Tired of spending hours standing in line at every attraction and visiting beaches so choked with people you can’t even see the sand? Then we have a wonderful vacation destination for you. Located just 255 miles or 411 km from the Island of Okinawa lays a little-known jewel in the Pacific; Japan’s Ishigaki Island.
Perfect weather year round
Being closer to Taiwan than to mainland Japan, Ishigaki Island enjoys a marvelous climate and one of the shortest rainy seasons in the region. Beginning in mid-May it only lasts for 2-4 weeks and the rest of the year the island’s weather could be described as an endless summer. At the hottest point, it rarely exceeds the mid-80s °F, which is around 32° C, and the winter lows can plummet to a nice crisp 70° F/16° C.
Enjoying the outdoors on Ishigaki
The best part of all this beautiful weather is that it makes outdoor activities a given. The island features several pristine beaches with Yonehara Beach and Kondi being the best known and maintained. The facilities may be a little sparse for those accustomed to never straying more than a few yards from their hotel bar. But, so are the people. Crowds are the exception here not the rule as in areas that have already become tourist meccas.
Also thanks to the temperate climate, the seas around Ishigaki never have a chance to cool. This makes them an ideal spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. There are several coral reefs that are easily accessed from the beaches or by short boat rides. Thanks to strictly enforced environmental and fishing regulations these rate as some of the healthiest in the world.
If you prefer to stay above the water the Ishigaki has you covered. There are also kayaking eco-tours, bike and hiking trails, numerous nature parks. Buffalo cart tours for those who want a slower pace and dirt biking for the more adventurous.
Cultural Treasures to enjoy
For the more cerebral traveler, Ishigaki has as much to offer as it does to those who love the outdoors. There are a number of religious and historical sites on the island including the Former Kuramoto, the traditional Ishigaki Yaima Village and Gongen-do Temple.
Museums are also plentiful on Ishigaki Island with the Ishigaki City Yaeyama Museum and Nei Art Museums being rated as must-sees. As one of the few parts of Okinawa that escaped destruction during WWII, the artifacts and cultural treasures housed in their collections are some the finest examples of the Yaeyama island people and Ryukyu kingdom to be found in the world.
Not everything is buried in the past though. The island is home to both the Ishigakijima Observatory and National Astronomical Observatory of Japan-Vera Ishigaki Island Observatory Station. Both of these centers of scientific studies feature daily tours and shows for the public.
Lodging and Food on Ishigaki
Both the food and lodging on Ishigaki meet two prerequisites that help make for a wonderful getaway. Their pricing is below average and standards of operation well above the tourist norm.
For a place not yet a major tourist site lodgings can be found to meet almost any budget and all meet the cleanliness and service standards that Japan is famous for. From simple rooms to resort properties, the island has something for any taste.
A diverse selection of cuisines is available both from local restaurants and international chains but it is the traditional seafood dishes that you will want to be sure and sample. As a word to the wise, be adventurous. Wonder away from the city centers and watch for where the locals eat. That is where you will experience meals to write home about.