Visit the seaside town of Ibusuki for sea views, beaches and hot sand baths
This lovely little seaside town is a great place to spend a night while exploring southern Kyushu, or as a day trip from Kagoshima
On the Satsuma penninsula, south of Kagoshima, is the little seaside town of Ibusuki (指宿). It's an onsen town famous for hot sand baths and is a popular destination for Japanese tourists on summer breaks.
Outside of the summer months it's quite a sleeply little town, almost strangely abandoned in places. We visited in late May, and the main high street was completely closed and there was almost no traffic. Eerie!
However even during the off season, many businesses are open and will welcome you with customary warm Japanese hospitality. In late May we had an amazing 36 hours in Ibusuki, even though at times it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
Things to do
Stay at the Ginsyo hotel
We recommend the Ginsyo hotel, which is at the southern end of Ibusuki, close to the sand baths and right on the sea, arguably the nicest part or Ibusuki where the best beach stretches out alongside the promenade.
Visit the sand baths
The Saraku sand baths are just up the road from the Ginsyo hotel, and are one of the largest and best equipped baths in Ibusuki. When you visit you'll be invited to the changing rooms, where you'll swap your clothes for a Yukata (a kimono robe used for bathing), and then you'll proceed outside where the staff will bury you in sand in the shade of some bamboo awnings. Once you've stewed and relaxed for about 20 minutes, they'll dig you up again.
Take a walk up the coast to Chiringashima island
This small island is separated from the mainland by a sand bank causeway that is sometimes walkable at very low tides - but don't get stuck on it as the tide comes in! You can take the bus from the main road through Ibusuki which will stop at the Ibusuki camp ground. From the camp you can walk north along the concrete sea wall all the way to the sandy beaches leading to the island.
There's a couple of vending machines by the camp site, which are handy as it's probably 45-minute round-trip walk from the camp bus stop up to the beaches, plus whatever time you spend taking pictures or even venturing onto the sand causeway. The bus only comes around every hour or two, so be sure to check the timetables.
Visit the local restaurants and izakayas
Ibusuki has plenty of great restaurants - although some may be closed in the off season - including a lovely izakaya called Hiro-michi (居酒屋ひろみち), which again is in the southern end of the town.
Take a day trip
A typical itinerary
We'd suggest a itinerary like the following. Book a hotel first!
- 10am - Take the train from Kagoshima to Ibusuki
- 11:30am - arrive Ibusuki, visit the Combini near the station and stock up on onigiri for a picnic
- 12pm - Catch the bus to the camp ground and walk along the sea front up towards Chiringashima island, have a picnic somewhere.
- 2pm - Return to the centre of Ibusuki by bus and find your hotel and check in
- 3pm - Visit the sand baths, followed by the onsen. You'll be fully relaxed and feeling the Ibusuki spirit now!
- 5pm - Have a drink in your hotel. The Ginsyo hotel has a lovely terrace overlooking the beach
- 7pm - Find an izakaya or restaurant for dinner, such as Izakaya Hiro-michi
- 10pm - Time for a moonlight stroll along the beach
- NEXT DAY 9am - take the bus to Flower Park Kagoshima or Kaimon for a hike up the Kaimondake Volcano (or both!)
- 4pm - Return to Ibusuki by bus, and then to Kagoshima by train
How to get to Ibusuki
From Kagoshima, which is the nearest city, it's an easy 90 minute train ride on the local train line. It's a beautiful route too, following the coast the whole way.
You can also drive along National Route 226 which is slightly quicker than the train.
Ibusuki bus service
Once in Ibusuki, there's a good bus service through the town, which links Ibusuki with the other towns in the area, such as Yamakawa and Kaimon (for the hike up the Kaimondake Volcano), and also stops at local attractions like the Flower Park Kagoshima. If you get a day ticket it's handy for hopping on and off, for example to get up to the Ibuskui camp ground for the Chiringashima walk.
Do check the times though, as the bus runs only about every hour, the timetable can be found here (Japanese only), however we found that there were english versions of this timetable on the bus stops in Ibusuki.
Did we miss something?
Let us know if you have any suggestions of your own for visiting Ibusuki!