Located just southwest of Ishigaki in the Okinawa Islands, Taketomi Island is at once convenient yet remote. Quiet and charming, the small island has no cars and no chain convenience stores, and the population of only a few hundred still live in traditional coral-walled houses with red-clay tile roofs. Visitors wanting to get the full cultural experience can tour the village on a cart pulled by water buffalo, guided by a local who’ll tell folk takes to the sounds of a local instrument.
The island’s beaches also make it worth a visit. Kondoi Beach on the western shore offers beach facilities with white sand and beautiful teal water. Kaijihama Beach on the southwestern coast and Aiyauhama Beach on the eastern coast are both notable for their star-shaped sand formed by the shells of crustaceans.
The only way to get to Taketomi Island is by boat. High-speed ferries depart from Ishigaki every 30 minutes throughout the day, and the trip takes about 10 minutes.
Travelers looking to escape the energy and excitement of Okinawa can find a relaxing respite on the shores of Ishigaki Island. Although this popular destination ranks among the Yaeyama Islands’ most populated centers—the silver shores of Ishigaki are a globetrotter’s delight. Visitors can float across the emerald waters of Kabira Bay aboard glass-bottom boats and wander around Kabira Park promenade where epic views are prove to be more than photoworthy.
Well-kept dressing rooms complete with showers and toilets, shaded areas and shallow waters make Sukuji Beach ideal for families looking to wade through the coast’s crystal clear waters. And travelers without small children will love the uninterrupted views of Uganzaki lighthouse in the far distance. Yonehara’s coral reefs attract both novice and experienced snorkelers who say the close-to-shore aquatic life is some of the best on the island.
Although inexpensive boat trips can be purchased last minute from luxury liners that have not reached capacity, there is no official ferry service to the island. Most travelers arrive and depart via Ishigaki Airport, and while taxis, bicycles and buses are available on the island, visitors agree the city is easy to explore on foot.
While the pebble beaches of Yubu Island may not be ideal for traditional sunbathing, this hidden paradise offers travelers a uniquely authentic island experience that is not to be missed. Visitors can explore the land aboard old-school ox carts and navigate the shallow waters, crystal clear fjords and lush foliage with the help of a local guide and his powerful water buffalo.
In addition to Yubu’s untouched shores, visitors can explore picturesque walking trails and well-manicured botanical gardens, all while experiencing the old-world wonder that lies just beyond scenic Okinawa.
The island is accessible by car and is about 40 minutes from Kanpira-so. Although vehicles are not allowed on the island it’s possible to walk across the shallow fjord between Yubu and Irimote.
Stationed on the west coast of Taketomi Island, Kondoi Beach offers travelers unlimited access to vast turquoise waters and perfect white sandy shores. Kondoi is home to some of the best snorkeling in the area, too—but visitors say it all comes at a price. Travelers looking to unwind on the shores of Kondoi should be ready to shell out 1500 yen per day for access to snorkels, masks and beach umbrellas. And while tourists say the beach is quiet, peaceful and perfect for catching sunsets, most agree that greater Okinawa offers other equally beautiful options at more budget-friendly prices.
Taketomi Island is accessible by boat only. Travelers can catch the Anei Kanko or Yaeyama Kanko ferries from Ishigaki.
Rolling hills and uninterrupted views set the island of Kohama apart from others in the Yaeyama archipelago. Travelers can wander grassy passes and shaded trails to two of the island’s most popular lookouts—Chura san’s Point and Ufudake. Locals say Chura san offers some of the best views in the region, but travelers agree that the view from atop Ufudake, where the whole of Kohama can be seen, is equally incredible.
Just like other nearby islands, Kohama is home to some beautiful beaches, including a long stretch of sandy shores called Haimurubushi. Visitors love that its clear waters are protected by jellyfish nets, but avid snorkelers say this means underwater wildlife leaves something to be desired. Still, wet and wild visitors can rent masks and jet skis — or opt to chill out on the shores in comfortable chairs under the shade of giant umbrellas.
Kohama Island is accessible by ferry from Ishigaki. The ride is approximately 25 minutes, making it ideal for day trips. Visitors can also hop ferries from Taketomi and Iriomote Islands.