Sunset Beach

If it wasn't for the fact that Sunset beach is located so far from the city center there's little doubt that this lovely spot on the Hirakubo peninsula's west coast would be completely overrun by tourists during the high season. Of all the designated tourist beaches on the island it probably offers the best of most worlds - beautiful sand, an incredible view and reasonable snorkeling opportunities.
 
Sunset Beach. Ishigakijima
 
Idyllic

Rich & friends enjoying sunset beachThis is one of those spots which really defines what Ishigaki has to offer. Yes, you'll still be in Japan, but you'll also be in Okinawa's semi-tropical deep south where the coastline takes on an entirely different form.

A beach of two seasons

During the tourist season, which runs from mid-April to the end of October, the beach fills up with visitors on most sunny days, particularly during the summer months. A designated swimming area complete with jellyfish nets keeps swimmers safe, and visitors can enjoy a wide range of watersports. Showers and bathroom facilities are also available. Essentially everything that most people require to enjoy a memorable day at the beach is on offer.

So what of the low-season? While the beach may be closed for business it still has a lot to offer during the quieter months. The absence boats, jet skis and crowds makes for a more natural setting, indeed a sunny day during the low-season can be one of the best times to appreciate what is one of the island's most impressive coastlines. There will be nobody to tell you where you can and cannot swim, but do remember that you'll be taking your safety into your own hands. Naturally the ocean will be cooler, but certainly not cold (it ranges from around 21°C in the winter to 29°C in mid-summer).

Sunset Beach. Ishigaki Island.The scene at Ishigaki's sunset beach is truly idyllic
If your primary reason to visit a beach is laze in the sun while admiring the scenery then Sunset Beach should definitely make it to your shortlist. It has most of the qualities of Ishigaki's 'secret' spots with the added convenience of facilities during the high-season.
 
Facilities
 
For a reasonable charge of 300 yen (150 yen per child) you can use the beaches facilities which include lockers, showers and toilets. Parasols and deck chairs are available for hire along with snorkeling equipment. There are plenty of watersports on offer along with snorkeling tours. Simply enquire at the reception desk which is located next to the car park for details. Note that these facilities are limited to the high-seaon which runs from mid-April to late October.
 
During some of the year a net is placed in the ocean to protect swimmers from habu jellyfish.
 
"I still have fond memories of the first time that I visited sunset beach with some friends from Hokkaido. I remember walking through a clearing onto the beach to the south of the main entrance and being blown away by the sheer beauty of this spot. No, it may not be as secluded as some of the other 'secret' beaches on the island but if you're looking for good sand, a great view and a net to protect you from the jellyfish in the summer then it doesn't get much better than this."
Access
 
EntranceSunset beach lies around 50 minutes from Ishigaki's city centre by car and a parking area which costs 300 yen per day is positioned just behind the beach. If you don't have access to personal transport you'll be able to get to sunset beach via the hirano bus line which stops at the town of 'Kuura'.
 
The road to the beach is indicated by a sign in Japanese (pictured). Head down this road and take a right turn near the bottom in order to locate the beach's main access point and parking area. If for some reason this sign isn't here during the off-season then look out for the blue traffic sign for 'Kuura' (top right of picture in distance).