Exploring Okinawa: 20 fun things to do on Ishigaki Island

Photos courtesy of Live Japan
Photos courtesy of Live Japan

Exploring Okinawa: 20 fun things to do on Ishigaki Island

Live Japan

The southern island of Ishigaki is famous for its clear emerald-green water and beautiful white sandy beaches.

1. Kabira Bay

One of the most famous spots in Ishigaki – and one of the Top 100 Landscapes of Japan – Kabira Bay is truly picture perfect.

The colors of the ocean are said to change with the tides, turning from shades of turquoise to emerald.The popular glass-bottomed boats reveal a pristine underwater world below, where black pearls are cultivated. Though swimming is not allowed due to strong currents, visitors can still enjoy the beach and the gorgeous views.

Kabira Park Observation Deck 川平公園展望台
Address: Kabira Park, Kabira, Ishigaki City, Okinawa 907-0453

2. Scuba & Snorkeling

The warm tropical waters around the islands of Okinawa make it Japan's diving paradise.

It is estimated that about 200 of the world’s 800 coral species flourish in the reefs of this region, making it a perfect home for colorful fish, turtles, and migrating humpback whales.Whether snorkeling at the top or diving deep, you're sure to see lots of local marine life. Some islands are famous for a high concentration of certain animals, such as manta rays in Ishigaki, and hammerhead sharks in Yonaguni, attracting dive enthusiasts from Japan and around the world.

3. Tamatorizaki Observatory

Located at the east coast of Ishigaki, the Tamatorizaki Observatory offers stunning panoramic views of Ibaruma Bay and the Hirakubo Peninsula.

If you happen to be visiting for New Year's, this is a great spot to watch the first sunrise of the year.

Tamatorizaki Observatory 玉取崎展望台
Address: Ibaruma, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0332

4. Ishigaki Yaima Village

Step back in time at Ishigaki Yaima Mura, where 100-year-old traditional village houses of Yaeyama have been carefully restored.

Designated as a tangible cultural heritage of Japan, this traditional architecture is an icon of the islands. Visitors can also enjoy folk music performances, visit a mangrove forest, and play with curious Squirrel Monkeys.Try your hand at local arts and crafts, such as shisa painting, or dress up in classy Ryukyu-style kimono. On-site is the Amparu cafeteria, serving up delicious Ishigaki cuisine, with fantastic views of Nagura Bay.

Ishigaki Yaima Village 石垣やいま村
Address: 967-1 Nagura, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0021

5. Ishigaki Sunset Beach

Get ready for lots of fun watersports at this stunning remote beach on the north-west coast.

Banana boats, wakeboards and jet skis will be a thrill for the whole family, or you can try a one-hour Stand Up Paddle (SUP) trip to an untouched snorkeling spot. Enjoy some fun in the sun!

Ishigaki Island Sunset Beach 石垣島サンセットビーチ
Address: 234 Hirakubo, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0331

6. Sukuji Bathing Beach

This family-friendly beach is wide and shallow with gentle waves, and its white sand stretches for nearly a kilometer.

The picturesque scenery reaches all the way to forested Cape Kabiraishi, whose dark green color contrasts beautifully with the turquoise ocean.

Sukuji Bathing Beach 底地ビーチ
Address: Kabira, 907-0453

7. Fusaki Beach

Part of the Fusaki Resort Village, this public beach welcomes all visitors, and offers snorkeling tours and other ocean activities as well as watersport equipment rentals.

Open from late March to October, Fusaki Beach has a lifeguard on duty and anti-jellyfish nets keeping out unpleasant marine life, so you can relax in knowing your ocean experience will be a safe one. The gorgeous sunsets are also not to be missed.

Fusaki Beach Resort Hotel & Villas フサキビーチリゾート ホテル&ヴィラズ
Address: 1625 Arakawa, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0024

8. Yaeyama Palm Tree Grove

Found nowhere else in the world but on Ishigaki and Iriomote islands, the endemic Yaeshima Palm Trees are a nationally protected plant species.

The best place to see these native trees is at the Yonehara Palm Grove near Maibara village, where a short footpath takes you through the forest to see the palms towering 25 meters above your head.

Yaeyama Palm Tree Grove 米原のヤエヤマヤシ群落(散策路入口)
Address: Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0451

9. Ishigaki Island Limestone Cave

See the incredible natural phenomenon of a limestone cave formed on top of a coral reef more than 200,000 years ago.

Follow a footpath 660m long through the illuminated wonders of Ishigaki Cave, with dramatic stalactite formations, grottoes, and ancient fossils. Don't miss interesting sights such as the "Squeaky Coral Path," the "Sake Cellar," and the "Lake of Longevity." Anime fans will no doubt love the Totoro Stalactite!

Ishigaki Island Limestone Cave 石垣島鍾乳洞
Address: 1666 Ishigaki, Ishigaki City, Okinawa 907-0023

10. Yaeyama Soba

Okinawa comprises many small islands, each with its own special local dishes made with native ingredients.

So when visiting Ishigaki, be sure to try Yaeyama Soba, a hearty noodle soup topped with pork, fish cakes, and green onions. Locals like to add some island pepper and awamori chili to the soup broth, which is made from pork bone, skipjack tuna and konbu (seaweed).The traditional Yaeyama noodles are distinctively round compared to the flat noodles used on the Okinawa main island, and completely different from typical buckwheat soba in the rest of Japan. Enjoy the unique flavors of the islands when in Ishigaki!

11. Ishigaki-yaki Pottery Studio

Earning international recognition, Ishigaki-yaki pottery is crafted using a very special, innovative technique in which glass is fused with the ceramic material.

During the firing process minerals contained in the natural ore are absorbed into the transparent glass, turning the surface color into a range of beautiful ocean blues. In addition to a gallery showcasing works of art, Ishigaki-yaki Pottery Studio contains a workshop where visitors can make their own pottery under supervision of the instructor. (Reservations for pottery classes are recommended.)

Ishigaki-yaki Pottery Studio 石垣焼窯元
Address: 1356-71 Nagura, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0021

12. Ishigaki Island Festival (November)

The two-day Ishigaki Island Festival is held every autumn in November.

There is music and dancing, a large citizens' parade, and of course lots of food stalls serving up festival favorites. A lovely fireworks display in the evening tops off this exciting event.

13. Cape Hirakubozaki

Ishigaki's most northern point, Cape Hirakubo (Hirakubozaki in Japanese), is one of the most scenic and untouched areas of the whole island.

At the tip of the cape is the iconic white Hirakubo Lighthouse, offering 360-degree views of ocean, mountain and grasslands where cattle graze.From the lookout point, the waters below are so clear you can see coral reefs and a deep drop-off into the sapphire colored seas. Visitors should make a day-trip to explore this beautiful and quiet part of the island.

Cape Hirakubozaki 平久保崎
Address: Hirakubo, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0331

14. Ishigaki Beef

Ishigaki beef is a type of wagyu beef from Japanese Black cattle raised in the Yaeyama area of Ishigaki Island and fattened for at least 20 months.

The roughly 35,000 head of cattle eat plentifully as they enjoy green pastures year-round in Ishigaki's warm climate.Ishigaki beef is both high in quality and nicely marbled with healthy fats, and is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

15. Yonehara Beach

This white-sand beach is a popular place to stretch out and enjoy views of the beautiful verdant coastline, Okinawa's highest peak, Mt. Omoto, and the nearby grove of Yaeyama palms.

Coral reefs are found in the waters here, and colorful tropical fish can be seen swimming near the shore.In summer the adjacent campground bustles with activity as beach campers celebrate the season. The fast current off Yonehara Beach requires that swimmers exercise caution.

Yonehara Beach 米原ビーチ
Address: 644 Fukai, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0451

16. Banna Park

Named after 230m-high Mt. Banna, this large, hilly park has something for everyone, with an "Adventure Playground" for children, forested paths and a bird-watching observatory for nature enthusiasts, and several observatories offering expansive views of the island and sea.

Fireflies can be seen along the "Firefly Trail" between April and June, and an insect museum showcases many of the island's creepy-crawlies. Segway tours (reservations required) are another fun option for visitors to this popular local park.

Banna Park バンナ公園
Address: 961-15, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0023

17. Oganzaki Lighthouse

Take in fantastic sunrises and sunsets from the Oganzaki Lighthouse, on Ishigaki's west coast.

A short walk on the footpath takes you up to the base of the lighthouse, and from the top of the cliff you can see beautiful ocean views of the Oganzaki peninsula. This spot is famous for the Easter lilies which bloom every spring.

Oganzaki Lighthouse 石垣御神埼灯台
Address: Sakieda, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0452

18. Minsah Kogei Museum

This museum and crafts center is dedicated to minsah weaving, a traditional handicraft of Ishigaki and the Yaeyama region that is thought to date back to the 17th or 18th century.

Once on the verge of dying out, minsah weaving made a resurgence in the 1970s when a creative shift was made to produce items for modern everyday life, and was recognized as a traditional handicraft in 1989. Today at the Minsah Kogei Museum you can learn about the intricate process and even try making your own minsah cloth. A variety of products are also on display for you to admire or purchase, from purses and handbags to neckties and even cute animals.

Minsah Kogei Museum みんさー工芸館
Address: 909 Aza-Tonojo, Ishigaki City, Okinawa 907-0004

19. Toujin Tomb

This Chinese-style tomb built in 1971 memorializes the lives of 120 Chinese laborers who died here in 1852.

The laborers, originally numbering close to 400, were being transported from Amoy to California when their ship ran aground on a reef off the coast of Ishigaki. After cruel treatment by the captain and crew, the laborers escaped ashore and were given shelter and protection by the Ishigaki islanders. In the end, however, American and British pursuers shot and killed or wounded many of the laborers, while others committed suicide to avoid recapture or died of disease.

Toujin Tomb 唐人墓
Addres: Arakawa, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0024

20. 730 COURT

730 Court is a shopping mall catering to all manner of shopping needs, from Okinawa souvenirs to fashion and outdoor clothing. You may also be tempted to come for the range of dining options, which include yakinikuteppanyaki, fresh purple yam tarte and much more.

730 COURT
Address: 1 Okawa, Ishigaki City, Okinawa 907-0022

 

5 Popular Ishigaki Island Hotels

ANA InterContinental Ishigaki Resort, an IHG Hotel ANAインターコンチネンタル 石垣リゾート
Address: 354-1 Maesato, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0002
Phone Number: 098-088-7111

 

Okinawa EXES Ishigakijima 沖縄かりゆしリゾートEXES石垣
Address: 923-1 Miyara, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0243
Phone Number: 098-086-8001

 

Ishigaki Resort Hotel 石垣リゾートホテル
Address: 1053-4 Miyara, Ishigaki City, Okinawa 907-0243, Japan
Phone Number: 0120-70-0446

 

Ishigaki Resort Granvrio グランヴィリオリゾート石垣島
Address: 2481-1 Funakura, Shinkawa, Ishigaki City, Okinawa 907-0024
Phone Number: 098-088-0030

 

Glamping Resort Yokabushi グランピングリゾート ヨーカブシ
Address: 2-737 Iharama, Ishigaki City, Okinawa 907-0332, Japan
Phone Number: 098-089-2345

 

Via Live Japan

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