Ishigaki Island is a scenic, remote island, that is the main island of Yaeyama islands, Japan’s most southern group of islands. They are part of Okinawa prefecture, though, located about 410-kilometer southwest of Naha city, the Okinawa prefectural capital. The beautiful Ishigaki Island is the third largest island in Okinawa and one of the most popular travel destinations, with a pleasant climate all year round. Especially during summer season, many people visit this gem. The crystal clear ocean and scenic white sand beaches attract a number of tourists who enjoy watersports such as snorkeling and diving. There are also a number of luxurious hotels offering a some amazing experiences with an suburb ocean view. In this article, we will give you the ultimate travel tips to Ishigaki island!
How to get to Ishigaki Island
The only way to get to Ishigaki Island is by plane. There are several direct flights available from Tokyo’s Narita Airport or Haneda Airport every day, which take you to Ishigaki Island in about 3 hours. There are also direct flights available from other big cities including Nagoya and Osaka. You can also take a flight to Naha City, located on the main island of Okinawa first, and from there fly to Ishigaki. This way you can also spend a couple of days visiting Okinawa main island before heading to Ishigaki.
Getting around Ishigaki island
Once arriving at Ishigaki Island, your best option is a rental car (best to make your reservation in advance) to get around the island. Alternatively you can use the two bus lines that operate infrequently. Renting a car is definitely the best way yo move around freely. Read all about driving in Japan on here: Everything you need to know about driving in Japan.
Best places to visit in Ishigaki
1. Kabira Bay
Kabira Bayis a scenic beach located in the northwest part of the island. It is selected among the top 100 most scenic spots in Japan, and is mentioned in almost any travel guides of Ishigaki island. It is also widely known for the farming of black pearls, a beautiful, valuable jewel. Swimming, snorkeling and diving is prohibited here because of the rapid tide, you can enjoy several other activities such as kayaking and SUP-ing. Boat tours are also available enabling you to observe the coral reefs and colorful fish through a glass from inside the boat. You might even see the manta rays that are known to converge in large numbers around Manta Scramble, near Kabira Bay. Or you can do some island hopping and visit the other uninhabited islands in the bay. For the hammerhead sharks, visit Yonaguni Island.
Don’t forget to visit one of Japan’s most picturesque spots Kabira Park, just a few minutes away from the beach on foot. Kabira Park has an observation deck that offers a stunning view of the beach and the small islands of Kabira Bay. Take a relaxing stroll in the peaceful park while hearing the sound of waves.
2. Beaches of Ishigaki
Ishigaki also offers several beautiful white sandy beaches and clear blue waters that are great for swimming, snorkeling and diving. The shallow waters of Sukuji Beach, make this beach preferred for families with small children. Another reason this beach is popular is because of the trees lining the beach providing some much-needed shade from the sun. For the best underwater views, head to Yonehara Beach, east of Kabira bay, or Sunset Beach, near Ishigaki’s northern point. When visiting the beaches of Ishigaki, always be careful of the strong currents and the jellyfish that inhabit the sea. On most beaches there are some dive shops, restaurants and amenities (including showers and public toilets) available nearby, though often there are no lifeguards on duty.
3. Hirakubosaki Lighthouse
Located at the north-most point of the island, Hirakubosaki Lighthouse is a symbolic structure on the island. The white lighthouse stands on a beautiful hill overlooking the blue ocean. It is accessible by car, and there is a free parking lot where you can park your car and start to walk up to the windy hill. The beautiful ocean, coral reefs, and the iconic lighthouse perfectly match one another, and they create a breathtaking panoramic view which is just beyond your imagination. It is definitely a must-visit spot when you are travelling to Ishigaki!
4. Tamatorizaki Observatory
Tamatorizaki Observatory is another scenic spot on the east coast of the island. Located along the National route 390, which conveniently connects all areas of the island, many people take a short break from driving here, while enjoying a fascinating view. Park your car at the free parking space, and take the pathway lined with lovely flowers such as hibiscus, the iconic flower of Okinawa. The observatory is located on a small hill which offers a panoramic view of the ocean and part of the island altogether.
5. Banna Park
Located at the heart of the island, Banna Park offers a range of outdoor activities for the whole family. It covers a vast area including 230 meters tall “Mt. Banna”, and is popular among not only for tourists but also locals as a refreshing spot in nature. It consists of five areas, and visitors can explore the forests, closely observe the wildlife, and exercise a little in a playground surrounded by nature. There are also three observatories which provide an amazing view of the ocean and other remote islands such as Iriomote Island! The park is open until 9pm and at night, the cityscape and starry sky are stunning!
6. Limestone Cave
Another fun experience on Ishigaki Island, besides the the beautiful ocean and beaches, is a visit to the Limestone Cave. The Limestone Cave is a popular tourist attraction which was created over centuries. The cave stretches 3.200 meters underground, and 660 meters is open to the public. The inside of the cave is relatively flat with few ups and downs and is tral is clearly signed. There are several spots along the pathway such as Totoro Stalactite that resembles Ghibli’s famous Totoro. Some part of the cave is brightly illuminated, offering a mysterious atmosphere. Stalactite and stalagmites still continue to grow, and tell us the power of nature with the echo of dripping water.
9am – 6.30pm
Admissions fee ¥1,100 (adults)
7. Ishigaki Beef
Don’t leave Ishigaki without trying some of the famous, delicious local dishes! Ishigaki Beef is one of the Japanese beef types (also known as “Wagyu Beef”) which refers to cows raised in Yaeyama area including Ishigaki island. Thanks to the mild climate, which is perfect to raise high-quality cows, the area boast a large production of Ishigaki beef. You can try them at local steakhouses or Yakiniku restaurants on Ishigaki island. The tender, flavorful meat brings you an unforgettable Wagyu experience that you should not miss!
Where to stay on Ishigaki
There are two main areas we recommend you to stay, depending on your preferences. Choose between Ishigaki City and Kabira Beach and you can’t go wrong.
- Fusaki Beach Resort – a luxurious hotel located on the east coast of the island with stunning panoramic views and easy beach access.
- Grandvrio Resort Ishigakijima Villa Garden – conveniently located hotel with a large outdoor pool and hot springs
- Art Hotel Ishigakijima – 4 star hotel located close to ishigaki port.
Ishigaki Island is a great getaway, popular for both international travellers as well as locals. The stunning white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, with rich marine life never disappoint you. In additions there are some beautiful hiking trails with breathtaking views of the coast, a favorable climate, and welcoming seaside culture. Hopefully you can relax on the beautiful remote island soon too and enjouy some time away from crowds and the bustle of big cities!
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