I recently went to Ishigaki island which is part of the Yaeyama island group.
Ishigaki is the second largest island after Okinawa honto (the main island) and is situated south west of Okinawa honto.
I’d been to Okinawa honto – the main island – 3 times and, although I really liked it, I was looking forward to visiting a smaller island.
One of the problems I found with Okinawa honto was the traffic – especially around Naha but also north of the island where the motorway finishes which can lead to a bottleneck effect.
The other problem with the main island is it’s sheer size which can lead to too much time in the car.
Fortunately, in Ishigaki, traffic jams and size weren’t a problem.
After we’d landed we were able to pick up our hire car and take a relaxing drive to our hotel.
We chose a hotel on the south west side of the island called ‘Fusaki Resort Village’ for two reasons.
The first being that the sun sets on this side (west side of the island) the second was because this hotel had a really cool pier.
The hotel was great!
The only thing that bothered me was the pool wasn’t cool but felt more like a very warm bath.
I didn’t ask the hotel why so hopefully it was a temporary problem.
However, the beautiful pier more than made up for the warm pool.
And, at sunset, the pier really came into its own.
At the end, they had a bunch of chairs so a lot of guests would come with some wine or beer and enjoy the beautiful sunset.
What I loved about Ishigakijima is it’s size.
Unlike the main island (Okinawa), it’s fairly easy to see most of the island and relax at the beach / pool on a 3/4 day trip.
I think with the main island it’s better to select a part and just concentrate on that rather than trying to cover other areas.
Anyhow, back to Ishigaki.
On the second day we drove up to the beautiful Kabira Bay – a truly breathtaking bay if there ever was one!
It was only a 30 min drive with no traffic jams!
After visiting Kabira Bay, we drove to Yonehara beach to do some snorkeling.
The snorkeling was great but it was a very natural beach with no hotels which meant no parasols to escape from the sun – and the sun was HOT!
For this reason, we just snorkelled and then found (maybe) the only cafe on the beach to shower and enjoy a shaved ice drink (Kakigōri / かき氷).
On the third day, we took a trip to Taketomi island.
It was a short ferry ride (about 10 mins) from Ishigaki port to Taketomi.
Taketomi is a small island which has very few (if any) cars.. it’s all bicycles or the more traditional water buffalo taxis.
This makes for a very peaceful experience.
My wife and myself opted for bicycles and got an island map and set about seeing the sights.
The first place we headed was Taketomi town centre to see the Nagomi tower.
The tower provided a good view and had a steep set of stairs but wasn’t anything to write home about.
The thing I liked most about the town centre was all the different ‘Shiisaa’ figurines on the roofs.
Shiisaas are traditional Ryukyuan clay decorations – often seen in pairs and kind of resemble a cross between a dog and a frog.
They are believed to ward off evil spirits.
Usually the left of the pair has a closed mouth to keep good spirits in, whereas the right one has an open mouth to repel bad spirits.
After the town centre, we cycled to nishi pier as I’d seen some photos of this pier and wanted to stop there.
It was indeed a really beautiful white concrete pier which stretched out into the turquoise blue sea..
That and the rolling white clouds on the horizon made it a perfect rest point.
Next up was Kondoi beach for a swim as all the cycling had left us feeling a bit sweaty and in need of some refreshment.
Kondoi beach was truly stunning.
It had beautiful turquoise water and was relatively shallow.
It also had a picnic area with showers and toilets and you could rent a parasol to get some respite from the sun.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at the beach before cycling back to the port to board the boat for Ishigaki.
After arriving back at Ishigaki port it was getting close to sunset so we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.
On the way, we passed this beautiful mangrove tree all alone where the tide had gone out.
I had to stop the car and get a few photos..
In the evening, we caught a taxi to the port again to enjoy some Okinawan live music.
Before we did, we stopped off at a small izakaya.
We noticed the chef cooking some fish over hay – something I’d never seen before so we tried it and it tasted delicious.
We also ordered Goya Champuru which always seems to taste better in Okinawa.
After, we enjoyed a few awamori cocktails while watching some live Okinawan music.
If you ever get the chance, visit Ishigaki and enjoy this beautiful, charming island.