In Ishigaki, we will cover important scenic spots, which are missed by sightseeing bus, by a half-day tour and a full-day one.
This article introduces the full-day tour section. The full-day tour mainly covers scenic spots in the east and north of Ishigaki, including Hirakubozaki (平久保崎), and observatories in Banna Park (バンナ公園).
Hirakubozaki (平久保崎) is a spectacular viewpoint in the northern part of Ishigaki but not included in any sightseeing bus route. The place is far away and the density of bus there is low. In order to visit Hirakubozaki as well as others along the way, we need to start in early morning.
In the afternoon, a taxi charter is chosen to cover scattered and hard-to-reach attractions. However, the actual situation exceeded my expectation. Taxi charter driver in Ishigaki is more like a professional tour guide than a driver. He does not only introduce attractions along the way, but also get off the car with me at attractions as a guide. I am not sure if this is my fortune or a standard for Ishigaki taxi service.
There are plenty of taxis in Ishigaki, but the charter service still needs to be booked in advance. Reservations need to be made by phone. If you don’t use this service at the very beginning days of your holidays, you can ask the hotel to help you make an appointment. If you make appointments several days in advance, the taxi company will ask you to confirm it again 2 days before. You can leave the phone number of hotel and ask them to help you confirm it, making sure there is no misunderstanding about the time and place. The taxi company I chose is Ishigaki Taxi Co., Ltd. (有限会社石垣タクシー), phone number is 0980-82-3088. The chartered car starts at Inodagyo Harbor (伊野田漁港 in Japanese) 14:40, and ends in Sakibaru Park (崎原公園 in Japanese) for 3 hours. The price is 10,640 yen. If you choose this company, you may try the designated driver Makoto Yamamoto (山本 誠) to serve you. Although there are many famous people with the same name, the reason I named it is because his service is really professional. His English ability is enough to introduce the places you visit. Of course, if you order such a service in Japan, you will still face the very same issue, that is you must explain to them how you can get to the Inodagyo Harbor, otherwise they may refuse to serve you. You can tell them that you will take the bus and arrive on time.
- On the day of the trip, if you are also departing near the ferry port, you will need to arrive at the bus terminal before 06:45 and take the bus “系統③東回一周線”, which should be the only bus at the bus stop. The driver usually asks if you want to go to the airport. Please tell him that you are going to Tamatorizaki (玉取崎 in Japanese). It will take approximately an hour to get there. The morning trip is relatively leisurely because of the low density of the bus line.
- 7:41 Arrived at Tamatorizaki(玉取崎). Walk up to Tamatorizaki Observation Deck.
- 7:50 Tamatorizaki Observation Deck. There is a nice view overlooking the main foothills and the east and west coasts. Maybe you will also meet people who come to the morning exercise.
- 8:10 Walk to Funakoshi Harbor (船越漁港 in Japanese). It’s 2.4km away and will be reached in about 30 minutes.
- 8:50 Funakoshi Harbor. This is a port for fishing, surrounded by mountains, with beautiful scenery and few tourists.
- 9:10 Walk to Ibaruma Sabichi Cave (サビチ鍾乳洞 in Japanese). It’s a 2km uphill section, costs you about 30 minutes. Google suggests a path with good Feng Shui (lol), you can enjoy the southern Chinese style cemetery along the way.
- 9:50 Ibaruma Sabichi Cave (サビチ鍾乳洞). This is a stalactite cave located near sea, smaller than the Ishigakijima Stalactite Cave in but the connected seaside area is also worth seeing. Ticket prices are 1250 yen per person.
- 10:50 Walk to a famous restaurant Aragaki Shokudo (新垣食堂 in Japanese). It’s 2.6km away and will be reached in about 31 minutes. Google navigates me to the back door again. Please follow the red line in the map below to the entrance. I also encountered a local person want to give me a lift. Thank you guy, but I prefer walk.
- 11:30 Aragaki Shokudo. The Okinawa Beef Noodle here is very famous. This restaurant will not be opened on Sundays. However, I visited there on Saturday (November 9, 2019) but a label hanging there says it will not work today. And the surrounding shops are all closed. At the door of Aragaki Shokudo, I also met a family who drove here for lunch. It seems they lost a lot of turnover on that day lol. Maybe it was a special day? In short, I suggest you check if they are open before departure, the phone number is 0980-89-2550.
12:19 Go to 伊原間 station to take a bus “系统⑤/⑥平野线上り”. The bus stop is on the left side when you go out the Aragaki Shokudo. If you choose another place for lunch, please refer to the bus timetable.
12:40 Bus arrives 平久保 station. But you don’t need to get off there. There are manyu tourists want to reach Hirakubozaki (平久保崎), but there is no bus stop for this attraction. Please tell the bus driver that you want to go to Hirakubozaki (平久保崎). He will let you get off at the the intersection closest to Hirakubozaki. And he will tell you when the return bus will come to the same place (opposite side of the road of course) to pick you up. For the current timetable, it should be 13:40.
- 12:45 Walk by following the signs to Hirakubozaki (平久保崎). Not too far, but 15 minutes is required. There are lighthouse there but closed for tourists. This is an important landmark of Ishigaki, with many tourists. Please make sure to go back to the intersection where you got off before 13:40 to wait for the return bus.
- 13:40 Take the bus to 伊野田校 station. When the screen on bus displays the next stop is 伊野田校, please press the button to get off.
- 14:25 Arrive at 伊野田校 station. As the driver is waiting for tourists in Hirakubozaki, the bus will arrive later than the timetable. After getting off the bus, take the small road in front of the bus and enter the Inodagyo Harbor (伊野田漁港) along the dam. That’s right, it’s front. The bus stop is marked in a wrong place in Google Maps, which should be at the red square.
- 14:30 Arrive Inodagyo Harbor (伊野田漁港). This is a small fishing port. I choose here for picking up the taxi easy. When the taxi arrives, please inform the driver the attractions you are going to:
野底岳展望台，バンナ公園 – カンムリワシ展望台、南の島の展望台、渡り鳥観察所、エメラルドの海を見る展望台、ホタル滝展望台 (could be skipped when not suitable for seeing fireflies, in April or May)、大浜崎原公園。
Usually, the taxi will arrive there before you.
- 14:40 Go to Nosoko Mape Observation Deck (野底岳展望台). In my trip, the driver did not take the route recommended by Google. Instead, he took a small path to the west coast and boarded the mountain from the other side to reach the observatory. The driver said that this would allow me to see the whole mountain. It is true that the taxi driver is the one who knows the terrain and also the passenger’s idea best.
- 14:55 Nosoko Mape Observation Deck (野底岳展望台). Looking at the half of Ishigaki from a height. Although there is no time to hiking today, you can see the top of the mountain. The driver said that he could see the white shirts of the people hiking, but my eyes were limited.
- 15:10 Go to Banna Park (バンナ公園) – Crested Eagle Observation Deck (カンムリワシ展望台).
- 15:45 Banna Park (バンナ公園) – Crested Eagle Observation Deck (カンムリワシ展望台). Here is a good place for viewing the eastern part of Ishigaki and the scenery inside the park. Unfortunately, under the my chatting interference, the driver forgot this attraction (laugh). No picture can be provided.
- 16:00 Go to Banna Park (バンナ公園) – South Island Observation Deck (南の島の展望台).
- 16:05 Banna Park (バンナ公園) – South Island Observation Deck (南の島の展望台). Observing the south and east part of Ishigaki.
- 16:15 Go to Banna Park (バンナ公園) – Migratory Bird Observatory (渡り鳥観察所), which is very near.
- 16:17 Banna Park (バンナ公園) – Migratory Bird Observatory (渡り鳥観察所). At the top of this bird egg building, there is a free telescope that can be used to observe the flock of birds. But on the day I went, except for the crows flying low, I didn’t see any birds. Also, this is a good place for singing, proven by the driver, witnessed by me.
- 16:25 Go to Banna Park (バンナ公園) – Emerald Sea Seeing Observation Deck (エメラルドの海を見る展望台).
- 16:30 Banna Park (バンナ公園) – Emerald Sea Seeing Observation Deck (エメラルドの海を見る展望台). This is a famous attraction and many tour groups will visit here. Here you can observe the various sea areas in the south of Ishigaki and the downtown.
- 16:55 Go to Banna Park (バンナ公園) – Firefly Waterfall Observation Deck(ホタル滝展望台). This is in another direction of the park. This observatory is like its name for watching fireflies from April to May every year. You can skip this attraction when not in the right months.
- 17:05 Banna Park (バンナ公園) – Firefly Waterfall Observation Deck(ホタル滝展望台). It’s too early to wath fireflies. Just to make it easier for you to come back at evening.
- 17:15 Go to Ohama Sakibaru Park (大浜崎原公園). If you are finished earlier, you can ask the driver to take you to other attractions before go to Sakibaru Park. You can also go Sakibaru Park first, finish your tour and let the driver to take you somewhere else.
- 17:30 Ohama Sakibaru Park (大浜崎原公園). There is a huge rock (津波大石) brought by the tsunami. A so-called footprint of a giant is on the beach.
If you are ending earlier, you can ask the driver to take you to see his recommended spots. But don’t conflict with other attractions on our itinerary (such as Toujin Tomb 唐人墓、Stalactite Cave 石垣島鍾乳洞、Torin Temple 桃林寺). In my trip, the driver took me to the Southern Gate Bridge to watch the sunset.
Or, you can take a leisurely break in Sakibaru Park and return hotel by bus.