Irabu Island is located in the north-west of Miyako Island, and is famous for its beautiful sea and fishery. It may look small compared to Miyako Island, but as the circumference of the island (including the adjacent Shimoji Island which is connected to Irabu Island by bridges) is about 30km, it is hard to look around the whole island if you don’t have a car or motor bike. If you are planning to rent a car, it is better to rent a car in Miyako Island before heading to Irabu Island as there are few places for renting a car in Irabu Island.
Access to Irabu Island
You can visit Irabu Island from Miyako Island via Irabu Ohashi Bridge. Irabu Ohashi Bridge is one of the most famous sightseeing spots in Miyako and Irabu Islands. The scenery viewed from the bridge is awesome. The total length of Irabu Ohashi Bridge is 3,540m, and it is the longest toll-free bridge in Japan. The bridge opened in January, 2015, and you can cross the bridge not only by car but also on foot. The bridge is on Prefectural Road 252, and it is about 4km from the city center of Miyako Island. There are buses running between Miyako Island and Irabu Island, but the number of buses is low, so using a taxi will be easier if you don’t rent a car. The taxi fare from the city center of Miyako Island to Irabu Island (the edge of Irabu Ohashi Bridge) will be probably around 2,000 yen.
Hotels in Irabu Island
The number of people visiting Irabu Island is increasing in association with the opening of Irabu Ohashi Bridge. But still there are not so many hotels in Irabu Island. I often stay at “Hotel South Island” when I visit Irabu Island. The hotel is located in the south-west of Irabu Island near a bridge to Shimoji Island. The price of the hotel is quite reasonable (about 5,000 yen per night including breakfast) and the location is great (you can walk to a beautiful beach called “Toguchinohama”). But it is like a business hotel and the single room is quite small, so if you want to stay at a luxurious hotel and enjoy the resort atmosphere, I recommend you to stay at the hotels located on the coast in the south of Irabu Island. There is a supermarket on the first floor of the hotel, and they also have a restaurant and cafe.
You can use Wi-Fi in your room, and the connection is not so bad (may vary depending on the room). The room is clean and comfortable enough, but this hotel is old, so you may find small insects in your room.
Beautiful sea in Irabu Island
The water of Irabu Island is clearer than that of Miyako Island, maybe because of its small population. They have beautiful beaches; one of them is Toguchinohama Beach which is located in the south of Irabu Island (close to Hotel South Island). The beach has white powder-fine sand and emerald green water like Yonaha Maehama Beach in Miyako Island, but quieter and calmer than Yonaha Maehama Beach, so you can enjoy relaxing on the beach.
Another popular beach is Sawadanohama Beach which is located in the north-west of Irabu Island. Sawadanohama Beach has been selected as one of the best 100 beaches in Japan, and numerous large rocks lying around the shallow beach create a unique scenery. These rocks are said to have been carried by Meiwa Tsunami occurred in 1771. This beach is quite calm and usually there are few people on the beach, so it is the best place for relaxing while watching the beautiful ocean and the sunset setting on the west.
Another famous spot is Shimojishima Airport located in Shimoji Island next to Irabu Island. There is a road around the airport, and you can see the beautiful scenery along the road. The water near the airport is very clear, and probably it is the best place for enjoying the beautiful sea of the islands. The airport was famous for flight trainings (Touch & Go) by JAL (Japan Airlines) and ANA (All Nippon Airways) in the past, but they withdrew from the airport, and now RAC (Ryukyu Air Commuter) and Japan Coast Guard use the airport for the occasional training for small planes.
Restaurants in Irabu Island
Irabu Island is famous for fishery (especially bonito fishing), so you can enjoy delicious local seafood in Irabu Island. There is a village and fishing port in Sarahama area in the east side of the island, and you can find some restaurants serving local seafood in the area.
There are not so many choices for dinner in Irabu Island, and one of the most popular izakayas (and my favorite) is “Ryugu.” Ryugu uses local ingredients, and especially dishes using seafood from Irabu Island are awesome. I ate sashimi (raw seafood) when I had a dinner at Ryugu in the past. The taste of sashimi, especially squid caught in the morning of the day in the ocean near Irabu Island, was awesome.
At the restaurants in Irabu Island, usually dishes are served in large quantities although the price is quite reasonable. So be careful not to order many dishes at a time especially if you are alone!