At the southernmost end of the 1,000 km Okinawa island chain lie the beautiful Yaeyama Islands with their picturesque turquoise beaches, tropical climate and laid back atmosphere.
The largest island, Ishigaki, is an established destination for Japanese domestic holidaymakers, and has a selection of high standard resort hotels to choose from and excellent beaches: Yonehara beach with its long stretch of white coral, Sukuji beach with its soft sand near Kabira Bay, and the aptly-named Sunset beach. Swim, snorkel and dive within the incredibly clear waters surrounded by magnificent marine life, or just laze on the beach and relax in the serenity of this remote location.
The tiny neighbouring island of Taketomi is a rustic tropical idyll, with the white stone walls of the village houses reflecting the white sand beaches and a traditional 'Ryukyu' village. Here, visitors can take water buffalo drawn cart rides around the preserved streets, as well as enjoying Kondoi beach with its crystal-clear water. Iriomote island is the least developed of these islands and great for kayaking among jungle and mangroves. Also, the mysterious sub-aqueous 'ruins' off far-flung Yonaguni island are worth visiting as they have earned the name 'the Atlantis of Asia.'
Being in the tropics, the waters are warm all year round though it is worth noting that several typhoons come through each year, so it is best visited outside of summer.
We highly recommend staying a few nights at Hoshinoya Taketomi, which guarantees a luxurious and unforgettable tropical getaway complete with a private villa experience and spectacular ocean views within the comfort of one of Japan’s finest hotel brands.
If you are after romantic seclusion, or simply some peace and quiet in a heavenly setting, then this is the place for you. Fit the Yaeyama Islands into your culture-packed tour of Japan to treat yourself to a relaxing stay in a glorious, often-overlooked, part of the country.
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
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