Recommendations For The Best Tropical Island Vacations
 
   
 

Ishigaki and Hateruma

Ishigaki, the best beaches of Japan

Ishigaki is far away from Naha and has its own airport. Since the ferry line has been discontinued, you now have to connect by air from either Naha or Tokyo. It will cost you about 15,000 and 25,000 Yen for a roundtrip from Naha, the price varying a lot depending on the season and how far in advance you purchase a ticket.

This island is magnificent and offers maybe what you can call the most beautiful beaches of Okinawa. The color of the water of the Kabira Bay is a beautiful emerald green. Ishigaki is also the perfect starting point to go explore the smaller islands of the archipelago.

This is not a particularly touristy island, and you won’t find any attractions or temples to be visited. In fact, the only things offered are the beautiful beaches.

Some spots are less busy than others, such as  Sukuji, Sunset, or Yonehara beaches. For Yonehara, the coral reef starts only meters away for the white sand, which makes it the best snorkeling spot of the island. Other beaches, a little bit wilder and preserved, like South Kuura or North Uganzaki, are among the more beautiful of the island.

Almost all the beaches are adapted to surf and sea sports. Most of the beaches are protected by net to avoid shark encounters. If you have any questions, you can ask, or follow, the locals surfers who are very kind and helpful and know all the islands and beaches quite well.

Hotels

Different types of accommodations are present: charming huts on the sea front, luxury hotels, normal charmless but well located business hotels, and guesthouses. The prices will vary from 8,000 to 35,000 Yen a night (usually per person). For the price, the rooms are of good quality. The guesthouses offer less comfort for 2,000 to 4,000 Yen per night and are sufficient if you don’t need more than a place to sleep at night. 

Some things to do

There is no typical tourist industry on the island. You can find some places to rent diving gear and organize a tour for diving, fishing, but that’s all.  

There are some other ways to have fun on the island. First, the night life can be animated. There are not that many foreigner tourists on the island, so the entertainment places are geared for the Japanese, which makes them difficult to spot by the non Japanese speaking tourist. In the Misakichô neighborhood you can find bar (Izakaya), dance clubs, DJ house, and others places where the local youth love to party. 

Other things to do include eating the local food (fresh fish and Japanese noodles), enjoying the summer festivals, and taking advantage of a preserved nature.

The island is small enough to offer good bus service. You can also use the ferries to go to smaller islands like Hirabanari, uninhabited and not very busy, or to go and try to climb Mount Nosoko, which will reward you with a pretty view of the islands and the emerald waters. 

Hateruma

One hour by ferry and 6,000 Yen for a round trip and you’ll reach Hateruma jima, which is the most southern point of the inhabited areas of Japan. The tiny village is at the center and lies among the sugar cane fields and a few beautiful beaches.

This island is not known for tourism. There’s not even a real road, and you can walk around the small island in hours. Everything is preserved, and  Nishihama beach is desert, despite being beautiful. 

Five hundred people live on the island, and there’s no restaurant or hotel, but it’s possible to stay overnight in a Minshuku.

There’s nothing to do on this island, only snorkeling and diving. The village is in a traditional style for Okinawa, and the locals are friendly, so it’s a good destination if you seek a quiet and calm holiday.

The other islands

The Yaeyama archipelago is composed of many small islands that you can connect via ferry, some offering the capability to do a roundtrip in the day. Generally, it takes between 15 min and 1 hour to reach any island, and 580 Yen to 3,000 Yen for a single journey. Some ferry destinations run as many as 50 times a day, others like Hateruma only 3 times a day. In these islands, you will find a lot of snorkeling, hiking and exploration opportunities. For example, the Iriomote island offer a mangrove swamp to explore, where, if you are lucky, you’ll be able to watch a special cat species that you can only find on this island.

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