Ishigaki Island, Japan

Closer to Taiwan than to Japan’s main islands, the Yaeyama group is a volcanic archipelago known (though not widely) for its coral reefs and clear waters. Ishigaki is the main hub, and attracts mostly Japanese visitors with inside information about the Caribbean-like appeal of the place. A part of the Okinawa Prefecture, the island is ringed by beaches that vary from sandy expanses to whole strands made up entirely of broken, bleached and tumbled coral. The land itself is mostly given over to palm forests and pineapple plantations. Capes such as Hirakubozaki on the west side, or Uganzaki at the northern tip, are marked by lighthouses and offer nice views. At Kabira Bay no swimming is allowed, due to culture of black pearls, but glass-bottom boats offer views of the colorful sea life. Other beaches welcome snorkelers, swimmers and windsurfers.