Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: 3 days in Okinawa, Yaeyama Islands, Ishigaki island. Backpacking Okinawa Japan travel blog

 

So you’re looking for some beach vibes after you’ve finished up the classic Japan route!

The Okinawa islands in the far south of Japan can be a perfect end to your first trip to Japan.

Okinawa prefecture has a number of islands to choose from… and the Yaeyama islands can also be a perfect choice.

And of the Yaeyama islands… having a base on Ishigaki island can give you a number of things to do even when you are in Okinawa on a budget.

 

This mini Ishigaki travel guide also includes ideas on your route and how you can get around from place to place using public transportation in Ishigaki, specifically by bus and ferry.

 

 

Now…

First, the quick list of the best things to do in Ishigaki.

Then, some ideas for your Okinawa itinerary and getting to Ishigaki.

And then, a more detailed look into how you can fit the top things to do in Ishigaki into your 3-day itinerary, along with ideas for how to get around by public transportation.

 

 

5 best things to do in Ishigaki in 3 days

 

1. Mount Omoto (hiking)

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Best things to do in Ishigaki - hiking mount omoto. Japan

 

2. Island hopping in Yaeyama Islands (ferry ride)

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Best things to do in Ishigaki - day trip from ishigaki ferry, island hopping in yaeyama islands. Japan

 

3. Taketomi Island (cycling)

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Best things to do in Ishigaki - cycling taketomi island day trip from ishigaki ferry. Japan

 

4. Kabira Bay (boat ride)

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Best things to do in Ishigaki - kabira bay glass bottom boat ride. Japan

 

5. Yonehara Beach (snorkeling)

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Best things to do in Ishigaki - snorkeling yonehara beach. Japan

 

 

Arriving to Ishigaki by flight

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Flight to Ishigaki. Domestic budget airlines in Japan

 

Ishigaki is an island in Okinawa prefecture that’s in the far south of Japan.

It’s actually closer to Taiwan than it is to “mainland” Japan… and even than it is to “mainland” Okinawa!

The only way to access Ishigaki island is by flight.

There are airlines in Japan that offer direct flights to Ishigaki from various cities in Japan.

Otherwise, there are a number of flights from Naha airport on the main Okinawa island.

This means that it’s possible you’ll end up on a flight with a connection in Naha.

If you end up spending a day or 2 in Naha before heading to Ishigaki, there’s the Okinawa monorail that connects to the airport for convenience in getting around some of the city area.

 

 

Getting around Ishigaki by public transportation

 

Ishigaki bus

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Getting around Ishigaki by bus, public transportation. Japan

 

There is a bus system on Ishigaki.

The bus frequencies may not be the best, which means that it does require some planning.

But it IS possible to get around to some of the top spots in Ishigaki by bus! And this can make it convenient enough.

 

If you follow this Ishigaki itinerary, you’ll want to get the 5-day bus pass.

The 5-day bus pass costs 2,000 yen (US$18) and will get you unlimited bus rides. You can buy this at the Ishigaki bus terminal or on the bus itself.

Generally if you do 2 round-trips that are at least a 30-minute bus ride away, the 5-day bus pass will be worth it.

 

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Getting around Ishigaki with 5-day bus pass or one-day bus pass, public transportation. Japan

 

There is also a 1-day bus pass.

The price of the 1-day pass is 1,000 yen (US$9).

If you decide to do only one of the bus days that are a part of this itinerary (hiking day or beach day), the 1-day bus pass will be worth it, if your starting point is from town or the bus terminal.

 

You’ll want to pick up a bus timetable at the bus terminal. Your Ishigaki guesthouse or hotel may also have a copy available for you.

The timings listed below are just to give an idea of how much time you might be able to expect an activity will take. Always verify bus timings and ferry timings!

 

 

Ishigaki ferry

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Getting around yaeyama islands by ferry from ishigaki. Japan

 

Ishigaki island is a part of the collective Yaeyama islands.

You can get to some of the other islands by ferry from Ishigaki.

You’ll want to go to the ferry port to get updated ferry timings.

 

 

Where to stay in Ishigaki

If you’re following this itinerary, then staying near the bus terminal and ferry port will be convenient.

These are located right near one another.

And making it a 4-night stay would be best for this itinerary in order to have 3 full days in the Yaeyama islands.

 

Put in future dates below (partner website) to get an idea for how much hotels cost on Ishigaki island!

If you don’t see a map of hotel prices below, see Ishigaki hotel prices here.



Booking.com

 

 

I stayed at this guesthouse which was a 10-15 minute walk from the bus terminal and ferry port.

This place has both hostel-style dorm beds and private rooms. The private rooms are kind of Japanese-style which means that you’ll be sleeping on the floor.

This guesthouse is run by a Japanese couple with 2 young kids, and they live on-site. So if you are looking to get interaction with a Japanese family, this could be a good place too!

 

 

So…

How to put the best things to do in the Yaeyama islands into a 3-day Ishigaki itinerary?!

 

Ishigaki travel guide, Okinawa itinerary: Best things to do in Ishigaki, Yaeyama Islands. Hiking, biking, snorkeling, boat ride. Backpacking Okinawa Japan travel blog

 

How to spend 3 days in Okinawa:

 

 

How to get around Yaeyama islands

 

Day 1
  • Bus to Mount Omoto trailhead
  • Hike to the Mount Omoto summit

 

Day 2
  • Ferry to Taketomi island
  • Bike around the island

 

Day 3
  • Bus to Kabira Bay
  • Glass bottom boat ride around the bay
  • Bus to Yonehara Beach
  • Snorkeling at the beach

 

 

And now…

A few more details on the best things to do in Okinawa!

 

Day 1: Hiking Ishigaki (Mount Omoto)

 

As an example, here were the timings of the bus I took on this Ishigaki hiking day:

  • 11:30am Bus to Omoto bus stop from Ishigaki bus terminal
  • 12:14pm Arrive at Omoto bus stop
  • Hike to Mount Omoto summit!
  • 4:36pm Bus back to Ishigaki bus terminal
  • 5:21pm Arrive back at bus terminal

Additional cost of activities for the hiking day: NONE!

You can use the 5-day bus pass, and there is no entry fee for the trail, so this is basically a FREE activity!

 

Ishigaki travel in pictures: Hiking Ishigaki

 

1. Mount Omoto hiking trail

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Hiking Ishigaki - mount omoto hiking trail. Japan

 

2. Waterfalls on the trail

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Hiking Ishigaki - mount omoto waterfall trek. Japan

 

3. Mount Omoto summit

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Hiking Ishigaki - mount omoto hike trail summit. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Hiking Ishigaki - mount omoto hike trail summit. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Hiking Ishigaki - mount omoto hike trail summit. Japan

 

 

Day 2: Ferry from Ishigaki (Day trip to Taketomi island)

 

As an example, here were the timings I had on this Ishigaki day trip:

  • 11:00am Ferry to Taketomi from Ishigaki ferry port
  • 11:15am Arrive at Taketomi
  • Cycling around the island! (with stops at scenic points + beach hopping)
  • 5:15pm Ferry back to Ishigaki ferry terminal
  • 5:30pm Arrive back at ferry terminal

 

Additional cost of activities for the island hopping day:

  • Round trip ferry ticket: 1,330 yen (US$12)
  • Bicycle rental for the day: 2,000 yen (US$18)

I went for the “mountain bike” so the cost was a little extra. The cheapest option is the ordinary bike that is 1,500 yen for the day.

 

 

Ishigaki day trip in pictures: Cycling Taketomi island

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - bicycle rental. Japan

 

1. Kondoi Beach

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - bicycle rental at kondoi beach. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - kondoi beach. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - kondoi beach. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - kondoi beach. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - kondoi beach. Japan

 

2. Kaiji Beach (aka star-sand beach)

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - kaiji beach - star-sand beach. Japan

The thing to do here is to look for sand that’s shaped like a star! 

 

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - kaiji beach - star-sand beach. Japan

This is souvenir sand from a sand packet. You probably won’t find so much star-shaped sand at once when you’re at the beach!

 

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - kaiji beach. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - kaiji beach. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - kaiji beach. Japan

 

3. Nishi-sanbashi pier

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - nishi-sanbashi pier. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - nishi-sanbashi pier. Japan

 

4. Misashi-on

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - mirashi-on. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - bicycle rental mirashi-on. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Taketomi island day trip - mirashi-on. Japan

 

 

Day 3: Beaches in Ishigaki (Kabira Bay and Yonehara Beach)

 

As an example, here were the timings of the bus I took on this Ishigaki beach day:

  • 10:45am Bus to Kabira Bay from Ishigaki bus terminal
  • 11:23am Arrive at Kabira Bay bus stop
  • Glass bottom boat ride around the bay (30 minutes)
  • 1:04pm Bus to Yonehara Beach
  • 1:22pm Arrive at Yonehara Beach bus stop
  • Snorkeling at beach!
  • 4:22pm Bus back to Ishigaki bus terminal
  • 5:21pm Arrive back at bus terminal

 

Additional cost of activities for the beach day:

If you’re not packing along your own snorkeling gear, there’s snorkel rental at Yonehara Beach.

There is no entry fee for the beach, and for the transportation, you can use the 5-day bus pass.

 

 

Ishigaki travel in pictures: Beaches in Ishigaki

 

1. Kabira Bay boat ride

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Kabira bay - glass bottom boat ride. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Kabira bay - glass bottom boat ride. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Kabira bay - glass bottom boat ride. Japan

 

2. Underwater at Kabira Bay (glass bottom boat)

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Kabira bay - glass bottom boat ride - finding nemo. Japan

In case you can’t tell… you can find NEMO! It’ll be much more clear when you see it!

 

3. Kabira Bay overlook

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Kabira bay overlook - best views in Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Kabira bay - best views in Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Kabira bay - best views in Japan

 

4. Yonehara Beach

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: yonehara beach. Japan

 

5. Underwater at Yonehara Beach (snorkeling!)

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Snorkeling Ishigaki Okinawa at yonehara beach, yaeyama islands. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Snorkeling Ishigaki Okinawa at yonehara beach, yaeyama islands. Japan

Backpacking Ishigaki Okinawa travel guide: Snorkeling Ishigaki Okinawa at yonehara beach, yaeyama islands. Japan

 

HAPPY ISHIGAKI OKINAWA ITINERARY PLANNING!

 



More quick tips for planning your trip to Japan

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Shoes for Japan
For summer travel, hiking sandals can be perfect for walking around cities and for many of the short day hikes! See travel sandals like these for women and these for men.

Japan is a mountain country so be sure to get in some hikes!

See trail running shoes too (for women - for men) for other solid hikes including climbing Mt Fuji.

Speaking of hiking, I love this daypack.

The super fast train in Japan
In general, 2 long-distance shinkansen train trips will likely end up making it so the JR pass will be worth it. But here's how to calculate it to be sure.

See the current price of a JR pass from an official vendor.

Natural disasters in Japan
Unfortunately, Japan can be prone to natural disasters which means risk for travel delays. So be sure to look at travel insurance for natural disasters.

My travel insurance took care of my accommodation and food costs when I was forced to stay extra days in Japan because of a typhoon.

See how much insurance costs for your trip.

Best travel guides for Japan
If you're at step 1 in your planning process, have a look at this Discover Japan book.

For "books" that won't take up space in your suitcase, see the best PDF guides.

See more of the best books for Japan trip planning.

Cheap(er) flights to Japan
I used this website to find the cheapest flight and to book my recent flight to Japan.

Sometimes it makes sense to book direct - my preferred way!

But this booking site will search a combination of airlines, including those who aren't partner airlines, which means that they can help you find cheaper flights by booking individual flights for you as part of one flight itinerary. This can be especially helpful if you're not flying out of a major hub with direct flights to Japan.

I've missed a flight booked through them and it was taken care of with hotel and new flight.

See more tips for finding cheap flights to Japan.

Create your Japan itinerary


That's it for now!