I took a week-long vacation to Ishigaki Island in April. My experience was restorative and allowed me to explore the entire island from upscale restaurants to its verdant mountain peaks and tranquil bays.

Here are some of the highlights from that wonderful trip you can use to inform your own travels.

Boats on the shore of Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan

A flower on Ishigaki Island

Fly to Ishigaki Island​

Ishigaki has a Hawaiian vibe, minus the traffic and insane prices. After a brief 55-minute flight from Naha, my wife and I landed at the New Ishigaki Airport. Opened in 2013, the small well-kept facility located on the island’s eastside maintains the standard of Japanese cleanliness and efficiency.

A view of farmland on Ishigaki

Get a rental car​

After a short wait for our bags, we hopped on a shuttle to pick up a car from Times Rental Car. As we waited for the friendly attendant to process our paperwork, I recalled the hassle of reserving the vehicle the week prior.

I had called over 7 agencies on island, but none had vacancies. One told me they had cars available but mysteriously became out of stock after my basic Japanese broke down revealing my American identity. After a while, I had learned my lesson:

Tip: Book your rental car at least 3 weeks in advance.

This will ensure you get the right size car for your vacation needs.

Lodge Ishigaki style​

Ishigaki Island AirBnB interior (Japanese-style housing)

After spending the afternoon at Yonehara Beach (one of the best beaches on the island for snorkeling), we drove through sleepy villages the winding cliff-lined coast, and undisturbed beaches bathed in sunset to arrive at where we would be staying for the week. An apartment located in the quiet beachside hamlet of Ohama, about a 15-minute drive from the airport.

Overlooking Yonehara Beach on Ishigaki Island Yonehara Beach, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

A sunset on Ishigaki Island Ishigaki Island sunset

While hotels are convenient, we favor staying in AirBnBs for the cultural exposure and generally cheaper prices.

It was an older Japanese apartment, with two rooms, a small dining room, and a kitchen. Very cozy. That would be our home for the next week.

Eat the best beef

If you go to Ishigaki, you MUST try the wagyu beef.

Raw wagyu beef served at a yakiniku Wagyu beef

This world-famous beef is produced from the local cows. These beefy (pun intended) animals enjoy fertile grass and wide-open spaces all over the island. All looked healthy and fit as they lazily grazed and flicked their tails in the humid island air. I had hardly seen such well-taken care beasts outside of Texas and California.

Fatty, chewy, and bursting with mouthwatering flavor, the beef is one of the island’s premium exports.

Having traveled all around the world, my wife and I both agreed, that Ishigaki beef is the best beef we’ve ever had.

It doesn’t come cheap though! So be prepared to spend a little more yen than usual to enjoy it.

More food to enjoy on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

Do water activities​

Swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing, hiking, and more are all activities you can and should enjoy during your visit.

The island is the hub for the Yaeyama Islands. A subsection of Okinawa prefecture, it is home to a large and vibrant coral reef thriving under the water’s shimmering surface. My wife spotted manta rays during her dive, dozens of varieties of colorful fish, and other aquatic creatures while snorkeling.

If you’re looking for underwater adventure, Ishigaki is the place to visit.

5 must do things in Ishigaki Island

A strange one-of-a-kind park of abstract Shisa, a journey back in time at Taketomi Island, my wife’s diving adventure, and more are all experiences I could deep dive into. This brief introduction barely scratches the surface of our week-long Ishigaki adventure. Want to hear more? Let me know in the comments!
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