Ishigaki is the most populated and most popular of Okinawa Prefecture’s Yaeyama Islands. Just a three-hour flight from Tokyo, Ishigaki serves as the region’s transportation hub with the New Ishigaki Airport for tourists from mainland Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The island offers sandy white beaches with aquamarine water perfect for snorkeling and diving, lush hiking trails with breathtaking views of the coast, favorable climate, and welcoming seaside culture.
Ishigaki City comprises the entire island. Despite the secluded vibe found on some parts of the island, 45,000 people call Ishigaki their home, although most live in the central area known as shigaichi (town area). There are ample restaurants, bars, and hotels in the area to serve the island’s bustling tourist industry.
Near the city center is the Miyara River which is lined with beautiful mangrove trees and is popular among kayakers. However, unguided tours are not permitted. North of the airport is Tamatorizaki Observation Point, a viewing platform with views of the bay and Ishigaki’s rocky peninsula. Nearby Shiraho’s blue coral reef is one of the best snorkeling spots in the world.
Kabira Bay and beaches
North of the shigaichi area is Kabira Bay, a beautiful sandy white beach with turquoise waters. Although swimming isn’t permitted here (the tides are too fast), you can walk along the coast and admire the craggy islands while eating ice cream. If you can’t ignore the sea’s call, try a glass-bottom boat tour around the bay. You might see groups of manta rays that are known to converge in the bay. Nearby Kabira Park also offers spectacular views from its pavilion.
If you’re feeling adventurous or using Ishigaki as a hub for island hopping, you can take a 10-minute boat ride from Ishigaki Port to Taketomi island and visit its preserved Ryukyu village. Remote Iriomote Island, with its mangrove jungles and unique wildlife, is an hour away by boat. Lastly, even further away at the westernmost point of Japan, Yonaguni Island is known for its 8,000-year-old ruins and hammerhead sharks.