石垣島 Ishigaki-jima is one of the southern islands in the Ryukyu chain, known as one of the Yaeyama islands 八重山諸島. To get there, you need to fly from Naha, Okinawa main island into Ishigaki airport. The fare is somewhat reasonable, typically ~15000円 roundtrip. Once you get there, it is probably best to rent a car, or at least a moped. You can also rent bicycles many places.
As far as sights go, there are a few must-see stops. Kabira Bay is probably on the top of the list, with stunning natural beauty. There are some other things “to see,” but Ishigaki is more about natural beauty than man-made sights. I recommend snorkeling or diving, kayaking, hiking, star-gazing… or just enjoying the outdoors! Perhaps check out Banna Park or the limestone cave, maybe one of the observatory viewpoints.
According to my sensei, whose cousins grew up here and thereby he visited often, eating beef soup on Ishigaki is highly recommended. Many people also recommend some of the more expensive Ishigaki yakiniku (BBQ) if you are in the mood for something a little fancier, but usually these place do not open until dinner time. Another cheap option would be Yaeyama soba, which is slightly different from Okinawa main island soba.
For me, Toufu no Higa is a must. I know it is not exactly on the “tourist path,” but as a foreigner, I found it unique and fantastic. It is a meal for the average working man (and woman).
Obviously there is locally produced awamori should you want to try it, but there is also a craft beer brewed in Ishigaki, which is definitely worth a try while you are there.
**Bonus trips from Ishigaki, via ferry (I will make separate posts for these later):
-Taketomi-jima: Recommended. See the old traditional houses with their colorful reddish roof tiles, explore the small streets, take an ox-cart ride, visit the squirrel monkeys.
-Iriomote-jima: Popular visit among tourists. Ox-carts, squirrel monkeys, and the Iriomote wildcat.
-Hateruma-jima: the southernmost island in Okinawa prefecture! This is on my list of places to go, and I hear the night sky is breathtaking here.