Found on the border between Oita and Kumamoto, Nabegataki Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls on the island of Kyushu in Japan. With hundreds of waterfalls on Kyushu, what makes this one so special? You can actually walk behind the wide cascade, underneath the rock face that the waterfalls pours down over. It’s a pretty magical spot.
HOW TO GET TO NABEGATAKI FALLS
Nabegataki Falls borders both Kumamoto and Oita regions. That means you might be visiting while you are based in Kumamoto or a town in Oita such as Beppu or Yufu. It’s not out of the question either to be visiting from Fukuoka. It really does sit in the middle of all three major towns. It’s actually quite accessible and one of the more touristy waterfalls on Kyushu Island. There is a road that leads the whole way and then a massive parking lot. There was a small fee, which gave you access to the whole geopark including lots of other attractions in the area but don’t worry it was only a $3 USD. From the parking lot, there is a boardwalk and stairs that lead you down to the waterfall taking just five minutes. It’s not a big adventure and you could wear any attire and shoes and be just fine.
MY EXPERIENCE AT NABEGATAKI FALLS
Nabegataki Falls is one of the more popular waterfalls on Kyushu Island so you should expect it to be a lot more built-up than most of the other natural spots in Kyushu. I didn’t expect it to be quite so touristy though with over fifty people there even on a weekday at 11 am (and I visited during the Coronavirus scare so travel was down a lot). I imagine this spot is very, very busy on weekends and during peak travel season so keep that in mind.
After paying the small fee of a few dollars for the entrance ticket, we headed down the boardwalk and stairs for just five minutes before reaching the waterfall area. I did my best to shoot the waterfall without any tourists but it is quite difficult as most people do a little lap underneath the waterfall viewing it from in front, each side and behind. It’s a bit of experience and going behind the waterfall was super cool.
The waterfall itself is only 10m high but spans 20m across in width and pours down over the ledge, which is what makes it so unique.
I’d recommend a tripod if you are into photography as this waterfall looks great with a little motion blur. I shot handheld but at 1/15 so my images aren’t super sharp but I like the motion blur. I visited at 11 am and the light was just shooting over the top so I do suggest mid-morning for this location if you are interested in having golden lighting.
It’s pretty close to Mount Aso or Kurokawa Onsen so it could be smart to combine those attractions with a visit to Nabegataki Waterfall to make the most of the transit from the town you are visiting from.
KYUSHU TRAVEL TIPS
WHICH REGION IS BEST FOR YOU?
Here’s a checklist for you to start:
- Fukuoka: If you want to be in a vibrant city scene and a central base, you may want to stay in Fukuoka.
- Kumamoto (my pick): If you’re looking to get away from the bustling city life and be centrally positioned for all hotspot tourist locations then visit and stay in Kumamoto.
- Beppu: If you want to check out a lot of hot springs, mud baths, and sand baths, Beppu in Oita prefecture is the best place for you.
- Kagoshima: If you are eager to go hiking in Kirishima and see Mt. Sakurajima, head to Kagoshima prefecture.
- Yakushima (Separate Island): If you want to hike through the stunning Shiratani Unsuikyo Valley, see ancient cedar trees, and waterfalls, Yakushima is the best place for you.
For a full article about how to split up your time between the popular regions in Kyushu, check out my guide about how to plan your Kyushu Itinerary: THE ULTIMATE KYUSHU ITINERARY: 5-DAY, 7-DAY & 10-DAY
WHERE TO STAY IN KYUSHU
Best Luxury Place to Stay in Fukuoka: Hotel WBF Grande Hakata (Value): This is by far the most popular hotel and one of the most luxurious in Fukuoka. There are a large public bath and an open-air bath on the top level of the hotel where guests can relax and enjoy the views.
Best Value/Budget Place to Stay in Fukuoka: WeBase Hakata Hostel (Budget): This stylish hostel offers a wide range of dorm-type rooms with shared bathrooms, sockets, and safes for your belongings. They also have a kitchen, a terrace, and is within walking distance to convenience stores, a subway station, ramen shops, and sightseeing spots.
Best Value Place to Stay in Kumamoto: Hotel The Gate Kumamoto (Value): Hotel The Gate is a well-situated accommodation in the heart of Kumamoto, just across the train station and walking distance to shops and restaurants.
Best Budget Luxury Place to Stay in Kumamoto: Kumamoto Hotel Castle (Luxury): Set near the infamous Kumamoto Castle, this luxury hotel features a wide range of carpeted rooms from standard rooms to suites fitted with plush amenities.
For a full list of the top-rated places to stay in Kyushu, you can check out my comprehensive guide: WHERE TO STAY IN KYUSHU: BEST REGIONS & HOTELS
HOW TO GET AROUND KYUSHU FOR ADVENTURERS
While the train may suit those in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and even in Fukuoka, it won’t cut it out here on Kyushu. The trains will get you from major towns and even into some regional areas with bus connection but almost all of the adventure sports I visited had no bus connection. When I searched on Google Maps and clicked the public transport option it would just say ‘not available’. It was very clear, very quickly that Kyushu island is best to explore by car, especially if you are doing hikes and activities outside of the city (literally everything on this list).
Renting a car wasn’t too expensive and I did it through RentalCars.com, finding them to be the best-reviewed and had the cheapest options. I flew in from Tokyo so picked the car up from Fukuoka Airport and dropped it back when I was done. If you click on RentalCars.com and then search to pick up at Fukuoka Airport you should find a range of options. I got a very small car as it was cheap but it turned out very handy as the narrow roads of Japanse suburbs where my Airbnb was made it impossible for big SUVs. There was also no time that I needed to be off-road or anything like that so a small, fuel-efficient car made it cheap and convenient.
*** It is extremely important to know that you MUST HAVE an international driver’s license to rent a car in Japan. In fact, they won’t even look at your actual driver’s license and only want to see the international driver’s license. Take that seriously as they genuinely will not give you the car and likely no refund if you don’t have that. To get one you need to be in your country of residence and you can get one on the spot or order online and receive in a week or so. Make sure you organize that in advance as I almost got caught out not knowing that.
Here is my little blue whip that I rented on RentalCars.com
ARE YOU FOLLOWING MY KYUSHU BLOG SERIES?
I spent over three weeks exploring Kyushu and visited some incredible waterfalls, hiked some amazing trails, and visited a number of epic volcanoes. I created a number of guides to help travelers find the best spots in Kyushu. You can explore the articles by clicking on the links below.
The Ultimate Kyushu Bucketlist: 30 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN KYUSHU
A guide to the best places to stay in Kyushu in each region: WHERE TO STAY IN KYUSHU: BEST REGIONS & HOTELS
How to plan your Kyushu vacation: THE ULTIMATE KYUSHU ITINERARY: 5-DAY, 7-DAY & 10-DAY
Interested in chasing waterfalls?: 12 AWESOME WATERFALLS IN KYUSHU
Keen for some epic hiking?: 11 AWESOME HIKES IN KYUSHU
Everything you need to know about Oita: 11 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN OITA
Your Ultimate Guide to Kumamoto: 13 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN KUMAMOTO
My favorite waterfall in Kyushu: TAKACHIHO GORGE – MOST BEAUTIFUL WATERFALL IN JAPAN