Miyako, Japan

Set along the east coast of the Iwate Prefecture, Miyako was Japan’s main seaport for hundreds of years before a series of tsunamis took their toll. Yet what the city lacks in historical buildings, it more than makes up for in natural attractions such as Sanriku Fukkō National Park. Stretching some 110 miles along the coast, the park showcases amazing flora — including Japanese red pine and a virgin forest of Tabu trees — while a variety of seabirds find refuge along its cliffs and beaches. Birders also flock to nearby Sanganjima island, one of Japan’s main nesting grounds for Swinhoe's storm petrels. Spend the day relaxing on Jodogahama Beach, which ranks among Japan’s best, or head to Morioka — Iwate’s largest city — to visit the 17th-century Hachimangu Shrine and sample rice wine on a tour of Asabiraki Sake Brewery, which dates from 1871. Just north of the city lies Ryusendo Cave, a massive subterranean network of towering stalagmites and translucent lakes.