Top 10 attractions of Ishigaki Island: Natural Wonders

1. Kabira Bay
2. Yonehara Beach and Campsite
3. Sunset Beach
4. Hirakubo Lighthouse
5. Nagura Bay
6. Banna Park

Extra: Southern Gate Bridge

※ Please click the top-left icon on the Google map to see the location of these spots.

1. Kabira Bay

Kabira Bay

It’s easy to understand why the Michelin green guide rated Kabira Bay three-stars—this place is a water-colored painting without a frame, with boats floating on top of the almost transparent water, reflecting a gradient of blueness from different angles. This breathtaking view is a must for first-timers, but not so much with repeaters as there is little you can do on the site.

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Sukuji Beach

Note that swimming is not allowed as the current is unpredictable; neither is picnic comfortable on this extremely popular attraction. However, only 10-minute-drive away from Kabira Bay, the fully furnished white-sand Sukuji Beach (with a safety net and shower booth) should satisfy all your needs.

  • Public transportation: take route bus No. 2, 7, 8, 9 11 and get off at Kabira Park. Note that there is no direct bus to Sukuji Beach, you can take a taxi from Kabira Park, which will take about 10 minutes.

 2. Yonehara Beach and Campsite

Yonehara Beach_Ishigaki Island

Yonehara Beach is the best beach for beginner-snorkeling as its shallow coral reefs extend throughout the shore. You don’t even need to be fully equipped—dig your head into the water and you can see plenty of fish.  Unlike Sukuji Beach, there aren’t many shades on the shore, but the campsite adjacent to the beach provides an ideal place for picnic and afternoon nap (if you camp, there is an extra charge to be paid to the park manager who walks around to collect the bills.)

The downside is that, if you come during low-tide hours, the water is too shallow for a comfortable swim. Also, despite its popularity, Yonehara beach is not safeguarded by supervisor nor by protection net. Your safety is in your own hand. Better stick to areas where the reefs are reachable by feet.

Right across from Yonehara beach (you need to cross the road), there is a pottery workshop called Yoneko-yaki (“米子焼”) that makes colorful, exaggerated Shisa lion statues. What I really recommend is their exhibition park behind the shop, which, well, you decide whether it’s cute or cultish.

Yoneko-yaki_Ishigaki

  • The beach and the campsite are opened from April to Dec (when it’s closed the official entrance to the beach is also shut down.)
  • Parking, shower, and toilet available at the campsite.
  • Public transportation: take route bus No.2, 3, 8, 11 and get off at Yonehara Camping ground (approx. 60min from city center)

3. Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach_Ishigaki Island
Locating on the northeastern shore, the crescent-shaped Sunset Beach is the most exquisite beach of Ishigaki, with silky sands and turquoise sea. Even in low tide, the depth of the water still allows you to swim comfortably. For a family with kids, this is also a safer beach as protection net is installed and supervisor is available until sunset.

The parking lot and entrance area are managed by a private company, but the charge is not outrageous (it was 400 yen for parking and 200 yen for shower). In case you didn’t notice, the sunset is amazing here.

  • Beach opens from mid-April to the end of October
  • Public transportation: take route bus No.3, 5, 6 (any bus that goes to Hirano); duration is about 80 minutes.

4. Hirakubo Lighthouse

Hirakubo Lighthouse_Ishigaki Island

Hirakubo lighthouse is built on the northernmost cliff of Ishigaki island, overlooking the East China Sea. This excellent position allows visitors to enjoy a panorama view of the green hills and the deep blue sea that seem to stretch into eternity. I was never crazy about sunset viewing, but after seeing the sunset here, I start to understand what the fuss is about – it’s not only stunning but almost spiritual. And thanks to its position, Hirakubo is probably the only place in Ishigaki that has an equally stunning view of both the sunrise and sunset. Note that on the right to the lighthouse, you may see a bunch piled limestone that has mostly crumbled. That used to be the watch tower in the 1600s when foreign ships except for Chinese vessels were strictly supervised.

  • Public Transportation: take route bus No.3, 5, 6 (any bus that goes to Hirano) and it takes about 85 minutes from the city center.

5. Nagura Bay

Sunset at Nagura Bay_Ishigaki Island

Although Miyara river is the most well-known mangrove-watching spot, the easily accessible Nagura Anparu (the area enclosed by Nagura bridge) is my favorite spot to drop by after a day on Yonehara beach. There is a stair on the bridge that allows you to walk down to the soft grounds of the river delta, where the mangroves thrive.  You’ll have the whole Nagura Bay to yourself. If you have the whole afternoon, wade your way to see the sun slowly goes below sea level by joining the canoe trip offered by private guides.

Mangroves in Nagura Bay_Ishigaki island

6. Banna Park

View from Banna Park_Ishigaki Island

View from the Emerald Sea Observatory of Banna Park

Ishigaki isn’t all just about beach—just 5km north of the central city sits Banna-Kate (Mt. Banna), home to the 200-hectare big Banna Forest Park. It’s so huge that the distance from the north gate to the south gate is as far as 8km.  You can drive from the outer lane to the other side or use the Banna Skyline walkway. Apart from the popular Emerald Sea Observatory, which gives you a full view of the city, other parts including Nature-observation ground and Migratory bird observatory are also worth checking out.

From April to early June, you can also see large groups of fireflies lit up the night sky. You can access to the Firefly spot from the HOTARU-KAIDOU (“ホタル街道”)the second parking lot (“第二駐車場”) of the nature-observation ground (自然観察広場). They usually show up 30-40 minutes after sunset, and please bring a torch and keep your voice down, since they are extremely sensitive to sounds.

Extra: Southern Gate Bridge

Southern Gate Bridge_Ishigaki Island

One good thing about the downtown of Ishigaki is that from city hall to the beach, everything is within walking distance. A five-minute-walk from 730 intersections will take you to the Southern Gate Bridge, which connects the Yajima artificial island and the Tonoshiro Fishing Port. Standing on the bridge gives you an elevated view of the glittering sea and the port. Once you crossed the bridge, there isn’t much over there other than an artificial beach newly opened in 2017 (it’s mediocre but equipped with clean shower room) and a small park where people go fishing or BBQ.  It’s not really much of a tourist spot with a stunning view (although city government might have planned it to be), but its nice place to take a walk and relax. By the way, if you walk along the breakwater of Tonoshiro Fishing Port all the way to the end (near Maezato Park), there is a spot where street lights are turned off, excellent for stargazing.

Next: my top 10 attractions in Ishigaki: Cultural & Historic Sites

 

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