Ishigaki – what to see and where to eat
After never landing in Hong Kong because of the big typhoon that hit the Philippines, our flight was rebooked and we directly landed in Japan… 3 days later. I was a bit upset about losing three days of vacation after waiting for almost 1 year without any free time. But safety first, and it was way too dangerous and not worth taking the risk.
Anyway, we landed in Nagoya and had to buy another plane ticket to the Okinawa islands. Thankfully, the internal flights in Japan are pretty cheap (less than 100euros) so it wasn’t too much of a trouble. We finally landed in Ishigaki, Okinawa on the 19th of September and my summer vacation could finally start!
Ishigaki welcomed us with a beautiful blue and sunny sky. We landed in the early afternoon and took the bus to arrive at our hotel. We booked the WBF Hotel for 5 nights. It’s a 3-star hotel and it costs around 55 euros for one night. The rooms are very clean and we were located on the fifth floor with a nice view. The service at the welcome desk could be a little bit friendlier but in general, we were very satisfied with our stay there.
A small tip: you can either book a hotel in the northern part of the island or southern part. I personally recommend booking a room in the South of Ishigaki because you’re close to the port and the ferries. If you want to visit any other island during your stay (which is recommended, there is not much to do on the Ishigaki island itself), it’s very handy. On the contrary, the northern part is way prettier because of the beautiful beaches. But it takes more than 1 hour to get to the ferry by bus.
From the airport, we took the local Azuma bus. I recommend buying a 5-day bus pass (Michikusa Free Pass). It costs 2000 yen which is around 15 euros but it’s really worth it. The ride from the airport is already more than 500 yen and to arrive in Kabira Bay, it’s 1000 yen one-way. So it pays off pretty fast.
Another means of transport is the ferry. You can take one-day trips to the islands located around Ishigaki. The price depends on the island you want to visit. It’s not super cheap but it’s really worth it. We spent days being the only tourists on a few islands and it was the best feeling ever.
What to see
When it comes to Ishigaki itself, there are a few things to visit! Here’s a list of what we saw:
Kabira Bay is located on the very north of Ishigaki. It’s a protected place because they cultivate black pearls. It’s a beautiful bay and it’s very carefully preserved so really worth the ride!
After visiting Kabira Bay, you can take the bus and head to Yonehara beach for some snorkelling! The beach was almost empty and we saw some beautiful sea creatures.
If you’re interested in alcohol, you can also visit the local distillery where they produce their own awamori (local alcohol). They do tastings so you can always try some before buying. It was a little bit too strong for me but it was an interesting experience!
In the southern part of the island, I recommend going to the Yurateiku market to buy some fresh and local fruits. There is also a little shop that sells local brown sugar syrup (can’t remember the name) but you can also find it in the big halls, together with local sweets.
On our third day, we took a trip to Taketomi Island. You pay around 10 euros to get there and it takes around 20 minutes. Once you arrive at the port, I recommend taking a free shuttle bus to the bicycle shops. Then, you can rent a bike and cycle around the island. The bikes cost 300 yen for one hour and after 5 hours, there is a fixed fee (1500 yen). We rented the Tomori bikes as this shop had the best reviews online.
Once we had our bikes, we cycled to Kondoi beach to take a bath and snorkel. Kondoi beach is the only one where you can swim and snorkel. The weather was amazing on that day and it took me 20 minutes to burn (even with sunscreen). But again, the sea creatures we saw were just WOW! (and still, this wasn’t the best snorkelling spot).
For lunch, we had a Soba soup at a local restaurant called Takenoko Soba. Very tasty and pretty cheap!
The afternoon, we cycled to Hoshizuna beach known to be the “Star sand beach”. It was very pretty and we took some pictures before heading back to the port.
However, we couldn’t leave the island before having an ice cream at Parlor Ganjyuya!
On one of our last days, we booked a one-day trip to Iriomote. It’s quite a budget (85 euros) but I think it’s quite worth the price. The tour starts at 9.am. Then the guide takes us to three different caves. After that, they give us equipment for the canyoning. We jumped and spent 2 hours in the clearest water I’ve ever seen. It was just us and 3 other lovely Japanese people, we laughed so hard and it was one of my best souvenirs from Ishigaki! After that, our guide prepared a ramen soup for the whole group and we had lunch with an amazing view!
The afternoon, we took a boat and did some snorkelling in the middle of the ocean to see living corals in the water. I think this was the most beautiful day of my life and I still can’t believe that I saw so many colourful fishes and corals. It is quite a journey to get to Ishigaki from Belgium but how lucky am I? Not sure those corals will still be there in a few years!
Here’s the link to the tour: http://english.iriomote-osanpo.com/tour_course/go_canyoning_caving.html
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t good enough to see more. The last three days of our trip to Ishigaki, the sky was very cloudy and rainy. We couldn’t visit any other island or do any outside activities. Some other islands that are worth visiting: Hateruma, Kohama and Tarama.
Hisanoha – soba
Delicious soba-based meals. We went there after 8.pm and had the whole restaurant for ourselves (the Japanese usually eat earlier). I could finally have a 100% vegan plate which I was really happy about!
ひらのや – 13-5 Misakicho, Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture 907-0012, Japan
Noodle Soup Yaeyama style
For delicious ramen for around 7 euros! You order your food in a machine and then you seat all next to each other. It’s super tasty and the service is great (as usual in Japan)
麺屋 八重山style – 209 Okawa, Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture 907-0022, Japan
Delicious local vegetarian Japanese curry
あむりたの庭、そして音楽 – Japan, 〒907-0022 沖縄県石垣市 大川282 1階南側
Typical Izakaya! I recommend their eggplant, fried fish and cheese sticks!
石垣島 一歩一歩 – Japan, 〒907-0012 Okinawa Prefecture, Ishigaki, Misakicho, ８−９ 石垣島ヴィレッジ２階