Miyakojima (Hirara), Miyako, Japan
Miyako Island is generally agreed to possess Japan’s most beautiful beaches. Located south of the main island of Okinawa, its white sand strands and clear waters attract sun-seekers and water sports fans to its main town, Hirara. Maehama gets the top ranking among the beaches, although Yoshino and Suniyama are also contenders. To view the azure splendor of its seas from above, take the road out along Cape Higashi-Hennazaki on the southeast coast, where a handsome lighthouse adds a picturesque touch. In Hirari town, the 16th century tomb of the samurai hero Nakasone Tuyumya is another landmark. A botanical garden set among the islands sugarcane fields displays 1,600 species both local and imported.