If you have time and are willing to either drive or ride your bike, the beaches on the northern side of the island are beautiful and perfect for swimming, diving, and snorkeling. These beaches include Yonehara, Sukiji, Uganzaki, and Shiraho.
Yonehara Beach –
Located right in front of a camping spot. The beach has all the facilities that you will need including showers and bathrooms. The beach is extremely popular with campers so it can also be crowded. With just a snorkel set, you can see many fish as well as a spectrum of coral. Be sure not to step on the coral and do not touch the coral. Over the years, tourists to the area have already done substantial damage to the coral population.
If you are brave enough to venture out beyond the reefs, be careful to pay attention to the currents. Although it may look calm, the current below can be strong and can pull you way out to sea. If you get caught in a current, ride the current out and do not fight it. After the current is gone, you can then swim back to shore. Please be careful to watch out for “Habu” jellyfish warnings as well. To find Yonehara, drive out west in the direction of Nagura and Kabira. Signs will lead you to a turnoff on the left side of the road. If you plan on spending the night at Yonehara, be prepared to hear a lot of noise. Apparently, many of the “campers” like to bring along portable generators. Also, the camp site is a popular spot for parties. In any case, this is an excellent beach to see. Also see: The gregarious of Yaeyama palm tree at Yonehara
In order to camp at Yonehara Beach or any other Ishigaki Campsite, you will need to obtain a camping permit. Camping is allowed from April 1st through to December 28th. The cost is 400 yen per person per day. The campgrounds at Inoda are also available for use. The Inoda Campsite is available for camping from April 1st through to September 30th. The cost for a campsite is 400 yen per person per day. Permits can be obtained by calling the Ishigaki Public Managing Company at 0980-88-5292.
Sukiji Beach –
To get here, you need to take the road that goes to Club Med Kabira. While on this road, take the turn that goes towards the Seaman’s Resort. This road will then continue straight on the the beach. The beach has showers, changing rooms, and bathrooms. This beach has about a kilometer of white sand that makes it an excellent diving spot. This horse-shoe shaped beach is located near Kabira Bay and has a beautiful view of the surrounding scenery and fauna. Be careful to watch out for the “Habu” jellyfish.
Oganzaki (Uganzaki) Beach –
When coming down from the road that leads to the Oganzaki Lighthouse, make a right turn and continue up over the hill. On the left side, you will see a small area to park your car. Near this parking area, you will also see a small trail that leads down to the beach area. This beach has coral that is very close to the beach but, there is also a strong current. This beach is not found on the map so be careful and use caution.
Shiraho is an old fishing village located on the Northeast side of Ishigaki City. Many of the people here are originally from the island of Miyako. Off the shore here is the world’s largest colony of blue coral. The area is also home to a World Wildlife Foundation Coral Research Station. The water off Shiraho is very clear and is home to a variety of saltwater tropical fishes. The coral reef is located about 200m’s from the shoreline and is a little difficult to swim to. Also see: The Coral reef of Shiraho
The best way to see the reef is to go on one of the half-day snorkeling tours which operate from Shiraho. There are usually at 8:30am and 1:00pm. Tours last for about 3 or 4 hours and take you to 3 or 4 sites within the coral reef. Prices for the tours vary from 3000-4000 yen per person and includes snorkel gear, wetsuit, and a life jacket if needed. Contact Shiraho Beach; Tel: +81 980-82-1535
Sunset Beach –
Sunset Beach is located in the northern part of the island. It has a net which protects swimmers from jellyfish. The beach is very relaxing and a perfect place for an family outing. The view of the island from the ocean is quite breathtaking. The only downside to this beach is that there is a fee to make use of the areas toilet and shower facilities. There is also a small shop which sells things such as sunscreen and ice cream. Kuura is the closest bus stop to this beach.
Also remember to use common sense and be careful when swimming in the beaches at Ishigaki. Keep a careful eye out for jellyfish warnings and do not swim in places which do not match your swimming ability. The waters of Yaeyama are very clean but they have many hidden dangers. Strong undercurrents are common. Most beaches do not have lifeguards so please think about your safety and about the safety of others.