Japan's southernmost city is a tropical paradise—sun, sea, sand and healthy coral reefs that stretch for miles
When you arrive at Ishigaki Island, you will find yourself in the southernmost city in Japan-2,000 kilometers from Tokyo. Ishigaki Island has a beautiful coastline with magnificent beaches and excellent hiking trails in the center of the island.
- Some of the best beaches in Okinawa
- Diving with manta rays in Kabira Bay
- Breathtaking views of the Yaeyama Islands
How to Get There
You can reach Ishigaki Island from Naha Airport and from Tokyo's Haneda Airport.
There are frequent flights from Naha Airport to New Ishigaki Airport. You can also fly direct from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Ishigaki Island. The trip takes about 3 hours. There is a bus service between the airport and the bus terminal in central Ishigaki. It runs every 15 minutes and takes about 45 minutes. However, bus connections to other places on the island are infrequent.
A rental car is the ideal way to get around Ishigaki. You can get to almost anywhere you want to go on the island in less than an hour's drive.
About the island
Most of the 48,000 people that make up the island's population reside in Ishigaki City. If you're looking for the creature comforts of city life, this is the place to find them.
While the city has its charms, you'll discover the true wonders of Ishigaki Island when you head to the south of the island and explore its coastline. Other highlights include the mountainous area in the center and the scenic northeastern peninsula—sparsely populated and offering magnificent beaches and excellent hiking trails.
Beaches and beyond
You'll find some of the finest beaches anywhere in Okinawa on Ishigaki Island. Whether you are looking to laze around on the white sands, take a dip in the ocean or dive down to the coral paradise, the beaches on Ishigaki have you covered.
Of the five main beaches on the island, Maeza Beach is the nearest to the airport. It's a popular destination with a wonderful stretch of sand and sea, but there are more exciting prospects if you are willing to take a short drive.
Head west from Ishigaki City, and you'll find three fabulous beaches: Fusaki, Sukuji, and Yonehara. They are all within an hour's drive from the airport. Fusaki Beach—directly west of Ishigaki City—is known for its fabulous sunsets, but its sun-drenched days are just as impressive. Jellyfish can be an unwelcome hazard when swimming in the summer months in Okinawa, but at Fusaki Beach there is a safety net around the bay to keep them out.
Up in the northwest corner of Ishigaki Island, you'll come to Sukuji Beach, set in a graceful bay overlooked by tree-clad hills. If you're traveling with young children, this is the ideal beach to visit. The water is very shallow, and the seabed is sandy. As with Fusaki Beach, there is a net to keep the jellyfish out in the summer.
Yonehara Beach is on the north side of the island, and it is the most popular destination. There is a campsite nearby, and the beach pulses with life. It is a good location for snorkeling and diving, and you can rent diving equipment from the campground.
A word of warning: despite its popularity, there are no lifeguards or jellyfish nets at Yonehara Beach, and there are strong currents in the bay.
Ride off into the sunset
If you are willing to drive a little farther, halfway up the Hirakubo Peninsula, you'll reach Sunset Beach. Most travelers head for the more easily reached destinations, so this beach is quieter and more secluded.
With the perfect combination of rolling sands, calm, shallow waters, deep diving spots, and spectacular coral reefs, it more than justifies the 50-minute drive from the airport. Jellyfish nets are spread out in the summer, and diving equipment rental and shower facilities are available.
Down among the manta
There are fine spots for snorkeling at many of the beaches on the island. For diving experts, don't miss the opportunity to dive with manta rays.
The mantas congregate in the summer months around Kabira Bay, near Sukuji Beach, and they are so abundant that you'll encounter them on almost every dive.
What to see inland
There are two beautiful mountains on Ishigaki Island. Both of these mountains are easy to climb—you can make it to the top of them both in a day, and still have time to hit the beach.
Mt. Omoto overlooks Yonehara Beach in the north of the island. It's a little over 500 meters high and takes between 60 and 90 minutes to climb. When you get to the top, you'll be rewarded with a fabulous view of the whole island, the coral reefs, and the surrounding islands.
Mt. Nosoko is located a little way up the Hirakubo Peninsula, in the northeast of the island, and while it is not as high and does not offer quite an expansive view, it is still worth the trek.
It takes half the time to climb and is therefore a good choice if you aren't a keen hiker. The view from the top is of the Hirakubo Peninsula, and the coastline to the west, with the whole island, spread out behind—a spectacular view in its own right.