Ishigaki Travel Guide & Tips | Things to Do on Ishigaki Island by Ippei & Janine

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Ishigaki Island of the Yaeyama Islands

A picturesque grazing land for Ishigaki Gyu (Ishigaki Island Wagyu beef), and serving as a perfect hub for other neighbouring Yaeyama islands, Ishigaki Island (also known as Ishigaki-jima) offers pleasant beaches, colorful coral reefs, beautiful jungle and lush mangrove rivers, making it an easy getaway without giving up the conveniences of modernity.
The Yaeyama Islands are located near the Tropic of Cancer; more south than Taipei and closer to the northern islands of the Philippines than to Okinawa Main Island. If you like jungles as well as beaches, we highly recommend the Yaeyama Island group. The Yaeyama Islands are also perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving as they have one of the largest coral reef systems in Asia.

Over the last 15 years we’ve visited Ishigaki Island over 20 times, and we created this travel guide based on our experiences. Our Ishigaki Island travel guide is meant for nature lovers who wish to explore Ishigaki on their own without taking a guided tour. We regularly update this travel guide but please let us know if you spot any error or any outdated information.

Kabira Bay Lookout Point

The Kabira Bay lookout point is a very touristy spot but a must-see place, even though it is prohibited to swim in this part of the bay (due to many tourist boats, strong current and mainly to protect the black pearls). The view is better in the afternoon due to sun’s reflection in the morning. It is also an excellent area for kayaking (required to launch your kayak away from the area where the tourist boats are docked).

Tropical paradise of Japan, Kabira Bay on Ishigaki Island of Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa

Ura-Kabira (Kabira Bay Inner Beaches)

Not necessarily good beaches for snorkeling, but they are certainly some of the most visually stunning beaches on Ishigaki, with calm tropical water and plenty of shady spots under the trees. Due to the calmness of the water, this lagoon is a great place for SUP. There are tasty wild coconuts growing on Kojima Island in the bay, which can quench your thirst if you are good at climbing trees.Coral sandbank in tropical Japan, Ishigaki Island of Yaeyama Islands, OkinawaJapanese tropical beach, Ishigaki Island of the Yaeyama Islands, OkinawaOne of many deserted tropical beaches of Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, JapanStand up paddle boarding, Ishigaki, JapanKayaking in Japan's tropical lagoon, Ishigaki Island, OkinawaTropical lagoon in southern Japan, Ishigaki Island of Yaeyama Islands, OkinawaTropical lagoon in southern Japan, Ishigaki Island of Yaeyama Islands, OkinawaDrinking wild Japanese coconut juice, Ishigaki Island, Tropical Japan

Fukidou River Kayaking

If you are not going to Iriomote Island but still want to experience the jungle by kayak, we’d recommend Fukidou River. If you can’t bring your own packraft or inflatable kayak, the best tour is the “Mangrove kayaking & waterfall stream-hiking” (Half day tour, 5,000 yen) operated by Fukidou Kanko. The tour includes everything you need.

Mangrove kayaking, Ishigaki, Okinawa, JapanMangrove jungle kayaking in Japan, Ishigaki-jima of the Yaeyama Islands, OkinawaLoop-root Mangroves of Japan, Ishigaki of the Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa

The waterfall is also accessible on foot (see “Fukidou River” on our map for walking path).

Note: Although malaria on the Yaeyama Islands was eliminated in the 1970’s, there are mosquitoes that carry Japanese Encephalitis, so best to use insect repellent just to be sure since most westerners don’t have the vaccination.

Nameless waterfall of Fukidou river, Ishigaki Island, Japan

Kabira Ishizaki Manta Scramble

Ishigaki boasts a very high chance of encountering giant manta rays, about 90% chance while scuba diving at the point called Kabira Ishizaki Manta Scramble. There are also snorkeling tours to see manta rays but we must say that it’s often boring for snorkelers. The point does not have beautiful coral reefs and it’s too deep for snorkelers to enjoy (even if you can see manta rays, usually you see them small from the surface).

Video by our friends (The last part is from the Manta Scramble point of Ishigaki):

Beautiful Landscape of Northern Ishigaki

Northern tip of Ishigaki seen from a plane (pick a seat on the right side of the plane for the view when flying from Mainland Japan):

Aerial view of Ishigaki Island with coral reefs and tropical water of Southern Japan, Okinawa

Tamatorizaki Observatory:

Typhoon waves hitting reefs of Ishigaki Island, Tropical Japan

Akaishi Paraglider Take-Off Site:

Tropical Japanese island with fringing coral reefs, Ishigaki-jima

Cape Hirakubozaki Lighthouse:

Scenic lighthouse of Northern Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan

Northwestern Coast of Ishigaki, seen from Kabira Bay Inner Beach:

Tropical landscape of Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan

Kabira Ishizaki and the fringing reef:

Aerial view of Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan

Kabira Tabaga Beach:

Kabira Tabaga Beach, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan

Find your own secluded beach just for yourself!

Ishigaki has more than 50 idyllic nameless small cove beaches, which are often deserted even during peak seasons. Some of them are easily accessible from the road side without having to use a kayak. Use Google Satellite and find your own secluded beach, keeping in mind the wind direction of the day. You can find some examples on our Ishigaki map.

Ishigaki Island coastline, Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa, JapanOne of many secluded beaches of Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, JapanOne of many secluded tropical beaches on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, JapanOne of many secluded tropical beaches on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan

Yaeyama Palm Tree Grove and Juice Bar with Ishigaki’s Tropical Fruits

Yaeyama palm trees (Satake palm) are endemic to Iriomote Island and Ishigaki Island. They are very beautiful palms and they have been introduced to Hawaii and Southern Florida. The area is protected so you can only enter a small part of the area, but it is beautiful. There is a juice bar next to the parking area where you can enjoy various local tropical fruit juices such as mango, guava, pineapple, dragon fruit, passionfruit, shikwasa, etc (our personal favourite is guava!). We also recommend the simplicity and total deliciousness of fresh sugarcane juice (pressed only once) which is full of vitamins and minerals. We also recommend the simplicity and total deliciousness of fresh sugarcane juice full of vitamins and minerals, not like unhealthy processed white sugar. Also as opposed to many other countries, sugarcane are pressed only one time for its juice in southern Japan, which gives more flavor rather than just sweetness. There is Satake Palm Memorial Museum within a 5 min walk from the juice bar. You can have a panoramic view of these Yaeyama palm trees and the outer reef of Yonehara from the rooftop of the museum.

Forest of Satake Palm trees (Satakentia liukiuensis) on Ishigaki Island, JapanJungle of Satake palm trees in southern Japan, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

Off-the-Beach Snorkeling

With any off-the-beach snorkeling over fringing coral reefs, it’s important to snorkel around high tide in order to protect coral from breaking with fins, or stepping on coral accidentally. Also it can be dangerous as sharp coral can cut you. Please check Ishigaki’s tidal hours of the day here.

Shiraho Coral Reef (along the south-east coast of Ishigaki Island) is internationally acknowledged as the world’s largest colony of Blue Coral, and Shiraho Reef alone has over 130 coral species (over 360 coral species are found around the Yaeyama Islands), according to WWF’s Shiraho Coral Reef Conservation Centre. Some points on Shiraho Reef are easy to access from the beach but other points require quite a bit of swimming with fins, especially with a south wind. If you are not experienced or just want to see the best spot of the day, we recommend a snorkeling boat tour run by Blue Coral. For easier off-the-beach snorkeling for families, we recommend dipping into the water from Yonehara Beach, Akaishi Beach or this special snorkeling spot off Crystal Beach where you can see beautiful coral, many tropical fish, sea-snakes, etc. To see the amazing coral at the special spot, you have to swim about 10-15 minutes from the beach to get to the reef edge. It’s close to the beach but you need to swim over a big drop (see the exact spot on our map). Even though Yonehara Beach is a touristy snorkeling spot especially for families, snorkeling is actually not bad even for snorkeling enthusiasts, and you can see beautiful coral if you swim further to the reef edge. Akaishi Beach has beautiful Blue Coral just in front of the beach, often with no other people (see the exact spot on our map). The road to Akaishi Beach is blocked with a gate but the gate is just to keep the cows inside the grazing land so you can open the gate to enter. Just make sure to close the gate behind you!

In order to have good water clarity with calm water, it’s wise to choose the snorkeling spot according to the wind direction of the day. When it’s a north/west wind, Shiraho and Akaishi will have good clarity, while in case of a south/east wind, Yonehara or our special snorkeling spot off Crystal Beach will have good clarity.

Coral reef snorkeling around Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan

Crystal Beach and the snorkeling spot (the bottom right of the photo):

Crystal beach and snorkeling spot, Ishigaki Island, Japan

Yonehara Beach and its fringing reef seen from above:

Aerial view of Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan

Ibaruma Sabichi Cave

Particularly if it’s a rainy day or typhoon day, visit Ibaruma Sabichi Cave located in the north of Ishigaki. This cave is connected to some secluded beaches which are also nice to explore. There are several cave systems all over Ishigaki, however we thought this Ibaruma Sabichi Cave was much better than the LED-lit caves closer to the port.

Sabichi limestone cave, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, JapanOne of many secluded beaches of Southern Japan, Ishigaki Island

Stream-Trekking to the Upper Waterfall of Arakawa Falls

If you are not going to Iriomote Island but still want to experience the jungle by stream-trekking, we’d recommend the stream to the upper waterfall of Arakawa Falls. As you hike up this rugged stream, it becomes surrounded by beautiful tree ferns. There is a car park by the road. Check the description on our map for the entry point as it’s different from the lower waterfall of Arakawa Falls, which is popular among local kids. This stream-trek takes about 30 mins to get to the upper waterfall. Stream-trekking shoes (felt-sole wading boots) are highly recommended since you need to go over slippery mossy boulders. It is also a very good stream to catch delicious freshwater prawns all year round!

Tropical Japan's jungle with tree ferns, Ishigaki Island of Yaeyama Islands, OkinawaJungle stream trekking on Ishigaki Island of the Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa, JapanJungle stream trekking, Ishigaki Island, JapanJungle waterfall on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, JapanFreshwater prawns from jungle of Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan

Snorkeling Tours to Sekisei Lagoon and Coral Reefs of Northern Ishigaki

We recommend a half-day or whole-day snorkeling tour to Sekisei Lagoon. Some areas are still beautiful, but a lot of coral in the shallow areas got damaged by 2015-2016’s El Nino. Some have started to recover, but it will take time. For those who want to see pristine lush coral reefs, we highly recommend taking a snorkeling tour to the coral reefs off northern Ishigaki. Our recommendation is Marine Mate who also do great diving tours to these healthy lush coral reefs.

Sekisei Coral Lagoon, Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa, JapanCoral cay beach and clear tropical water of Southern Japan, Yaeyama Islands, OkinawaSekisei Lagoon Coral Cay, Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa, Japan

Restaurants and Cafes

There are more and more cute restaurants and cafes popping up all over Ishigaki.
Some of our favourites include (see the exact spots on our map):


This cafe is located quite far north. They serve a delicious 100% Ishigaki beef burger on their lunch menu. Closed on Thursdays and Fridays.


Traditional Okinawan restaurant located in a previously private residence, spread over different houses and rooms. The premise is absolutely beautiful. The food is decent traditional Okinawan dishes best to share, and there is a Sanshin (Okinawan guitar) performance which is a lot of fun. Even though it’s a bit touristy, it’s a great place to experience the island culture. It’s essential to make a reservation.

Funakura no Sato restaurant, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa


This cafe is located in a residential area in-between Kabira Bay and Ishigaki Port. Delicious and beautifully prepared food, using only local ingredients. The coffee & sweets set is delicious and great value. This cafe features the illustrations of Murakami Yasunari and has a museum of his work.


Delicious Vietnamese food with a local touch, located near the Kabira area. The restaurant has a casual atmosphere, with seating also available on the terrace overlooking the road. Takaway is also possible. Currently only for lunch (11:00-16:00).


Okinawan izakaya with a lot of smoked dishes, located in the Kabira area.


A friendly bakery with delicious bread with a local touch, located in the Nosoko area. Seating available inside.


Cafe/bar/restaurant open from 9:00-22:00. It’s very handy for those who are renting a cottage in the Nosoko area and want to have a break from cooking or want to go out for drinks. They also run a guesthouse and Sabani (traditional sailing boat) tours.


No-frills place serving one of the best, authentic Soki Soba dishes on Ishigaki.


Located a short drive north/west of the port, in the middle of a field, this flagship gelato shop boasts gelato made with local produce such as mango, pineapple, banana, dragonfruit, shikuwasa lime, purple sweet potato.


Located in the center of the island, Kanan is a great lunch place with traditional local dishes. It’s also popular amongst local islanders.


Loacted near the port, this is a very popular place for a traditional breakfast with freshly made Okinawan-style tofu. It gets quite busy even early in the morning during peak seasons, and all the dishes tend to get sold out before noon.


Ok, it’s not a “cafe” or “restaurant” but it is worth a mention to get the best juices on the island! Enjoy various local tropical fruit juices such as mango, guava, pineapple, dragon fruit, passionfruit, shikwasa, etc. (our personal favourite is guava!). We also recommend the simplicity and total deliciousness of fresh sugarcane juice (pressed only once) which is full of vitamins and minerals. You can also enjoy a short walk into a protected area of the Yaeyama palm tree grove from here.


Despite being a food court style restaurant at the airport, the Soki soba (Okinawan noodle soup with pork ribs) of Yaimamura is highly regarded as one of the best on the island. We never miss a meal of Yaimamura Soki soba before leaving the island!


Delicious home-made Okinawan-style soba restaurant, famous for their soba with “Ishigaki Kuruma Ebi” (Japanese tiger prawns from Ishigaki Island). Their Soki soba (pork ribs) is also utterly delicious. It’s not always open but you can see on the sign from the main road if they are open or not.

Okinawa soba noodle with Japanese tiger prawn, Ishigaki Island

Farmers Markets and Honesty Produce Shops


For all things local, namely fresh fruit and vegetable, check out the local farmers market “Yuratiku market”, located a few hundred meters from Ishigaki Port.


Shiraho Sunday Market is located within the “WWF Japan Coral Reef Conservation and Research Center” at the coral village of Sangomura, about 25 minutes drive west of Ishigaki Port. Seasonal fresh produce and traditional prepared food such as food wrapped in banana leaves.

“Mujin Hanbai” – Honesty Produce Shops

We love these road-side stalls – you never know what you’re going to find available! You can get very fresh vegetables and fruits directly from farmers for a very low price. Just drop the designated amount in the money jar and you’re set to go.

Car Rental

Renting a car is absolutely essential on Ishigaki Island. You can rent a small car just for a few thousand yen per day including insurance (can be as little as JPY1,500 per day) through the Japanese version of Rakuten Travel. Unfortunately, the price is often double on most English booking websites (only costly international rental car companies are in the English system). Best to ask someone who can read Japanese to book. You will need an International Drivers License.
When driving in the northern part of the island, please take care to be on the lookout for wildlife. There can be creatures crossing the road, such as box turtles, boars, coconut crabs, rail birds, snakes, etc.

Yaeyama Box Turtle, Ishigaki, Japan


Ishigaki has more and more nice and reasonably-priced places to stay in the beautiful areas of the island, great for nature-lovers. Below are some of our recommendations.


Thatched roof stand-alone villas next to Sukuji Beach. Although some features have become a little dated, these spacious cottages each have an inviting outdoor jacuzzi on the balcony, surrounded by beautiful, tropical vegetation. This place is great for families (although there is no kitchen). It is next to the main “Seaside Hotel” where you can have breakfast or dinner, and enjoy the facilities of the hotel, including the swimming pool.
If you book early you can get a great deal (excluding Japanese holiday periods) via Jalan or Rakuten Travel in the Japanese version (excluding Japanese holiday periods such as the Golden Week holiday).

Beautiful cottage hotel of Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Tropical JapanTraditional cottage hotel, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan


A lovely boutique hotel set beside a (average) beach, with a beautiful central pool. There are self-contained 2nd floor apartments with big rooms and proper kitchens in the main building and stand-alone Okinawan-style cottages with kitchenettes. It’s modern, clean, and the service is outstanding. Although they offer a BBQ style dinner package, there are no other dining options in the area. Self-catering is possible.

Boutique hotel with pool, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan


A simple, clean and homely guesthouse (shared bathroom) located on the north-west side of Ishigaki. Umisuzume offers breakfast and dinner packages using local ingredients for a reasonable price. The meals are all prepared personally by the friendly owner. They offer free rental for snorkeling gear, parasol, water shoes, life vests, beach sand toys and floats for kids and cooler bags.


A simple, clean and budget hotel and cafe, located near a beach. Each room has a private bathroom. Snorkeling gear rental is available for a small fee.


A nice boutique hotel with a pool located in front of a beach, and run by very kind staff. All the rooms are spacious.


This tasteful B&B style accommodation is located in a spot overlooking scenic Kabira Bay. This premise has just two rooms.


Cozy and popular rental cottage with direct access to a secluded beach.


Ishigaki’s best luxury boutique hotel.


One of the only accomodation on Ishigaki located directly on the beach. There are just 4 cottages. They also run a cafe restaurant with outdoor seating.


A cozy rental cottage with direct access to a secluded beach in the beautiful Nosoko area.


Cozy and friendly B&B style hotel, with dinner packages available. Tingara is located in the Ibaruma area (northern part of the island).


Located at the same latitude as The Bahamas, Ishigaki Island has a Tropical Rainforest climate as opposed to Humid Subtropical climate of Okinawa Main Island and the other northern islands of Okinawa Prefecture. The average yearly high temperature is 26.9°C (80.4°F), and the average yearly low temperature is 22.2°C (71.9°F), making the mean annual temperature of 24.5°C (76°F) which is the same as Oahu of the Hawaiian Islands. The climate is similar to Southern Taiwan, warmer than Hong Kong and Northern Taiwan due to the warm ocean current around Ishigaki. The annual average humidity exceeds 75%, which makes the feeling temperature very different from dry places with the same mean annual temperature such as Townsville in Queensland, Australia. The sea temperature is warm all around the year, ranging between 21°C (70°F) and 31°C (88°F). The rainy season is May-June but it does not rain all day. Usually it’s just a few downpours in-between blue sky. The core season for typhoons/tropical storms is August-September but some years have very few typhoons/tropical storms while other years have many typhoons/tropical storms even as early as May or as late as November. However, at least one typhoon/tropical storm hits Ishigaki during August or September every year. Usually a typhoon/tropical storm affects the weather only for a few days and you get beautiful clear blue sky as soon as the typhoon passes away.

Note: Unfortunately all international weather forecasts for Ishigaki are inaccurate (including weather histories), such as the default weather apps on smartphones, Google weather, Accuweather, etc. They are almost always a few Celsius degrees lower than the actual temperatures measured on Ishigaki (especially during winter), and sometimes they can be completely wrong since they don’t have access to the proprietary data from Ishigaki weather station owned by JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency).
We recommend this weather forecast using the JMA’s data from Ishigaki weather station (It’s in Japanese with Celsius but it’s straightforward).
The weather on any southern Japanese island, however, is so unpredictable that weekly weather forecasts (even two days ahead) should really be used as a guide only. The conditions can also be very different even on the same island between north and south or mountains and coastal areas.

Average temperatures of Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan (1991-2020, Japan Meteorological Agency)

  • Average high temperature °C
  • Average low temperature °C