Welcome to tropical paradise! Take a seat on your beach lounge and get comfortable with some slices of fresh pineapple and Orion beer while enjoying the spectacular view onto crystal clear water and some of the most incredible sunsets. Not sold yet? Then how about snorkeling in the shallow, warm waters to see tiny blue fish and turtles, star-gazing onto Japan’s best starry sky, or a short trip to one of the nearby remote island such as Taketomi? We chose to travel to Ishigaki for a week as it’s recommended for its’ beautiful scenery and is also not as touristy as Okinawa main island – but everything just kept exceeding our high expectations!
The island of Ishigaki is actually located closer to Taiwan than Okinawa main island, which often makes you forget that you’re still in Japan! It’s perfect for a holiday where you can relax by the beach, but also hike in the mountains and snorkel in the sea. Even more so than on Okinawa main island, it’s highly recommended to rent a car, as there are very few restaurants and shops around the island. If you can’t rent a car, it’s probably most convenient to stay in Ishigaki city in the south, where most shops and restaurants are located and you can explore other islands from there. However, the highlight of our stay in Ishigaki was to stay in a remote area in the north with a private beach that allowed us to feel immersed in local life and nature.
Our best memory is watching baby turtles slowly making their way into the ocean. Our guesthouse owners casually invited us on our last day to watch the baby turtles after he had rescued them from their nest in the jungle near the beach, just after they hatched. It was an incredible experience to witness the turtles safely making their way (on a beautiful beach at sunset) into the ocean.
To be honest, we could have just stayed on our private beach every day, snorkeling, swimming and enjoying the sunshine; but we wanted to see what else Ishigaki has to offer and make the most of our rental car, so we explored some of the main attractions on and around Ishigaki. These were our favourite activities in Ishigaki, apart from staying at our beach. (Side note: Ishigaki is famous for hiking, but we didn’t do any hiking as it was way too hot!)
Exploring Ishigaki’s Beaches
Apart from enjoying our guesthouse’s private beach on the northeast coast, we also visited Yonehara Beach, which is famous for snorkelling due to its vibrant coral reef where you can see a variety of fish, including Picasso triggerfish. If you arrive by car, you have to pay a fee for parking and there’s a rental shop for snorkelling gear, but I highly recommend that you bring your own gear, as their prices are very steep! Snorkelling is clearly the most popular activity at Yonehara and you can easily spend the whole day there just doing that and see lots of different fish. Another beach we tried out was Sukuji Beach, which is not far from Kabira Bay, has very shallow water and jellyfish netting. This beach is especially good for children and if you just want to chill in the water, but not necessarily swim or snorkel. I liked that they played summer tunes as it gave the whole place a more vibrant atmosphere. Another beach that was just breathtaking was the Sunset Beach in the north, where we went for sunset – what can I say, the name does it justice!
The first thing that I heard about when researching things to do in Ishigaki, was Kabira Bay. It seemed like everyone recommends you to go to Kabira Bay! And then we went and it surprised me in so many ways. For some reason I thought that you can swim there, but Kabira Bay is actually famous for its many colourful fishing boats and black pearl cultivation. The turquoise water and white sand beach are even more stunning in real life and there is a path you can walk along the beach and one further up with several viewpoints, where the view just keeps getting better and better! No wonder Kabira Bay has been designated as a Place of Scenic Beauty.
Located just a short drive from Kabira Bay, Oganzaki Lighthouse is a great viewpoint to visit anytime throughout the day or close to sunset time. The view is fantastic and in its remote location it has kind of a magical feel to it. It’s definitely a great photo spot of both the lighthouse and views over the dramatic cliff edges! We would have loved to also visit Hirakubozaki Lighthouse on Ishigaki’s northern tip, but unfortunately ran out of time.
Tamatorizaki Observation Platform
On the morning of our departure, we got up just before sunrise to see it from the Tamatorizaki Observation Platform. As it was very quiet everywhere on Ishigaki, I was surprised to see quite a number of people who got up literally at the crack of dawn to see the sunrise from here. We also visited the platform a few days prior in the afternoon, and that was just as nice.
Visiting Remote Islands
Since I first read about the island of Taketomi, which is famous for its traditional Ryukyu style village and only a 10 minute ferry ride from Ishigaki port, it was the place I wanted to visit the most while we were on Ishigaki. We spent an incredible day there and took many photos, hence Taketomi Island deserves a separate blog article with more details! There are other, tiny islands you can visit from Ishigaki as well as the more famous Iriomote Island which is famous for its national park and hiking.
I hope this article helps you plan your trip to Okinawa. If you found it interesting or would like to share your feedback, please leave a comment below, we love hearing from you!
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