The first glance at those stunning pictures conveys a Hawaiian or a Fijian holiday is on the cards for you, but looking closely you would never expect that these pictures are from a Japanese island – Ishigaki. Lying in Japan’s south-western Okinawa Prefecture, Ishigaki Island is an otherworldly pocket of Japan perfect for an ideal escape for holiday-hunting travellers and globetrotters and can be clearly labelled as the Best Beach of Japan.
Ishigaki Island has recently been rated as the top trending travel spot by the online travel company, TripAdvisor. The island is a hub of biodiversity reserves and has seen a sharp rise in its visitor numbers. The best beach of Japan is an island and is a slow-paced tropical paradise, with white sandy beaches, mangroves forests, tranquil waters and world-class diving spots. There are three beaches on the Ishigaki Island – Yonehara Beach, Sukuji Beach and Sunset Beach.
Kabira Bay is one of the popular tourist spots and is home to the island’s most famous beach – Yonehara beach. This beach offers some of the great diving and snorkelling sites amidst white coral reefs. Swimming, diving and snorkelling are strictly not allowed in the Kabira Bay. But the emerald blue waters of Kabira Bay house many colourful tropical fishes, sea turtles, coral reefs, as well as large manta rays, all of which can be seen during a yacht tour or by renting a special glass-bottomed boat. The 30-minute touristy boat ride gives you ample opportunities to observe the aquatic life at close quarters. So, do get into one of those glass-bottomed boats to witness the kaleidoscopic underwater world below.
While diving, snorkelling or swimming, on any of the three beaches, better watch out for Habu Jellyfish, whose sting bite is considered poisonous and life threatening. A portion of all the three beaches are netted off to protect the divers and swimmers from the dangerous Habu Jellyfish. There are lot of picnic areas, showers, restrooms, changing facilities available on these beaches making it the Best Beach of Japan. There is a camping site from where you can rent out the snorkelling equipment.
The population of Ishigaki Island is about 50,000, which is concentrated on the island’s southern edge that is home to many restaurants, bars, shops and hotels, as well as a small port from which ferries depart for nearby islands. The rest of Ishigaki is a wonderland of nature rightfully revered among the Japanese, with un-spoilt beaches, coral reefs in dazzlingly clear waters, swaying palm groves, pineapple plantations and tropical vistas that are rarely associated with a Japanese landscape.
The summit of Nosoko Maapee – a small mountain crowned with distinctive boulders – offers a stupendous panorama: swathes of pristine forests, long strips of white sand along the coasts, humble mountains in the distance, and in every direction, the shallow greenish-blue waters deepening into bright cobalt blue. Relish this bird’s eye view from the vantage point of the summit, if you can brave up the challenge to climb up the mountain scrambling through thick shrubs and small trees and pulling yourself up the steepest segments with ropes strung between the trees.
In all, visiting a luxury destination is never easy, considering all the constraints it puts on your pockets, but Ishigaki Island makes for a very doable, luxury holiday that fits perfectly well in your limited budget. May be that is why the island welcomed 8.77 million people to its shores in 2016, and the figures are only rising with each year passing and making it the Best Beach of Japan.