The largest and busiest of Okinawa’s Miyako Islands, Miyako Island is known for its pristine beaches, bright coral reefs and sub-tropical climate, making it popular with tourists looking for sun, sand and snorkelling. It’s a compact spot, measuring just 25 kilometres from top to bottom, with a landscape that is largely flat and green with sugar cane, but the coast line is an absolute bounty of beautiful beaches you can lounge on. How beautiful? Well, the Eastern Cape, on Miyako Island’s most south-eastern point, is a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty, so it’s little wonder that tourist numbers are booming, with cruise ships from China and Taiwan bringing visitors hungry for some seaside relaxation at one of the many luxury resorts. Some of the smaller surrounding islands are reachable by bridge, so you can easily go exploring further afield.

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Things to do: Miyako (Shimojishima)

  • Beautiful beaches

    Beaches are definitely Miyako Island’s biggest draw card, with snow white sand and almost unfathomably beautiful turquoise waters. Maehama Beach is one of Japan’s best, famed for its sunsets, while Yoshino Beach is ideal if you want to go snorkelling amongst swathes of cute, colourful fish. Sunayama Beach is equally pretty and known for its photogenic natural rock gate that sits right at the waterfront. Just try to resist this photo opportunity!

  • Bridge the gap

    As Miyako Island is part of a group of islands, it’s connected to surrounding areas by impressive, slender bridges that slice across the bright blue waters between. Irabu Bridge is a relatively new, toll-free bridge that spans 6.5kms from Miyako to Irabu, arching over coral reef waters. Walk the Kurima Bridge (it’s only 1690m) for some spectacular views as farmers transport their crops alongside you, or cross the Ikema Bridge and discover the scenery and wildlife of Ikejima.

  • Dive the reefs

    Known locally as the ‘flower garden of the ocean’, Yabiji is Japan's largest group of coral reefs, with the distinction of being visible above the water during the low tide time of the year. Divers will be in seventh heaven here, with a multicoloured marine world to explore, including neon fish, coral snakes and manta rays. Don’t want to get right down amongst it? Take a glass boat tour where you can see the reef through glass sections in the boat’s floor.

  • Take it to the tropics

    Once a thick forest of ancient pines, the Miyakojima City Botanical Garden was re-landscaped in the late 1960s and is now a lovely botanical garden, laced with walking trails and designed for rest, relaxation and showcasing hundreds of tropical plants. Wander the grounds and you’ll see plant life from Japan, Hawaii, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. It’s the largest garden of its kind in the Okinawa Prefecture, with 40,000 trees and 1600 different kinds of plants.

  • The beauty queen of Miyako

    Miyako Island has some pretty staggering sea views, but this is the big one. At the most south-eastern point of Miyako Island, you’ll find the popular sightseeing spot of Higashi-hennazaki. This cape is crowned by a lighthouse and so gorgeous it is a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty. Saunter the 2km-long promontory, taking in the views of the ocean and surrounding limestone cliffs, or head up to the lighthouse to watch the sun set or rise.

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Airport information

Shimojishima Airport

Distance to Miyako Island 15km

From the airport As the airport is undergoing major renovations and expansions, check the website for updated information on ground transportation.

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When to go

With its sub-tropical climate, Miyako Island is constantly warm and mild. April to November is the most pleasant time of year, although overnight temperatures can be high mid-year. From June to October, beware of box jellyfish when swimming.

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Getting around

Miyako Island is fairly small and easy to move around. A rental car is probably your most convenient option, as buses are not as frequent as you might need. There are taxis, and you can also rent bikes and scooters.

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