There’s a halfway funny story about this little island. We originally had planned to visit it as a family and I even had the resort booked. However, at the time we booked the resort the airline tickets were ASTRONOMICAL. (I have forever been spoiled by the cheap airline tickets on the budget airlines in Asia). So we ended up moving our family vacation to another resort in a completely different area of the world, that I’m excited to share about in a few weeks. Then some girlfriends decided we wanted to travel to Ishigaki and airline tickets were only $100 so we did what any sane person would do, and booked!
Ishigkai is part of the Yaeyama island chain and well known for their Manta Ray population. I was really hoping we were going to get the opportunity to dive with them, but the weather didn’t cooperate, which just means I have an excuse to go back :).
We arrived in Ishigaki early Thursday morning and took a taxi to our resort. We couldn’t check in for a while, so we decided to rent a car and see what we could see. Our first stop was an Okinawan donut stand, where three generations of the same family run the shop. I’m typically not a donut lover, but these things are delish!
Next, we drove to one of the more well known parts of the island ‘Kabira Bay’ where they farm oysters and pearls. They are known for having black pearls in particular. Swimming is prohibited in this area, supposedly due to ‘strong currents’. This is pure speculation…but I’m willing to bet it has more to do with protecting the oysters and tourism industry of glass-bottomed boats, than it truly has to do with currents? Regardless, the beaches were beautiful and I can only how much more breathtaking they would have been with a little more sun. We took a glass bottomed boat tour, and just walked around the area for a bit, taking in the sites. After the boat tour we were hoping to visit a famed restaurant that has homemade gelato, but true to island life protocol, I’ assuming the family was on vacation and had packed up shop and closed June 13-19th.
Our timing for Kabira couldn’t have possibly been better because after we left, it started raining and the other places we visited had free umbrellas. Our next stop was Yaima Village where we got to play with squirrel monkeys (way lighter and cuter than the monkeys in Bali, lol) and see several old houses that had been relocated from elsewhere on the island, to the village, including a Samurai house. They also had beautiful botanical gardens throughout.
After the village, we headed to limestone caves which were breathtaking. There were stalagmites and stalactites that were 20,000 years old, and the workers explained to us that many stalagmites and stalactites that were probably only about 3 inches away from touching one another, would take 300 years to actually touch! There’s also a picture of a ginormous Coconut Crab they had outside the cave.
After our adventures we could check in to our hotel room, so we headed back to the resort to freshen up for dinner. The views were gorgeous! The picture below is the view from our hotel room.
For dinner we wandered downtown for a bit and finally decided on a Yakiniku restaurant (where you grill your own meat on a grill in the middle). The owners of the restaurant were so thrilled to have Americans visiting and were even more thrilled that two of three of us were from “TEXXXXAAAASS” as they stated ;). (Poor Meridith got grouped into the ‘we’re from Texas’ generalization.) The Japanese are all about the innards of their animals in Shabu Shabu and Yakiniku restaurants. I’m not quite brave enough for all of that quite yet.
After a full day of exploring, it was time to turn in our tiny rental car and rest up for the next day’s AWESOME adventures.