Travel guide & tips | Things to do on Miyako Island by Ippei & Janine

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Miyako Island (Miyakojima) of the Miyako Islands

The fourth largest in the Okinawa Prefecture, this iron-board flat coral island boasts spectacular rocky outcrops, and blindingly white sand beaches with clear turquoise waters. Catch it on a sunny day and Miyakojima is glory at its best. The Miyako Islands are a beach-entry snorkelling paradise, often reported to be as good as the remote islands of Tahiti. You can enjoy the colorful lush coral reefs with many kinds of tropical fish just within 10 meters from the beach.

Camping on any of the deserted beaches (if it’s not a tourist beach) is allowed, and makes for a truly wild experience. We camped on Nagamahama Beach on Kurima Island and it was wonderful! Shower are available at any of the main tourist beaches, but best to do it in the hot months as the showers are mostly cold.

There is an amazing barrier reef (offshore coral reef) called Yabiji, which is located off the north east of Miyako main island. This coral reef is so lush and healthy, that even Australian WWF experts have come to conduct research in order to find a remedy for the dying coral of the Great Barrier Reef due to climate change.

Beautiful beaches and beach-entry snorkeling

The Miyako Islands have amazing beaches with great snorkeling points, so pray for good weather! There are so many beautiful beaches, and if you consider the wind direction of the day, you can make a good choice for the side of the island which will be the most protected.

Sunayama Beach

The iconic famous beach of Miyako Island, and a must-visit. Not the best for snorkeling.

Warm tropical water and white sand beach of Japan, Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa

Nagamahama Beach (Kurima Island)

Beautiful white sand beach. One of the most idyllic spots for beach camping among the Miyako Islands. There are some good snorkeling points too.

Tropical beach camping on Kurima-jima of the Miyako Islands, Okinawa, Japan

Yoshino Beach

Yoshino beach is one of the best for beach-entry snorkeling. No need to swim to the reef edge, as there are a lot of coral and fish near the beach. Please be careful not to damage the coral by accident with fins. On this beach you will see a famous volunteer guy with a ponytail who tells tourists not to stand on the coral. He is a sweet old guy and has been a guide for WWF researchers. He will probably give you a coral necklace.

Fringing coral reef of southern Japan, Miyakojima Island, Okinawa

Coral lagoon snorkeling in clear tropical water of southern Japan, Miyakojima Island, Okinawa

Yonaha Maehama Beach

Even though this is the most touristy beach of Miyako Island, it is still beautiful. Tandem-paragliding is recommended for a stunning aerial view. Not suitable for snorkeling.

Miyakojima tourist beach from above, Tropical Japan

Yonaha Maehama Beach, Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa, Japan

Boragawa Beach and Boraga Limestone Cave

Great beach to hang out at in case of a north wind (it’s quite sheltered), with facilities like a swimming pool (small fee), ice cream stand and free showers. There is a sea cave nearby which is worth a visit at low tide. Even though it is shallow water it is best to swim or kayak there. There is a lot of coral which has started to grow in recent years, and walking will damage this growth. You will need to follow the coast from the left side of the beach for about 10-15 minutes from Boragawa Beach to get to the cave (check our map for the exact point).

Boraga beach and clear tropical water, Miyakojima Island, Okinawa, Japan

Boraga sea cave adventure, Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa, Japan

Boraga limestone cave adventure, Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa, Japan

Imugyaa Lagoon

We recommend this lagoon in case of high waves from a typhoon/tropical storm since it’s completely sheltered. It’s also great for small children who just want to play in shallow water. The deeper part of the lagoon is suitable for snorkeling with many “Nemo” fish and soft coral, especially around the bridge.

Tropical lagoon of Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa, Japan

Tako Beach (Kurima Island)

We recommend this small hidden beach in case of high waves from a typhoon/tropical storm as it’s sheltered. There are quite a few “Nemo” fish.

Secluded tropical beach on Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan

Nameless beaches

The Miyako Islands have so many nameless but beautiful secluded beaches. Use Google Satellite and discover your own beach!

White sand tropical beach of southern Japan, Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa

Snorkeling point near Shigira Beach

It’s better to enter the coral reef lagoon using the stairs near the snorkeling point (check the map for the exact point) as it requires a lot of swimming if you enter the water from the actual beach. The water clarity is often not very high here, but there is a high chance of spotting sea turtles in this area while snorkeling.

Snorkeling point near Wai Wai Beach

Wai Wai Beach is a man-made beach, and although it’s said to be the most ugly beach on Miyako Island, the little beach next to it boasts Miyakojima’s highest chance of snorkeling with sea turtles (many say 99%!). It’s easier to see them early in the morning when sea turtles are feeding close to the beach, rather than spotting them swimming in the middle of the lagoon or closer to the reef edge later in the day. There are also many spots with beautiful coral as you swim towards the reef edge. Please check out our map.

Funakusu Beach (Ikema Island)

Popular beach on Ikema Island for great snorkeling.

Kaginmi Beach (Ikema Island)

Another popular beach on Ikema Island. The west end of the beach is better for snorkeling.

Nakanoshima Beach (Shimoji Island)

Beach-entry diving spot. Great for snorkeling near the reef edge.

Yabiji Coral Reefs

It consists of 117 reefs abundant in colorful coral, sea turtles, fish and many other sea-life. Each reef has a unique name in Miyako language (see the map of Yabiji Reef). Snorkeling/diving tours by boat are available from Ikema Island. The tour companies are located near the bridge on the Ikema Island side.

Healthy coral reefs of Japan, Yabiji Reef, Miyako Island, Okinawa

Colorful Japanese coral reef in clear tropical water, Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa

Limestone caves

All islands in the Miyako Group were formed by emerged coral reefs, so there are many underground limestone caves with fresh water inside (called “Gaa” in Miyako language), which served as wells for the islanders until water pipes became in service in the 1960’s. Each village was built around one of these caves for the accessibility of fresh water, so every village (and even major towns) still has at least one of these caves today. Exploring these caves is a great activity for non-beach weather days. We haven’t explored all of them yet, but here are a few suggestions from the ones we have explored. It is best to bring a torch, and use masses of mosquito repellant (or be fully covered). See our map for the exact spots.

Nazuka Gaa

Hiking to one of many jungle caves on Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan
One of many limestone caves on Miyako Island, Japan

Nudokubiabu (Irabu Island) – Our favorite!

Limestone underground cave, Irabu Island, Miyakojima, Okinawa, Japan

Muika Gaa

Limestone cave, Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan

Scenic spots

Drive around Miyako Island and you will have an abundance of photo opportunities given the right weather conditions. The bridge linking Miyako Island with Ikema Island has views of wonderfully tropical clear water.

Idyllic tropical water of southern Japan, Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa

Go to Miyako Island’s easternmost point, Higashi-Hennazaki, for a view of the iconic cape and light house.

Beautiful coastline of Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa, Japan

There are scenic spots with rocks which were brought by a massive tsunami in 1771, such as the coasts around Higashi-Hennazaki, Boraga Beach and Sawadanohama Beach (Irabu Island).

Rocks brought in by massive tsunami, Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa, Japan

Visit the blue holes on Shimoji Island. It is also a diving spot as these water holes are connected to the sea.

Blue hole connected to the sea by underwater cave, Shimoji Island, Okinawa

Limestone caves

In case of bad weather, visit a cave or two. Since the Miyako Islands are formed by emerged coral reefs, there are a lot of limestone caves across the islands which are great to explore.

Limestone cave and wild papaya trees on Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa, Japan

Accommodation

There are many boutique hotels and resorts on Miyako Islands nowadays and many of them are listed on international hotel booking sites.

Kataaki no Sato

For those who want to stay in a traditional Okinawan house with all the mod-cons of home, Kataaki no Sato will make for a memorable Miyako experience, especially good for a small group or family.

Miyakojima accommodation rental cottage, traditional Okinawa house

Car Rental

It goes without saying that a car is essential on Miyako Island. You can rent a small car just for a few thousand yen per day (including insurance) through the Japanese version of Rakuten Travel. Unfortunately, the price is often double on most English booking websites (only costly international rental car companies are in the English system). Best to have someone who can read Japanese to book. You will need an International Drivers License or JAF translation.

Weather

Located closer to Ishigaki Island of the Yaeyama Islands than Okinawa Main Island, lying 400km directly east of Taipei, the climate of Miyakojima is on the boundary between the Yaeyama Islands’s Tropical Rainforest climate and Okinawa Main Island’s Humid Subtropical climate. As Miyakojima is a flat island solely made of emerged coral reefs, the precipitation is less than that of the other islands of Okinawa Prefecture which have mountains and rainforests. The average yearly high temperature is 26.2°C (79.2°F), and the average yearly low temperature is 21.6°C (70.9°F). The climate is similar to Mid-Southern Taiwan, warmer than Hong Kong and Northern Taiwan due to the warm ocean current around Miyakojima. The annual average humidity exceeds 75%, which makes the feeling temperature very different from dry places with a similar mean annual temperature such as Townsville in Queensland, Australia. The sea temperature is warm all around the year, ranging between 20°C (68°F) and 31°C (88°F). The rainy season is May-June but it does not rain all day. Usually it’s just a few downpours in-between blue sky. The core season for typhoons/tropical storms is August-September but some years have very few typhoons/tropical storms while other years have many typhoons/tropical storms even as early as May or as late as November. However, at least one typhoon/tropical storm hits Miyakojima during August or September every year. Usually a typhoon/tropical storm affects the weather only for a few days and you get beautiful clear blue sky as soon as the typhoon passes away.

Climate data for Miyako Island (Miyakojima), Okinawa, Japan (1980-2010, Japan Meteorological Agency)

  • Average high temperature °C
  • Average low temperature °C