Yaeyama Islands

500km west of Okinawa Honto, the Yaeyama Islands can be accessed by a 10 hour ferry ride or a 50 minute flight from Naha.

Ishikgaki Island, the most popular of the Yaeyama Islands, serves as a transportation hub, but the island and town itself have a relaxed, homey atmosphere that exists here despite the luxurious resort hotels. Nearby Taketomi Island is famous for its unique star shaped sand, and popular for its traditional Ryukyu architecture and atmosphere.

Largest and most diverse of the Yaeyama Islands and the second largest in Okinawa, Iriomote Island is an up and coming eco-tourism destination. Separated from Ishikagki Island by Japan’s largest coral reef, Iriomote’s white sandy beaches are ideal for swimming, and the coral reefs provide excellent snorkelling and diving. Hiking trails lead into subtropical rainforests where the rare Iriomote Lynx can sometimes be glimpsed. Iromote’s mangrove-lined rivers are a paradise for kayakers.

From Yonaguni-jima, the furthest island from mainland Japan, you can see Taiwan on a clear day. This, however, is not its only claim to fame: pyramid like structures were recently discovered by divers just off the coast of Yonaguni-jima, and are controversially believed to be the ruins of an ancient civilization.