I love it that it’s just a 2 hour flight from Hong Kong direct to Ishigaki Island in Okinawa. There is only one international flight to Okinawa and this is it! This means it can be an easy weekend trip and you’re near all the good food and amazing culture of Japan. If you’re really lucky, your ticket could be less than US150 return.
Ishigaki islands is rather well organised by frequent buses from the airport to the city. I stayed at Route Inn Grantia because of the free airport transfer. However, when I arrived, it was full. So I took the airport – seaport bus for 500 yen to my hotel and it’s only a short walk. Of course, the easiest way is if you rent a car and I highly recommend it if you are more than 1 person. However, if you’re a solo traveller like me and prefer to have an adventure with the local transport system, you’re in a good place too. Buses from the bus terminal go to Kabira, Hirano and Yonehara and most will stop at the airport en route. Buy the one day pass for 1000 yen or the 5 day pass for 2000 yen to make the most of it as one way to Kabira from the city is already more than 1000 yen. From the bus terminal, there is also a resort line that takes you to most resorts in Ishigaki. My final night in Ishigaki was at Grandvrio and I took the resort line from the ferry terminal as I was on Iriomote the nights before. It only cost 210 yen one way. Taxis are also an option and they are slightly more expensive but worth your while if you’re in a group.
Top Things to do in Ishigaki and Iriomote
1. Eat the famous beef! Ishigaki Beef, wagyu is healthy, fatty and so tasty. I had a very nice yakiniku at ishigakijima Kitauchi Bokujyo Hamasaki Honten. They’re one of the few open at lunch daily from 1130am – 11pm. I walked in at lunch (12pm)and dinner(530pm) and had a seat without reservation, yes they squeezed me in and were really nice about it. The other one that is famous but requires one month booking in advance is Sumibiyakiniku Yamamoto. I was turned away rather rudely so I very much prefer Kitauchi. You can also eat a good steak at Shima French Bar by Masaru Sasaki. The lunch sets are good value for steaks and the remember to make some room for dessert.
Ishigakijima Kitauchi Bokujyo Hamasaki-honten
2. Go to Kabira Bay. Take the glass bottom boat if you fancy and walk around the area. When I arrived, it was pouring! But I was lucky the rain was intermittent so I had time to explore and acquaint myself with the island cats. There are a few buses there and back. I go the 3pm bus and can’t back at 5pm in good time for a nice dinner.
3. Eat at the many izakayas around. My favourite? Usagiya Ishigaki Main store. The place comes alive at 7pm with everyone singing and dancing while having their food and drinks and you can always participate. A great and happy place with good food too! There is a cover charge of 450 yen but it’s worth the live entertainment. Have the plum, yuzu or ginger alcohol or have all types. They’re all good! I very much prefer this one to Hitoshi. Hitoshi only accepts cash and the food is so so. I also saw a cockroach at the waiting area near the door and they didn’t do anything about it, just let it climb up the ceiling with the possibility of falling into your food!
4. The lighthouse. The beautiful Hirakubo lighthouse. It is possible to take the 11.10am bus and arrive at the light house at 1245, hike to the lighthouse and then take the return bus at 1.40pm. Or you can wait for the last bus around 5pm. You do not want to miss the bus as it will mean taking a taxi. What I did was take the 1.40pm bus and then stopped at Akashi shokudo and had the most amazing yaeyama soba with the soft bone pork! Then I chilled out by the beach nearby which is quiet and private and took the 6pm bus back to town.
5. Go diving! I dived with Viking Kabira divers and they pick you up from your hotel and they provide a good service. Anna (Swedish with good English) and her partner Toyo have been good guides. Pity it was storming so I didn’t get to see the Manta Rays but June to October is the right season for it. The diving was still good though.
6. Hike the pinaisari water falls. Take a day trip from Ishigaki. Book with Kazaguruma as their guides speak good English and it’s the only tour that makes you hot noodles after your cold dip in the falls. Everyone else gets a measly lunchbox 🤣. The hike and kayaking along the mangrove river is really nice and enjoyable. They even provide the shoes for hiking so don’t worry (https://Kazaguruma-Iriomote.jp/en/) daisuke was my guide 😊💪🏼
7. I stayed over at Iriomote islands as I wanted to explore Funauki beach. However, because of the storm, it was cancelled. I did enjoy myself exploring star beach and eating my meals at Minshuku Sawayakaso which is an amazing quaint and ultra affordable guest house at Iriomote. They also do kayak tours.
8. Eat the Yaeyama soba with soft bone pork. It’s the best here. I had mine near the light house at Akashi Shokudo. I went at 2pm and still had to queue up for 20 minutes.
9. Just relax and enjoy the island live. Walk around, shop around, have some herbal tea, snorkel, laze around and have the soft serve ice cream with the famous sea salt.
10. Indulge in the ONSEN in Grandvrio Villa garden Ishigaki. Bliss! And then have dinner at the delightfully beautiful Funakura No Sato. The lime sherbet is delicious as with the many other dishes. You also get traditional Okinawan music while you eat.
That’s it’s the top things to do on Okinawa islands! I’ll be back as I need to dive with the mantas! This time I’ll check the weather report.
Ps: remember to bring your big spray. Many many mosquitoes here and big bugs too!