If you’re looking for a hidden tropical getaway during your next trip to Japan, look no further because Ishigaki is the answer!
Ishigaki is home to many unique beaches and is a popular travel destination among Japanese people, but not so well known by travelers from outside the country. We put this guide together to introduce this beautiful island to everyone and hope that you add it to your bucket list!
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Best Time to Go
Typhoon season for Ishigaki usually occurs around June to October and ironically, that’s also the busiest season since it’s also summer break time in Japan. Therefore, the best time to visit Ishigaki would be right before summer, around April and May, when tourism and temperature are not yet at its peak.
Winter is also a great time to visit if you’re looking to escape the cold. Ticket prices also tend to be cheaper around November to January and you can also enjoy Ishigaki without the crowd of tourists as well!
How Many Days to go
To see most places in Ishigaki, you’ll need at least 3-4 days, but to completely enjoy your island vacation, we recommend staying for at least a week. Ishigaki has beautiful beaches, awesome food, and stunning nature, but to get the most out of this island, you’ll need to fully immerse yourself with it. Jump into the waters, search for the local mom & pop restaurant, and explore the neighboring Yaeyama islands as well.
How to Get to Ishigaki
Ishigaki has a small domestic airport with occasional international flights to nearby countries. In most cases, you would transfer at either Osaka, Tokyo, or Naha and then arrive at Ishigaki. Another option is to purchase a ticket to Ishigaki separately, which can potentially help you save costs.
Note: Since the end of 2019, more LCC (low cost carrier) airlines have increased operations to Ishigaki, making traveling to this island much more affordable. Now is definitely the best time to explore what Ishigaki has to offer!
Transportation in Ishigaki
The best way to experience Ishigaki and it’s nature is through a rental car. Rental cars in Ishigaki are also much cheaper than they are in mainland Japan and can save you a significant amount of time compared to taking public transportation.
If you’re unable to rent a car, we recommend booking your accommodation near the urban area of Ishigaki since this is where public transportation is. There are buses that come every 30-60 minutes and allow access to popular areas of the island, such as Kabira Bay. You can check the bus schedule here.
Taxis are available as well but they’re often hard to come across unless you’re near a central area. If you’re ever in need of a taxi, try asking a nearby business or restaurant if they can help you call one!
If you booked an activity, you may also check if they provide transportation to and from your accommodation.
- Blue Cabin Ishigakijima – Hostel with a tropical view offering necessary amenities.
- Guest House Chura Cucule Ishigakijima – Cozy hostel with a cozy, home-like atmosphere.
- Hotel WBF Ishigaki – Standard apartment style hotel in the port area
- Art Hotel Ishigakijima – Moderate price hotel with public bath and pool.
- Ishigaki Seaside Hotel – Spacious hotel near the tropical Kabira Bay area.
Things to do
Chill Out at Kabira Bay
With clear blue waters and small green islands floating in the distance, the breathtaking view of Kabira Bay is the iconic symbol of Ishigaki.
Take the stairs down to the beach, and you can feel your feet sink right into the soft sand underneath the crystal clear water.
At street level, there are multiple souvenir shops lined up and restaurants that serve some amazing Ishigaki cuisine.
Short Hike Up Mount Nosoko Mape
Even for those that don’t like hiking, we recommend trying this one out because it’s one of the best hiking experience we’ve had thus far.
The hike up to the peak of Mount Nosoko Mape is a steep trail through a path in the forest, but it’s a short one and takes less than 30 minutes. Once you get to the top, the trees clear away and suddenly you have this amazing view of Ishigaki.
Because it’s such a breathtaking spot, the top of Mount Nosoko Mape is often considered a “power spot” among Japanese people, a place where you can go for spiritual healing, and there’s no questioning why!
Explore the Ibaruma Sabichi Cave
What’s interesting about the Ibaruma Sabichi Cave is that you can experience 3 different landscapes within a couple minutes. The entrance to the cave is a lush, green forest. If you walk through the other end of the dim cave, it opens up to a secret, secluded beach. Unlike other sandy beaches in Ishigaki, this one is a rocky type one and is partially the reason why this cave is a must-see in Ishigaki.
Gazing at the Stars
Ishigaki is said to be one of the best places in the world to watch the stars.
You can see 84 of the 88 constellations and even a faint outline of the Milky Way Galaxy on clear nights. There’s even an observatory here which you can visit.
The stars can be enjoyed from pretty much anywhere on the island, but if you want to watch from the best spots, there are many affordable tours available, some that take you out to sea to watch!
Buy Souvenirs from Euglena Mall
Euglena mall is a large arcade mall located in the urban area of Ishigaki, near the ferry port.
There’s everything from souvenir shops to local public markets with fresh local produce. There’s also many restaurants surrounding Euglena mall that serve traditional Okinawan food.
If you’re wondering what souvenirs to bring back home, here’s a list of some popular souvenirs from Ishigaki.
- Shima zori sandals. Okinawan style sandals that are nicely designed and comfortable to wear
- Black pearl accessories. Ishigaki is the only place in Japan to produce black pearls.
- Salt. Ishigaki is famous for salt, especially since the island is surrounded by corals
- Beni-imo tarts. Beni-imo is a type of sweet potato grown in Okinawa. The tart made from this Okinawan sweet potato is one of the most popular souvenirs here!
- Chinsuko. Traditional Okinawan shortbread cookie.
- Awamori – Traditional Okinawa Sake.
- Koregusu – Okinawa chili sauce made with Awamori.
Kayak or SUP in Kabira Bay & Snorkeling in Blue Cave
Once you’ve feasted your eyes onto the iconic Kabira Bay, the next thing you’ll want to do is jump into the clear, cobalt waters. One of the most popular water activities in Ishigaki is to explore the waters by either kayak or SUP (stand up paddleboard). From on top of the water, you can see all sorts of marine life that live here.
Snorkel at Phantom Island
Take a boat and sail out to a close-by mini island made entirely of sand. On this island, the waters are shallow and the beach runs in a U shape. There are lots of diverse marine life in near the island and you can explore the waters with snorkeling gear by jump in straight from the island.
Introductory Scuba Diving
What better way to enjoy the tropical island than to dive into the ocean? There are tons of marine life flourishing around Ishigaki island and one of the best way to experience it is by scuba diving.
The waters are crystal clear and you may get a chance to run into some manta rays. In fact, Ishigaki is the most popular place to scuba dive in Japan. If you’ve never tried scuba diving before, don’t worry! There are plenty of places that don’t require a scuba certification. They teach you how to dive and make sure that nothing goes wrong.
Kayak into the Sunset
If you’re into unique, picturesque scenery, you can enjoy the golden hour on a kayak. The activity starts later in the day and lasts until the sun goes down. If you’re interested in participating in a calm activity, then we highly recommend this type of activity!
Food to Try in Ishigaki
Ishigaki beef is famous in Japan for being very high quality and tender and we highly recommend any dish made with this beef. Even common Japanese food such as gyudon and yakisoba taste nothing like the ones made in mainland Japan.
Restaurants that do use Ishigaki Beef usually have a sign up indicating so. If you don’t mind spending some extra money, try ordering the Ishigaki Beef Steak!
Yaeyama soba is a variation of the Okinawan soki soba with a seafood twist. Instead of using completely pork, the broth is infused with tuna and the dish is topped with minced meat and fish cake.
As with many island destinations, fish is a very common ingredient. Any sushi or sashimi made with locally caught fish will taste incredible.
Sugar Cane Juice
Sugar cane is one of Ishigaki’s main produce and you can see sugar cane fields almost everywhere. Try a cup of freshly squeezed sugar cane juice from any smoothie shop in the island or even try some brown sugar snacks made from sugar canes!
Sata Andagi (Brown Sugar Donuts)
Speaking of brown sugar snacks, there’s one you must try. Sata Andagi is the Okinawan version of a donut and it’s in the shape of a ball rather than a ring. The natural sweeteners will make you feel less guilty when reaching for a second one!
Ishigaki is known for its brown sugar and where there’s good brown sugar, there’s good tapioca drinks!
Ichibanza is the perfect place to try many different kinds of Ishigaki cuisines. Ishibanza is an izakaya located right outside of the ANA Intercontinental Hotel entrance and it’s the perfect stop from the airport to the city area.
They serve everything from Yaeyama soba to Ishigaki steak. Whichever dish you choose, we highly recommend ordering a side of the mozuku tempura which is a type of seaweed, fried in tempura batter.
Hours: 11:30am – 3:00pm, 6:00pm – 12:00am
Address: 354-5 Maezato, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0002, Japan
Phone Number: +81 980-83-5080
When arriving in Kabira Bay, Kebab Kaboo is one of the first restaurants you’ll see. They use Ishigaki beef in their kebabs, which automatically makes it a luxury kebab.
They also serve Ishigaki beef sushi which won’t fill you up but is a great luxury snack.
Address: 917-1 Kabira, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0453, Japan
Phone Number: +81 90-1086-2413
Yuratic is a restaurant in downtown Ishigaki, located near Euglena mall, on the first floor of Hotel Cucule. Yuratic has a local vibe to it and serves a lot of traditional Okinawan food.
If you order any set meal, it comes with a piece of fresh sashimi on the side. They have great Yaeyama and Soki Soba, but their champloo was my favorite.
Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm
Address: Japan, 〒907-0012 Okinawa, Ishigaki, Misakicho, 8−1 石垣島ホテル ククル1F
Phone Number: +81 980-88-7970
Banya Farm is a smoothie shop located on the north eastern part of the island, and its an awesome rest stop on the way back from Mount Nosoko Mape or Ibaruma Sabichi Cave.
Their smoothies are amazing but what’s more interesting is the shop itself. There’s a huge front yard with lots of greenery and various seating arrangements that can make for some great pictures!
On the other side of the yard is the shop owner’s residence, with lots of dogs, cats, and a sheep! And they sometimes let them roam around the area. In the back, there’s a short hiking path that takes you to an observation deck overlooking the coastline!
Hours: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Address: 165-411 Tozato, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0241, Japan
Phone Number: +81 90-4490-7153
Papaya is another smoothie shop that’s located in the central north part of Ishigaki, a small distance from Kabira bay. At Papaya, it’s all about the taste.
They sell authentic, delicious fruit smoothies and sugar cane juice that they juice out on the spot. All of their flavor are natural and come from produce on the island.
You can’t go wrong with any of their juices but we recommend getting the B blend, which is a magical mix of mango, pineapple, and sugar cane juice.
Hours: 8:30am – 6:00pm
Address: 491 Fukai, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0451, Japan
Phone Number: +81 980-88-2583
Ishigaki is the hidden tropical island getaway that you definitely need to add to your Japan travel itinerary! Go and enjoy the island breeze, participate in water activities, and indulge on some authentic Ishigaki beef!