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Ishigaki Island (Ί_, Ishigakijima) is the main island of the Yaeyama Islands and the region's transportation hub. Ishigaki City, Japan's southernmost city, is the only urban center of the Yaeyama Islands and the site of the region's major airport and ferry terminal, as well as of lots of hotels, shops, restaurants and bars.

Ishigaki offers several nice beaches and good snorkeling and diving in the surrounding coral reefs. Snorkeling can be enjoyed at nearly every beach on the island, while diving is offered through the numerous dive shops with tours available for all experience levels. If diving, be sure to check out the island's famed manta rays which congregate in large numbers around Manta Scramble near Kabira Bay.

Ishigaki's rivers, while not quite as wild as those of nearby Iriomote, also offer a jungle like scenery and are nice to explore by kayak. Ishigaki also has the highest mountain in Okinawa Prefecture, as well as various hiking trails throughout the island's hilly interior.

Beaches

Ishigaki Island has both sandy beaches and rocky beaches which are covered in small pieces of bleached coral. At the beaches you can enjoy swimming (best during high tide), snorkeling, and diving, or just lay in the sun; and while the beaches are open year round, they are best from April to November when the air temperature consistently tops 25 degrees. The beaches usually have public facilities such as showers, restrooms, and rental shops; however, there are no lifeguards, and the facilities may be closed outside of summer.

When using the beaches, always beware of strong currents that can pull you out to sea and poisonous creatures such as Habu Jellyfish, a type of box jellyfish, that are most prevalent from June to October. Signs in English inform about the dangers while some beaches have netted off swimming areas. Although jellyfish stings are rare, if stung you should pour vinegar over the sting, remove any tentacles, and seek medical help as it may become life threatening if left untreated.

Yonehara Beach

Admission: Free, limited free parking
This is one of Ishigaki's nicest beaches with some of the best snorkeling on the island. The beach is mostly covered in pieces of white coral, and its reef offers great snorkeling and diving. There are shower, restroom and changing facilities, and snorkeling equipment can be rented at the camping site nearby.

Sukuji Beach

Admission: Free, no parking fees
The one kilometer long Sukuji Beach, near Kabira Bay, is one of Ishigaki Island's nicest sand beaches. The waters around Sukuji Beach are shallow with a sandy bottom, and offer swimming and snorkeling with a portion of the beach netted off to protect swimmers from habu jellyfish. Showers, restrooms, and changing rooms are located near the parking area. The Club Med Kabira Ishigaki resort is located at one end of the beach.

Sunset Beach

Admission: Free, 500 yen for parking, 500 yen for facilities
Sunset Beach is a sandy beach located in a cove along the western side of Ishigaki's tail shaped northeastern peninsula. The beach is a short walk down from the parking lot and offers swimming and snorkeling that is good even during low tide. Most of the beach is surrounded by a net to protect swimmers from habu jellyfish. Next to the parking lot are picnic areas and paid showers and restrooms.

Nature

While Ishigaki Island is the most populous of the Yaeyama Islands, there is still a lot of nature to experience. In addition to snorkeling and diving along the island's beaches and coral reefs, the interior of Ishigaki has palm forests, mangrove lined rivers, and jungle covered mountains that offer hiking and camping.

Kabira Bay

Boat Departures: 9:00 to 17:00
Boat Fee: 1200 yen
Emerald blue Kabira Bay (Kabirawan) is considered Ishigaki Island's most scenic view. Swimming, snorkeling and diving in the bay are not allowed, but a touristy 30 minute long glass bottom boat ride lets you take a look at the bay's underwater world. Kabira Bay, along with Iriomote, are the only two cultivation sites of black pearls in Japan.

River Kayak Tours

Tours depart in the mornings and afternoons
Fee: around 6500 yen for a 3-hour tour
Kayak tours are offered on the mangrove lined Miyara River (not far from the city center) and Fukido River (near Yonehara Beach). Tours start around 4000 yen per person for a 90 minute guided tour. Unguided boat rentals are not available.

Tamatorizaki Observation Point

Hours: Always Open
Admission: Free
This is an observation platform offering nice views of Cape Tamatori, Ibaruma Bay, Ishigaki's hilly northern peninsula and the emerald blue ocean with its coral reefs.

Yonehara Palm Tree Groves

Hours: Always Open
Admission: Free
Walking trails lead through this palm forest, which features several dozen types of palm tree varieties, including the tall, native Yaeyama Palm, a designated national natural monument.

History

The Yaeyama Islands have a rich history and culture going back to before their incorporation into Japan, when they were part of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

Yaeyama Museum

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (Admission ends at 16:30)
Closed: Mondays, December 29 to January 3
Admission: 200 yen
The Yaeyama Museum displays historical and cultural items of the Yaeyama Islands. On display are wooden canoes, pottery, traditional clothing and household items as well as items from the various festivals and cultural events held among the islands.

Tojinbaka

Hours: Always Open
Admission: Free
A lavishly decorated grave for 300 Chinese laborers, who were supposed to be shipped to the Americas as mine workers by American and British traders in the mid 1800s, but many of whom were massacred after a mutiny raised by the inhumanly treated Chinese. The incident happened to partially take place on Ishigaki.

Miyara Dunchi

Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Closed: Tuesdays, January 1-3
Admission: 200 yen
Miyara Dunchi is a preserved samurai style residence, built by a local nobleman in 1819. Similar residences on Okinawa Honto were mostly destroyed in the war, making Miyara Dunchi a rare surviving example. It is not possible to enter the house, but you can walk around the outside of the house and visit its small garden.

Ishigaki Yaima Village

Hours: 9:00 to 17:30 (entry until 17:00)
Closed: No closing days
Admission: 1000 yen
Ishigaki Yaima Village is a collection of relocated Yaeyama Island-style residences from across the archipelago. There are a variety of activities at the village including a traditional song and dance performance which is held three times daily in one of the houses and reminiscent of the traditional form of entertainment. There is also a small mangrove area, a squirrel monkey park as well as a restaurant and a souvenir shop.

Getting there and around

How to get to Ishigaki Island

Ishigaki Island is the transportation hub of the Yaeyama Islands. Please visit the Yaeyama orientation page for information on how to get to Ishigaki.

How to get around Ishigaki Island

In 2013, the New Ishigaki Airport was opened ten kilometers outside of Ishigaki's city center, replacing the former airport as the island's gateway.

A rental car is the recommended means of transportation to get around Ishigaki Island. All major Japanese rental car companies have outlets on the island. Most of the island's attractions are within a 30-45 minute drive of Ishigaki City, except for the northernmost peninsula, the tip of which is about 35 kilometers from the city center.

Buses operate frequently between the airport and central Ishigaki. There are two types of buses: direct buses that stop only at the airport and the ferry terminal in the city center (30 minutes, 500 yen one way, every 30 minutes) and buses that serve several stops between the airport and the bus terminal in the city center (35-45 minutes, 540 yen one way, every 15 minutes).

Bus connections to other places on the island are much less frequent. Among them, the Kabira Line connects central Ishigaki with Kabira Bay once every 1-3 hours (45 minutes, 730 yen one way), while the even less frequent Yonehara Line connects central Ishigaki and the airport via Yonehara Beach with Kabira Bay. A 1-day pass for all bus lines is available for 1000 yen, while a 5-day pass costs 2000 yen.

A taxi ride between the airport and Ishigaki's city center takes about 30 minutes and costs around 3000 yen.

How to get to the Yaeyama Islands

Hotels around Yaeyama Islands

Top rated on the Yaeyama Islands
Budget:
    • Ishigakijima Pacific Club
      Budget-friendly
      Located in Ishigaki Island in the Okinawa region and Yaeyama Museum reachable within 7 km, Ishigakijima Pacific Club provides accommodation with free WiFi, BBQ facilities, a garden and free private parking. Accommodation is comprised of a living room, a kitchen with a microwave and a fridge, a washing machine, and a private bathroom with bidet and shower. All units are air conditioned and include a seating and/or dining area. ? la carte and American breakfast options are available daily at the apartment. Ishigakijima Pacific Club offers a terrace. A car rental service is available at the accommodation. Tamatorizaki Observation Point is 22 km from Ishigakijima Pacific Club, while Ishigaki Public Market is 7 km away. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki, 6 km from the apartment, and the property offers a free airport shuttle service.
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    • HOSTEL SunTerrace Ishigaki
      Budget-friendly
      HOSTEL SunTerrace Ishigaki in Ishigaki Island provides adults-only accommodation with a shared lounge, a garden and a terrace. This 1-star hostel offers a shared kitchen and luggage storage space. Free WiFi is available and private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. Popular points of interest near the hostel include Painuhama Artificial Beach, Yaeyama Museum and Ishigaki Public Market. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 11 km from HOSTEL SunTerrace Ishigaki.
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    • Guesthouse Asibina
      Budget-friendly
      Boasting a terrace, Guesthouse Asibina is a guest house situated in Ishigaki Island, a 15-minute walk from Yaeyama Kanko Ferry Terminal. The guest house with free WiFi is 13 km away from Yonehara Beach and Kabira Bay. Attractions in the area include Sukuji Beach, 15 km away, or Tamatorizaki Observation Point, set 21 km from the property. All guest rooms are fitted with air conditioning. Each dormitory rooms has an electrical outlet and fan. Shared bathrooms have free toiletries. Guests can benefit from a shared kitchen with a fridge and kitchenware. A washing machine and tumble dryer can be used for a fee. Ishigaki Sunset Beach is 28 km from the guest house. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 11 km from Guesthouse Asibina.
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    • Alaise De Bale Ishigaki
      Luxury
      Situated in Ishigaki Island, 70 metres from Idona Beach, Alaise De Bale Ishigaki features accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a bar. 11 km from Tamatorizaki Observation Point and 23 km from Yaeyama Museum, the property provides a garden and a terrace. Free WiFi and room service are available. The rooms in the hotel are fitted with a kettle. At Alaise De Bale Ishigaki rooms are fitted with a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Guests at the accommodation can enjoy a continental breakfast. Guests at Alaise De Bale Ishigaki will be able to enjoy activities in and around Ishigaki Island, like hiking. Banna Park is 22 km from the hotel, while Ishigaki Yaima Village is 22 km from the property. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 10 km from Alaise De Bale Ishigaki.
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    • Ishigaki Sunset Cove
      Luxury
      Situated in Ishigaki Island, 5 km from Yonehara Beach, Ishigaki Sunset Cove is set along the beach and rooms with free WiFi access. Among the various facilities of this property are an outdoor swimming pool and a garden. At the resort, the rooms come with a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Selected rooms here will provide you with a kitchen with a microwave, a toaster and a fridge. The units at Ishigaki Sunset Cove come with a seating area. An alternating Western or Japanese breakfast is available daily at the property. The accommodation offers a sun terrace. The area is popular for cycling, and a limited number of rental cars are available at Ishigaki Sunset Cove. Tamatorizaki Observation Point is 5 km from the resort, while Kabira Bay is 10 km away. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 10 km from Ishigaki Sunset Cove.
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    • Shiraho Friends House
      Budget-friendly
      Just a 2-minute walk from Shiraho Beach, Friends House features a free-use kitchen, free parking and free Wi-Fi throughout. Simple air-conditioned private rooms and dormitory-style accommodation are offered. A shuttle service is available from New Ishigaki Airport at a charge. Guests at Shiraho Friends House can enjoy a private room with a TV that looks out on local greenery, or sleep in a bunk bed in a room shared with other guests. All rooms have shared toilets and bathrooms. The property is a 4-minute walk from Shiraho bus stop and within a 5-minute walk from Shiraho Coral Reef Conservation and Research Centre. Guests must reserve in advance to use the chargeable shuttle from New Ishigaki Airport, which is a 5-minute drive away. You can sunbathe or barbecue at the rooftop sun terrace or use the free-use internet PC at the air-conditioned dining room. There is an outdoor weight-lifting area, and the property has a free-use washing machine and a coin-operated dryer. No meals are served.
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    • Lulaliya
      Budget-friendly
      Set in Ishigaki Island, 300 metres from Kabira Bay, Lulaliya features air-conditioned rooms and free private parking. The bed and breakfast has a barbecue and sun terrace, and guests can enjoy a drink at the bar. Some units feature a seating area for your convenience. Extras include slippers, free toiletries and a hair dryer. Lulaliya features free WiFi throughout the property. There is a shared lounge at the property. Breakfast can be provided on site for an additional fee if reserved in advance. Sukuji Beach is 1.9 km from Lulaliya, while Yonehara Beach is 5 km away. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 13 km from Lulaliya.
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    • Joya
      Mid-range
      Set in Ishigaki Island in the Ishigaki Region, 200 metres from Kabira Bay, Joya features a sun terrace. Free private parking is available on site. Each room is equipped with a private bathroom equipped with a bath. Joya features free WiFi. There is a shared lounge at the property. Sukuji Beach is 1.9 km from Joya, while Yonehara Beach is 5 km away. New Ishigaki Airport is 13 km from the property.
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    • Hotel Patina Ishigakijima
      Mid-range
      A 7-minute walk from Ishigaki Port Ricoh Ferry Terminal and a 3-minute drive from the beach, Hotel Patina Ishigakijima offers cosy rooms with hardwood floors, free internet and a private balcony. Free parking is available on site. The air-conditioned rooms at Patina Hotel include a private bathroom and refrigerator. Guests can enjoy watching the flat-screen TV with a fresh cup of tea. A free-use washing machine and coin-operated dryer are provided, as are free-use bicycles. Free wireless internet and 2 computers with free internet access are offered in the lobby. Massages can be requested for an extra cost. Ishigakijima Patina Hotelfs restaurant serves breakfast daily.
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    • Guest House Chura Cucule Ishigakijima
      Budget-friendly
      Situated within 1.3 km of Painuhama Artificial Beach and 1 km of Yaeyama Museum, Guest House Chura Cucule Ishigakijima features rooms with air conditioning and a shared bathroom in Ishigaki Island. Among the facilities at this property are a shared kitchen and a shared lounge, along with free WiFi throughout the property. Private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. Tamatorizaki Observation Point is 29 km from the hostel, while Ishigaki Public Market is 800 metres from the property. The nearest airport is New Ishigaki Airport, 11 km from Chura Cucule Ishigakijima.
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