Kick off the year by making a beeline for Ishigaki island in Okinawa, Japan, which was recently recognized as TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Destination on the Rise top award winner. Home to sandy beaches, coral reefs and tropical forests, we’ve rounded up a few things you need to know about Ishigaki before you go!
And when it’s time to book your Ishigaki getaway, TripAdvisor can help plan your whole itinerary. We check up to 200 booking sites to bring you the lowest price on hotels, plus we have thousands of bookable tours, excursions, attraction tickets, and more directly on our site. Our new 24-hour cancellation policy (for in-destination experiences) means you can pre-book before arriving, but still have the flexibility to cancel if your itinerary changes.
1. It’s truly a tropical paradise
While Ishigaki, or 石垣 as it is written in Japanese, means “stone wall”, the island isn’t well known for man-made attractions. Instead, filled with beautiful beaches and surrounded by clear, blue water, Ishigaki is a popular and natural diving spot. Other highlights of the island include a glass-bottomed boat ride in Kabira Bay to marvel at the tropical fish and coral reefs, snorkelling in Yonehara Beach and taking in breathtaking views from Tamatorizaki Observatory.
2. Meet the smiling Shisa
The Shisa is a lion-like creature that acts as a guardian angel protecting homes in Okinawa. Shisa often come in male and female pairs. The open-mouthed Shisa is the male, who wards off evil spirits and calls in the good ones, while the Shisa with a closed mouth is the female who keeps the good spirits in. Together they make a perfect pair!
Travellers recommend visiting the Yonekoyaki Craft Centre and strolling through its Shisa figurine park for a surreal experience where, according the TripAdvisor traveller Rosie2409, you “can’t help but smile”.
3. It’s small, but mighty
A small island, Ishigaki has created larger-than-life legends. Former professional boxer Yoko Gushiken (具志堅 用高 Gushiken Yōkō), hails from Ishigaki. Gushiken, known as the “Fierce Eagle”, held the WBA Light Flyweight champion title from 1976 to 1981. You can pay homage to him at a monument and memorial hall built in his honor.
4. The island has its own mascot
Ishigaki’s mascot is Paeagle, a crested serpent eagle that lives in the forest. Japan is filled with Yuru-Charalike Paeagle – mascot characters that promote specific regions within the country. As Ishigaki’s Yuru-Chara, Paeagle dreams of becoming an airline pilot or, like his local hero Yoko Gushiken, a boxing champion. And he certainly feels at home at the beach!
5. Save room for special soba noodles
Ishigaki is known for its special soba noodles. Called Yaeyama soba, it’s made of flour instead of the more traditional buckwheat and there are lots of different types to try. Slurp your way through the island with pits stops at Akaishi Shokudo Kunatsuyu, Nakayoshi Shokudo, Kabirakoenchaya, and Oisi.sa.gu.
Ready to go?
Experience Ishigaki’s island hospitality at the cozy Hotel Patina Ishigakijima and Vessel Hotel Ishigaki Island, both of which are centrally located in the town center, or at the all-inclusive Club Med Ishigakijima beachside resort which offers all-day activities for the whole family.