STEP ASIDE, Bali, for you may soon be dethroned by a tiny island in Japan.
Located in Japan’s southwestern Okinawa Prefecture, Ishigaki is Okinawa’s third largest island, with a small population of only 50,000 people.
It is known for its strips of white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, healthy coral reefs teeming with colorful marine life, beautiful diving and snorkeling sites, and incredible surf-worthy waves.
Snorkeling can be enjoyed just about anywhere around the island while numerous dive shops offer tours for all experience levels.
On top of that, it is home to lush mangrove forests and rare coral reefs, such as the Shiraho Reef’s rare blue coral which can be found within the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park.
“Don’t just stand on the beach and stare. travelers recommend a ride in a glass-bottomed boat to gaze at the coral reefs and tropical fish from above,” TripAdvisor wrote.
On Ishigaki, there is a bountiful of nature to experience and exhilarating adventures to be had. It has the highest mountain in Okinawa Prefecture and various hiking trails throughout the island’s hilly interior.
As they always say, some places are best discovered on foot.
Gastronomical travelers will also be in for a treat as Ishigaki is a food lover’s heaven, with a very different cuisine from mainland Japan.
Due to cultural influences both Japan and Taiwan due to its location (Ishigaki is about 300 kilometers off the northeastern coast of Taiwan), its food is more meat-centered than the rest of Japan.
Among its specialties are tonsoku (pig’s trotters), mimiga (thinly-sliced pigs’ ears boiled then mixed with miso or peanut sauce), rafute (tender pork belly), and spam.
So if you are up to experiencing Japan like you have never before, be sure to put Ishigaki on your travel bucket list.
Getting there: It takes about three hours and 30 minutes to get to Ishigaki from Tokyo by flight.
TripAdvisor‘s 2018 Traveller’s Choice awards is now in its sixth year. It analyzes 44 locations worldwide and compares the growth in review ratings by the travelers.