Ishigaki, Japan

The balmy, subtropical climate draws countless visitors to its sandy shores, but Ishigaki offers much more than your typical island getaway. It is the cultural, political and economic center of the Yaeyama Islands, originally founded in 1908 as Yaeyama Village and becoming Ishigaki Town in 1926. Ishigaki was elevated to city status on July 10, 1947. A hilltop Shinto shrine which dates back to 1614 is the perfect place to start your exploration of this lovely town. Noted for its white-sand beaches and turquoise waters to which snorkelers flock for a glimpse of the island’s famed manta rays, Ishigaki Island offers many opportunities to commune with nature. Ishigaki has palm forests, mangrove-lined rivers suited for kayaking, and jungle-covered mountains perfect for hiking adventures. Amidst such natural beauty, you’ll find an abundance of cultural sites with ties to the island’s rich history. The Yaeyama Museum displays historic artifacts as well as traditional cultural items, and a visit to the well-preserved Miyara Dunchi, built in 1819, is a rare example of a samurai-style residence. Be sure to leave time in your busy day to sample some of the sweet island pineapple and to shop for the island’s famed black pearls, a most special souvenir.

Note: Ishigaki is an anchorage port. Transportation from ship to shore is via the ship’s tender service.