Amongst the three super long bridges that Miyakojima City has, the most magnificent bridge has to be the more than 3km long Irabu Bridge. It is also the landmark of Irabu Island, where the bridge is connected. Thanks to the bridge’s completion in 2015, when we visit Miyakojima today, the stunning spots on Irabu Island are much more accessible!
To help you plan your visit, we have come up with the list below for you to cherry-pick (^_-)-☆.
- Irabu Bridge (伊良部大橋)
- Irabu Bridge Seaside Station (いらぶ大橋 海の駅)
- Makiyama Observatory (牧山展望台)
- Yamatobū Ōiwa Crag (ヤマトブー大岩)
- Toguchi no Hama Beach (渡口の浜)
- Blue Turtle (ブルータートル)
- Sawata no Hama Beach (佐和田の浜)
- BOTTA (ボッタ)
- Blue Cave (青の洞窟)
- Sabautsuga Well (サバ沖井戸)
- Funausagi Banata Observatory (フナウサギバナタ展望施設)
- Shinbiji (シンビジ)
- Shiratorisaki Nishikaigan Park (白鳥崎・西海岸公園)
How to Get to Irabu Island by Public Transportation
- From Miyako Island‘s Hirara area/port (平良港), you can take Kyōwa’s (共和バス) Sarahamakō Sawata Line (佐良浜港佐和田線).
- The route has a couple of bus stops on Irabu Island. We will specify the closest bus stop for each attraction listed above.
- While in Japanese, you can refer to HERE for the bus timetable and cross-reference the name of the bus stops we specified in the attraction’s access information.
Irabu Bridge (伊良部大橋)
Irabu Bridge which connects Miyako Island to Irabu Island, is Japan’s longest toll-free bridge. The bridge doesn’t just have an artistic shape, but the scenery from the bridge is just simply awe-inspiring!
The bridge has a total length of 3,540 meters. With many coral reefs underneath and the breathtaking azure-colored ocean, any photo with the Irabu Bridge will undoubtedly receive a lot of attention on social media.
The bridge’s highest point is 27 meters above the sea, which means it is as tall as a 9-level building! While we may be exaggerating a bit, driving through the bridge can somehow feel like riding a roller coaster!
Important: You can’t park on the bridge. Although there is a bit of space where parking is possible at the highest point of the Irabu Bridge, it is still dangerous and can cause trouble to others.
☛ Instead of driving, you can cycle through the bridge. That way, you can safely stop at that extra space on the bridge. If you are lucky, you might even be able to spot a sea turtle coming up to the surface!
☛ The scenery is the best from the left side of Irabu Bridge when you travel from Irabu Island towards Miyako Island.
Irabu Bridge’s Importance
It is probably hard to imagine, but it actually took 40 years to bring Irabu Bridge to reality.
Before the bridge was completed in 2015, the only way to access Irabu Bridge was by ferry or airplane. While it doesn’t sound too bad for tourists, it was quite an issue for the islanders. After all, the Japanese didn’t spend 39.5 billion yen to build a bridge only for us tourists. It is an indispensable bridge for the locals’ daily life, especially during the typhoon seasons.
Irabu Bridge doesn’t just enable Irabu Island’s residents to get to Miyako Island easily. It also provides daily necessities, such as water supply.
The Best Irabu Bridge Photo Spots
- Ōhashi Free Parking Lot (伊良部大橋 無料駐車場) at Miyako Island’s end of the Irabu Bridge: You can get a photo with the bridge’s nameplate and the bridge itself.
- Nagayama no Hama Beach (長山の浜): The beach at the bottom of the Irabu Bridge on Irabu Island.
- From Irabu Bridge Seaside Station’s (いらぶ大橋 海の駅) observation deck: It is close to Irabu Island’s end of the Irabu Bridge.
- Makiyama Observatory (牧山展望台): Located at the highest point of Irabu Island. The panoramic view from the observatory is just magnificent.
- There are also a couple of spots that will give you a great view of Irabu Bridge around Makiyama Observatory.
- Yamatobu Rock (ヤマトブー大岩): A hidden gem to take great photos of the Irabu Bridge. There is a rock at the front of the bridge that looks like a turtle, which will add some cuteness to your majestic photos!
- Note that this spot is located on a sharp curve that provides poor visibility from the road. It is best to park the car around 100 meters from the rock and walk there.
- At the top of the hill from Day’s Beach Hotel Zuicho: If you drive up from the hotel, you will soon reach an intersection. Close to the intersection is a part of the road without a guardrail. It is another spot to see the entire Irabu Bridge.
- Ryūgūjō Observation Deck (竜宮城展望台) on Kurima Island: It is a spot where you can see the Irabu Bridge from afar.
The Best Time of the Year to Visit Irabu Bridge
The blue color of the seawater around Irabu Bridge is the best during August and September, especially September.
How to Get to Irabu Bridge
- Irabu Bridge is around a 15-minute drive from Shimojishima Airport (下地島空港) and Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
- You can also take a bus from Miyako Island’s Hirara area and get off at Dream Castle-mae (ドリームキャッスル前).
- It is then a 15-minute walk to Irabu Ōhashi Free Parking Lot (伊良部大橋 無料駐車場).
Irabu Bridge Seaside Station (いらぶ大橋 海の駅)
Located on a slightly higher ground in front of Irabu Ohashi Bridge is the Irabu Bridge Seaside Station, which was completed in 2020. With spacious ground, if you drive along the Irabu Bridge, the seaside station will be visible from the middle of the bridge.
The best thing about Irabu Bridge Seaside Station is, of course, the magnificent view. Whether it is from the car park, the observatory space, or even the station’s restaurant, the awe-inspiring view follows you everywhere!
The seaside station’s first floor is dedicated to local souvenirs, edible or handicrafts. The restaurant is located on the second floor.
Please note there is no savory vegetarian menu, although you can give the homemade Sata Andagi (サーターアンダーギー) a try. The local donut-like snack is a must-try when you visit Okinawa!
Refer to our Best Markets and Arcades to Visit in Naha article to find out what Sata Andagi is!
Irabu Bridge Seaside Station’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Irabu Bridge Seaside Station is open from 9 am to 5:30 pm.
- The restaurant is open from 11 am to 5 pm.
- The last order is taken at 4 pm.
- If all ingredients are run out, the restaurant may close early.
- The closest bus stop to Irabu Bridge Seaside Station is Sarahama Port (佐良浜港), which is a 45-minute walk away.
Yamatobū Ōiwa Crag (ヤマトブー大岩)
As you drive along the motorway towards Makiyama Observatory, a large rock that almost looks like a cliff will suddenly appear on your left.
The 25-meter tall and 18-meter wide gigantic rock is a Tomori limestone (友利石炭岩) that was exposed to the ground due to crustal movements.
If you want to feel its magnificence, you should be able to park your car on the side of the road briefly. It is also another spot on Irabu Island for you to take in the astonishing scenery formed by the ocean and the Irabu Bridge!
Makiyama Observatory (牧山展望台)
As mentioned earlier, Makiyama Observatory is one of the best spots for a complete view of Irabu Bridge. With nothing blocking the view, you will get a 360-degree panoramic view of the area.
When the sky is clear, you can see as far as Ikema Island (池間島) and Kurima Island (来間島). If you bring binoculars, all three of Miyakojima‘s magnificent bridges can be sighted from the Makiyama Observatory (the other two bridges are Ikema Bridge and Kurima Bridge)!
After you have your fill of the stunning view, take a stroll on the promenade around Makiyama Observatory. Aside from the spectacular view the observatory can give you, the observatory itself is quite a piece of art!
Makiyama Observatory was built to resemble the flying grey-faced buzzard (サシバ), the town’s symbol. As you walk towards the subtropical primeval forest-covered Makiyama Park (牧山公園), remember to look up to adore this somewhat cute building!
Note that Makiyama Park has a large ground. It will take up to an hour to explore it.
Tip: The color of the ocean is the most stunning from 10 am to 12 pm. While you can only get backlight in the early morning, the sunset from Makiyama Observatory is the best!
How to Get to Makiyama Observatory
- Makiyama Observatory is around a 15-minute drive from Shimojishima Airport (下地島空港) and a 20-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
- Note that there is no bus stop around Makiyama Observatory. The closest bus stop, Yuinohashi Gakuen-mae (結の橋学園前), is around a 40-minute walk.
Toguchi no Hama Beach (渡口の浜)
In addition to Yonaha Maehama Beach on Miyako Island, the other beach in Miyakojima City with sand as fine as the powder is Toguchinohama Beach on Irabu Island. It is just so comfortable walking along Toguchi no Hama Beach’s shore!
The combination of the astonishing emerald green colored sea, the soft sand, the unblocked surrounding scenery, and the lack of crowds have made Toguchi no Hama the favorite beach of many in the area!
While the beach is popular, because the beach shore stretches as long as 800 meters, it shouldn’t be too crowded when you visit it.
The islands that you can see from Toguchi no Hama Beach are Kurima Island (来間島) and Shimoji Island (下地島). Both are one of eight islands in Miyakojima City worth your time. All amenities you need can be found around the shore if you are up for swimming or diving. There are even jet skis you can rent out!
Please note, though, there are no coral reefs at Toguchi no Hama. Therefore, there are no tropical fish at the beach either.
If you get to Toguchi no Hama Beach in the afternoon, consider staying back for the stunning sunset and a sky filled with stars that follow after the sun disappears from the horizon. If you plan to stay in the hotel around Toguchi no Hama, how about waking up a little earlier for a relaxing stroll on the shore whilst admiring the sunrise?
Because the beach isn’t deep and the waves are usually calm, Toguchi no Hama Beach is the perfect beach for families to spend some quality time together. However, please note that there are no lifeguards stationed. If you are unsure about its safety, check with the staff at the shops or other facilities.
Furthermore, because Toguchi no Hama Beach is so close to Shimojishima Airport, you can enjoy some water sports as a last-minute activity!
Tip: Check if the shower facilities on the east coast of Toguchi no Hama Beach are still free.
☛ Watch out for hub jellyfish between June and September.
☛ Never swim offshore as it is directly connected to the open ocean. There is a high chance that once you get caught in a rip current, you will not be able to return.
How to Get to Toguchi no Hama Beach
- Toguchi no Hama Beach is around a 5-minute drive from Shimojishima Airport (下地島空港) and a 20 to 25-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
- There are free parking lots on both the east and west sides of Toguchi no Hama.
- You can also take a bus from Miyako Island’s Hirara area and get off at Dagifuga (ダキフガー). Toguchi no Hama Beach is then a 5-minute walk from the bus stop.
- The bus trip takes around 30 minutes.
Blue Turtle (ブルータートル)
Because there is no shade at Toguchinohama Beach, if you need to take a rest from the sun, the restaurant Blue Turtle on the west side of the beach would be a perfect spot to head to. And there is no need for you to get changed! The restaurant welcomes customers with swimming suits on (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Facing Toguchinohama Beach, no matter where you sit, the magnificent ocean view is just in front of you (except for the counter seats that will require you to turn your head around!)
While the only vegetarian dish available is Margherita pizza, and you will pay a premium price for its location, the dining experience won’t disappoint. Outside of lunch hours, ordering a cup of colorful fresh fruit smoothie would be perfect, especially on a hot summer day!
If you plan to stay for the sunset and stargazing, the Blue Turtle will transform into a bar at night (^_-)-☆.
Blue Turtle’s Business Hours and Access Information
- Blue Turtle is open from 11 am to 10 pm.
- The last order is at 9 pm.
Sawada no Hama Beach (佐和田の浜)
To get a rough idea of how powerful a tsunami can be, visit Sawada no Hama Beach. The numerous large rocks scattering across the shore were brought by the Great Tsunami of Meiwa (明和の大津波) caused by the Yaeyama Great Earthquake (八重山地震) in 1771. Apparently, the tsunami was more than 10 meters (ﾟДﾟ)ﾉ!
Although the tsunami killed more than 10,000 people, it also created a unique coastline which made Sawada no Hama Beach one of Japan’s Top 100 Beaches (日本の渚) in 1996.
As Sawada no Hama Beach is really close to Shimojishima Airport, your photo of this gorgeous beach may contain airplane taking off or descending! The beach is also known as a spot with gorgeous sunset scenery. This is why the usually secluded beach becomes much more lively during the late afternoon (´ω｀*).
While there are toilet and shower facilities, it isn’t a beach suitable for snorkeling as it is too shallow.
A Unique Way of Fishing: Katsu Nagaki (魚垣)
On the west of Sawada no Hama, you will notice an area fenced by stones. This was where the islanders would perform a unique fishing method.
Seawater and, thus, fish was allowed to flow into the area during high tides. As the tides started to ebb, the fishermen would narrow the exit, and a net will then be stretched to catch fish.
This fishing method is now a prefectural cultural property.
How to Get to Sawada no Hama Beach
- Sawata no Hama Beach is around a 10-minute walk from the bus stop, Sawadashako-mae (佐和田車庫前).
- Sawada no Hama Beach is around a 3-minute drive from Shimojishima Airport (下地島空港) and a 30-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
- You can also walk from Shimojishima Airport, which only takes around 20 minutes.
While most of the restaurants on Irabu Island are filled with seafood or meat-based menu, there is a seafront Italian restaurant at Sawada no Hama Beach available for us vegetarians to dine in (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Botta is a popular Italian restaurant specializing in woodfired thin and crispy Roman-style pizzas. Sitting on their terrace counter seats and enjoying freshly made pizza with Sawada no Hama Beach view in front of you is one of the best dining experiences you can ask for on Irabu Island. Plus, the service here is top-notch!
BOTTA’s pizzas are made from flour and cheese from Italy. The base made from premium ingredients is then topped with local fresh produce to bring you the most delicious pizzas in Miyakojima City, if not the entire Okinawa!
In addition to the savory pizzas, you can also visit BOTTA for their afternoon tea. Their dessert pizzas are as delicious as the savory ones!
If you plan to fly from Shimojisima Airport, the restaurant can be a great spot to wait for your flight’s departure.
☛ Call them at +81-980-78-5010 to reserve the counter seats for a full dining experience at BOTTA!
☛ The mushroom pizza is a must-try!
BOTTA’s Business Hours and Access Information
- BOTTA is open daily from 11:30 am to 4 pm except for Tuesdays.
- Sawata no Hama Beach is around a 10 to 15-minute walk from the bus stop, Sawadashako-mae (佐和田車庫前).
- You can also walk from Shimojishima Airport, which only takes around 20 to 25 minutes.
Blue Cave (青の洞窟)
Speaking of Blue Cave in Okinawa, the one at Cape Maeda (真栄田岬) on Okinawa’s main island is much more famous, but Irabu Island also has one!
The Blue Cave on Irabu Island is a sea cave underneath a 70-meter cliff. As you enter the cave, you will enter a world of blue.
The light that sneaks into the cave goes straight through the highly transparent water and is reflected by the white calcareous seabed. So it is almost as if the illumination is from the bottom of the sea that gives off this cave the blue lighting. The phenomenon creates mysteriously fantastic shades of blue in the grotto. It is a perfect example of how nature is the greatest artist!
How to Enjoy Irabu Island’s Blue Cave
The only way to get to Blue Cave is by boat. If you are interested, book a snorkeling tour or hop aboard one of the glass bottom boats heading to Blue Cave from Sarahama Port (佐良浜港). Either way, you will surely be enchanted by the cave’s beauty.
Travel sickness won’t be an issue as it only takes around 10 minutes by boat to get to Blue Cave.
If you don’t want to get too wet, there are also kayaking or SUP tours for you to join. The boat will carry you to the Blue Cave. From there, you can paddle around the cave and observe the coral reefs and fish from above.
The best way to explore Blue Cave is by diving or snorkeling. And don’t worry if it is your first time diving. Your underwater walks will be safe as a dedicated guide will be available to each group!
Furthermore, there are sidemount diving tours. Unlike normal diving with a single back-mounted cylinder, the diving equipment used is sidemount, which provides better stability and balance as you have one cylinder each attached and aligned with your torso. Especially in the coral reef area where the water depth is rather shallow, sidemount diving will ensure your body won’t touch the coral. This means that even beginners can swim underwater while getting close to the coral!
Note that the weather is usually unsuitable for diving from October to February. If that is the case, the tour will be either canceled or replaced by a kayaking tour, depending on the tour provider.
☛ If you have time, choose tours with one diving and two snorkeling sessions so you can visit other nearby caves!
☛ Snorkeling tours are better than diving tours if you can only do a half-day tour. As the space inside the Blue Cave isn’t significant and only goes as deep as 5-meters, the view you can see on a snorkeling tour is similar to a diving tour. But you will need to carry heavier equipment on a diving tour, which isn’t necessary.
☛ One tour company that offers English tours is the eco guide cafe. Refer to HERE to enquire and book! If you understand Japanese, you can also book with Yuumutsu (島人ガイド) or Ira Blue Tours (イラブルーツアズ), or Zumiya (ズミヤー).
☛ The best time of the year to visit the Blue Cave is from May to October.
Sea Creatures That You Can Most Likely See While Diving at Blue Cave
Coral reefs grow around Irabu Island, providing the best home to tropical fish. So at Blue Cave, it will truly be the closest trip to the film “Finding Nemo”. In addition to clownfish, there are also sea turtles! If you are lucky, you might be able to see more than one turtle in one go!
If finding the clownfish is too tiring and tedious due to their size, you can try to locate the tang fish instead. They are larger in size and usually travel in a shoal. So when they swim past, it would be relatively hard to miss them!
How to Get to Sarahama Port for Tours to Blue Cave
- From Miyako Island’s Hirara area, take the bus bound for Sawadashako (佐和田車庫) and get off at Sarahama (佐良浜港).
- Sawada no Hama Beach is around a 15-minute drive from Shimojishima Airport (下地島空港) and a 20-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
Sabautsuga Well (サバ沖井戸)
It is the remains of a well under the cliff near Sarahama Village. It was used to source domestic water for a long time before the water supply infrastructure was completed in 1966. Looking down the cliff, it is easy to understand the hardships of the women of the past. They had to make many trips back and forth every day, and the tasks would start as early as 3 am!
The well that isn’t used anymore is maintained as Miyakojima City‘s historical site. The word “Ga” means “well” in the local dialect. To get to the well, hike down the steep 123 staircases from the car park. While climbing back up can be tiring, the magnificent surrounding view should bring you some energy!
Why was the well named Sabautsu? Because the terrain of where the well is located looks like a shark’s mouth from Ikema Island (^_-)-☆. So when they built a well there after migrating to Irabu Island around the 1720s, the well was named Sabautsuga.
Important: Please walk carefully on the staircases as some may be weathered.
How to Get to Sabautsuga Well
- From Miyako Island’s Hirara area, take the bus bound for Sawadashako (佐和田車庫) and get off at JA Sarahamaten-mae (JA佐良浜店前).
- Sawada no Hama Beach is around a 10-minute drive from Shimojishima Airport (下地島空港) and a 25-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
Funausagi Banata Observatory (フナウサギバナタ展望施設)
Irabu Island has two observation decks, one in the north and one in the south. The one in the north is called Funausagibanata, which means the Cape to See off Ships (船を見送る岬).
In the good old days, this spot was where the islanders saw off those who set sail from Irabu Island. The ex-bird-shaped observatory is a great place to take photos of the Karimata area (狩俣) of Miyako Island, Ikema Island, and Ikema Bridge.
Why did we say “ex”? Because the gigantic grey-faced buzzard (サシバ) monument that used to stand above the observatory was removed in 2019 due to weathering.
Without the bird, the spot isn’t as awesome as before. But the breathtaking view from Funausagibanata, which stands on the cliff, stays the same!
Important: Be extra careful as you look down from the tip of the cliff. While the view is gorgeous, there is no guardrail!
How to Get to Funausagi Banata Observatory
- Funausagi Banata Observatory is around a 10-minute drive from Shimojishima Airport (下地島空港) and a 30-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
- There is no bus stop close to the observatory. The closest bus stop, JA Sarahamaten-mae (JA佐良浜店前), is around a 50-minute walk away.
Tips: If you need to use the toilet facility, head to Cape Shiratori (白鳥崎).
Shinbiji is a spot famed for its stairs leading to the cobalt-blue ocean and coral reefs.
A small road leading towards the sea is not too far from the Funausagi Banata Observatory. At the end of the road, there is a small car park with a capacity of around four cars. After you park your car, head backward for around 20 meters. Just where the road is curved, there is a narrow passageway into the vegetation.
What will suddenly appear at the far back of the road is a staircase going into the sea. This is Shinbiji, the only maintained promenade on Irabu Island that goes down a cliff!
☛ The lower part of the staircases can be wet.
☛ The waves are most likely rough.
☛ While it isn’t an earthen road, watch out for the sharp leaves of the vegetation as you walk through the jungle-like promenade.
Tip: It is best to visit Shinbiji around noon so there is enough sunlight to light up the sea.
Shiratorisaki Nishikaigan Park (白鳥崎・西海岸公園)
Cape Shiratori is another spot for a great view overlooking the dynamic deep blue sea. The cape is located at the north tip of Nishikaigan Park, which spans from north of Funausagi Banata to the cape. Walking on the well-maintained promenade, it is just relaxing to gaze at the East China Sea and its rugged rocky shore. So if you need a rest, there are also a few pavilions around the park!
From the park, you might notice quite a few boats parked by the sea. They are most likely diving ships. That’s right, the northern coast of Irabu Island is an incredibly popular spot for diving!
The promenade will eventually lead you to a small beach. However, please note that the water is deep and the current is fast.
Important: Apart from the pavilions, there is no shade in the park. Remember to stay hydrated and apply sun protection regularly.
How to Get to Shiratorisaki Nishikaigan Park
- Shiratorisaki Nishikaigan Park is around a 10-minute drive from Shimojishima Airport (下地島空港) and a 35-minute drive from Miyako Airport (宮古空港).
- There is no bus stop close to the observatory. The closest bus stop, JA Sarahamaten-mae (JA佐良浜店前), is around an hour and 10-minute walk away.
- The cape is around a 20-minute walk from Funausagi Banata Observatory.
Discover Other Awesome Attractions in Miyakojima City
Obviously, Ikema-jima shouldn’t be the only island to visit when you head to Miyakojima. So if you are unsure where else is worth your time, our Top 12 Attractions in Miyakojima City article can provide you with some ideas!