Snow-white sandy beaches meet the deep blue sea at the Miyako Islands
By AYA ICHIHASHI | Stars and Stripes | Published: February 6, 2020
The snowy beaches of the Miyako Islands are a change to the beige-orange sand on the main island of Okinawa, and the sun reflected off the powdery white sand contrasts sharply with the blue ocean to compose a beautiful scene.
Three Miyako beaches are in Japan’s top 10 on Trip Advisor Travelers Choice 2019. Yonahamaehama beach, or Maehama for short, was voted No. 1. Its beach stretches for two miles; the water is crystal-clear layers of turquoise. I often spot happy couples there taking wedding day photos.
Miyako’s beaches are amazing. Visiting the islands must be on your bucket list while you’re stationed on Okinawa or in Japan.
The Miyakos are eight inhabited islands, five of which are connected by bridges. About 55,300 residents live on the islands, which are about 175 miles southwest of Naha, Okinawa. A 30-minute flight from Naha costs as little as 5,500 yen, about $50.
Sunayama Beach ranked second in Japan on the Trip Advisor poll last year, and Aragusuku beach ranked 10th. I suggest women wear a bathing suit under a sundress and carry a few bottles of water and a towel, because you never know when you’ll want to jump in the water in Miyako.
I usually get a rental car as soon as I get there because it is so convenient to drive around the islands.
By the time I finish taking 100 photos or splashing in the water, I am ready for lunch. My recommendation is Doug’s Burger. It is amazing. I usually order a cheeseburger, which costs 1,030 yen ($9.40) with a drink, and delicious rosemary fries on the side (790 yen).
Whoever thought of deep-frying the rosemary is a genius. It is a tad pricey, but it’s a worth the expense. Also, Doug’s onion rings are the crispiest, crunchiest onion rings I have ever eaten in my life.
After the delicious meal, it is time to go over to Irabu Island. Irabu Bridge opened in 2015, and it connects Irabu with Miyako. Until then, residents and visitors had to take a ferry. At 2.2 miles long, it is the longest toll-free bridge in Japan.
As soon as the bridge was opened, everybody fell in love with Irabu. Shimoji Island is side-by-side and connected by bridges to Irabu.
I stopped at Sankakuten, 17 End and Toguchi beach for amazing photo ops. A new airport opened last April on Shimoji, and visitors can check the flight schedule to take photos of airplanes landing at the airport.
My next stop is Sunayama beach. Suna means sand and yama means mountain in Japanese. It is rough to go up and down the steep sand hill, but the view from the top is breathtaking. A short tunnel goes through the dome-shaped rock on the beach. Many visitors take photos in front of the rock.
Yoshino beach, Aragusuku beach and Imgya Marine Garden are popular snorkeling spots as the water is relatively shallow and safe for a family with small children. All three conveniently offer showers and public bathrooms.
If you are a serious snorkeler or diver, I strongly recommend going on the Yabiji snorkeling tour boat. Yabiji coral reef is north of Ikema Island, about a 30-minute drive from the airport.
The reef stretches 10 miles north to south, about four miles east to west. Many shops offer a half-day or all-day tour departing from Hirara Port or Ikema Port. I usually go at least once while staying on Miyako.
Mother Nature offers so much on these islands. Don’t miss out.
DIRECTIONS: Miyako is 175 miles southeast of Naha, Okinawa, and is a 30-minute flight from Naha airport.
TIMES: Open year-round.
COSTS: Airfare starts at $50, one way, with an early-purchase discount through JAL/JTA or ANA websites.
FOOD: Try Miyako soba (starts at 500 yen or $4.50) to see if you like Okinawa soba style. Bring enough cash to cover your stay.
INFORMATION: Online: en.miyako-guide.net