Miyakojima Japan – Miyakojima is part of the Miyako Islands, southwest of the main island of Okinawa in Japan. It is less popular among tourists than its neighboring island Ishigaki, but it is well worth the visit. I fell in love with this island before I even set foot there, as soon as I saw the shades of turquoise stretching away as far as the eye can see, from the plane’s window.
The Miyako Islands are a natural treasure, to say the least. The cane sugar fields and the lush tropical vegetation spread out over miles of land. It’s like you’re always about to stumble upon an incredible cliff-side view of a turquoise sea. Miyakojima is also a perfect destination to enjoy the island’s coral reefs and underwater wildlife. The means of transportation on the island being very limited (a few buses a day), the best way to enjoy Miyakojima’s beauty is to rent a car.
I don’t have an international driving license so I decided to hitchhike. I met incredible people on the way! I was very pleasantly surprised by the kindness and generosity of the local people, who were eager to show me around the island for several hours on end when all I asked was a lift to the bus station.
Actually, Japanese people, in general, have always been extremely kind to me, but the kindness of the people of this island left me speechless. You will often see elderly people walking around or working the land and don’t be surprised if they offer you a cup of tea or approach you to tell you the story of their beautiful country. Speaking Japanese helped me a lot but emotions can be conveyed differently, even if no words are spoken.
How To Get There
Until a few years ago, Miyakojima was accessible by ferry from Naha but for whatever reasons, the service is no longer provided. Airplanes are the only means of transportation available at the moment. ANA and JAL operate scheduled flights (from Naha, Tokyo, Osaka, and several other major cities). You can get a round-trip plane ticket for less than 10,000 yen (~ $90) if you book early enough. Miyakojima is a 45-minute flight from Naha and a 4-hour flight from Tokyo.
Where to stay
Here’s how things went for me. I stayed at the Ayaguya Guesthouse. In the local language, it means “house of music” and I have to tell you about it because it was one of my favorite hostels in Japan! The guesthouse is located in Irabujima, an island that has lots of natural landscapes and is easily accessible from the main island of Miyakojima by crossing the Irabu Bridge, which is a 4000-meter long bridge that offers magnificent views.
The price per night at the Ayaguya Guesthouse is relatively expensive (2500 yen per night for a dorm room of 4 people, about $23) but you can be sure that you will be treated like the most special of all guests! I can say so because the manager greeted me while playing a traditional song on his sanshin (an Okinawan shamisen)! The interior design is very cozy, everything is neat and tidy and you can even have as much tea, coffee, beer, and even local sake as you want for free! You can also try playing the sanshin; four instruments are made available to the guests if you’re interested.
The guesthouse’s manager was too kind to me. Every night, he would make me an absolutely delicious (and free!) dinner with fish that his neighbor, an adorable elderly gentleman, had caught in the morning. He introduced me to many traditional songs and we spent evenings singing and playing sanshin, listening to the sound of the waves and nature. It was magical so I can only recommend it!
If you are looking for more privacy and comfort, there are several hotels you can try on the main island of Miyakojima. The Locus Hotel is one of them; it’s a modern, beachfront hotel that is easily accessible.
Now let’s discover the Miyako Islands one by one, starting with Irabujima Island.
Miyakojima Japan – Irabujima
Irabujima (or Irabu Island) is one of the Miyako Islands. It is linked to the main island by the Irabu Bridge which was built just 3 years ago and is almost 4000 meters long. Irabujima is more preserved than its neighboring island precisely because the only way to access it (before the construction of the bridge) was by ferry so that limited tourism and the economy. Irabujima is home to breathtaking landscapes I will tell you about in a minute.
Sabautsuga is a hill that offers spectacular views. It’s the ideal spot to enjoy the waves as they hit the rocks and the contrast between the greenery of the flora and the blue shades of the sea.
There are tables for those who would like to enjoy a moment of silence to eat, read, draw or play an instrument. I played sanshin there and a group of Japanese people joined me because they loved the song! There is also a huge park around the corner where you can relax, play sports or just enjoy the moment.
A few kilometers away is Funausagi Banata, another hill the name of which means “the cape to send off ships” in the local dialect. During wartime, many families went there to see their sons or fathers leave for unknown destinations. Tragic story aside, this spot offers a breathtaking view!
Next, we’re visiting Sawada no hama, a beach where large rocks are scattered around almost uniformly, forming a unique landscape! These rocks have been arranged (sort of) naturally after a large tsunami that hit the island back in the 18th century. This natural tragedy left one of the most beautiful landscapes of the island to the next generations!
Last but not least as far as Irabujima is concerned would be the Toguchinohama beach. You can expect fine sand, corals scattered everywhere and a magnificent view! When I went there, it was pretty cold so I didn’t go for a swim but if the weather is nice when you visit the island, by all means, dive in!
Miyakojima Japan – Shimojishima
This island is practically attached to its neighbor Irabujima and at first glance, you don’t really realize they’re two distinct islands. The beach behind Shimojishima Airport was incredibly beautiful. You can enjoy an amazing view with beautiful turquoise water. A delectable feast for the eyes!
Shimojishima’s other landmark is its Tori Ike, a landscape of two unique ponds that create a somewhat mysterious atmosphere due to the dark color of the water. It has also inspired many Okinawan folktales.
It is a popular scuba diving spot because the rocks surrounding the pond provide magnificent underwater views as light passes through.
Miyakojima Japan – Kurimajima
Kurimajima is the smallest island of the archipelago, located southwest of the main island. It is almost completely flat with steep hills and a beautiful flora that is full of exotic fruit! Each and every corner of this island is a miniature paradise so if you get the chance to visit it, no need to plan anything in advance, just wander around!
Don’t miss out on the Ryugujo Observatory which is the highest point of the island and offers an impressive view of the main island.
You can also walk down to the beach which is very nice. I found a small island of white sand a few feet away from the seashore. It’s definitely not a spot people come to visit so if you’d like some alone time while still being surrounded by the sea, there’s your spot right there! 🙂
For more beautiful beaches in Japan, make sure you read this: Japan Beaches.
The Main Island Of Miyakojima
This island is the largest of the Miyako Islands and attractions there are scattered all over the island. Here are the ones I liked!
Sunayama beach is a tiny natural treasure! A sandy beach with arch-shaped natural rocks is what you should expect! It is a popular destination among tourists but it’s definitely worth a visit!
Let me now take you to Utopia Farm where you can enjoy many exotic flowers and taste the local fruits.
Last but not least is Cape Higashi Henna Zaki and it’s my favorite place in Miyakojima. I saw an unforgettable sunset there and even if the pictures don’t make it look so good, you can take my word for it, it was magical!
That’s all for me. As I mentioned above, to fully enjoy the wonders of this island, you’ll need to rent a car or a motorbike because even if the spots I mentioned don’t look like they’re too far away from each other, they are. There are very few buses and those are convenient for the local people but they won’t get you to the isolated places that are usually the most interesting.
I would also like to point out that there are many other natural treasures to explore in Miyakojima, other than those I mentioned in this blog post. And by the way, if you get the chance to do some scuba diving, don’t miss out on it! You will be surprised to see that the underwater landscapes are just as breathtaking as what you can see on land. I met a few sea turtles and even found Nemo!
If you get the chance to visit the Miyako Islands, you definitely won’t be disappointed! 😉
Before to leave, if you are looking for more beautiful beaches in Okinawa, feel free to check out this blog post: Okinawa Beach.