The natural environment is dynamic and abundant, comprising near-primeval subtropical broad-leafed evergreen forest as well as Japan's largest mangrove forest, and coral reefs. The human landscape has been imbued with a traditional Okinawan spirit that has been nurtured through everyday living within the environment. Another significant characteristic is the numerous rare animal species unique to Yaeyama that can be found here, represented by the Iriomote wild cat and Sakishima grass lizard, which evolved independently as the archipelago separated from and rejoined the continent repeatedly.
Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, like all of Japan's national parks, has no entrance fees, no opening and closing hours, and a permit is not required to enter or stay in the park. The national parks of Japan differ from national parks worldwide in that the land within the national parks is not exclusively designated for national park use and is made up of private property as well as public and protected areas. Visitors are free to enter and leave at any time.
Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park provides visitors with an opportunity for high-quality nature experiences, offering a wealth of marine leisure activities such as canoeing, snorkeling, scuba diving and mangrove cruises. Land-based leisure activities such as trekking, animal watching, and driving against the backdrop of the vast subtropical wilderness are also possible.
Numerous appealing cultural traditions have been passed down; one example is the red-tiled roofs on many houses, which are especially popular on Taketomi-jima Island. There is also Kuro-shima's Harvest Festival, where people pray for the productivity of the sea, and Iriomote-jima Island's Shichi Festival.
The Yaeyama palm tree is a species unique to the Yaeyama Islands, growing only on Ishigaki-jima and Iriomote-jima islands . The Yaeyama palm tree community in Yonehara is a designated National Natural Monument. Boardwalks have been built through the Yonehara Palm Community where visitors can walk.
The ocean waters around Cape Hirakubo-zaki are highly transparent, with coral communities covering a wide area. From the Cape Hirakubo-zaki Observatory it is possible to enjoy breathtaking scenery in harmony with the grassland landscape.
A small raised coral island, Taketomi-jima Island preserves its unique Okinawan townscape and has been designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings. Exploring the island by bicycle is recommended.
Mangrove forests, unique to sub-tropical climates, develop in areas of brackish water resulting from the mixing of fresh and sea water. Notably, the Nakama River on Iriomote-jima Island is known for the largest mangrove forest in Japan.