A recent study by TripAdvisor named the small Japanese island of Ishigaki as the hottest trending destination for 2018, pipping the Hawaiian island of Kapaa to the crown. The full list looks as follows:

1. Ishigaki (Japan)

2. Kapaa (Hawaii)

3. Nairobi (Kenya)

4. Halifax (Canada)

5. Gdansk (Poland)

6. San Jose (Costa Rica)

7. Riga (Latvia)

8. Rovinj (Croatia)

9. Nerja (Spain)

10. Casablanca (Morocco)

What do we know about Ishigaki?

  • It is the second largest island of the Yaeyama Island archipelago of Japan.
  • Population of around 48,000 people.
  • Much of the island is protected as part of the Ishigaki National Park.
  • Main serving airport is the New Ishigaki Airport.

The Beaches

There is one big reason why Ishigaki topped this list, and simply put, it’s the coastline. There are few places which rival the beauty on offer from Ishigaki’s beaches. Its ‘net protected’ beaches are quickly growing in popularity (keeping those naughty jellyfish away!), particularly with families, ticking all the boxes for that piece of paradise that so many beach lovers pursue.

Numerous coves along the varied coastline host spectacular coral reefs which have been well preserved and protected over the years. The reefs attract an abundance of marine life which lets Ishigaki compete with any of the best spots on the planet for variety and richness of aquatic life.

Nightlife & Culture

If beaches aren’t your thing, that’s fine. Ishigaki has more than one string to its bow! Whilst the nature and beauty of the island are of course its defining feature, Ishigaki hosts swathes of culture, history and… nightlife! Blessed with a surprisingly vibrant nightlife in its Misakichou district, the island is sought out by international and domestic travellers alike. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese tourists visit every year from the mainland to take advantage of this.

If culture is what you seek, then Ishigaki is an interesting divergence from what you may expect. Although close to Japan geographically, there are notable differences which give the island’s residents huge pride. The locals love their music and host open-air festivals throughout the year. If you’re looking for shrines and temples of which mainland Japan is known for, then you may be disappointed, as Ishigaki does lack these kinds of features. What it lacks in man-made features however, it makes up for with copious amounts of natural beauty.

Cuisine

Akin to the differences in culture, Ishigaki boasts differences in cuisine to mainland Japan also. Despite island populations stereotypically relying on the ocean to provide sustenance, Ishigaki takes advantage of its relative warmth and is significantly more meat-focused than the rest of Japan. One of its more notable traditional dishes is that of ‘tonsoku’ which is a pigs-feet inspired recipe. Ishigaki beef is the pride of the island, often hailed as one of the most delicious beef recipes in the world.

Of course, Ishigaki does make use of its access to local fish, and does still boast some of the finest sushi, izakaya and sashimi restaurants.

Anything Else?

Island hopping is a popular way to make the most out of the archipelago. Whilst Ishigaki does have enough to keep anyone well entertained for a week or two, tourists are encouraged to take advantage of the good interlinking between the islands and get as much exposure to the region as possible. Ishigaki’s location in relation to the other islands of Taketomi and Kuroshima ensure that these provide a great ‘bonus’ for anyone looking to expand their horizons even further!

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