If You Go…
Sites to See
Naara Falls (Iriomote)
What it lacks in dramatic height, Naara makes up for in natural charm. The jungle hike to reach it takes about 30 to 45 minutes, and the fall itself splits into upper and lower falls. The upper main fall rains into a pool ideal for bathing and diving, while the lower fall makes an ideal picnic location.
Kabira Bay (Ishigaki)
Like a mellow Ha Long Bay, this cove is Ishigaki’s most photographed site, with a backdrop of the Hirakubo peninsula and Mount Omoto. Visitors cannot swim in it but can view coral by glass-floor boat.
Pinaisara Falls (Iriomote)
“White beard” is so named for its resemblance when viewed from a distance. Reached via a jungle trek, canoe ride or sightseeing boat, this waterfall’s crest and basin are walkable and provide views across Iriomote. You can also take a dip in the rocky pool.
Eating & Drinking
Cafe Te-dun Shidame-kan (Taketomi)
Taketomi’s top spot for local cuisine, this restaurant, located below Nagomi Tower, serves up soba noodles, simmered pork belly or taco rice: a modern-day Okinawan combination of ground beef on lettuce and rice topped with cheese and salsa sauce. A glass of Awamori, indigenous alcohol distilled from rice, is a strong accompaniment.
Cafe Te-dun Shidame-kan
+81 (0) 980 85 2239
Kitauchi Bokujyo Misaki-ten (formerly Yakiniku Kinjo) (Ishigaki)
Ishigaki is famed for its beef, part of Japan’s family of highly prized Wagyu. Located on the first floor of Hotel Peace Land, with branches across the city, Kitauchi Bokujyo Misaki-ten allows you to cook the beef yourself and try fresh sushi and local beer as well. Try the lunch set, available from 11.30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Kitauchi Bokujyo Misaki-ten
+81 (0) 980 83 7000
Hotel Peace Land Ishigaki 1F, Misakicho 11-1
Laugh La Garden (Taketomi)
For a chance to try wild boar sashimi or local-style pork cutlet with miso seasoning at reasonable prices, try this cafe near Iriomote’s Uehara port.
Laugh La Garden
+81 (0) 980 85 7088
Uehara 550-1, 2F
Places to Stay
Hoshinoya Okinawa (Taketomi)
Taketomi’s first full-service luxury resort required the approval of village chiefs and is constructed as traditional-style homes with hand-packed stone walls around each. Featuring immaculate Japanese service standards and the finest food in town, as well as chances to learn local handicraft skills on site, it’s the Yaeyamas’ finest retreat.
+81 (0) 50 3786 0066
Risonare Kohamajima (Kohama)
This cottage resort suits families, couples and golf lovers equally, balancing pools, a private stretch of beach, water-sports activities and the Ryukyu Spa.
+81 (0) 50 3786 0055
Camping and Pensions
As the hub for transport, Ishigaki hosts many budget-conscious sleeping options, including Yonehara camping beach on the northern coast. (Bring your own tent.) Minshuku, budget versions of traditional Japanese inns, are abundant near the port, priced as low as $40 per night.
Things to Do
Local Crafts (Ishigaki)
Handmade Okinawan products range from woven linen (Yaeyama Jofu) bleached in the sea and available at Euglena Mall to woodcrafts at Maruta Craft and, just outside Ishigaki City, modern Shisa at Yoneko-yaki Pottery.
208 Okawa, Ishigaki
Tel. +81 (0) 980 82 7392
80-2 Hirae, Ishigaki
+81 (0) 980 88 2559
447 Fukai, Ishigaki
Exercise and Adventure
Ishigaki hosts its own marathon in January (scheduled this year for Jan. 27) and the Triathlon World Cup in April. Also in Ishigaki, Akaishi Para-World lets you paraglide for 15 minutes for $127, or you can climb Okinawa’s highest peak, 1,700-foot Omoto Mountain, in two hours. For windsurfing, whether you’re a beginner or an expert, try T&T on Kohama. Osanpo will set you up for snorkeling, kayaking or hikes on Iriomote.
The Best Beaches
The closest beach to Kabira Bay — just a 15-minute walk — and features full facilities and white sand. The smaller Sunset Beach on the Hirakubo peninsula is much less crowded. Tsukigahama on Iriomote is perfect for a long, nighttime stroll and has some of the finest sands around. Hoshizuna Beach on Iriomote is for star hunters rather than bathers, who should head for Kondoi Beach instead.
The only interisland option, boats are regular, convenient, and they all leave from the Ishigaki Ferry Terminal, meaning tourists and locals must return here. Beware: The journey can prove rocky on the long route to Iriomote on windy days, but trips are rarely canceled. Ticket sellers in Ishigaki’s port speak English.
On and Off Road
While buses offer convenient multiday passes on Ishigaki, all islands are best seen with your own transport. Car rentals start from $35 to $50 per day; on smaller islands, a bicycle rents for $6 and can be taken on ferries.