Miyako Island (宮古島, Miyakojima), located 300 kilometers south of Okinawa Main Island and 100 kilometers north of the Yaeyama Islands, is known for some of Japan's best beaches and as a great destination for snorkeling and diving in the coral reefs. The sub tropical climate provides mild weather year around.
Miyako is the fourth largest island in Okinawa Prefecture. It lacks any major hills or mountains and is mostly covered by sugar cane fields and a few towns, among which Hirara is the largest with a moderate range of restaurants and bars. Resort hotels and pensions are found across the island. Unlike other parts of Okinawa, Miyako is free of habu snakes.
Beaches are Miyako's most famous attraction. There are picturesque sand beaches for swimming and relaxing and coral reefs that provide excellent snorkeling. While the beaches are open year round, they are best enjoyed from April to November when the air temperature consistently tops 25 degrees and the water is very warm.
When enjoying the beaches, beware of strong currents that can pull you out to sea and poisonous creatures such as Habu Jellyfish, a type of box jellyfish, that is most prevalent from June to October. Although jellyfish stings are rare, if stung you should pour vinegar over the sting, remove any tentacles, and seek medical help as it may become life threatening if left untreated.
Besides its beaches, snorkeling and diving, Miyako offers a small range of other attractions, including places of natural beauty and cultural interest, and a couple of elegant bridges to neighboring islands.
Ratings: best of the best best of Japan outstanding
How to get to Miyako Island
JAL and ANA connect Miyako Airport on Miyako Island with Tokyo's Haneda Airport (2.5 to 3 hours), Osaka's Kansai Airport (2 hours), Nagoya's Central Japan Airport, Naha Airport on Okinawa Main Island (45 minutes), Ishigaki (30 minutes) and Tarama (20 minutes), a small island between Miyako and Ishigaki. Air passes can provide big savings on the Tokyo and Osaka routes.
Furthermore, Skymark and Jetstar Japan are serving Miyako's Shimojishima Airport with fares that are often considerably lower than the ones by JAL and ANA. Slymark connects the airport to Tokyo's Haneda Airport, Kobe Airport and Naha Airport while Jetstar Japan connects it to Tokyo's Narita Airport and Osaka's Kansai Airport. Shimojishima Airport is located on a small island that is connected with Miyako Island via bridges.
How to get around the island
Miyako is a relatively small island, measuring about 25 kilometers from south to north and about 15 kilometers from east to west.
A rental car is the most convenient means of getting around Miyako. Most rental car companies have an outlet at Miyako Airport. Driving on Miyako is easy and enjoyable. There are also rental shops for bicycles and scooters.
Many hotels offer their guests free shuttle bus rides from/to the airport. Likewise, many leisure and water sport companies will pick up their customers from hotels free of charge. A bus network on the island is existent, but service is highly infrequent, even to Miyako Airport. Taxis are another option.