Visit Japan’s Ishigaki Island for a Quiet Adventure
By a doll of a girl Twinty Karat
Ishigaki Island Japan is just 250 miles south of Okinawa. It is a small island that covers only 85 square miles.
Ishigaki offers a laid-back attitude and environment. It is the exact opposite of bustling Japanese cities like Tokyo.
This island features some of the best sandy beaches in Japan. Plus it has a collection of gorgeous coral reefs. Its no wonder domestic sun and surf worshipers make their way to Ishigaki every chance they get. There people can relax in peace away from the busy cities.
Ishigaki is Second-largest but most Populated of Yaeyama Islands
The island is part of Okinawa, Japan. Ishigaki has 45,000 of Yaeyama’s 50,000 people. That makes it the political, economic and transport hub of the Yaeyama islands. Much of Ishigaki, especially the central mountains and the scenic northeastern peninsula, is sparsely settled.
Okinawa prefecture is Japan’s southernmost prefecture. It has a fascinating culture, unique food, and many beaches to explore. The island has long been a beach holiday for Japanese locals. TripAdvisor recently announced the beach-covered Japanese island was the number one travel destination for 2018. Ishigaki Island was at the top of the list of world’s ‘on the rise’ hotspots. In 2016, Ishigaki hosted an amazing 8.77 million people.
Getting to Ishigaki Island
The island is served by New Ishigaki Airport, the largest airport in the Yaeyamas. As Japan’s southernmost city, Ishigaki is the main island in the Yaeyama archipelago.
Part of its appeal is its accessibility. The island maintains the airport and a low-cost air carrier called Peach which conducts regular flights to the island from Osaka. Because of its transport infrastructure, such as the airport and boat terminal, Ishigaki is the transport hub of the region.
Getting Around the Island
Azuma Bus operates services throughout the island. You can get the best deal for transport on the island through the Michikusa Free Pass (みちくさフリーパス). Its name is a misnomer because it is not free. For ¥2000 you actually get unlimited trips around the island for 5 days.
Check for the latest price so there will be no surprises. Taxis are the only other form of public transportation on the island. It’s common to see them slowly cruising the streets waiting for passengers.
There are many car rental companies on the island. Many of the hotels offer car rental at a discounted price. If you’re interested in driving then be sure to inquire about a car rental where you are staying. A drive between Ishigaki and the furthermost point of the island is about an hour and a half. Many hotels offer bicycle rental on a per day basis.
You can take your bicycle on most ferries to the islands at an additional cost. For the adventurous central Ishigaki can be comfortably covered on foot. But you’ll need another means of transportation for the rest of the island.
A Nature Lover and Scuba Diving Adventure
Ishigaki island will captivate and entertain different types of visitors. There are rivers and lush jungle terrain which is perfect for nature lovers and kayaking enthusiasts. In addition, if you like to hike then you will be thrilled to conquer the highest mountain in Okinawa Prefecture.
There are also other hiking trails spread throughout the island’s hilly region. Want to get in the water? There are a number of snorkeling rental and diving shops on the island to accommodate those who want to explore the surrounding coral reefs.
Manta ray watching is a very popular activity, especially in the Manta Scramble area close to Kabira Bay. The transparent waters around the island are full of coral reefs, making scuba diving the number one activity on Ishigaki.
Visit Spectacular Beaches
Many of the visitors to Ishigaki what to spend some time on its spectacular beaches. Whether you prefer sandy or rocky, the island has both. Kabira Bay or called Kabirawan is where you can find possibly the most scenic views of the island. The bay is also an important site of black pearl cultivation in Japan.
Much of the island and surrounding waters including Mount Omoto and Kabira Bay are protected as part of Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park. Although swimming, diving and snorkeling is not permitted in the bay, you can still sign up for a long glass bottom boat ride, to get a closer view of the Kabira’s underwater wonders.
Ishigaki’s stunning beaches welcome visitors anytime of the year. But the best time in terms of temperature is in between the months of April and November. The major beaches on the island are well-equipped with basic facilities like restrooms, showers, changing rooms and shops. However, these facilities may be closed outside the summer period. Some of the most popular beaches on Ishigaki Island include the Sunset Beach, Sukuji Beach and Yonehara Beach.
Sukuji Beach’s sandy stretch measures one kilometer long. It is the home of one of the luxury resorts on the island – Club Med Resort. Because the water of Sukuji Beach is shallow and has a sandy bottom, it is perfect for swimming. But expect that part of the beach is netted to protect swimmers from jellyfish.
Sunset Beach is tucked in a cove, situated on the western side of the island. Like Sukuji, the beach is perfect for swimmers and snorkelers. Unfortunately, most of the beach is also covered with net to keep the jellyfish away.
Go snorkeling on Yonehara Beach since it boasts the best snorkeling on the island due to the surrounding corals. It is also one of the nice beaches around Ishigaki. The beach is covered in small pieces of white coral. Aside from public facilities, the beach is also equipped with a camping site.
Eat Drink and Shop on the Island
There are plenty of places to eat in central Ishigaki, although many of the fancier places are only open for dinner. The stretch of Sanbashi-dori between the piers and the bus terminal has a good selection of reasonably priced Okinawan places to eat.
Most of them offer affordable set lunches. Ishigaki has a surprisingly vibrant nightlife. It is mostly centered around izakayas offering the local firewater awamori. Also be sure to sample the local Ishigakijima Beer (石垣島地ビール) microbrew.
Ishigaki has a wide range of accommodations on the island. They are expensive resorts to backpacker-oriented minshukus which are room or dormitory-type “guest house” accommodations. There are souvenir shops around the island, particularly around the port.
The closest thing to a dedicated shopping area are the two streets of the covered Ayapani Mall (あやぱにモール) arcade just west of the post office.
There is more tourist information about Ishigaki Island Japan here http://www.ishigaki-japan.com/