Yaeyama, Japan's answer to Hawaii

Yaeyama, Japan's answer to Hawaii
Visitors to Kabira Bay at Ishigaki Island can take a glass-bottomed boat to observe the marine life underwater.

The Yaeyama Islands are Japan's best-kept secret, tucked away at the southern-most point near sub-tropical Okinawa.

Located in the same latitude zone as other famous beach destinations like Hawaii, Florida and the Bahamas, the Yaeyama archipelago comprises 31 islets.

With its dense jungles and rich tradition and culture, this cluster is Japan's answer to Hawaii, with none of the crowds - yet.

MyPaper susses out what to do on some of the islands while on a five-day island-hopping trip.

 

ISHIGAKI ISLAND

This is the third-biggest island in Okinawa. The convenience it offers in accessing the rest of the Yaeyama Islands means that most tourists would choose to spend their nights here.

Surrounded by an abundance of coral reefs and marine life, the island has been touted by many in the diving community to be among the world's best diving spots.

Choose to snorkel at nearly any beach on the island, or head to one of the dive shops for tours for all experience levels. Dive company Tom Sawyer (www.ishigaki-tomsawyer.jp), for instance, offers an English guide.

At Kabira Bay, the emerald-blue waters and pristine white sands boast one of the most picturesque views on Ishigaki Island.

Swimming, snorkelling and diving in the bay are not allowed, but one can take a 30-minute ride on a glass-bottomed boat.

While at Yu-gurena Mall, look out for yam and brown-sugar produce, which the Yaeyama Islands are best known for. Stores also offer a plethora of Okinawan sea-salt goods, from snow-textured sea salt to traditional chinsuko cookies.

Getting there: Approximately a 60-minute domestic flight from Okinawa Naha Airport.

Stay at: Grand Vrio Hotel Ishigaki Resort (2481-1 Funakura Arakawa, Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture 907-0024) is surrounded by magnificent views of mountains and the sea.

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