Miyako, while being a high traffic tourist destination for Japanese tourists, is farther off the radar from the international traveler. It has good diving and excellent beaches, local Okinawan cuisine, and culture. These islands have truly embraced the Okinawan slow, relaxed lifestyle. In Miyako you can do everything from lounge on Maehama beach, play beach volleyball, play golf, make your own shisa, listen to the sanshin, or, if you're feeling very competitive, participate in the local Strongman Triathlon, held every April.
While most of the people in Miyako are friendly, Japanese is the main language, followed by the local hogen, or local dialects of each individual town as well as island. While finding English speakers is possible, consider it rare.
Hirara has a fairly decent sized airport for such a small island, and there are flights daily to and from national Japanese locations such as Naha, Ishigaki, and more rarely mainland Japan, such as Osaka and Tokyo.
As of November 2008, there are no scheduled ferry services from outside the Miyako Islands.
The main island of Miyako, Miyako, is only about 81 square miles, but even so it's fairly sizable considering the main attractions for the island are on its outer edges. Car, motorbikes, and bicycle rentals are available, as well as a periodic bus and numerous taxis. Bridges connect Miyako to both Irabu and Kurema Islands, and a ferry travels to Irabu almost every half hour.
Maehama beach on the south west corner of the island is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in Japan for a reason. White sandy beaches, warm, aqua blue, calm water, and an excellent view of Kurema Island are only a few reasons this is one of the top spots to get some sun. Beach volleyball is an excellent way to spend some time at this excellent, flat, beach. The shores of Miyako are lined with many beaches, and other popular spots include Aragusuku, Sunayama, and Painagama - all of which feature Miyako's signature white sand.
Miyako Soba is the featured dish on the island - thick soba noodles in a hot, clear broth with fish cake, tender pork and diced green onion. Also popular is goya-champuru, an egg-based stir-fry featuring Okinawa's famous life-extending bitter gourd. Surprisingly, sushi is harder to find in Miyako than in many places in Japan, but features fish taken from the seas around Miyako, usually only hours before. Also, Miyako beef is well-known, and many dishes feature it, although these are typically not cheap due to its high quality. As in the rest of Okinawa, Spam is also a featured ingredient in many local dishes. Miyako features several mango plantations, and the fresh, sweet local mangoes are exquisite.
The local drink is a rice liquor called 'awamori', and locals are known to drink it with great enthusiasm. At many social gatherings, you will see the local tradition of 'otoori', in which each person around the table takes turns making a toast and pouring a glass of awamori for each of the other guests. Miyako is also home to a micro-brewery, and hosts the Orion Beer Festival every summer in late July or early August.
While theft does occasionally occur, it is not uncommon to see a business man sleeping on the side of Nishizato Street, his head on his wallet. So long as travelers aren't foolish, there shouldn't be any problems here. Travelers are more at risk in their rental cars, as people pull out into traffic with little warning, than anything else on the islands.