Best beaches on Miyako-jima, Japan
A lot can come to mind when someone says “Japan”, but white sand beaches and turquoise waters are likely not one of them. Best known perhaps for its cultural richness, a deep-rooted history, or even as the country with arguably the best powder skiing in the world, its merits as a seaside destination are often overlooked.
The southernmost Okinawa Prefecture stretches over a large area, with hundreds of kilometers between each group of islands. Those further south are close to Tawain and even the Philippines, so it’s not surprising to find many pockets of pristine paradise at this latitude. While the main island of Okinawa – and Ishigaki in the far south – may be best known for its sunny vacations, Miyakojima may well be home to the best beaches in all of Japan. And fortunately, it is not yet overrun with international tourists. Here are our 5 best beaches in Miyakojima to whet your appetite.
Straight out of a luxury travel brochure, Sunayama Beach is your ultimate paradise on a desert island. The turquoise water bathes the fine white sand, and at medium to low tide it stays shallow for a long time, making it a great place to take the kids as well. The beach is small and entirely non-commercial, nestled in a small natural bay. Erosion has left an autonomous rock arch and dense vegetation extends to meet the sand. The car park is a 5-minute walk away, so access to the beach is via a narrow sandy path, covered with vegetation on both sides. Finally it opens, and reveals the most remarkable tropical beach. The snorkelling here is mediocre, but the atmosphere and beauty is second to none.
2. Yonaha Beach
Perhaps a more conventional beach style, this wide strip of sand stretches for miles, allowing groups or individuals to find their own space away from others and settle in for around half a day. As this part of the coast is more exposed it can be windier and experience higher waves, so it is well suited for wind sports and older families / groups. The parking lot is a few yards from the beach itself so access is easy for most people and you can make multiple trips if you take a lot of beach toys with you. There are very few rocks in the sand or shallows, making it a great choice for swimming for miles and / or playing games in the water.
3. Shigira beach
As you head south to the main island of Miyakojima, you will come across a plethora of properties owned and operated by Shigira Resorts, golf courses, and beaches. Aimed at discerning travelers – but with a few options for the more budget-conscious – the beaches are intended for the public as well as hotel guests. Shigira Beach is another bay of white sand and turquoise water that becomes a separate body of water at low tide. Rock formations scattered throughout make for interesting snorkeling, with more awe-inspiring marine life to be found further towards the reef. Most of the shallow rocks and coral are a great training ground for beginners to snorkeling or children who are used to it. Proximity to the car park and hotel facilities makes it easy for most people to access and, as a recessed bay, it is somewhat protected from big waves and wind.
4. Imgya coral beach
Another beach located across from a Shigira Resorts property, this underrated little beach offers great snorkeling, rock pooling, and white sands to stretch out on. It would be very easy to miss it without knowing it exists, and as such it remains relatively silent. The water deepens fairly early at high tide, providing a spectacular spectacle of marine life for those with a mask and a snorkel and who can swim. If you have kids, there are plenty of large rock pools that form as the tide recedes, each teaming up with sea creatures. The water itself is blue and beautiful, and the views of the coast are rugged and spectacular. Kids could swim in the shallows at low tide, but smaller kids would be better suited to one of the other beaches on this list.
5. Aragusuku Beach
Different once again from the others on this list, Aragasuku Beach is in the east of the island and as such is often sheltered from larger waves and wind. It remains shallow for a long time, has very few rocks and many miles of sand to walk around. It is ideal for families with shallow, sheltered water, or the more adventurous traveler as there are various watercraft available for hire on the waterfront. It is slightly more developed than some of the islands’ beaches, but still very discreet, relaxed and authentic. There are facilities at the parking lot, which is a few meters from the sand, so access is very easy. There are basic food and drink options right on the beach itself, so you don’t have to bring that many with you.
These are just five of the many incredible beaches located on the Miyakojima Islands. The Japanese border may be closed for now, but when it reopens, Japan will offer the chance to enjoy a ski vacation, beach vacation, and thousands of years of nuanced history to savor in only one stay. A visit between mid-April and mid-May will allow you to combine skiing and sunbathing, and even some of the world famous cherry blossoms. Maybe for now, bookmark this page and start planning your next adventure in Japan.
Nadine Robb is owner and instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school in Hakuba, Japan.
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