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Paradise Found: 5 days on Okinawa's Ishigaki and Taketomi Islands

Ready to get away? Like, really get away? Okinawa Prefecture is just the place.
Paradise Found: 5 days on Okinawa's Ishigaki and Taketomi Islands

The region is home to an archipelago called the Yaeyama Islands. And this string of islands, which includes Ishigaki Island and Taketomi Island, just so happen to be the most remote areas in all of Japan.

With a population teetering around 50,000 that is mostly concentrated around the island’s urban pockets, Ishigaki Island offers a remote experience for travelers looking to get acquainted with nature. Here, you can discover untouched mangrove forests, see the world’s most transparent sea at Kabira Bay, and gaze upwards at some of the darkest, starriest, skies in the world. More than outdoor adventure, Ishigaki offers no shortage of cultural experiences and traditional cuisines to enjoy, too. 

Like Ishigaki, Taketomi is among Japan’s remote Yaeyama Islands. This much smaller island is accessible by ferry and is located just a short distance from Ishigaki Island.  Taketomi offers travelers a wide array of unique experiences, notably Okinawa’s famous Hoshizuna Beach where you can walk on star-shaped sands. 

After more than two years of global pandemic-related stress, a relaxing island holiday is just what the doctor ordered.

JAL Package Details

JAL Package Details


Despite the Yaeyama Islands’ remote location on the map, Japan Airlines can take you there by way of Tokyo or Osaka, whichever meets your unique travel needs. And with our dynamic travel package designed by locals with travelers in mind, you can experience all that the islands have to offer. 

From flights to local transportation options, the Japan Airlines dynamic package has you covered. And, with optional guided tours and unique experiences at every turn, discovering the wonder of Okinawa's Ishigaki and Taketomi Islands has never been easier. 

• Departure city: London
• Destination: Ishigaki and Taketomi Islands in Yaeyama region, Okinawa
• Recommended season for this package: Year-round
• Duration: 5 days 
• Type of experience: Culture, history, beaches, outdoors
• Trip type: Ideal for couples, families 
• Accommodations: Included 4-night stay at Ishigakijima Beach Hotel Sunshine, Ocean Garden Wing (new tower).
 • Address: 2484 Arakawa, Ishigaki-shi Okinawa, Japan 907-0024
• Transportation: This package includes a taxi from and to airport, ferry fee, and bus tour on Day 3 Ishigaki island. 
• Meal plans: Meals included in this package are:
 • breakfast (four meals from the accommodation)
 • dinner for one night (Dine at Funakura no Sato)
• Age requirements: 5+ 
• English speaking assistance: Available
• Cancellation policy: In the event of trip cancellation, the following fees will apply: 
 • 20 to 8 days prior to the tour: 20% 
 • 7 to 2 days prior to the tour: 30% 
 • 1 day prior to the tour: 40%
 • Day before tour begins: 50% 
 • Anytime after the tour begins: 100% 

Day 1: Arrive, check-in, unwind at Ishigakijima Sunset Beach, and enjoy Ishigaki specialties

Day 1: Arrive, check-in, unwind at Ishigakijima Sunset Beach, and enjoy Ishigaki specialties

The day begins with your arrival in Okinawa. Check-in at your accommodation, enjoy leisure time at the beach, and savor dinner at Funakura no Sato, a local restaurant built from old folk houses. 

Getting to Okinawa Islands from Tokyo or Osaka:

Travel time from Tokyo to New Ishigaki Airport on the Yaeyama’s transportation hub, Ishigaki Island, is around three hours. From Kansai International Airport, it averages 2 hours 40 minutes. Connecting flights by way of Naha Airport on Okinawa Main Island are also available.

Accommodations:

Accommodations

After you’ve touched down in Okinawa, catch a taxi for a 30-minute ride to your accommodations at 4-star Ishigakijima Beach Hotel Sunshine within the resort's updated New Wing Ocean Garden. This new tower offers ocean views for all rooms.

The resort is conveniently positioned to offer beach access and sweeping views of the horizon, sunset, and nearby Taketomi Island directly from the grounds. The guess has a free access to their infinity style swimming pool right on the beachfront water looking over the sunset.

The beach is accessible free of charge, and Ishigakijima Beach Hotel Sunshine offers a variety of watersports rentals, from thrilling jet skis to kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.

Dine at Funakura no Sato

Dine at Funakura no Sato

This family restaurant was built from a series of relocated homes and buildings that exhibit old Okinawan culture. Since its creation, the restaurant has grown to a sizable complex complete with its own art gallery, outdoor stage, lush garden, and bar.

Diners can enjoy a parade of healthful Ishigaki specialties at Funakura no Sato. In an effort to promote Okinawan culture, the restaurant uses tableware and pottery that has been made on the island. 

And each night, the restaurant comes alive with traditional Okinawan live music, entertainment, and dancing that all patrons are encouraged to take part in. 

• Address: 2468-1 Arakawa, Ishigaki 907-0024
• Access from hotel: 13 minutes by walk
• Live entertainment: 6:30-8:30pm daily

Day 2 optional activity: Experience a Tingala Cruise (Milky Way Cruise)

Day 2 optional activity: Experience a Tingala Cruise (Milky Way Cruise)

You’ll encounter some of the darkest skies in the world on Ishigaki Island. In fact, the area has been certified as a Dark Sky Reserve, a designation given by the International Dark Sky Association. And you can see these dark skies for yourself with a ticket aboard the Starry Sky Cruise, an optional activity offered in this travel package. 

As day turns to night, gaze up to the deep navy abyss and witness the natural light show as stars fill the sky. The gentle rocking of the boat, the soundscape of the waves gently rolling by and relaxing notes of Okinawa's three-stringed Sanshin instrument in the background, and the star-dotted night sky make for a serene and unforgettable experience.  

Package includes a boarding fee, drink, and insurance. 

• Length: 1 hour
• Access: 10-minutes by taxi from your accommodation
• Address: 2 Misaki-cho Ishigaki-City, Okinawa

Itinerary: Check-in at Pushinushima office (until 8:20 p.m.).  Depart Ishigaki Port and enjoy the starry sky from your boat.

Discover local points of interest: Explore Kabira Bay, learn about Okinawan culture at Ishigaki Yaima Village, and take in scenic views at Tamatorizaki Observatory

Discover local points of interest: Explore Kabira Bay, learn about Okinawan culture at Ishigaki Yaima Village, and take in scenic views at Tamatorizaki Observatory

After breakfast at your accommodations, you’ll set out on a guided tour of Kabira Bay. Later, you’ll have time to explore a historic village, visit a popular pottery studio, learn about Yaeyama culture through textiles, and soak up unparalleled views of the emerald green sea.

Discover Kabira Bay

Discover Kabira Bay

Among Japan’s most scenic areas, Kabira Bay is recognized as the world’s most transparent sea. The well-frequented destination boasts sweeping views of the water and lush islands. Kabira Bay has been awarded three stars by the popular guidebook for international travelers, Michelin Green Guide Japan.

• Address: Kabira, Ishigaki-City, Okinawa,  907-0453

Explore Ishigaki Yaima Village

Explore Ishigaki Yaima Village

Journey back to the days of Okinawa’s Ryukyu Kingdom at Ishigaki Yaima Village, a theme park attraction where a cluster of recreations and well-preserved folk homes reminiscent of the Imperial Era are on display. 

Here you can explore the house-lined streets of the theme park, try on a traditional Ryukyu kimono, paint your own shisha figurine, and experience a cultural show complete with music from the three-stringed Sanshin, a traditional Okinawan instrument.

• Address: 967-1 Nagura, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0021

Encounter traditional pottery pieces at Ishigaki-yaki Pottery

Encounter traditional pottery pieces at Ishigaki-yaki Pottery

Art enthusiasts will certainly enjoy a visit to Ishigaki-yaki Pottery Studio. About 100,000 people visit the pottery studio each year to see the famous blue and black pottery pieces. Recently, Ishigaki-yaki gained international fame when the studio debuted an exhibition in Paris, France.

• Address: 1356-71 Nagura, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0021

Visit Yaeyama Minsa Textile and learn about traditional weavings

Visit Yaeyama Minsa Textile and learn about traditional weavings

At Yaeyama Minsa Textile, you’ll have the unique opportunity to learn about the traditional Okinawan handicraft of minsa weaving. 

Minsa weavings date back to the 16th century and were highly appreciated gifts that women would present to men as a token of affection. The weavings would convey messages through their patterns. The most special woven pattern signifies “together forever.”

Today, the traditional dyeing techniques and weaving practices are still being passed on to new generations. 

• Address: 909 Tonoshiro Ishigaki-City, Okinawa 907-0004

Take in scenic views at Tamatorizaki Observatory

Take in scenic views at Tamatorizaki Observatory

The Tamatorizaki Observatory is located in a scenic area of northeastern Ishigaki Island that overlooks the sea. 

Here, elevated and unobstructed views of the reef and the area’s lush green surroundings abound. And, from Tamatorizaki Observatory, you can see where the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. 

• Address: Ibaruma, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0332

Day 3: Ferry to Taketomi Island, catch a glimpse of water buffalo, and see Okinawa’s famous star-shaped sand at Hoshizuna Beach

Day 3: Ferry to Taketomi Island, catch a glimpse of water buffalo, and see Okinawa’s famous star-shaped sand at Hoshizuna Beach

Begin your morning with a hotel breakfast to fuel up for your third day in Okinawa. By way of taxi and ferry, today’s adventures take you to Taketomi Island, where you can go sightseeing and explore the region's famous star-sprinkled shoreline. 

• Depart hotel by taxi to Ishigaki Port Terminal (10-minutes by taxi). Taxi transportation fee is not included (estimated taxi price: about 1,000 JPY)

• Check in at Hirata Tourism at Ishigaki Port Terminal

• Depart Ishigaki Port by ferry to Taketomi Island (about 10-minutes)

• Arrival in Taketomi Island: Enjoy sightseeing by bus

• Depart after sightseeing by ferry

Go sightseeing on Taketomi Island

Go sightseeing on Taketomi Island

Taketomi Island is located just 6-kilometers south of Ishigaki Island. 

Charming and relatively small, Taketomi Island is a popular day-trip destination for travelers looking to get acquainted with local culture. Preservation efforts have kept the small island village almost untouched. Much of the island remains in a traditional style, with red-tiled one-story homes, roadside walls made from local rocky materials, lion-like shisa statues, and coral sand roads that wind through the village center. 

Ideal for sightseeing, visitors can catch a glimpse of the Taketomi water buffalo that make themselves at home on the island. 

See the famous star-shaped sand at Hoshizuna Beach

See the famous star-shaped sand at Hoshizuna Beach

The unique star-shaped sand at Hoshizuna Beach, also called Kaiji Beach, is undoubtedly one of Taketomi Island’s main draws. Visitors come from all over the world to see the unique shoreline and emerald green water. 

Taketomi Island’s Hoshizuna Beach is among the few places where you can find star-shaped sand in southern Japan. And this unique star-shaped sand is only found in the coral reefs of East Asia. 

Why does Okinawa have star-shaped sand? The grainy materials below your feet are actually the pointy shells of tiny microscopic creatures called Foraminifera. After these tiny organisms perish, their sometimes star-shaped exoskeletons are drawn in by the ocean’s tide resulting in what appears to be a star-sprinkled shoreline. 

While your first instinct may be to collect a handful of sand to take home, over the years, the amount of star sand has decreased, visitors are now banned from removing it. If you want to bring some sand back home, you can still buy a small bottle of sands from the shop nearby.

Additional activities, as well as bicycle rentals, are available on the island.

Day 4: Experience Yaeyama cuisine, savor Japanese beef, and join an optional tour

Day 4: Experience Yaeyama cuisine, savor Japanese beef, and join an optional tour

A day of exploration and unique cuisine awaits you on your fourth day in Okinawa. And for adventure seekers, optional kayaking excursions and river cruises can get you up close to nature.

Optional activities:

Kayaking and trekking to Sangara Falls

Kayaking and trekking to Sangara Falls

Join Duck Tour for the kayaking trip of a lifetime and a guided trek to the beautiful Sangara Falls. The journey begins with a gentle guided kayak excursion that takes you through unspoiled mangrove forests, where you can spot wildlife that calls the forest home.

Once you arrive at the base station, you’ll lace up your hiking shoes for a guided trek to Sangara Falls, where you can walk behind the falls and enjoy a picnic lunch before taking on more terrain with the tour. 

In total, the tour spans about 7 hours and is recommended for those ages 6-60. 

• Transportation and access: Round-trip ferry from Ishigaki to Iriomote
• Check-in: 8:15 at Hirata Tourism at Ishigaki Port
• Package includes:
   – round-trip ferry tickets and guide fees
   – waterproof gear, life jacket, trekking shoes, and shower facilities
   – kayak tour
   – lunch and drinks

Iriomote Island and Yubu Island Tour

Iriomote Island and Yubu Island Tour

This boundless self-guided tour takes you to two islands — Yubu Island and Iriomote Island. Discover Iriomote Island, the largest island of the Yaeyama Islands, where you will encounter mangrove plantations along the protected Nakama River. Animals, birds, reptiles, and butterflies flourish in this area. And depending on the tides, you’ll be able to hop out of your boat and explore the surrounding areas. 

Yubu Island is just a short distance away and is accessible via water buffalo carriage. The island is somewhat of a sub-tropical garden, with an abundance of flora and fauna at every turn. More than 100 species of trees and 30 varieties of hibiscus grow on the island. This optional tour is self-guided, and English-speaking services are not available at this time. 

• Length:
• Access: Round-trip ferry from Ishigakijima to Iromotejima
• Package includes:
   – round-trip ferry tickets and Nakama River Cruise
   – Yubu Island admission by water buffalo car
   – lunch

Recommended Eateries:

Savor an authentic meal at Satsuki

Savor an authentic meal at Satsuki

For a taste of authentic Japanese and Okinawa cuisine, pull up a seat at Satsuki. Located in Ishigaki, the popular izakaya restaurant beckons patrons to “stay and drink” with its casual atmosphere and signature Yaeyama-style cuisine. 

• Address: 4-9 Misaki-cho Ishigaki-City, Okinawa

Try Ishigaki beef at Yakiniku Oshiro

Try Ishigaki beef at Yakiniku Oshiro

Yakiniku Oshiro is a restaurant that specializes in Japanese beef. The restaurant offers an ample selection of Ishigaki-raised black cattle that are hard to find anywhere else. 

The beef dishes at Yakinku Oshiro are served with complementary seasonal island-grown vegetables in a contemporary setting outfitted with an open kitchen and expansive dining room with lots of seating. 

• Address: 1181 Tonoshiro Ishigaki-City, Okinawa

Day 5: Check-out and catch a taxi to the airport

All good things must come to an end. And on day five, your Okinawan adventure comes to a close. 

Departure: After a final breakfast at Ishigakijima Beach Hotel Sunshine, a hotel taxi will be available to transport you to Ishigaki Airport.

Start planning your next island adventure today

Emerald green ocean waters, epic adventure, traditional cuisines, and star-filled skies await you in Okinawa Prefecture’s Yaeyama Islands. 

Ready to add another stamp to your passport? Your next holiday begins with Japan Airlines — book your next holiday today.

Start planning your next island adventure today