Hellish Landscapes to Hidden Valleys: 10 Best Hot Springs in the Kyushu Region
Any well-rounded trip to Japan’s southern Kyushu region must include visiting a hot spring - known as “onsen” in Japanese. Thanks to its powerful volcanic activity, Kyushu hot springs are numerous and diverse, and famous resorts like Beppu Onsen, Kurokawa Onsen, and Yufuin Onsen have a lot to offer. Many are also packed with shops, restaurants, leisure facilities, and accommodations, making them excellent places to stay and immerse yourself in Japanese culture. In this article, we’ll introduce our picks for the 10 best hot springs in the Kyushu region!
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What Are “Onsen” Hot Springs?
Japanese “onsen” are natural hot springs where visitors bathe and relax in communal, gender-separated bathhouses or open-air baths. For those squeamish about bathing nude with strangers, some hot spring facilities also have private baths available at a higher cost.
You can take a day trip to an onsen or stay overnight at a “ryokan” (traditional inn). Ryokan typically have their own hot springs for guests to use during their stay, and provide many quintessential Japanese experiences like wearing a “yukata” after bathing, traditional “kaiseki” dining, and sleeping on a futon laid out in tatami-matted rooms.
Japan's hot spring traditions run deep. They have been used as therapy since at least the Nara Period (710-794), and are believed to have numerous health benefits. Japan has around 3,000 hot spring establishments with accommodation, and almost 30,000 hot spring sources, so virtually every region has a hot spring to enjoy - and Kyushu is no exception!
Where Is the Kyushu Region?
Kyushu is the third-largest and most southern of Japan's four main islands. The prefectures in northern Kyushu are Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, Oita, and Saga, and in southern Kyushu are Kagoshima and Miyazaki. Okinawa is often politically defined as part of Kyushu, but is largely considered a separate region due to its distinctive location, culture, and history.
Kyushu is closer to Korea and China than Tokyo, and it is sometimes referred to as Japan’s gateway to Asia, having enjoyed interaction with the continent and other civilizations since ancient times. Kyushu is known for its mountainous landscapes, dynamic calderas, fertile farmlands, stunning beaches, and relatively warm climate.
Adventure-seekers can enjoy kayaking in Takachiho Gorge, trekking in the untouched forests of Yakushima Island, cycling around Mt. Aso, and surfing on the coast of Miyazaki and Kagoshima. Kyushu is also a hotspot for foodies, famous for scrumptious “tonkotsu” pork broth ramen, abundant seafood, and unique citrus fruits. All this is topped off by a diverse collection of hot springs dotting the entirety of Kyushu, each with its own special characteristics.
Tip: If you plan to hop around different Kyushu onsen, the JR Kyushu Rail Pass or the SUNQ Bus Pass might be helpful. They offer unlimited rides on designated services, making for cheaper and stress-free travel. The rail and bus passes are split into northern Kyushu, southern Kyushu, and all of Kyushu, so make an itinerary and see which one will suit your plans.
The 10 Best Onsen Hot Springs in Kyushu
Beppu Onsen: Japan’s Hot Spring Hell (Oita Prefecture)
Boasting the world's largest number of hot spring sources and the highest yield of hot spring water in Japan, it’s no surprise that Beppu Onsen is recognized as the definitive Kyushu onsen.
Beppu has eight main hot spring areas, collectively named the “Beppu Hatto.” Takegawara Onsen is one of the most popular, with stunning shrine-like architecture and rare sand baths. It is also just a brief walk from Beppu Station, making it one of the most convenient Kyushu hot springs for those without cars.
The other Beppu Hatto hot springs each have unique charms. Myoban Onsen, for example, features milky sulfur springs and mud baths, whereas Shibaseki Onsen and Kannawa Onsen are known for their steam baths.
In addition to bathing, Beppu Onsen is the site of the spectacular hot spring “hells.” The Hells of Beppu are a collection of seven surreal viewing-only hot springs colored red, blue, white, and more. Touring the Hells of Beppu, you will see an erupting geyser, bubbling mud pools, blood-red waters, crocodiles raised in the heat of the onsen, and other unbelievable sights reminiscent of an alien planet.
Walking around all seven hells takes about two hours; a guided bus tour is also available. Each hell is a well-developed tourist attraction with souvenirs, food and drink, galleries, and the occasional foot bath, ensuring plenty to do.
Recommended Hot Spring Hotel in Beppu Onsen: Seaside Hotel Mimatsu Ooetei
Kurokawa Onsen: Blissful Relaxation by a Tranquil River (Kumamoto Prefecture)
Nestled in the Kuju Mountains, Kurokawa Onsen is a magical riverside town with numerous ryokan, hiking trails, and indoor and outdoor baths.
In contrast to the more touristy Beppu Onsen, this picturesque hot spring village has maintained its quaint, traditional atmosphere thanks to its isolation. It is characterized by rustic wooden buildings, stone walls, a tranquil river, and small shops lining narrow lanes selling locally produced foods and gifts.
Kurokawa Onsen’s mineral-rich hot springs have been used for more than 300 years and are said to have powerful healing properties. Many flaunt stunning views of mountains, waterfalls, or the Tanohara River from their baths. The “Nyuto Tegata” onsen-hopping pass grants access to up to three hot springs from a selection of 27 for 1,300 yen (adults), letting you explore the town and enjoy the waters and scenery of multiple baths.
We recommend lining up your visit to Kurokawa Onsen with the “Yuakari” festival over winter, when the river is lit up at night by bamboo lanterns and decorations, casting an enchanting glow upon the darkened scenery.
Recommended Hot Spring Hotel in Kurokawa Onsen: Ryokan Sanga
Yufuin Onsen: A Cozy Mountainside Hot Spring Retreat (Oita Prefecture)
Tucked away in a river basin below the twin-peaked Mt. Yufu, Yufuin Onsen is a famous hot spring resort district with the vibe of a boutique rural retreat.
While many Kyushu hot springs like Kurokawa Onsen have a central cluster of onsen, Yufuin’s main baths are spread across three areas: Yufuin, Yunohira, and Tsukahara. Many of these hot spring baths boast views of Mt. Yufu and the surrounding scenery, and are said to help alleviate various ailments.
Yufuin Onsen is also known for the eerie mist that forms over the nearby Oita River and Kinrin Lake, occurring most during the early morning. Its trendy main street also hosts boutiques, small museums, and cafes, opening up into rice paddies and forested hills beyond the central townscape.
Yufuin Station provides easy access to the area, and the stylish wooden adjacent Tourist Information Center is where you can rent bicycles and book rides on horse-drawn carriages.
Recommended Hot Spring Hotel in Yufuin Onsen: Yufuin Souan Kosumosu
Ibusuki Onsen: Purify Yourself in Coastal Sands (Kagoshima Prefecture)
On the tip of the Satsuma Peninsula, Ibusuki Onsen is best known for its sand baths and expansive coastal views.
Here, yukata-clad tourists are buried up to their heads in the sand, which is naturally heated by underground hot springs to temperatures of 50-55°C. Sweating under the heated sand is said to remove toxins from the body and is a modest alternative to the exposure of a regular hot spring bath. Saraku Sand Bath Hall is the most popular of these, where you can look out over Kagoshima Bay from your sandy hole.
Further south, Healthy Land Tamatebako Onsen has sand baths and infinity pools with views of the Pacific Ocean and Mt. Kaimon. More ambitious travelers might also head inland to Unagi Onsen, a small town best accessed by car, whose local onsen rewards visitors with scenes of the nearby Lake Unagi.
Other notable attractions around Ibusuki Onsen include Chiringashima, a small islet accessible at low tide between March to October, and the Satsuma Denshokan Museum, a showcase of Kagoshima pottery crafted in the early Meiji Period (1868-1912) and more.
Recommended Hot Spring Hotel in Ibusuki Onsen: Hakusuikan
Ureshino Onsen: A Haven of Green Tea and Healing Hot Springs (Saga Prefecture)
Over to the northeast, Ureshino is a Kyushu onsen as famous for its green tea as its hot springs. Holidaymakers flock to Ureshino for its smooth alkaline waters, which are nicknamed “bihada no yu,” meaning “skin-beautifying hot water.” Locals recommend not washing off after bathing to enjoy the full beautifying effects.
The town has over 30 places to stay, with a mix of up-market hotels and homely ryokan. Along the riverside is the old-fashioned European-style Siebold-no-Yu, named after a 19th-century German scientist who adored the area, and is one of the many public baths open to day trippers.
Ureshino is also a producer of exquisite green tea - the mineral-rich soil and abundant spring water make the area ideal for tea growing. Visitors can make the most of this through tea-picking, tea-tasting, tea-shopping, and tea factory tours.
Recommended Hot Spring Hotel in Ureshino Onsen: Wataya Besso
Unzen Onsen: Volcanic Hells Full of History (Nagasaki Prefecture)
Unzen Onsen is a mountainside hot spring resort famous for its steaming hot spring “hells” (Unzen Jigoku), which fill the air with the smell of sulfur. It is nestled within Unzen-Amakusa National Park, one of Japan’s first-ever national parks, and was once a popular getaway for foreign residents of Japan during the early 20th century.
Visitors can explore man-made trails winding through the desolate, rugged landscape as it spouts chalky, acidic, and sulfurous water. In the 17th century, the hells were used to brutally execute Christians who fought against the ruling class and religious persecution in the Shimabara Rebellion, giving Unzen Onsen a solemn yet fascinating historical edge.
Unzen Onsen has a number of public and private baths, and the water’s potent antibacterial properties work to beautify the skin. Visitors can also enjoy “onsen tamago,” which are tasty eggs boiled in the hot spring heat.
The region’s dynamic history and geography are further explored at the Unzen Visitor Center, which includes an exhibition on the deadly 1990’s Mt. Unzen eruption. There is also lots of hiking to do in the area, including to the summit of the volcanic Mt. Unzen itself.
Recommended Hot Spring Hotel in Unzen Onsen: Unzen Fukudaya
Minamiaso Onsen: Tranquil Bathing in a Vast Caldera (Kumamoto Prefecture)
Minamiaso is a town in the southern end of Kumamoto’s spectacular Mt. Aso caldera. Unlike many other Kyushu onsen, the hot spring facilities in Minamiaso are quite spread out, giving the area a liberating, open feeling.
Many of the Kyushu hot springs in Minamiaso flaunt their own unique charm, and present different perspectives of the magnificent surroundings, including views of the dynamic Mt. Aso itself. The Jigoku Onsen Seifuso hot spring even allows mixed gender bathing with swimsuits, perfect for couples and families. Tarutama Onsen is another Minamiaso highlight, presenting a wide selection of tubs set among leafy hills and a nearby waterfall.
To the north also lies Uchimaki Onsen, another famous and accessible hot spring village near Mt. Aso. Here several renowned ryokan treat visitors to traditional bathing experiences surrounded by warm wooden architecture and natural stone. Intrepid diners are obliged to try the local specialty — raw horse meat — if you dare!
Mt. Aso is an active volcano with several peaks and a vast caldera, and is the water source for the nearby onsen. It erupted as recently as 2021, and Mt. Nakadake, its central crater, is sometimes closed off due to volcanic activity. The outer rim of the caldera also presents breathtaking panoramas, best viewed from the Daikanbo Lookout.
Recommended Hot Spring Hotel in Minamiaso Onsen: Chikurakutei
Kirishima Onsen: A Wide Variety of Hot Spring Experiences (Kagoshima Prefecture)
Over a dozen hot springs flow through this popular Kyushu onsen region at the base of the Kirishima Mountain Range. Its diverse facilities are spread across a wide area, varying from simple atmospheric baths to sizable pools, and some with views of Sakurajima and Kagoshima Bay.
Maruo Onsen is one of the most prominent of Kirishima Onsen’s hot springs, offering a generous lineup of ryokan and hotels. Here you'll also find the charming Kirishima Onsen Market, which sells hot spring-steamed eggs, along with sweet potatoes, sausages, rice cakes, and more. Footbaths are also available for a small fee.
However, the most famous Kirishima Onsen hot spring accommodation is the Kirishima Hotel, loved for its incredibly spacious and lavish sulfur hot spring pool, open to day-trippers. Sakura Sakura, a 10-minute drive away, also delivers the unusual experience of coating your body with mud rich in hot spring minerals to beautify the skin.
Kirishima Onsen is packed with history, too. Influential samurai Sakamoto Ryoma and his wife celebrated their honeymoon here in 1866, said to be the first honeymoon in Japan. After surviving an assassination attempt, Ryoma recovered his strength in Kirishima’s therapeutic waters, granting them an almost legendary status.
Recommended Hot Spring Hotel in Kirishima Onsen: La Vista Kirishima Hills
Takeo Onsen: Soothe the Skin in Antique Bathhouses and More (Saga Prefecture)
Takeo Onsen is a Kyushu hot spring believed to have over 1,300 years of history－impressive even for Kyushu onsen standards!
The dazzling red and white two-story Romon Gate marks the entrance to the hot spring town. It was masterfully constructed in 1915 without using a single nail, designed by the same architect behind Tokyo Station and the Bank of Japan.
Past the gate, you’ll find the similarly styled two-story “Shinkan,” a former bathhouse preserved as a free-to-enter museum and pottery workshop. Visitors can take a dip in the rustic yet cozy Motoyu, Takeo Onsen’s antique central public bath, and the oldest onsen building still used in Japan today. A number of enticing hotels and ryokan also dot the entrance gate area of Takeo Onsen, giving visitors ample choice.
The silky smooth alkaline waters of Takeo Onsen are believed to help relieve skin conditions. Its reputation has drawn in many famous figures over the centuries, including the samurai Miyamoto Musashi, who was said to have bathed here during the Edo Period (1603-1867). Philipp Franz von Siebold, our old friend from Ureshino, also visited, though not enough to have a bathhouse named after him.
Recommended Hot Spring Hotel in Takeo Onsen: Kyotoya
Harazuru Onsen: A Local Riverside Paradise (Fukuoka Prefecture)
Harazuru Onsen is loved by Fukuokan locals for its dual alkaline and sulfur baths, allowing visitors to enjoy both healing and beautifying benefits.
Called the “Hot Spring of Double Beauty,” visitors have a stellar choice of 14 ryokan clustered by the Chikugo River suiting most budgets. For those with fantasies of bathing outdoors in front of invigorating scenery, Roppokan has a stunning garden spa overlooking the riverside.
Farm Shop Basaro is packed with regional produce, and has a massive sunflower field at the rear. Visitors can also watch cormorant fishing in the summer, with tour boats available to see the spectacle up close.
Five kilometers south of Harazuru Onsen is Ukiha Inari Shrine - a hillside shrine with views of the Chikugo Plain, accessed via a picturesque path of vermilion torii gates. Ukiha Station sits between the hot spring village and the shrine.
Recommended Hot Spring Hotel in Harazuru Onsen: Hotel Parens Onoya
Soak Away Your Stresses in Kyushu Hot Springs
Kyushu onsen are as varied as they are plentiful, and there are many more to explore besides those featured in this article. Whether you’re an onsen connoisseur or beginner, Kyushu has your bathing needs covered — big, small, indoor, outdoor, simple, or fancy. Next time you plan a trip to the amazing Kyushu region, be sure to add a Kyushu hot spring or two to your itinerary!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.