Taketomi Island – A Tiny, Fun Okinawa Paradise
Located just a 10 minute boat ride from Ishigaki Island port, Taketomi Island has a lot to offer travelers, including stunning beaches, magnificent views, hikes and water buffalo rides to name a few.
It's a very remote, small island with an area of just 5.42 Km squared and a tiny population of 323 people. I took a number of day trips to this island from Ishigaki, after discovering Kondoi Beach. After disembarking from the boat, you can hire a bike, take a minibus or take the 20-30 minute country walk to the only public beach on the island (maps are provided at the tourist centre upon disembarkation). There are a number of beaches on Taketomi Island.
Collect your return speed boat ticket and timetable from Ishigaki Port (plenty of friendly and helpful English speaking staff and guides available) for around ¥1200 return. You can get a discount if you purchase 5 or more tickets at a time if using cash.
Kondoi Beach is by far my favorite beach of all that I discovered on the Ryukyu Islands and the pictures I've provided give you a mere glimpse into the extraordinary landscape and colors you can experience here, not to mention the serenity and peace if you avoid peak times.
I decided to go it alone with Google maps and walk around Taketomi, taking in the local village and wildlife. Arriving at Kondoi Beach at 8 am (after taking the first morning boat at 7:45 am) was perfect timing to avoid people and strong sunlight.
Directions to the beach are well posted, so you can't really miss it, even by foot. Arriving at Kondoi beach, you're often greeted by the local cats, who are very friendly and can be fed with food purchased on site. They're placid animals who love human attention and especially seem to enjoy snoozing on the tree branches!
I spent a number of hours swimming in the crystal clear waters, sunbathing on the white sandy beach and observing an amazingly diverse range of aquatic life.
On days when the tide is out, you can walk through the shallow waters to observe the surrounding islands. Currents are never strong and all aquatic life are safe here, making this a family friendly location. Notices and look announcements are made in the rare incidence of box jellyfish sightings (the beaches are manned by lifeguards at all times).
I walked the length of the beach, taking in the soothing sound of soft waves touching the shore, occasionally taking shade under palm trees, and began to hear families gathering to go snorkeling and exploring.
There are plenty of vending machines selling cold drinks but few places for meals, so it's best to bring your own food or head back to the mainland in time for lunch/dinner. Beach umbrellas, chairs and other equipment can be rented out per hour or for the day at the beach entrance.
Arriving back at Taketomi ferry port at 11 am was perfect timing as the crowds were beginning to form. But even with a few boat loads of tourists, the beauty of Taketomi can still be enjoyed.
(Side note: Kondoi Beach is family friendly but local people ask you kindly not to use drones on the island)
Kaiji Beach and Ayaru Beach are other beaches located on the island but you're not permitted to swim in the seas there due to high tides, fast moving currents and box jellyfish. These beaches also have restricted opening hours, so check before visiting.
Hoshizuna Beach, however, seems to be best and most rich in aquatic life for snorkeling with so many schools of fishes, crabs, lionfish, snakes, etc. all in one place and the water is characteristically very clear. Make time to enjoy the sunsets which are stunning and one of the best things about Taketomi. Hoshizuna Beach is famous for its star sand which you really need to see to believe it. Grains of sand are literally star shaped. Very few people come here, so you can often enjoy the whole beach to yourself.
(Sidenote: watch out for crabs in the evening on Hoshizuna Beach and don't miss your last ferry back!)