When I heard that Fusaki Beach Resort Hotel & Villas in Ishigaki, Okinawa was opening a new wing, I sprung at the chance to head down south. Located closer to Taiwan then to the main island of Okinawa, Ishigaki has a remote charm and beauty unlike anywhere else in Japan, and I knew that its many white-sand beaches, subtropical climate, and local take on shochu, called awamori (more on that later) would be the perfect way to unwind.
Life’s A Beach
Though it takes about 5 hours door-to-door to get to the hotel from most of Tokyo, one forgets all about it the second you step into the recently redone lobby and sip on the welcome drink of pineapple jasmine tea.
I checked into a clean and modern top floor twin room in the newly built North Wing which, being situated above the windbreak, features 180-degree views of the turquoise ocean. Unpacked and lathered in sunscreen, it was time to take a look around the premises. Stepping out of the cathedral-like lobby, I made my way down an extending stairway and was greeted with the sight of palm trees, a broad beach and an opulent pool.
The recently built three-story pool is the only beachside pool on the entire island. My body went into autopilot, and before I knew it, I was swimming laps in the warm water. After shaking the water out of my ear, I made my way over to the beach. Though this was my third time visiting Ishigaki, the secluded beach was a new, luxurious experience.
The sands were pristine, and though the area surrounding the beach was fully developed, the urban landscape did not detract from the overall beauty and ambience of the seascape. The hotel offers not only the usual snorkeling, banana boat rides and kayak rides, but also stand-up paddle surfing, morning yoga classes, stargazing tours and even flyboard rides.
Full Bellies, Full Hearts
All the sunlight started giving me an appetite, so after showering off the sand and seawater I made my way to one of the on-site restaurants to see what they had to offer for dinner. Stepping into the mid-century modern Ishigaki Bold Kitchen, my eyes lit up with the sight of over 100 (I counted) different dishes spread across a massive buffet and the wall lined with bottles of wine. There was everything from Japanese and Okinawan dishes to Thai curries and even empanadas, all for just over ¥5,000. The kids’ section also had a nice spread of dishes such as chicken nuggets and make-your-own cotton candy.
After my first plate of mini-empanadas, juicy Okinawan sausage, Argentinian-style asado and perfectly grilled vegetables (and cotton candy), I made my way over to the noodle bar and ordered the local specialty – Okinawa soba. This is a ramen-like dish that has a lighter broth and slightly fatter noodles than the ramen in the mainland, and is topped with scallions, red pickled ginger and slow-cooked pork ribs. Though it was included in the price of the buffet, the flavor held its own amongst some of the best Okinawa soba joints on the island. After slurping down a bowl, the sun was setting, so I decided to head back outside.
Cocktails Under the Stars
Passing by the now empty pool and beach, the air was cooler and the beach’s white sands had turned golden. Located on the west side of the island, the beach has unrivaled views of the sunset. Sadly the weather wasn’t on my side, but although the sunset wasn’t lighting up the sky in its full glory, the orange dancing on the clouds had an otherworldly quality.
The sun had set and it was time for a nightcap at Fusaki Beach Resort’s beachside bar: The Star Bar. This full bar under the stars offers every cocktail you could ask for, as well as originals such as the fruity “If You Wish Upon a Star” and “Blue Grotto,” the latter of which is named after the eponymous cave in Northern Ishigaki. Those interested in the local hooch should try the awamori, a traditional Okinawan distilled spirit made from long-grained rice from Thailand. Drinking this on the rocks is the way to go – the flavor is more delicate and less harsh than other distilled drinks, all while being at least 30% alcohol or more. Having damaged my liver enough for the night, it was time to retreat to my cozy abode.
The next morning I stumbled into Ishigaki Bold Kitchen again to try their breakfast and was pleased to find that there was another selection of more than 100 dishes such as rugelach-style pastries, French toast, local ham, all the fruit you could imagine and some of the best muesli I’ve eaten in Japan.
After a light breakfast, I decided to take a stroll on the undeveloped beach located next to Fusaki Beach Resort’s main beach. Since it was still breakfast time, the beach was empty, and the sun had not started beating down too glaringly. Feeling the cool sand between my toes, hearing the waves crash in the distance and smelling the wafting sea breeze reminded me that there’s something to life outside the usual endless rush of the city. It also made me realize I had to go back to said city, and bring back something from my travels for my coworkers.
Heading back into the main building, I passed the lobby and headed to the in-house shop, the Resort Shop & Market. It would be an insult to call this a “souvenir shop,” since it has the island’s best selection of locally made, high-quality items. Sure, you can get a box of Okinawan chinsuko cookies anywhere in the prefecture, but here you can get herb salt-flavored varieties, as well as handmade glassware for your awamori, locally produced clothing and high-end jasmine teas.
Paddle Surf Into the Sunset
It was at this time I realized there were only a couple of hours left for me on the island before my flight back, and I wanted to make the most of it with a final meal on the beach. I made my way to the Seaside BBQ area and ordered up an Ishigaki-gyu Classic Burger, made with local beef from the island. For an American, finding a good burger in Japan can be difficult, but this one with its juicy patty and side of steak fries is the perfect balance of high-quality ingredients and simple flavorings (i.e. no brioche buns or three-year-aged cheddar).
My stomach full, suitcase stuffed with gifts to bring home, slightly tanned, and most importantly relaxed, I was ready to catch my cab and make the trip home. The hotel’s modern charm had captivated me. The moment I stepped inside the Fusaki Beach Resort Hotel & Villas I was immediately transported to another world – a world where I could forget about client deadlines and being suffocated on the morning commute and can instead eat burgers on the beach and paddle surf into the sunset.
Find more details about Fusaki Beach Resort Hotel & Villas on our Concierge listing.