Hakone is one of my favourite regions in Japan! There are so many unique and wonderful things to do in Hakone. It’s home to many onsen hotels and some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. We visited Japan in Autumn (twice) and Hakone was particularly special during this time of year. But whether it’s fall colours you’re looking for, or perhaps it’s beautiful Cherry Blossoms, Hakone is a beautiful place to visit year-round and a must-do place to add to your Japan itinerary.
Many people choose to do a Hakone day trip from Tokyo, however, I highly recommend extending your Hakone itinerary and spending at least one night, or two. When we were planning a trip to Japan, we decided to spend two nights in Hakone, which allowed ample time to explore the region and experience traditional Japanese hospitality while staying at a beautiful Ryokan hotel. In saying that, if you’re planning to only do a Hakone day trip, then please read on, as many of the things to do in this Hakone travel guide can be experienced in one day.
Use our guide below to plan your Hakone day trip or stay at least 1-2 nights and experience the hospitality at a traditional Ryokan hotel.
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How to Get to Hakone
How to Get to Hakone by Train
Trains in Japan are fast, efficient and get you to your destination on time, nearly every time! However, there are two train lines that operate services from Tokyo to Hakone. Which one you take will depend on the station you’re departing from and whether or not you wish to use the Japan Rail Pass:
From Shinjuku Station – The ‘Romance Car’ departs from Shinjuku several times per day and takes you to Hakone-Yumoto station. If you’re planning a Hakone day trip, the Romance car is the best way to get there and back. You can purchase tickets for the ‘Romance Car’ at the Odakyu station office. Please note that this train is serviced by Odakyu, not Japan Rail. If you have a Japan Rail Pass and wish to use this, you’ll need to depart from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station instead (see below).
Once you arrive at Hakone-Yumoto station, you’ll need to change trains onto the Hakone Tozan Railway line, which will take you to the town of Gora and several other towns within the Hakone region. Transport from Hakone-Yumoto station and within the Hakone region is covered by a separate ticket. Pre-purchase a discounted Hakone Kamakura Pass online here (formerly called the Hakone Free Pass) before you arrive, which covers all trains, buses, boats and ropeways within the Hakone region. This pass also includes free or discounted entry to the many Hakone attractions for up to 3-days.
From left to right: The scenic vistas of Mount Hakone seen from the Hakone Tozan Railway; A train arriving at Gora station.
From Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station – If you have a Japan Rail Pass, then the most economical way of getting to Hakone is to catch the Shinkansen train (bullet train) on the Tokaido Line from Tokyo or Shinagawa stations to Odawara. Once in Odawara, you’ll need to change onto the Hakone-Tozan Line for the rest of the journey to Hakone-Yumoto station and onwards.
The train from Odawara station is covered by a separate ticket. We recommend you pre-purchase a discounted Hakone Kamakura Pass online here (formerly called the Hakone Free Pass) before you arrive, which covers all transport from Odawara station to Hakone-Yumoto station and within the Hakone region, including trains, buses, boats, and ropeways. This pass also includes entrance to many of the attractions around Hakone for up to 3-days.
Traveller Tip: If you plan to travel around Japan by Japan Rail (and trust me this is the best way), you MUST pre-purchase your Japan Rail Pass before arriving in the country. You cannot purchase a Japan Rail Pass after you arrive. Click here to purchase your Japan Rail Pass online at least 2 weeks before you arrive. I also recommend purchasing the Hakone Kamakura Pass as this includes most transport services around Hakone. Click here to purchase the Hakone Kamakura Pass online in advance. You can also combine your trip to Hakone with a visit to Kamakura using the same pass!
How to Get to Hakone by Car
If you plan to rent a car and drive to Hakone, there are a few things to note. In Japan, they drive on the left side. The quality of the roads is not great, due to the amount of seismic activity in Japan, and there are many toll roads around Tokyo. Familiarise yourself with the road signs, but most are written in Japanese and English. You can read more tips about driving in Japan here. Click here to book your rental vehicle from Rentalcars.com.
From top to bottom: The lobby at Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan; A traditional Japanese-style room in a ryokan hotel.
Where to Stay in Hakone
Hakone is a large area. This can make it difficult to pinpoint where to stay in Hakone. There are quite a few towns dotted around the mountain with many hotels and guesthouses to choose from. But if you’re looking for the best hotels in Hakone, look no further than the town of Gora. The majority of the region’s best ryokans and places to stay in Hakone are centred around this town, as are many of the attractions and things to do in Hakone. Most hotels in Hakone are traditional Japanese ryokan-style hotels and many feature their own private onsen.
Staying Around Gora
Here’s our pick of where to stay in Hakone, or more specifically Gora:
Hakone Gora Byakudan – this hotel with private onsen is arguably the best place to stay in Hakone (pictured above). A modern style Japanese ryokan, with open fireplace and a spectacular view over the valley. We had our own private onsen right on our balcony and were treated to incredible kaiseki meals each evening. Read our full review of this ryokan hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan.
Gora Kadan – Another stunning and popular 5-star ryokan-style Hakone hotel with private onsen and traditional Japanese kaiseki meals. Gora Kadan is only 5-minutes’ walk from Gora station.
Hakone Kowakien Tenyu – A large hotel featuring mountain views with private onsen baths, and Japanese or Western-style rooms and meals.
Hotel Indigo Hakone Gora – this modern hotel with Japanese and Western-style rooms is a brand new addition to the list of great places to stay in Hakone.
From left to right: A private onsen bath on a verandah at Hotel Hakone Gora Byakudan; A traditional Japanese kaiseki meal served in a Bento Box.
Other Hotels in Hakone
While Gora is (in my opinion) offers the best places to stay in Hakone, here are some other great hotels around Hakone, including the main tourist village, Hakone-Yumoto:
Hakone Ashinoko Hanaori – A beautiful hotel on the shores of Lake Ashinoko, with a terrace featuring lake views.
Odakyu Hotel de Yama – A grand old hotel with lake views, natural hot spring baths surrounded by a beautiful Japanese garden, and a karaoke room!
Hakone Hisui – A beautiful ryokan hotel with kaiseki meals, situated close to the Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands.
Kinnotake Sengokuhara – A hidden away, adults-only Japanese ryokan hotel with western bedding and traditional Japanese meals served in the privacy of your room.
Kinnotake Tonosawa – A luxury adults only Japanese-style Hakone hotel with private onsen and traditional Japanese meals. This hotel is conveniently located only 10 minutes bus ride from Hakone-Yumoto station.
Traveller Tip: Most of the best hotels in Hakone and those listed above include full-board (breakfast and dinner) or half-board (breakfast only). Many offer kaiseki-style meals, which is a traditional multi-course Japanese tasting menu – an experience in itself! While there are several (really good) dining options around Hakone-Yumoto station, there are limited options for dinner in many of the other villages in Hakone. I would recommend going for a full-board option for the complete Japanese ryokan experience.
Left to right from the top: An outdoor exhibit at the Hakone Open-Air Museum; The enormous orange Torii gate on the shores of Lake Ashinoko; Sulphur gases rising from Mount Hakone; Black eggs cooked in thermal spring water at Owakudani.
Things to do in Hakone
There are so many things to do in Hakone. As I mentioned earlier, many people opt for a Hakone day trip, but after reading the following list of things to do in Hakone, I’m sure you’ll understand why it’s best to plan a Hakone itinerary that lasts 2 or 3 days instead.
Hakone Open-Air Museum
We started our Hakone day trip at the Open Air Museum, which features one of the most extensive Picasso exhibits and is an absolute must-do activity to add to your Hakone itinerary. This was one of my most favourite things to do in Hakone! The museum is open year-round from 9 am to 5 pm. Show your Hakone Kamakura Pass at the ticket office to receive a discount.
After an hour or two wandering around the beautiful gardens and admiring over 150 sculptures, continue your Hakone itinerary by hopping on a train at the nearby station and head to Gora station.
Witness Mount Hakone’s Seismic Activity at Owakudani
At Gora station, change onto the Tozan Cable Car and then continue onto the Hakone Ropeway, which takes you up the top of Mount Hakone, an active volcano. Alight at Owakudani station, where you’ll experience one of the most unique things to do in Hakone, or indeed the whole of Japan. Watch as volcanic gases rise from the earth and taste black eggs, that have been cooked in the natural hot springs, fed directly from the mountain. Afterward, hop back on the ropeway and continue down-hill to Lake Ashi.
Lake Ashi Cruise
From Togendai station, you get off the ropeway and board a large pirate ship. The ship takes you on a 30-minute sightseeing cruise across Lake Ashinoko (Lake Ashi) to Moto-Hakone. On a clear day, it’s possible to see Mount Fuji on the horizon from the lake.
You’ve probably seen this shrine on Instagram and perhaps it’s one of the things to do that attracted you to the Hakone region. Visiting the Hakone shrine is one of the few free things to do in Hakone!
On the shores of Lake Ashinoko, at the foot of the Hakone Shrine, stands an enormous orange Torii Gate. This is a great spot and you’ll have to join the lineup of tourists waiting for a photo opportunity. There is also plenty of great hiking trails around mountains near the Hakone Shrine if your itinerary allows the time to take advantage of this.
This attraction is a little further afield than most of the other things to do in Hakone and is perhaps only achievable on an extended Hakone itinerary of 2 days or more. But the Skywalk and 300 metre-long zipline is a lot of fun and well worth it.
Onsen Spa Experience
After an action-packed day trip exploring all the amazing things to do in Hakone, there’s nothing better than to soak in the therapeutic benefits of naturally-fed thermal springs. If you decide to stay in any of the hotels listed above, they all have onsen available onsite. Some even have private onsen, so you don’t have to bath naked with total strangers.
However, if you choose to stay somewhere that doesn’t have an onsen on-site or do a Hakone day trip instead, the Hakone Kowaki-en Yunessun Hot Spring Theme Park is one of the best hot springs in Hakone that you can visit on a day trip. Show your Hakone Kamakura Pass at the ticket office to receive a discount.
The train journey to and from Gora requires you to change trains at Hakone-Yumoto station. If you have a few extra hours on your way to/from Gora, it’s well worth taking a wander around the town and trying the array of Japanese delicacies sold on the street. There are plenty of luggage storage lockers available at Hakone-Yumoto station.
Traveller Tip: The Hakone Kamakura Pass is a worthwhile purchase if you plan to follow this guide of things to do in Hakone. It includes transport on all Odakyu lines (expect the Romance Car), plus all trains, buses, boats, cable cars and ropeways around the Hakone region for 3 days. It also offers free or discounted entry to many of the attractions listed above and more. Click here to purchase the Hakone Kamakura Pass online in advance. You can also combine your Hakone itinerary with a visit to Kamakura using the same pass!
I should mention that this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the things to do in Hakone. There is actually so much more. If you were to do a google search of ‘things to do in Hakone’, you’ll soon learn that there are also many hikes, waterfalls, volcanos and Mount Fuji viewing spots, and so much more. You could easily extend your Hakone itinerary to 2 days or longer!
Left to right from the top: The entrance to the Hakone Shrine; Washing station at Hakone Shrine; A bridge along the pathway next to Lake Ashinoko; Suspension bridge near Hakone-Yumoto village; The entrance to Hakone Shrine.
Hakone Wrap Up
There are so many things to see and do in Hakone. It is truly an amazing region to visit in Japan. And, being so close to Tokyo, it’s very easy to plan a Hakone day trip or extend your itinerary to 2 or 3 days and stay in a beautiful ryokan hotel, as we did. To make the most of your trip to Hakone and Japan in general, be sure to read our related articles before you visit:
We hope this guide helps you to plan your visit to Hakone, Japan. If you have any other recommendations or questions about Hakone or Japan, please leave them in the comments below.
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