By Sarah Koh
Welcome to the very small, beautiful island that is Miyako!
This was our second trip and this time we hired a car to navigate around the island. It is advisable, but not strictly necessary – most hotels have bicycles to rent, but some of the best diving/snorkeling beaches are far and travelling by taxi would otherwise be expensive.
Clockwise around the island starting from the Tokyu Resort Hotel (on the south west coast):
The Tokyu Resort is very nice and recommended, but by certainly no means essential to making your stay on the island awesome. While the rooms overlook Maehama Beach, which is owned and joined by a walkway to the hotel, visitors outside of the hotel may of course come and enjoy Japan's best beach ever!
In season, the beach caters to many activities, there is a pedal boat, a safe, cordoned off area for families to swim and play as well as the entire ocean for snorkeling!
There is a pathway to the right of the hotel. Follow this path and head north along the west coast and enjoy a walk around to Yonohama Bay.
Following the coast line further north and the signs will direct you to Sunset beach, Painagama Beach and Sunayama Beach. Each beach has something unique to offer. For example, Yonohama beach is so shallow you feel like you could just walk across the bay! Sunayama beach is never that crowded, so it feels like your own private beach!
As we drove around the island, we were fortunate to be able to find the Yuki Shio Saltworks. It's a salt mill but the salt is something else – it contains the most minerals in the world and a place in the Guinness World Records as a result. It looks like snow and tastes pure and fresh, not to mention salty! It was on the list of recommendations, and while you might not consider it on a vacation to Miyako, it is definitely worth it. We ate ice cream and tried all the flavors of salt as toppings!
We drove around this island; there was not a lot to see save some houses, a school, and a small park. It made for a pleasant drive and at the end of which, we stopped for some tea and cake and a view of the island opposite (Ogami Island) and the Ikema bridge.
Sea Grapes, Umi Budou (海ぶどう)
We chanced upon this amazing sea grape farm. It was just before the Ikema bridge, on the left, sign-posted, but a little too late so it was easy to miss the turn. Equally, prepare for a quick right just as soon as you come back from Ikema island and off the bridge.
My husband loves sea grapes more than me, so he was super overjoyed to have found this farm. The freshest and most amazing experience ever. You can buy a massive box for 400 yen, which by far beats the small souvenirs ones in Naha shopping street!
I strongly recommend this as a stop on the island. (There are no doubt a few more farms, this was just the one that we found and easily!)
Shimajiri Mangroves, Batarazu Bay
Follow the boardwalk and enjoy the tranquility of the nature around. Mangroves are swampy marshes of tropical fun! This is more of a must-see than the tropical garden! It is far more unique to observe the ground and the creatures popping up and down and scampering around.
We saw butterflies and small lizards, but it was the small red crabs and their amazing beady eyes that won the show! You've got to stand still though!
Miyakojima Botanical Gardens
The thing is that we are on a tropical island surrounded by nature anyway, but this beautiful inland park is free to enter and is just lovely place to be!
The pictures speak for themselves: whilst the beaches are cleaned before the summer season, there is often some sea waste washed up on the shore throughout the year.
Last time, we were able to do a fair bit of snorkellng on this beach. This time round, it was earlier in the month of March plus it was later in the day and the tide was out. Still, there were many things to find on this beautiful beach....
Cape Higashi Hennazaki
This cape is a lovely stretch of path that takes you out to the edge to really appreciate the views around you. And of course, there is the lighthouse too! Enjoy!
Ingya Marine Park
This is a beautiful area you can walk around and really take in the scenery. Stop to eat at a picnic spot, look at the waters, the rocks and the greenery around you!
German Culture Village
Even from a German person's perspective who might be yearning for a bit of homegrown culture, this is a peculiar place. Still, it is a novelty for those never to set foot in Deutschland. These police figures can be found around the island in connection with the Deutsch theme park; yes, it really is quite amusing!
Our path leads us back to the Tokyu resort, but not without a quick detour over another bridge. Last time, we tried to cycle over the bridge but quickly tired half way. We learnt this time that we didn't miss much at all!
There is next to nothing on the island, even less than Ikema, which is rather lively in comparison!
We drove around the island, stopped to admire a beach on which someone had been playing around with the rocks and built endless cairns!
There is a wonderful pottery shop adjoining a coffee snack place, run by the same family at the beginning of the island. Strongly recommend a visit if you happen to visit Kurima!
Just a tip – off-season, a lot of the beach cafes and tourist shops are shut. This does not stop anyone from snorkeling though, as the beaches are open all year, and dive groups are always open. Overall, I would recommend an off-season visit - better for the purse, plus it is a true escape to a very calm and quiet place!
Miyako is a place renowned for its fresh beef and Miyako soba. Also, fresh guava, mangoes and dragonfruits are around, be sure to have a juice while you are there! But most importantly, do not miss out on the super fresh and super delicious Umi Budou!
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