Beppu, Japan is a city of steam, best known for its multitude of natural hot springs and thermal pools. Some are used as day spas or resorts. Some are even used to steam food. Its 8 major geothermal hot spots are called the 8 hells of Beppu, or jigoku in Japanese. These pools are just for looking at as they are far too hot to touch. Each one is different and one of them is a geyser. 6 are in the Kannawa district, the other two about 3k away in an outlying area called Shibasek. One has a crocodile farm. They can be toured individually, or there are 7 hells ticket books available that cover 7 of them for about the price of paying for 5 of them one by one. All are set up as tourist attractions without a lot of nature around them. One of the hells in the upper area is not included in the 7 hells tour. That one is called Yama Jigoku and has a small zoo.
Views of the city include plumes of steam among the buildings on the city’s hillside. The biggest plumes come from the hells, but there are plenty of other steaming pools as well as numerous vents. In some places even the drain ditches running alongside the street steam. The natural hotspring spa baths are called Onsens, and are Beppu’s main attraction. Some are pools and others have sand baths.
Hot springs aren’t the only tourist attraction in Beppu. It has a wildlife park full of native monkeys, an aquarium, museums, and a ropeway up Mount Tsuruimi. There are also shops and a park in town, and hiking trails in the mountains surrounding the city.
Japan does not take foreign currency, and credit cards may or may not work or be accepted so it’s a good idea to have some yen. Your bank can get foreign money for you if you ask in advance since they aren’t likely to have any on hand. Otherwise the ship did offer money exchange for passengers, and there are money exchange machines and booths around town and even at the dock in most ports. You may not always get the going rate for the exchange, but the one port where we exchanged at the dock in Japan gave a better rate than our bank or the ship. One US dollar is worth over 100 yen.
The cruise port has free wifi and tourist information with maps and people to answer questions or give advice. The port provides a free shuttle to JR Beppu train station. From there people can catch trains or take a bus or taxi to their destination.
The hells are within walking distance of the cruise dock for people who don’t mind a long walk. They are also accessible by bus or taxi. Onsen steam and sand or mud baths dot the town. There’s a sand one right next to the dock and other onsens within walking distance. We talked to someone on the ship who went to one of the Onsens. She said they have private baths as well as a communal pool and it is customary for bathers to go into the water naked no matter which one they choose.
The aquarium and monkey park are not near the port. There is a seaside trail if anyone wanted to take a very long walk, but they are more easily reached by taking the shuttle to the train station and a bus or taxi from there, or walking to the nearest bus station to the dock where busses run more frequently than from the train station. The bus at the train station only comes once per hour so if time is an issue from there a taxi is the best bet. The train tracks run right by the aquarium and monkey park, which are across the street from each other and connected by a foot bridge over the highway. Unfortunately there is no train station near them. You could also take a taxi directly from the port.
The ropeway is a cable car up a mountain. It is not near the port. It’s up a big hill and getting there would require transportation for anyone not into very long uphill walks. Or like the typical cruise ship passenger, anyone who doesn’t have a lot of time. There are trails up the mountain for those who would rather hike than ride the tram.
Excursions from Holland America Westerdam included Usa Jinga Shrine and 2 of the boiling hells, a scenic tour through Yabakei Gorge, a tour to 3 of the boiling hells, and a tour to stone Buddha statues and castle ruins.
The closest bus station to the port is Kamenoi Bus Rokusyouen, reportedly a 5 minute walk. The closest train station to the port is JR Beppu University Station, also said to be a 5 minute walk. I did not test either of those.