Ishigaki Island – Reasonable, Yet Quality Stays and Spectacular Beaches
With a huge variety of accommodation, ranging from simple hostels to five star hotels with all inclusive packages, Ishigaki Island has something for every traveler.
A three hour flight from Tokyo Haneda Airport lands you in beautiful Ishigaki where you can take a bus to the centre where all the hotels are located. Everything is well signposted in Japanese and English and the bus driver makes stops at all the major hotels along the way (Ana intercontinental, Grand view etc).
The major attractions of Ishigaki are it's beautiful beaches, unique Ishigaki beef, wide variety of awamori drinks and the local Okinawan culture and history.
I stayed near the port during both of my trips, where there are endless restaurants, cafes, nightclubs and bars. When I travelled with a friend 6 years ago, we stayed in the "Happy Hotel" and during my solo trip, I stayed in the "Blue Cabin".
I can highly recommend the Blue Cabin for solo travelers, as it has all the amenities, facilities and services that you need. Not to mention incredibly friendly and helpful staff at reception to help you with anything during your stay. The rooms are indeed "cabin" sized, so very small but just perfect if you're spending your time at the beaches and local attractions anyway. Blue Cabin has hot tubs in addition to plenty of shower rooms, sinks, hairdryers and a good selection of shampoos and conditioners all freely available. The men's cabin also has an onsen! I found the breakfast (which you can pay for separately or have included in your stay) to be one of the best for the price, including freshly ground coffee, tea, juices, yogurt, freshly baked bread, salads, meat, eggs and vegetables. A night's stay at the Blue Cabin will only set you back ¥2,200 (breakfast included). The prices fluctuate depending on the day and season and whether you want breakfast or not.
You can check in from 2pm and checkout is at 10am. If you want to leave your room key and your luggage at reception, the receptionist will take care of that for you.
Happy Hotel is more suitable if you need privacy or are traveling with family. It's a basic but clean and functional hotel with comfortable beds, small bath and bathroom, fridge and ice box. The breakfast is an excellent selection of Japanese food..so lots of fish, natto, rice and eggs, if you prefer that to a more Western style! Again, like most hotels in Ishigaki, the receptionists and staff are incredibly friendly and helpful and will do everything possible to help you with any problem or question you may have during your stay. A night's stay is between ¥6000-8000/night depending on the room size.
There are hundreds of restaurants serving Ishigaki beef in all sorts of forms... BBQ, burgers, sashimi etc. I particularly enjoyed the "Vanilla deli" signature wasabi and avocado Ishigaki beef burger for ¥1,200. If you want a "meal deal" you can add chips and salad and a drink for an extra ¥800.
A short walk from the port is the bus stop where a limousine service will take you to various beaches all the way up to Kabira Bay. These journeys are only ¥500 each way, but rather tedious with lots of stops. A taxi is a better option if you want to save time. All the hotels and hostels have a bus map at reception, where it's easy to work out the service number, time and return times etc.
Recommended beaches to visit during your stay include: Sunset beach, Yonehara Beach and Sukuji Beach:
Sunset beach is a beautiful, soft white sand beach with showering and parking facilities (at around ¥500/hour).
Yonehara Beach is easily accessible by bus and is the best beach for snorkeling amongst aquatic life and coral reefs as well as relaxing on the white sands. Be careful of high tides.
Sukuji Beach is quiet and peaceful and located on Kabira Bay. Parking is free and showering facilities are provided at a local shop.
One of my favorite things to do on Ishigaki is to visit all the local souvenir shops and pick out something locally made to take back to mainland Japan as gifts. Whether it's a bottle of local awamori, a handmade soap, traditional Okinawan dress or a box of local biscuits, the souvenir shops have everything. An added benefit is that you can sample over 20 different types of awamori for free whilst you're deciding on your gifts and postcards!