Miyako-jima 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 crystal clear turquoise waters. Catch it on a sunny day and Miyakojima is glory at its best. The Miyako Islands are also a paradise for off-the-beach snorkeling lovers. You can see many kinds of tropical fish, sea turtles and colorful lush coral close to many of the beaches.

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 a few beaches including Nagamahama Beach on Kurima Island and it was wonderful! Showers 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.

Over the last 15 years we’ve visited the Miyako Islands many times, and we created this travel guide based on our experiences. Our Miyako-jima travel guide is meant for nature lovers who wish to explore the Miyako Islands on their own without taking a guided tour. We regularly update this travel guide but please let us know if you spot any error or any outdated information.

Beautiful beaches and off-the-beach 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 for the first-time visitors even though it can attract many tourists during peak periods. It’s best to visit this beach when it’s a southerly wind to enjoy the beautiful calm waters. Although this is a popular beach for swimming, it’s not the place for snorkeling.Warm tropical water and white sand beach of Japan, Miyako-jima Island, OkinawaIconic beach of Miyakojima, Okinawa, JapanSunayama Beach, Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan

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 off-the-beach snorkeling. There is no need to swim to the reef edge, as there are a lot of beautiful coral and fish inside the lagoon in front of the beach. Please snorkel only around the time of high tide and be careful not to damage the coral by accident with your fins.

Fringing coral reef of Miyako Island, Okinawa, JapanFringing coral reef of southern Japan, Miyakojima Island, OkinawaCoral lagoon snorkeling in clear tropical water of southern Japan, Miyakojima Island, OkinawaFringing coral reef of Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan

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 JapanYonaha 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, JapanBoraga sea cave adventure, Miyako-jima Island, Okinawa, JapanBoraga 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.

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!
You can check out some examples on our map.

Camping on secluded tropical beach, Shimoji Island of Miyako Islands, Okinawa, JapanWhite sand tropical beach of southern Japan, Miyako-jima Island, OkinawaSecluded tropical beach, Miyako Island, Okinawa, JapanSecluded tropical beach, Shimoji Island of Miyako Islands, Okinawa, JapanSecluded tropical beach, Miyako Island, Okinawa, JapanCamping on secluded tropical beach, Miyako Island, Okinawa, JapanCamping on secluded tropical beach, Shimoji Island of Miyako Islands, Okinawa, JapanSecluded tropical beach, Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan

On full moon nights, you can see coconut crabs clambering down to these secluded beaches to lay eggs in the shallow waters. They are protected so please don’t be tempted to eat them!

Coconut crab in southern Japan

Nameless beaches accessible only from the sea

The Miyako Islands have so many idyllic beaches that are only accessible from the sea. If you are taking your packraft/kayak/SUP with you to the Miyako Islands, we highly recommend checking out Google Satellite and discovering your own idyllic deserted beach. We’ve visited the Miyako Islands many times but the list of these hidden beaches is still long!

Deserted tropical beach, Miyako Island, Okinawa, JapanDeserted tropical beach, Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan

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. Check out our map.

Funakusu Beach (Ikema Island)

Popular beach on Ikema Island for great snorkeling.

Kaginmi Beach (Ikema Island)

Another great beach on Ikema Island for snorkeling. The west end of the beach is better for snorkeling. You can swim with sea turtles right in front of the beach at high tide. The small beach at the east side is ideal for packrafting/kayaking/SUPing. There are also some great snorkeling spots.
Just like any other north facing beaches, it’s best to visit this beach when it’s a southerly wind to enjoy the beautiful calm waters.
Unfortunately this beach (especially the small beach at the east side) often has a lot of plastic rubbish washed ashore from the Pacific ocean, and it doesn’t get cleaned regularly by the local government or volunteers. If possible please do your bit to help clean up this beach (some hotels on the Miyako Islands provide volunteer garbage bags).

Kaginmi Beach, Ikema Island of the Miyako Islands, Okinawa, JapanCoral-reef lagoon packrafting/kayaking, Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan

Nakanoshima Beach (Shimoji Island)

Off-the-beach diving spot. Excellent for snorkeling near the reef edge.

Packrafting/kayaking/SUPing in coral-reef lagoons

Since all the Miyako Islands are fringed by coral reefs, these sheltered coral-reef lagoons are ideal for packrafting/kayaking/SUPing. Make sure to check the wind direction of the day so you can make a good choice for the side of the island which will be the most protected. We love paddling on Miyako’s beautiful calm water because of the extremely high water clarity. This is absolutely one of the best ways to enjoy “Miyako Blue”!

Coral-reef lagoon packrafting/kayaking, Miyako Island, Okinawa, JapanCoral-reef lagoon packrafting/kayaking, Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan

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

Limestone Caves

All the 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 flashlight, 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, JapanLimestone cave, Irabu Island of the Miyako Islands, Okinawa, Japan
Muika Gaa

Limestone cave, Miyako Island, Okinawa, Japan

Nakahara Limestone Cave

Limestone cave and wild papaya trees on Miyako-jima 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 stunningly clear tropical 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

One of many breathtaking views from the new Irabu-Ohashi Bridge.

Coral cay, Miyako Islands, Okinawa, Japan

There are many amazing lagoons off Irabu Island’s rugged coastline (great for kayaking and snorkeling).

Tropical coastline, Irabu Island of Miyako Islands, 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

Farmers Markets and Honesty Produce Shops

Atarasu Farmers Market

The biggest farmers’ market on the Miyako Islands, located near the airport. It’s a great place to buy fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from the island. We recommend stopping by here after arriving or before leaving Miyakojima.

“Mujin Hanbai” – Honesty Produce Shops

We also love road-side stalls around farms – you never know what you’re going to find available! You can get very fresh vegetables and fruits directly from farmers for a very low price. Just drop the designated amount in the money jar and you’re set to go.

Cafes

Check our map for cafes that we recommend.

Accommodation

There are many boutique hotels and resorts on the Miyako Islands nowadays, and many of them are listed on international hotel booking sites. However, the Japanese version of Rakuten Travel usually lists a wider selection of accommodation often with better deals and more relaxed cancellation policies.

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.

Note: Unfortunately all international weather forecasts for Miyako Island are inaccurate (including weather histories), such as the default weather apps on smartphones, Google weather, Accuweather, etc. They are almost always a few Celsius degrees lower than the actual temperatures measured on Miyako Island (especially during winter), and sometimes they can be completely wrong since they don’t have access to the proprietary data from Miyakojima weather station owned by JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency).
We recommend this weather forecast using the JMA’s data from Miyakojima weather station (It’s in Japanese with Celsius but it’s straightforward).
https://weather.yahoo.co.jp/weather/jp/47/9300.html
The weather on any southern Japanese island, however, is so unpredictable that weekly weather forecasts (even two days ahead) should really be used as a guide only. The conditions can also be very different even on the same island between north and south or mountains and coastal areas.

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

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