beautiful Japanese islands. Featuring scenic views and over a dozen attractions, it offers an off-the-beaten-path experience in Japan and became one of the highlights of my trip.
You don’t need to be an avid cyclist to experience the Shimanami Kaido. As long as you are relatively fit or willing to get an electric bike, you’ll be able to do this ride in one or two days.
This post covers how to do the Shiminami Kaido as well as:
- 💪 Difficulty, duration, and safety
- ⭐️ Attractions along the route
- 🚲 Where to rent bikes
- 🏡 Where to stay
- 🎒 What to pack
- 💰 How much it cost
- 💧 Facilities along the route
Planning a trip? Here are things to know about Japan before going.
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What Is the Shimanami Kaido?
The Nishiseto Expressway, known as the Shimanami Kaido, is a 37-mile toll road that spans six small islands located in the Ehime and Hiroshima prefectures.
It is a one-and-a-half-hour train ride from Hiroshima and a two-hour train ride from Kyoto.
🌟 Why Is The Shimanami Kaido Famous?
The Shimanami Kaido is famous for its scenic views that locals and visitors can enjoy by bicycling, walking, or driving. It’s one of Japan’s most stunning and best cycling routes, so the best way to explore it is on a bike.
The route was designed with an integrated cycling road, making it an excellent cycling path. The whole route is painted with a blue line from the starting point to the finish, so you can follow it at your own pace without the fear of getting lost.
📍 Shimanami Kaido’s Six Islands
The Shimanami Kaido starts in Onomichi City on Japan’s main island and crosses six small islands before reaching the final destination, Imabari City on the island of Shikoku. You can also do the route in the other direction, starting from Imabari City.
From north to south, the six main islands of the Shimanami Kaido are:
- Mukaishima Island
- Innoshima Island
- Ikuchijima Island (also called Ikuchi Island)
- Omishima Island (the largest island)
- Hakatajima Island
- Oshima Island
Why Cycle the Shimanami Kaido?
Cycling the Shimanami Kaido was one of the highlights of my Japan trip (my other highlight was hiking to the summit of Mount Fuji for a breathtaking sunrise view).
Below are five great reasons to add the Shimanami Kaido to your Japan itinerary.
1. It has beautiful scenery.
A large portion of the bicycle path is next to the ocean, meaning you’ll be surrounded by beautiful views and sandy beaches while biking. The six bridges you cross over are modern and most of them give a breathtaking view from high above.
The bike route also takes you through the manufacturing areas of the islands, so while the path isn’t gorgeous the entire way, it’s still worth the bike ride.
2. Explore the quiet side of Japan.
The Shimanami Kaido lets you explore a quieter, less crowded, and more rural side of Japan.
It’s a unique experience that adds an off-the-beaten-path element to a typical Japan trip. I did it between visiting Tokyo and Kyoto and felt it was a nice break from the major tourist cities.
3. Visit non-touristy attractions.
There are several stops and attractions along the Shimanami Kaido. Most of these attractions, including the famous, divine salted ice cream, are not crowded like the ones you’ll find in bigger Japanese cities.
4. Meet other cyclists.
Although you’re on the Shimanami Kaido by yourself for the majority of it, there’s a sense that you’re part of a shared experience with other cyclists.
You’ll see a handful of local and visiting cyclists once in a while. There’s also a monument near the halfway point that “expresses the hope that the Shimanami Kaido will become treasured as a Cyclists’ Sanctuary by people around the world.”
5. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure experience.
The Shimanami Kaido is a flexible activity that can be worked into different travel schedules.
- It has three different routes that you can mix and match, thus extending or shortening your bike ride.
- It can be completed in one or two days. You can even just cycle part of the route and not complete it if you prefer.
This Japan itinerary shows how to do the Shimanami Kaido as part of your trip.
How Difficult is the Shimanami Kaido?
Having biked the Shimanami Kaido, I would characterize it as a medium-difficult cycling route.
A fit person with some cycling experience will find it doable. A less active person will find it somewhat challenging, but you can also rent an e-bike to help with the more difficult portions of the route.
🚲 Three Routes on the Shimanami Kaido
The Shimanami Kaido has three routes that vary in difficulty:
|Recommended Route||– Main route|
– Mostly flat
– Easiest route (the one I did as a fit person who’s not a cyclist)
|Intermediate Route||– Longer route|
– More hilly
– Would be challenging for a fit person
|Advanced Route||– Longest route|
– Steep hills
– Would be very challenging even for a fit person
The official length of the recommended route is 37 miles, but the total length that you’ll bike is likely closer to 45 miles since you’ll need to drop off your bike at the rental terminals.
Since the Shimanami Kaido is self-guided, you can choose your own adventure and mix the different types of routes during your bike trip. If you’re uncomfortable with the route, you can also take a sightseeing tour for part of it.
☁️ Elevation Gain on the Shimanami Kaido
The cycling route is mostly flat except for two areas on Oshima Island (the fourth island) that have steep ascents and descents.
There are also six modern bridges that you will have to bike up to and cross to get to the next island. All six bridges have a gradual, bike-only ascent.
- If you’re coming from the north side, the first bridge, Innoshima Bridge, has an elevation gain of approximately 165 feet.
- The next four bridges (Ikuchi Bridge, Tatara Bridge, Omishima Bridge, and Hakata-Oshima Bridge) all have slightly shorter elevation gains.
- The last one, the Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge, is the longest bridge and has an elevation gain of about 230 feet.
How Long Does the Shimanami Kaido Take?
The Shimanami Kaido can be biked in one or two days.
🗓️ One Day on the Shimanami Kaido
If you want to minimize stops and primarily focus on biking, it will take roughly eight to nine hours to finish.
With an electric bike, it can be even shorter and take about five to six hours.
🗓️ Two Days on the Shimanami Kaido
I wanted to enjoy the stunning scenery and make a few stops, so I took two days to complete the Shimanami Kaido. I was on the route for about ten hours and spent approximately seven hours of it biking.
- On the first day, I biked from 10:30 am to 2 pm, so I spent about three and a half hours on the route. I made four stops along the way and spent the rest of the day exploring the Setoda area on Ikuchi Island.
- On the second day, I biked from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, so I spent about six hours on the route. I made three significant stops, one of which was an hour-long lunch.
Is the Shimanami Kaido Safe?
Having biked the Shimanami Kaido, I would evaluate it as an extremely safe cycling route. The design and infrastructure of the road clearly account for cyclists’ safety.
Here are five reasons why the Shimanami Kaido is considered safe:
- It has a blue line painted along the entire well-paved route, so you won’t get lost. It even says how far you are from the end of the route in both directions.
There are three different routes, so if you don’t pay attention, you can accidentally go on the wrong route and bike on a harder path than you intended. Otherwise, it’s difficult to get lost.
- You will be in a protected bike lane or a clearly marked lane at all times. Also, all the ascents and descents on the six bridges have bike-only paths that are separate from the motorbike and vehicle lanes.
- Local drivers are conscious and accustomed to cyclists on the Shimanami Kaido. Most drivers will not only slow down near a cyclist, but they will also move to the side to make space for them.
Japan drives on the left side of the road, so if you’re from the United States like me, you’ll have to get accustomed to being on the left side.
- While helmets are not mandatory, rental stations will provide them for free.
- If you get into an accident or can’t cycle anymore, you can call the rental terminal during operating hours (usually 7 am to 7 pm) and take public transportation (bus and ferry) instead.
Best Attractions on the Shimanami Kaido
The Shimanami Kaido boasts over 20 attractions and activities, and most of them will not be overly crowded.
Below are some of the best and most popular places along the route. Some of them will not be on Google Maps, but I’ve pinned them in the map below.
1. Setoda Area
Setoda on Ikuchi Island has an incredible number of stops and attractions. It’s also a great resting point for the first day if you’re taking two days to do the Shimanami Kaido.
Some of the best places in Setoda are:
1a. Kousanji Temple and The Hill of Hope
The Kousanji Temple is a complex filled with well-known Buddhist architectural structures. It also has an interesting Cave of a Thousand Buddhas that is worth visiting, but its most famous attraction is the Miraishin no Oka marble garden, also called the Hill of Hope.
⏰ Operating Hours: 9 am–5 pm daily
💰 Entrance Fee: 1,400 Yen (about $10 USD)
1b. Setoda Sunset Beach
A hidden gem is the local Choonzan Park. The path to the top is overgrown and there are a lot of mosquitos (bring bug spray), but you’ll be rewarded with an empty, beautiful view that’s also an excellent place for sunset.
1c. Shiomachi Shopping Street
The Shiomachi Shopping Street is a narrow shopping street with a traditional atmosphere and several shops selling food, souvenirs, and drinks.
Walking through this street was one of the quietest and most peaceful moments I experienced in Japan. Some places are cash-only.
2. Hakata Salt Soft Ice Cream
There’s a vendor stall on Hakatajima Island that sells soft-served ice cream made with Hakata salt. Some people travel to this roadside station specifically to eat this ice cream. It’s one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had in my life, so I highly recommend it.
⏰ Operating Hours: 9 am–5 pm daily
💰 Ice Cream Cost: 350 Yen (about $2 USD)
Several stalls along the Shimanami Kaido sell salted ice cream, but the one I pinned above is the famous one. I tried it at several places and it’s by far the best one.
3. Parks, Rest Areas and Observation Decks
You’ll find multiple parks, rest areas, and observation decks along the Shimanami Kaido. Some of them will be next to monuments, restaurants, and shops while others will simply have a vending machine or a view.
One of my favorite rest stops was near the Ikuchi Bridge. It has a water fountain and a covered bench facing the ocean, making it a peaceful place for a quick break. Some locals brought lunch to enjoy here.
4. Other Attractions
Here are other attractions along the Shimanami Kaido:
- Innoshima Suigun Castle features weapons and armor used by pirates around the Seto Inland Sea.
- Yoshiumi Rose Park has roses blooming at its peak from mid-May to early June, and mid-October to early November.
- Takamiyama Observatory Deck offers a stunning view on all four sides of the deck.
- Tatara Shimanami Park is where the Cyclists’ Sanctuary monument is located. This park has a center selling local specialties and a popular seafood restaurant. I bought several souvenirs at this location.
- Yoshiumi Ikiiki Hall sells fresh seafood and locally prepared specialties.
How To Cycle the Shimanami Kaido
Now that you know the highlights, attractions, and difficulty level of the Shimanami Kaido, below are the logistics on how to plan your biking adventure.
🚆 Getting to the Shimanami Kaido
You can start the Shiminami Kaido on either end of the route in Onomichi City or Imabari City. The route is the same either way, so choose whichever works better for your travel schedule.
📍 From Onomichi
To start the Shiminami Kaido from Onomichi City:
- Step 1: Take a train to the JR Onomichi Station.
- Step 2: Walk five minutes to the nearby rental station to pick up your rental bike.
- Step 3: Take the four-minute ferry at the Onomichi Port to the start of the Shimanami Kaido. The ferry costs 110 yen (cash), which is a little under a dollar. It departs every five to ten minutes.
📍 From Imabari
To start the Shiminami Kaido from Imabari City:
- Step 1: Take a train to JR Imabari Station.
- Step 2a: From the train station, rent a bike from the nearby rental station and then bike through parts of Imabari City to the Shimanami Kaido.
- Step 2b: Alternatively, from the train station, you can take a 30-minute bus to Sunrise Itoyama to rent a bike and start biking from there.
🍀 How I Got to the Shimanami Kaido
I started in Onomichi City because it worked better for my Japan itinerary. From there, I took the short ferry and biked to the Imabari train station to drop off my bike.
Biking through Imabari City at the end wasn’t particularly nice, but it wasn’t unpleasant either. If you want to take a bus to skip that portion, you won’t miss out on much. At the same time, it also wouldn’t be difficult if you prefer to bike it.
🚴 Where to Rent Bikes for the Shimanami Kaido
There are a few companies where you can rent bikes for the Shimanami Kaido. However, only two rental systems allow you to drop off the bike in a different location than you picked it up from. These two rental systems are Shimanami Japan and Giant, the bike manufacturer.
🚲 Option 1: Shimanami Japan
Shimanami Japan is a cheaper and more flexible rental system. It has 10 rental stations along the route and offers four types of bikes that you can rent for a flat rental fee per day:
- General use/cruiser bikes for casual riders
- Hybrid cross bikes for semi-casual riders
- Electric bikes for those who need a bit of a boost uphill
- Tandem bikes for couples and families
You can view the prices and make advance reservations online, but it’s not mandatory. The rental station includes helmets, lights, and bike locks as part of the bicycle rental.
Make sure to hold on to the paperwork they give you when you rent the bike. You’ll need to show the paperwork when you drop off your bike.
🚲 Option 2: Giant
The Giant rental system is the more expensive and high-end option. It only has two rental stations at both ends of the Shiminami Kaido.
The Giant bikes are a lot nicer (e.g., carbon road bikes), more expensive (i.e., more than double the regular bikes), and require advance reservations.
🍀 Where I Rented Bikes for the Shimanami Kaido
I rented a hybrid cross bike from Shimanami Japan and found the bike mediocre. The gears were decent, but the chain was noisy, the tire traction was fading, and the bike was heavy, which made going uphill much more difficult.
That said, I was able to do the Shiminami Kaido with it and thought the prices were fair for what I received. If you’re going on the advanced route, you most definitely need a nicer bike given all the steep hills.
🏠 Where To Stay for the Shimanami Kaido
When planning to bike the Shimanami Kaido, you’ll likely have to book accommodations at the ends of the route or somewhere in between.
Even if you plan to bike it in a day, the route takes long enough that you’ll likely still need a place to stay.
Accommodations Near the Halfway Point
If you’re biking the Shimanami Kaido over two days, a great place to stay overnight is on Ikuchijima Island, particularly the Setoda area.
Book accommodations along the Shimanami Kaido at least one month in advance. There are not many options along the route and some of them get booked out about four weeks ahead.
🏠 Where I Stayed: I splurged a bit on accommodations and stayed at Yubune for $96 a night per person (I split with one other person). This makes it the most expensive accommodation I stayed in Japan, excluding the ryokan I booked.
Yubune is a great hotel because the rooms are well-designed and accommodate bikes. It’s also located on the Shiomachi Shopping Street, so it’s within walking distance of many attractions and restaurants.
💰 Budget Option: For a more budget accommodation option, 島宿Nest is located near Yubune and receives great reviews from its guests.
💰 Luxury Option: For a more high-end accommodation option, Azumi Setoda is a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, that features a Japanese garden, sauna, and hot tubs.
Imabari City’s Accommodations
Imabari City is a proper city, so you’ll have a few accommodations to choose from.
Consider staying near the Imabari Station for convenience. The train station is near a rental station, so you can easily pick up or drop off your bike rental upon arrival or departure.
🏠 Where I Stayed: I stayed at Imabari Urban Hotel, a budget hotel near the train station. For $30 a night, it did the trick of providing everything I needed at the end of my bike trip.
💰 Budget Option: For an affordable dorm-room style guest house, Cyclo No Ie near the train station receives great reviews from cyclists.
Onomichi City’s Accommodations
There are plenty of accommodations to choose from in Onomichi City near the train station.
💰 Mid-range Budget Option: Hotel Cycle is next to the ocean, right by the rental station, and has great reviews.
If you plan to ship your luggage to your Shimanami Kaido hotel, you’ll have to make sure it’s an accommodation that’s eligible for this service.
🧦 What To Pack for the Shimanami Kaido
Below is a comprehensive Shimanami Kaido packing list for a two-day bike ride. Everything should be able to fit into a day pack.
- Reusable water bottle. I brought my insulated 24 oz water bottle which was a sufficient size for me because there were many water fountains, convenience stores, and vending machines along the route.
- Padded bike shorts. I bought these affordable bike shorts just for the Shimanami Kaido. I didn’t know whether the rental bike seat would have sufficient padding (it didn’t), so I’m glad I wore them.
- Athletic top
- Wind jacket
- Rain gear or poncho. You’ll want this if you’re biking during the rainy season.
- Cash. Several stops along the route are cash-only.
- Sunscreen. Most of the path is not covered, so wear sunscreen to protect yourself. This is my favorite sunscreen that I discovered in Asia, which is miles ahead of Western sunscreen. It spreads easily with a lotion-like texture and stays on, even through sweat.
- Sunglasses. Even if it’s not sunny during your ride, you’ll want sunglasses to protect your eyes from debris or wind.
- Day pack + day pack cover. All your items should fit in a day pack.
- Closed-toe shoes
What Not To Pack
Here are some things to consider leaving behind on your biking trip if you want to travel light:
- Umbrellas. They’re not allowed while biking. If you get rained on, a poncho is much more effective.
- Pajamas. Many mid-range (and even some budget) accommodations in Japan will provide oversized comfortable pajamas. I packed my pajamas and wished I hadn’t.
- Passports. You won’t need your passport, but you can pack it if you want to be on the safer side.
- Battery pack. If you have a decent phone, your battery should last the seven to eight hours you’re on the route per day.
- Toiletries. Most accommodations in Japan will provide toiletries, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, face wash, and other things.
🧳 Where To Store Luggage
You won’t be able to carry around your luggage while biking the Shimanami Kaido. You’ll have to either store your luggage and come back to it later, or ship it to your final accommodation after you’ve finished biking.
Option 1: Coin-Operated Luggage Storage
The most convenient, safe, and affordable luggage storage solution is the coin-operated luggage storages. However, you’ll have to either bike or take public transportation back to retrieve your belongings.
There are several coin-operated luggage storage locations along the route, including:
- Imabari train station
- Onomichi train station
- Onomichi bike rental station
- Sunrise Itoyama rental station
Option 2: Luggage Shipping
If you want your luggage to be at your final accommodation at the end, you’ll need to ship it there.
I shipped my luggage because I was starting in Onomichi City, ending in Imabari City, and didn’t want to worry about taking the bus back to Onomichi City after my bike ride.
- Luggage shipping is only available to and from certain accommodations and bike rental stations, so make sure your hotel can receive shipped luggage.
- Sagawa Express also required me to confirm that my hotel was able to store my luggage a day before I arrived (since I was biking for two days and they only do same-day delivery). Be sure to confirm with your hotel that they can hold your luggage a day in advance, if necessary.
☀️ Weather on the Shimanami Kaido
The best time to cycle the Shimanami Kaido is during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is mild. Cycling in heavy rain will be difficult and miserable, so check the forecast and try to avoid it if possible.
Shiminami Kaido’s Seasons
Like the rest of Japan, the Japanese islands on the Shimanami Kaido have four seasons:
|🌸 Spring||Mar–May||45–75 °F|
|☀️ Summer||Jun–Aug||65–93 °F|
|🍁 Fall||Sep–Nov||Similar to spring with higher chance of rain|
|❄️ Winter||Dec–Feb||40–55 °F and potentially windy|
Here are some things to keep in mind about the seasons and climate in Japan:
- Late March is when the cherry blossoms bloom so it’s a beautiful time to bike.
- Typhoon season is at its peak in August and September, so make sure to check the forecast. I biked the Shimanami Kaido in early September and luckily experienced glorious biking weather.
This Japan in September guide highlights other things to do that month.
🧻 Facilities on the Shimanami Kaido
You don’t need to worry about facilities while on the Shimanami Kaido.
💧 Water Fountains on the Shimanami Kaido
You’ll be able to easily refill your water bottle with water and sports drinks along the route. Water fountains, vending machines, and convenience stores are abundant along the way.
🚽 Bathrooms on the Shimanami Kaido
The Shimanami Kaido has plenty of bathrooms. There are approximately 14 bathrooms along the recommended route, which means that there’s a bathroom every two to three miles on average.
Here are the bathroom counts per island on the recommended route:
- Mukaishima Island: 4
- Innoshima Island: 1
- Ikuchi Island: 5
- Omishima Island: 2
- Hakatajima Island: 1
- Oshima Island: 1. There’s about a 12-mile stretch without a bathroom here, making it the longest portion of the route without one.
Some bathrooms have squat toilets. Make sure to face towards the toilet hole to minimize splashing. This Japanese etiquette guide highlights other things to know.
How Much Does It Cost to Cycle the Shimanami Kaido?
You can expect to spend at least $115 for two days on the Shimanami Kaido if you want to travel on a budget. If you’re on a mid-range budget, you’ll spend closer to $200 for two days.
💰 A Budget Trip on the Shimanami Kaido
Cycling the Shimanami Kaido on a budget will cost roughly $115 over two days.
- Bike rental: $40. A cruiser bike will be cheaper than this.
- Accommodation: $30. You’ll need to stay at a budget hotel or hostel.
- Food: $40. You’ll need to only eat the necessary meals.
- Luggage storage: $5. This accounts for luggage storage, not shipping.
🍀 My Total Cost on the Shimanami Kaido
I spent a total of $223 over two days on the Shimanami Kaido. Here’s how my expenses broke down on the bike ride:
|🚲 Bike Rental||$41|
|🧳 Luggage Shipping||$15|
|🎟️ Kousanji Temple||$10|
*I was able to split accommodation costs with one other person.
I share all my travel expenses in this Japan trip cost breakdown.
Japan Trip Planner
To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information as well as an itinerary, packing list, and map with key places pinned.
The trip planner is built on Notion, which is what I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.
Japan Travel Guides
- 🇯🇵 Planning a Trip to Japan: 11 Practical Things To Know
- 🇯🇵 10 Epic Days in Japan: A Unique & Active Itinerary
- 💰 Trip to Japan Cost: 2023 Travel Cost Breakdown
- 🌋 How To Climb Mt. Fuji: My Subashiri Trail Experience
- 🚲 How To Cycle the Shimanami Kaido: Complete Guide
- 🙅🏻♀️ Etiquette in Japan: 12 Things Tourists Should Not Do
- ☀️ Visiting Japan in September: Tips + What To Know
🧋 This site is run entirely by me, Lukiih. I spend hours researching each destination to ensure its accuracy. If you find my tips helpful, say thanks by buying me bubble tea!