Translated by Hilary Keyes
How To Reach Okinawa's Outer Islands - Ishigaki, Yonaguni, And Others
Written by MATCHA
In this article, we introduce how to reach Okinawa's Outer Islands (Ishigaki, Yonaguni, Iriomotejima, Miyakojima) which are paradises for diving and snorkeling, via direct flights from Honshu and ferries from Okinawa.
How to Get to Okinawa's Outer Islands
In addition to the main island of Okinawa, there are 160 smaller remote islands. When it comes down to it, the charms of these remote islands are their unspoiled beautiful beaches, the activities that can only be experienced on them, their isolated island culture, idyllic landscapes... the list goes on and on. If you would like to get even more out of your trip to Okinawa, then we recommend taking a mini-trip over to the outer islands. In this article, we will be introducing the routes to take to reach four of the most popular of these islands: Ishigaki, one of the Yaeyama Islands, Yonaguni, Iriomotejima, and the Miyako Archipelago's Miyakojima.
The Yaeyama Islands: Ishigaki and Nine Other islands
The Yaeyama Islands are ten inhabited islands that comprise the southwestern-most point of Japan, located about 400 km to the southwest of the main island of Okinawa. The front door to these islands is Ishigakijima, from which you can reach the other islands in the chain by boat. As the features of each island differ, it is a good idea to do some advance research on them before deciding where to visit.
The Charms of Ishigaki
Ishigaki is the third largest island in Okinawa prefecture. As the relay point to the other islands of the Yaeyama Island chain, Ishigaki is most attractive thanks to its rich subtropical natural environment and numerous mountain and sea tours.
In this article we introduced the Ishigakijima limestone cavern, which is another of their little known but popular sightseeing spots. In the city center, there are many gift and souvenir shops, and restaurants serving delicious island cuisine too; Ishigaki is slowly gaining popularity as a resort area.
How to Reach Ishigaki Island From Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Okinawa
Direct flights traveling to Ishigaki leave from Tokyo's Haneda Airport, Aichi prefecture's Chubu Airport, Osaka's Kansai Airport, Fukuoka's Fukuoka Airport and Okinawa's Naha Airport.
From Haneda, the flight takes roughly 3.5 hours and costs from 13,000 to around 69,000 yen; from Chubu, it takes 3 hours and costs 13,000 - 42,000 yen; from Kansai, 2 hours and 50 minutes, and costs from 7000 (on LCC) to 57,000 yen; from Fukuoka it takes about 2 hours and costs 14,000 - 50,000 yen; and from Naha, it takes about 1 hour and costs from 7500 (LCC) to 11,000 yen.
Unfortunately, there aren't any ships that travel from Okinawa's main island to Ishigakijima.
Transportation on Ishigaki Island
There are buses that run from the airport to the city center, and there are many buses that travel throughout the island itself. There is also an all-you-can-ride bus pass available as well.
Yonaguni is 100 kilometers from Taiwan, making it Japan's westernmost island, and on clear days, you can see the silhouette of Taiwan in the distance. Cruising along and viewing the landscape created by the steep cliffs around the island, exploring the mysterious historic ruins on the bottom of the ocean, diving, and snorkeling are all incredibly popular activities on this island. The 'sunset at the end of Japan' is one of the amazing sights that can only be enjoyed on Yonaguni Island.
How to Reach Yonaguni from Okinawa
Flights from Okinawa's Naha Airport to Yonaguni Airport take about 1 hour and 40 minutes, and cost from 7,000-10,000 yen. From Ishigaki Airport, the flight takes 35 minutes and costs 13,000 yen.
Unfortunately, there is no ferry service from the main island of Okinawa to Yonaguni. The ferry from Ishigakijima Port travels to Yonagunijima Kubura Port in about 4 hours and 30 minutes, and costs 3550 yen. This ferry only operates twice a week.
Transportation on the Island
There is a free island tour bus, however, this bus does not travel to the eastern part of the island. If you want to fully traverse the island, taxis or bicycle rentals are our recommendations.
Iriomote is the second-largest island after Okinawa's main island, and over 90% of the island is covered with a subtropical primeval forest. Due to this, several protected species of flora and fauna, such as the Iriomote wildcat call this island home. In addition to this already fantasy-like landscape, there are many rivers flowing on the island, creating stunning mangrove forests and dynamic waterfalls. There are also plenty of eco tours featuring trekking, canoeing, and even sea kayaking. The ox cart tour from Iriomote to Yubujima is also very popular.
Reaching Iriomote from Ishigaki
It isn't possible to travel directly from Okinawa island to Iriomote, you will need to travel there via Ishigaki.
There isn't an airport on Iriomote, so your only option is to travel by ship.
There are two ports on this island, Ohara Portand Uehara Port, located in the east and west of the island, so please be very careful when purchasing your ferry tickets. A high-speed ship travels from the Ishigakijima Remote Island Terminal to Ohara Port, which takes roughly 35 minutes and costs around 1,570 yen. The high-speed ferry from Uehara Port takes about 45 minutes and costs 2,060 yen.
Transportation on Iriomote Island
Route buses travel around the island and there are some areas where you can get off the bus even if there isn't a standard bus stop in place. There are also convenient one and three-day all-you-can-ride bus passes available.
The main draws of Miyakojima are without a doubt its white sand beaches and colorful coral reefs.
Yonaha Maehama beach, also known as "Toyoichi's White Beach" is located on Miyakojima. This is a popular resort island that ranks alongside Ishigaki in terms of its various marine activities, regional cuisine, and overall appeal to travelers.
Traveling to Miyakojima from Tokyo or Okinawa
From Haneda Airport in Tokyo, it will take about 3 hours and 25 minutes, and can cost from 40,000-65,000 yen, while from Naha Airport in Okinawa, it will take about 50 minutes and cost from 7,000-10,000 yen.
There aren't any ships that make the journey here from Okinawa. The ferries travel to neighboring outer islands only.
Transportation on the Island
There are many loop buses that run through the Hirara city center, which is very convenient for visitors.
Please note that all access and transportation data given in this article is of December 2016. The information regarding travel times and prices are based on information provided by relevant agencies and is subject to change.