Miyako Island is a hidden gem in the southern Ryuku island chain. It is only about 60 square miles and has a population of around 46,000. It is easy to get to (a short 50-minute flight from Naha Airport in Okinawa) and is a very affordable vacation spot with inexpensive rental cars (reserve ahead of time especially if you’re going during a Japanese holiday) and lots of places to stay along the coastline from 5-star luxury resorts to low-cost condos.
Yonaha BeachOnce settled it’s time to start exploring! There are so many beautiful beaches here and each has its own charm. The 4-star hotel I stayed at had Yonaha Beach, the number one rated Miyako beach, in its backyard. This beach has fine white sand as far as the eye can see with sparkling aquamarine water, a clear view of the Kurima Bridge, and lots of rental water sports equipment scattered along the shoreline.
Sunayama BeachMy favorite beach was Sunayama Beach. Park in the free lot (with bathrooms and vending machines), then follow a little sand trail flanked by tropical foliage to a stunning, jaw-droppingly beautiful view of the East China Sea and a soft white sand beach. A rock arch covered in tropical greenery frames the perfect view of the peaceful turquoise water. There is now a fence and rope blocking it off from tourists (since a rock falling on your head could seriously ruin your vacation). Not to worry though because the rest of the beach is wide open.
While you are here take a drive over the longest bridge in Japan with no toll. Irabu Bridge is 3,540 meters and connects Miyako to Irabu island. There’s a great lookout point and little tourist shops immediately to the right when you arrive in Irabu where you can capture great pictures of the bridge and the tropical blue sea.
A visit to Imugya Marine Garden
If you love diving then Irabu is your spot! It is known for spectacular diving with shipwrecks, caves, and of course gorgeous tropical fish. For those who prefer to stay on land, the beaches here will not disappoint. There is Toguchinohama Beach for swimming and Sawadanohama Beach for a unique beach scattered with rocks. For a bird’s eye view of your surroundings, there is an observation deck in the middle of the island with views of the lush green landscape and sparkling tropical sea.
Wanting a change from beaches, I decided to explore Imugya Marine Garden, a verdant seaside trail built along the water with safe swimming and snorkeling spots protected from the sea, bridges, lush tropical plants, lots of stairs, a mildly annoyed-looking Miyako cow sculpture, and stunning views of the crystal blue ocean and reef below. There’s a very small parking area with bathrooms, vending machines, and showers.
At the end of the day what better way to wrap up your adventures than to find the perfect setting to watch the sunset? Cape Higashi-Hennazaki is a popular spot during the day but is even more spectacular when the sun sinks into the sea. It is listed as one of the top 100 scenic spots in Japan. Here you’ll find a couple of windmills, a rocky peninsula with crashing waves, tropical greenery, a lighthouse, and a shrimp bus where you can grab a tasty lunch or dinner while watching the waves. Parking is free and there are restrooms and vending machines nearby.
A reminder to be safe...
The most quirky thing in Miyako was the Mamoru-kun statues (picture a vaguely creepy, pale, and stoic police officer) on various roads. He’s sort of like a scarecrow for drivers, intended to keep the roads safe with the reminder that he is watching. I caught myself slowing down each time I saw one, so apparently, it works!
I can’t believe it took me 16 years to finally get to Miyako. I’ve been telling everyone I know in Okinawa about Miyako island so they don’t make the same mistake of waiting to go. I was VERY motivated to find all the beautiful beaches I but with only 2 ½ days I wasn’t able to get to even a quarter of them all. The beauty of it is that I have even more reasons to return to this magical little island to visit!
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