The easiest way to get around Ishigaki is by renting a car. If you have a driving license it is worth to apply for an international driving license in your home country to be able to rent a car and drive around the island. You can also get around the island by bus, but they make many stops and most lines only have a few departures a day (except the airport lines that runs every 15min).
In fact, some ferries to nearby islands will have more frequent departures than the buses. On the small islands, you can easily get around by walking or with a bicycle. If you plan to get around by ferry and bus, staying close to the terminals in Ishigaki city will make it easier.
There are many rental cars shops on the island and the bigger ones have homepages in English. It’s highly recommended to reserve in advance if you are visiting in high season). You can usually choose to pick-up your car at the airport, ferry terminal, or have it driven to your hotel.
Cars drive on the left side in Japan, driving in Ishigaki is usually easy with low-speed limits and less traffic. Rental cars will typically have a car navigator to help you find your way around. The biggest danger is probably posed by other tourists stopping in curves, or suddenly slowing down/wobbling all over the road while looking at something exciting — don’t be one of them ^_^
Parking is provided for free by most hotels to their guests. In town, there is only paid parking which is ￥100/hour if you are willing to walk a few minutes, or ￥500/hour in the middle of the city.
The most trafficked route is between the airport and Ishigaki city with buses leaving every 15min from 7:00 to 21:00.
The other routes are much more infrequent with just a few buses a day. You can check this site: http://www.kotsu-okinawa.org/en/map_yaeyama.html#ishigaki for timetables (note that “kuko” means airport in Japanese). The page seems to be updated frequently, but always check timetables when you arrive to be sure. English timetables are available inside the main bus terminal building (pictured above) and they are way easier to understand than the site above.
You can save a lot of money by buying a free pass for the bus. “Free” means that you can ride as much as you want on all the buses, except the sightseeing buses, while the pass is valid
A 1-day pass costs ￥1000, a 5-day pass (michikusa pass) costs ￥2000, and they can both be purchased on the bus.
If you are a group of people, sharing a taxi will save you a lot of time and will not cost you much more than the bus (single tickets).
Most drivers do not speak English so it is recommended to have a map or a piece of paper with your destination handy to avoid misunderstandings. The same is true for the call center, so if you need a taxi it is easiest to ask your hotel or restaurant to call one for you. At the airport, ferry terminal, and the main hotels there is usually a line of taxis waiting. You could also try to flag a taxi, but if you are outside Ishigaki city the chances are that most passing taxis will pass you by because they are already booked.
Below are some estimated prices (one way). All taxi in Japan use taximeter and the price will vary depending on your exact location and destination. After 10:00 pm the charge goes up by 20%.
Ishigaki City to ANA Intercontinental around ￥1000
Ishigaki City to Kabira around￥3500
Ishigaki City to Airport around ¥3500
Kabira to Airport around ¥4500
Many hotels have bicycle rentals for around ￥500 a day, and some even offer them for free to their guests. Bicycling is a great way to explore around town or head off to the Maesato Beach. You can bring your bicycle on the ferry to the other islands, but you will have to pay an extra fee so you will not save much money (if any at all). On Taketomi, there are usually minivans waiting at the port and they will drive you to the bicycle rental shop in town for free.
Ishigaki is a small city and you can easily walk around central town which is just a few blocks. The new man-made beach on Painuhamacho island is also accessible by a 20-30 min walk from the city but you will need to go by car/taxi/bus to get to most sightseeing points of the island.
Ferries to the other Yaeyama Islands