Only 75 miles off the coast of Taiwan, the island of Ishigaki has its own language. Few visitors to Japan make it this far out, despite a direct flight from Tokyo, but it is worth the trip. The water around the island is so clear that, flying over it, you can see the ring of coral circling the coast.

The volcanic coastline is interspersed with stretches of porcelain-white sand, framed by dwarf pine trees. Kariba Bay is the most well-known beach, with uninhabited jungle-covered islands mushrooming from the sea beyond. With swimming banned to protect the resident groups of manta rays, the beach is best appreciated by glass-bottomed boat, from where you can watch the marine life below.

Head east along the coast and, as the buildings begin to thin out, you’ll find Yonehara Beach. The grove of palms running adjacent to the coast is an ideal spot to relax and enjoy the view, but you’re really here for the coral. The reef is a short paddle from the beach and has enough marine life to rival an aquarium. Part of Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park, some of the world’s largest collections of coral are found here as well as neon butterfly fish and psychedelic angelfish.

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