Hakone makes for a great day trip or weekend getaway from Tokyo. There are plenty of things to do in this mountain town. You can relax in a hot springs, hike in the volcanic mountains, take a boat cruise in a pirate ship, walk around Lake Ashi, explore art museums, or enjoy the views of nearby Mount Fuji. There is no shortage of things to do, whether you’re spending the day, a weekend, or a whole week.
In this guide, I’ll explain how to take a Hakone day trip from Tokyo. I’ll explain how to travel to Hakone, how to get around Hakone, and outline 13 things to do. I’ll also outline the Hakone Freepass and the Hakone Loop (Round Course). In addition, I’ll cover onsens, restaurants, hotels, and more.
I took an overnight trip to Hakone over the summer. During my trip, I took the round course and visited all of the major attractions. In this guide, I’ll share my experience. Hopefully, this guide makes your trip to Hakone a little bit smoother and easier.
I’ve also made this YouTube video about my trip to Hakone.
Table of Contents
- How to travel from Tokyo to Hakone- Train options
- The Hakone Freepass- Cost, how to buy, and how it works
- The Hakone Round Course Loop
- Things to Do in Hakone
- Tips for Visiting Hakone
- My experience
A Bit of Info About Hakone
Location: Hakone is a mountain town located in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Tokyo.
How to get there: The trip from Tokyo to Hakone takes about 1.5-hours by train, making it perfect for those seeking an escape from the big city.
Things to do: Hakone offers beautiful scenery, rich history, spectacular views of Mount Fuji, and relaxing hot springs. Additionally, the centuries-old tradition of onsen (hot spring) bathing has deep roots here. Hakone’s geothermal activity has made it an excellent destination for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Cost to visit: The two day Hakone Freepass costs 6,100 yen or $41. A hostel dorm room costs about 4,500 yen or $30. A basic hotel room costs around 18,000 yen or $120. Food will cost you around 5,000-15,000 yen. A two day one night trip will cost you around 15,000-37,000 yen or $100-$250 depending on the type of hotel you stay in and the foods you eat.
- Best time to visit: Many consider the fall (October to November) as the prime time to visit. During this period, the changing colors of the leaves, combined with clear views of Mount Fuji, offer an unparalleled scenic experience. Springtime, from late March to early May, is another favorite, thanks to the cherry blossoms and vibrant azaleas.
- Weather and Climate: Hakone enjoys a temperate climate. Summers are mild and winters are chilly. Due to its high elevation, it’s often slightly cooler than Tokyo. It rains a bit more frequently in Hakone as well. Lush greenery in summer and brilliant autumn foliage make Hakone a beautiful destination all year round.
How to Travel From Tokyo to Hakone Yumoto Station
Traveling from Tokyo to Hakone is pretty straightforward. Most travelers start at Shinjuku Station. This is one of Tokyo’s main transport hubs. It’s easy to get there by subway from anywhere in the city.
From Shinjuku Station, you can catch an Odakyu Line train to Odawara Station. This trip takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Trains from Tokyo to Odawara leave frequently throughout the day. On average, they depart around once every 20 minutes. There are multiple per hour all day long. You can check the schedule here. This is just a regular commuter train. There are no assigned seats.
You don’t have to start at Shinjuku Station. You can catch the train at any of the stops on the Odakyu Line if that’s more convenient for you.
The one-way trip costs JPY1,190. You can also buy a Hakone Freepass that includes this ticket. I’ll talk more about the Hakone Freepass in the next section.
After you arrive at Odawara Station, you’ll need to transfer to the Hakone Tozan Train. This will take you to Hakone-Yumoto.
From there, you can transfer to another Hakone Tozan train or a Hakone Tozan bus. The train or bus can take you anywhere in Hakone.
Exactly where you’ll want to go in Hakone depends on what time you arrive and where you’re staying. You may want to go check into your hotel and drop off your luggage. Alternatively, you could store your luggage at Hakone-Yumoto station and start exploring.
Hakone isn’t really a single city. It’s a series of villages scattered around throughout the mountains. You’ll need to take the bus, train, or other method of transport between the different areas.
Taking the Limited Express Romancecar
To save a bit of time and enjoy some more comfort, you can take the Limited Express Romancecar. This train makes fewer stops along the way and travels directly to Hakone. You’ll also get a reserved seat.
The Romancecar is not included with the Hakone Freepass but you do get a discount. In order to ride the Romancecar, you’ll have to make an advance seat reservation. You can reserve a seat on the Romnacecar here.
It costs an additional 1150 yen to Hakone-Yumoto Station or 950 yen to Odawara Station. This is on top of the cost of the Freepass. You can book the romancecar at the Odakyu sightseeing service center.
Taking the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Hakone
It’s also possible to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) From Tokyo to Odawara. You can take the Shinkansen from Shinjuku Station or Shinagawa Station to Odawara. This will be the cheapest option if you have a Japan Rail Pass.
It’s important to note that not all Shinkansen trains stop at Odawara. You’ll need to take the Kodama Shinkansen. The ride takes only 34 minutes.
Once you reach Odawara, you can transfer to the Odakyu Line train to Hakone Yumoto Station. From there, you can transfer to the Hakone Tozan train or a Hakone Tozan bus, which can take you anywhere in Hakone.
If you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass, it’s probably not worth it to take the Shinkansen to Odawara simply because it’s so close. You could if you wanted to save a bit of time.
The Hakone Freepass
The Hakone Freepass is an all-inclusive ticket designed that gives you unlimited rides on the various modes of transportation within the Hakone region. This includes the trains, buses, cable car, ropeways, and even the sightseeing boat cruise on Lake Ashi. In addition, pass holders receive discounts on many attractions and services in Hakone including the museums and some onsens. In my opinion, the Hakone Freepass offers a good value.
Prices for the Hakone Freepass vary based on the duration of your trip and your starting point. There are 2 day and 3 day pass options. You can start your journey at Shinjuku Station, Hakone-Yumoto, or Odawara Station.
It’s important to note that the Hakone Freepass works on a calendar day basis. If you buy a 2 day pass, it is valid on the day you use it and the following day until midnight. It is not valid for 48 hours. For example, if you use the pass at 10 pm on day 1 that will count as one full day. The time starts when you first activate the pass. Not when you buy it. To get the most out of your pass, activate it in the morning of the day you plan to use it.
How Much Does the Hakone Freepass Cost?
From Shinjuku Station, the 2-day pass costs Approximately 6,100 yen ($41) for adults and 1,100 yen ($7.50) for children. This is the most popular option for most travelers.
Without transport from Shinjuku (starting at Hakone-Yumoto or Odawara), the 2 day pass costs 5,000 yen ($34) for adults and 1,000 yen ($6.80) for children.
From Shinjuku, the 3 day pass costs 6,500 yen ($44) for adults and 1,350 yen ($9.15) for children. Without transport from Shinjuku, the 3 day pass costs 5,400 yen ($36.60) for adults and 1,250 yen ($8.50) for children.
Prices may change over time, so it’s always recommended to check the official website or inquire at stations for the most current rates. You can check for the current rates here.
Where Can I Buy the Hakone Freepass?
You can purchase the Hakone Freepass ticket online through the official Odakyu website here. This method is particularly convenient for travelers who prefer having everything set before they arrive.
It’s important to note that you can only buy your ticket on a smartphone. You can’t buy it on a PC or tablet. You also need to have a smartphone to use the ticket.
If you prefer, you can also buy the Hakone Freepass at major stations, such as Shinjuku train Station. Head to the designated Odakyu Line counters, and the staff will assist you. The staff here speak English.
Is the Hakone Free Pass Worth it?
Yes. For most travelers, the Hakone Freepass is worth it, in my opinion. It offers a good value. If you travel from Shinjuku and do the loop tour in Hakone, you will end up saving money if you buy the Freepass. There are some other perks of using the Freepass such as discounts on entry to museums. If you take advantage of these discounts, you’ll save even more.
There are cases where the Hakone Freepass isn’t worth it. If you’re only going to Hakone to go for a hike or visit an onsen and you don’t plan to do the loop tour, you’re better off buying separate tickets. You may not get your money’s worth if you buy the Freepass.
It’s important to note that you will need to pay for a Hakone Freepass or buy tickets, even if you have the JR Japan Rail Pass. This is because the transportation in Hakone is run by a separate company. They are not part of JR. Your JR rail pass won’t cover you in Hakone. You can use your JR pass to get to Odawara. From there, you’ll have to buy tickets.
How to Use the Hakone Freepass
The Hakone Freepass is digital. It uses a QR code. You simply load the Freepass on your phone and show it to the driver or the person checking tickets. Sometimes, you’ll scan the QR code at a kiosk.
It’s important to note that you are supposed to show the live version of the ticket. In other words, you can’t use a screenshot or screen recording. This can be an issue if you don’t have a mobile data connection in Japan.
In most cases, a screen recording will work. There are a couple of places where you have to scan the QR code on the ticket. You’ll need to do this in Shinjuku train station to get on the Odawara line. You’ll also need to do this at the Hakone Ropeway. The website needs to be live for the QR code to scan. Luckily, there is free wifi in most stations.
A screenshot or screen recording won’t work in these cases because the QR code that the website generates is renewed every time. If you try to scan a screenshot, you’ll get an error. There is also an animation of a moving train on the screen when the ticket is live. If the animation is not moving, it means the ticket isn’t live and the conductor won’t accept your ticket.
You can take a screen recording. This will work in cases where the driver or ticket checker is simply looking at the ticket.
This is only an issue if you don’t have a data connection in Japan. If you have a Japanese SIM card, you don’t have to worry about this. You can load the ticket anywhere.
Personally, I think this system is kind of annoying. It complicates things for tourists who don’t have a data connection.
Luggage Storage and Delivery
If you’re staying the night in Hakone, chances are you’ll have some luggage. You can travel directly to your hotel and drop your luggage off. Alternatively, there are coin-operated luggage lockers at Hakone-Yumoto station. Lockers are available on both sides of the ticketing gates.
There is also a luggage delivery service available. You can have your luggage delivered to any hotel in the Hakone area. If you drop it off before 10:00 am, it will be at your hotel by 3:00 pm. This is the most common check-in time in Japan.
This is convenient because it allows you to start exploring without having to go to your hotel first to drop off your luggage first. It saves you time. If you have a Hakone Freepass, you’ll get a discount of 100 yen for this service.
If you prefer, you can drop your luggage off at your hotel. The hotels offer free luggage storage before check-in and after check-out.
The Hakone Round Course (Hakone Loop)
One of the best ways to visit Hakone is to take the Hakone Round Course. This is a loop tour that circles the region using five different modes of transportation. You’ll ride a train, cable car, ropeway, bus, and boat.
On average, the Hakone Round course takes 6-8 hours to complete. Exactly how long it will take you depends on how many stops you make along the way and how much time you spend at each stop.
There are lots of museums, hikes, restaurants, viewpoints, shops, etc. along the course. If you only stop briefly, you could complete the round course in just 3-4 hours. If you make lots of stops, it could take all day.
All of the different modes of transport are connected. When you get off one, you move right on to the next. It’s very convenient. Everything is close together.
All of the modes of transport are included with the Hakone Freepass. All you have to do is show your ticket on your phone.
Modes of Transport on the Hakone Round Course Include:
Hakone Tozan Train: This mountain railway, known for its switchbacks, takes you from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora. The ride takes about 40 minutes. The train takes you up into the mountains of Hakone. This train is known for using 3 switchbacks to navigate the steep terrain. Along this route, you’ll find a few different museums including the Hakone Open-Air Museum and the Hakone Museum of Art. The train also stops at various neighborhoods in Hakone, where you can find hotels, restaurants, onsens, etc.
Hakone Tozan Cable Car: From Gora, you transition to the cable car. The cable car climbs uphill to Sounzan station. It’s a short but steep ride. It takes about 15 minutes. There are a number of stops along the way where you can get off to go hiking.
Hakone Ropeway: This is arguably the star of the show. The Hakone Ropeway connects Sounzan to Togendai via Owakudani. The ropeway offers breathtaking views, especially of the volcanic valley with its sulfurous fumes and hot springs. There are two different cable cars. You’ll transfer to a different car in Owakudani. Here, you can stop and take in the views of the Sulfur mine. You can also try the famous black eggs, which are boiled in the geothermal waters. The Ropeway ends at Lake Ashi. The cable car rides each last about 20 minutes.
Hakone Sightseeing Cruise (Pirate Ship Cruise): From Togendai, embark on a serene boat ride across Lake Ashi. On clear days, you’ll enjoy some spectacular views of Mount Fuji from the boat. The cruise ends at either Hakonemachi or Moto-Hakone, depending on your route. This cruise lasts about 40 minutes.
Hakone Tozan Bus: This completes the loop, taking you back to Hakone-Yumoto or onward to other destinations in Hakone. There are buses running all over Hakone. You can get pretty much anywhere by bus.
Should I Do the Hakone Loop Clockwise or Counterclockwise?
You can travel the Hakone Loop in either direction. Most tourists choose to start with the Hakone Tozan train and travel counterclockwise. This is what I did.
You can also travel counterclockwise. This may be a good decision if you’re traveling during peak season because it can help you avoid crowds. The experience is more or less the same in both directions.
13 Things To Do in Hakone
1. The Hakone Round Course
This loop tour allows you to visit Hakone through five distinct modes of transport. You’ll start with the mountain-climbing Hakone Tozan Train, then transition to the steep Hakone Cablecar, then travel across valleys with the Hakone Ropeway, then cruise on the Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise, and finally meander through picturesque neighborhoods via the Hakone Tozan Bus.
The round course takes 6-8 hours. There are lots of things you can do and see along the way including hikes, museums, art galleries, viewpoints, restaurants, onsens, etc. You can pick and choose what interests you along the way.
2. Visit an Onsen (Hotsprings)
One of the most popular things to do in Hakone is to visit an onsen. An onsen is a natural hot spring bath. These baths are popular for their relaxing properties and potential health benefits due to the mineral-rich waters. Onsens provide a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. A few of the more popular onsens in Hakone include:
Hakone Yuryo: This is a large onsen resort set in a beautiful landscape. Hakone Yuryo offers private and communal baths. There are both indoor and outdoor baths. Prices start at 1,600 yen for the communal bath. You receive a discount of 200-300 yen if you hold a Freepass. The private bath is quite a bit more expensive at 9,400 Yen for 2 hours. Discounts are also available for Freepass holders. This onsen is conveniently located just a 15 minute walk away from Hakone-Yumoto station. This onsen also offers a free shuttle bus from the Hakone-Yumoto station if you don’t want to walk.
Tenzan Onsen: This is a classic onsen with rock lined open air baths (called rotenburo). Known for its multiple outdoor pools and waterfall features, Tenzan lets you soak while being surrounded by nature. This onsen does accept guests with tattoos. Tenzan Onsen offers a free shuttle from Hakone-Yumoto Station if you have a Hakone Freepass. The shuttle bus costs 240 Yen without the Freepass. You can also access this onsen by taking the K-Line bus from Hakone-Yumoto Station to Okuyumoto-iriguchi bus stop. It’s a 2 minute walk from there. Entry to this onsen costs 1450 Yen.
Hakone Kowakien Yunessun (Yunessun Spa Resort): For those seeking a unique experience, this resort blends traditional onsen baths with themed pools. It’s basically a hot springs theme park. This is a large resort with baths inside and outside. They also have some unique baths that you can’t find anywhere else. For example, there are different baths filled with coffee, wine, and herbs. There are also a couple of waterslides. This is a co-ed onsen where swimsuits are required. This makes it a great choice for those who aren’t comfortable bathing in the nude as well as families and friends. To get to Hakone Kowakien Yunessun from Hakone-Yumoto, take the H Line bus to Yunessun-mae (bus stop number 138). From there, it’s a 2 minute walk to the hot springs. Entry starts at 2100 Yen. There is a 500 Yen discount for Hakone Freepass holders.
There are dozens of onsens in the Hakone region. Every village has several. There are public and private onsens as well as both indoor and outdoor. I visited a small onsen next door to my hotel. It cost just 600 yen to enter.
It’s important to note that some onsens don’t accept people with tattoos. Some are only for men. Be sure to check the rules before you go.
3. Explore the Hakone Open Air Museum
The Hakone Open Air Museum is an outdoor sculpture museum. It is built in a beautiful setting on the side of a mountain. Here, you can view both modern and contemporary art with the natural beauty of Hakone’s vistas in the background. Some of the pieces are interactive. This museum is Japan’s first-ever open-air museum.
The museum is situated just a 2 minute walk away from Chokoku No Mori Station. Accessing the Hakone Open Air Museum is a breeze. You can take the Hakone Tozan Train there. This is a popular stop for anyone navigating the famed Hakone Round Course.
As for the entry fees, the normal ticket costs 1,600 Yen. The museum offers a 200 Yen discount for Hakone Freepass holders. You can check the museum’s official website or contact them directly for the most up-to-date pricing. You can visit the museum’s website here.
4. Visit Hakone Checkpoint
Located on the Old Tokaido Road, Hakone checkpoint, known locally as Hakone Sekisho, played an important role during the Edo Period (1603-1868). This checkpoint acted as a strategic boundary between Kyoto and Edo (modern-day Tokyo).
There were a number of checkpoints along the way. Hakone was one of the most important. Its primary purpose was to regulate the flow of people and goods into the capital. The checkpoint was used to ensure that potentially rebellious daimyo (regional lords) could not amass weapons and armies near Edo. It basically served as a customs and immigration checkpoint.
Today, Hakone Checkpoint is a museum. Here, you can view replicas of gates, fences, housing, and even inspection facilities, that are recreated based on archeological findings.
Hakone Checkpoint is easily accessible. After reaching Hakone-Yumoto Station, you can take the H Line Hakone Tozan bus and get off at Hakone-Sekisho-Ato (bus stop number 154). A 2 minute walk will take you to this historic site.
Entry to Hakone Checkpoint costs 500 Yen without a Freepass and 400 Yen with a Freepass.
5. Go for a Hike
Hakone is located in the mountains. The region offers an extensive network of trails, perfect for those looking for outdoor adventures. Hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of Lake Ashi, lush forests, and on clear days, the iconic Mount Fuji.
3 of the Best Hiking Trails in Hakone include:
Hakone Old Tokaido Road: This historic trail was once a major road during the Edo period. Starting from Hakone-Yumoto and ending in Moto-Hakone, this moderately challenging hike unravels dense forests and ancient stone-paved paths. You can also take a shorter version of this hike from Moto-Hakone to Hatajuku. This is the most scenic section. It takes about 75-120 minutes. You can read more about this hike here.
Mt. Kintoki: This is one of the most popular hikes in Hakone thanks to the spectacular views of Mount Fuji that it offers. The hike takes 3-4 hours. It is a distance of 6 km one way. You can access the trailhead from the Kintoki-Jinjya-Iriguchi Bus Stop. This is a moderately difficult hike. There are some steep and rocky sections that can get slippery after it rains. Wear good shoes. You can read more about this hike here.
Lake Ashi Circuit (Ashinoko Loop Hiking Trail): A relatively leisurely hike, this trail circumnavigates the serene Lake Ashi, passing through well-maintained paths, picturesque shrines, and offering postcard-perfect views of Mount Fuji. You can hike the whole circuit or just hike half and take the sightseeing boat back to your starting point. The whole hike takes about 6 hours. You can read more about this hike here.
6. Visit Odawara Castle
Most likely, you will pass through Odawara Station during your trip to Hakone. Odawara Castle is located just a stone’s throw away from the station.
This castle was originally constructed in the 15th century, during the era of samurai and shoguns. Odawara Castle has witnessed pivotal events in Japanese history, and though rebuilt over the years, it retains its charm and grandeur.
Reaching Odawara Castle is easy. From Odawara the station, the castle is just a 10-minute walk away.
7. Take in the Views of Mount Fuji
One of the biggest draws to Hakone is the spectacular views of Mount Fuji. There are several spots in Hakone where you can see Mount Fuji. Lake Ashi is one of the best spots. Cruises on the lake provide a unique perspective, especially during sunrise or sunset. Owakudani, a volcanic valley, also offers great views of Mount Fuji on clear days. Another notable mention is the Hakone Open-Air Museum. Amidst contemporary sculptures, the sight of the snow-capped peak in the distance is almost surreal.
Of course, nature is unpredictable. There are many days when Mount Fuji decides to hide. Clouds, mist, and occasional haze can obscure the view.
When I visited Hakone, Mount Fuji was blocked by clouds. I couldn’t see it from the Ropeway or from the sightseeing boat. Late in the day, I did catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji from the shore of Lake Ashi. It didn’t really matter to me though because I had just hiked Mount Fuji a couple of days before so I had seen about enough of it.
8. Visit The Owakudani Valley
One of Hakone’s most unique sites is the Owakudani Valley, also known as the “Great Boiling Valley.” This is a volcanic crater that was created by the violent eruptions of Mount Hakone around 3,000 years ago. Here, sulfurous fumes rise from crevices and boiling hot springs.
A top activity is to savor the famous black eggs or “kuro-tamago.” These eggs, boiled in the valley’s hot springs, have a distinctive black color due to the sulfur and iron in the water. Legend has it that consuming one adds seven years to your lifespan. There are lots of shops and stands selling them.
There are also other shops and restaurants where you can stop for lunch or grab a snack as well as plenty of ice cream and drink stands. This is a good place to stop for lunch.
The valley also offers several walking trails. These paths offer a closer look at the geothermal wonders and present unparalleled views of Mount Fuji on clear days. It’s important to note that the trails sometimes close when noxious volcanic gas levels get too high. Sometimes, you can only view the area from the viewing platform near the ropeway.
Located in the northern part of Hakone, getting to Owakudani is part of the adventure. Most visitors choose to travel there using the Hakone Ropeway. From Hakone-Yumoto Station, you can take the Hakone Tozan Train to Gora, and then transfer to the Hakone Tozan Cablecar. This takes you to Sōunzan, where you can catch the ropeway. The ticket from Sōunzan to costs 950 Yen and takes about 10 minutes.
You can also catch the ropeway at Tōgendai. This is a stop on the sightseeing cruise. From there, you can take the ropeway to the Owakudani Valley. The ride takes about 20 minutes and costs 1250 yen.
The Hakone Ropeway tickets are included in the cost of the Freepass. There’s also no admission fee to visit the Ōwakudani Valley. Once you’re there, you can wander around and hike. There is a museum that charges a small fee to visit.
If you’re doing the Hakone loop, you will pass through here. It’s part of the Round Course. It is also possible to visit the Owakundai Valley by bus. The J Line will take you there. You can also drive there but parking is pretty expensive.
9. Visit Hakone Shrine (Hakone Jinja Shrine)
Hakone Shrine is a Shinto shrine that appears to be rising out of Lake Ashi. Dating back to the 8th century, the shrine has been a focal point for countless pilgrims, travelers, and military commanders.
To find your way to Hakone Shrine from the Hakone-Yumoto Station, take the H Line Hakone Tozan bus and get off at the Hakone-Jinja-Iriguchi stop (bus stop number 150). Upon arrival, it’s just a 10 minute stroll to the shrine.
As you approach, you’ll be greeted by a grand floating torii gate standing majestically in Lake Ashi, seemingly floating on its serene waters. This iconic gate is one of the most photographed spots in Hakone, making it a must-visit.
You can take a photo right in front of the gate. If you decide to do this, be prepared to wait in line. This place gets crowded. It is free to visit the shrine.
10. Visit Onshi Hakone Park
For those seeking some serenity on their day trip to Hakone, Onshi Hakone Park is a great option. This park usually isn’t too crowded. It sits on the beautiful shore of Lake Ashi.
Within the grounds of Onshi Hakone Park, visitors can wander through beautifully manicured gardens that showcase distinct Japanese aesthetics. The park also offers some strategic vantage points, you can catch a panoramic view of Lake Ashi as well as Mount Fuji. You’ll also find a museum that offers a glimpse into the luxurious lives of Japan’s former royalties.
Located on the northern shores of Lake Ashi, Onshi Hakone Park’s location is easily accessible. Starting your journey from Hakone-Yumoto Station, you can take the Hakone Tozan Bus directly to the park. Just get off at Onshi-kōen-mae (bus stop no. 153). From there, you’re a 1 minute walk to the park.
11. Visit Gora Park
Located in the scenic mountainside of Hakone, Gora Park offers a unique fusion of Japanese natural beauty and Western-style design. Established in 1914, it’s known as Hakone’s first French-style landscape park. Gora Park is spread across almost 40,000 square meters.
Gora Park offers a number of experiences for visitors. You can lose yourself among its beautifully manicured gardens. A standout is the stunning tropical greenhouses, which showcases exotic plants. The park also has a serene tea house that offers authentic Japanese tea ceremonies.
Accessing Gora Park is easy. From Hakone-Yumoto Station, hop aboard the Hakone Tozan Railway to Gora Station (the end of the line). A leisurely 5 minute walk from there will lead you straight into the park. Alternatively, the Hakone Tozan Cable Car is also an option if you’re starting from the ropeway. Simply exit at Gora station and walk to the park.
If you have a Hakone Freepass, you can enter the park for free. Admission costs 550 Yen without the Freepass.
12. Take the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise (Pirate Ship)
The Hakone Sightseeing Cruise is one of the most popular attractions in Hakone. The cruise offers a unique vantage point to take in the region’s beauty.
During the cruise, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of Lake Ashi, the famous Torii gate of Hakone Shrine, and on a clear day, Mount Fuji. The lake is surrounded by beautiful tree-covered mountains.
The boat resembles a pirate ship. I don’t know why they chose that design but it’s kind of fun. The Lake Ashi sightseeing cruise takes 30-40 minutes depending on where you embark and disembark.
The Hakone Sightseeing Cruise operates between three ports: Moto-Hakone, Hakone-machi, and Togendai. To embark on this journey, visitors often start from the Hakone Ropeway at Togendai. Alternatively, you can start at Hakone-Yumoto station and take the Hakone Tozan Bus Line H or K to the Motohakone-kō stop (bus stop number OH67). From there, it’s a 1 minute walk to the Moto-Hakone port.
The Hakone Sightseeing Cruise costs 1200 Yen for a one way trip or 2220 Yen for a round trip. It’s included with the Hakone Freepass.
13. Go Shopping
Hakone is a great place to shop for souvenirs. The area around the Hakone Yumoto Station is a great starting point. The streets are lined with boutique shops. You can find traditional crafts as well as local products.
Another great place to shop is Moto-Hakone, near Lake Ashi. This area is also full of souvenir shops that stock everything from crafts to Japanese treats.
So, what should you bring back from this journey to Hakone? Hakone’s iconic Yosegi Zaiku should top your list. A Yosegi Zaiku is an intricate wood mosaic work, crafted with varying woods’ natural colors, that transforms into a box, tray, and even a puzzle.
For art enthusiasts, Hakone’s traditional glasswork can also make great souvenirs. These pieces are characterized by their delicate designs and vivid colors.
Food can also make a great souvenir. Hakone’s Kuro-Tamago (black eggs) can make a good souvenir, though they might be challenging to carry. Grabbing some Onsen Manju (steamed buns with sweet fillings) is also an option.
The Gotemba Premium Outlets are also a great shopping destination. This is one of the biggest shopping outlets in Japan. Here, you can find stores from many major American and European brands including Hugo Boss, Prada, Gap, Ralph Lauren, Godiva chocolates, and more.
Most of these stores offer tax-free shopping for tourists. Bring your passport. The Gotemba outlets are located a bit outside of Hakone. They are easy to access by train. You can also take the Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus to Gotemba.
Some Tips for Taking a Day Trip to Hakone
Start Early: To maximize your time in Hakone, try to depart from Tokyo as early as possible. Take the first train if you can. This ensures you get plenty of time to explore Hakone and enjoy the attractions. You’ll also get the most out of your Hakone Freepass. Remember, the pass works on a calendar day basis. It is valid for 2 or 3 calendar days, depending on the pass you buy. It is not valid for 48 or 72 hours.
Purchase the Hakone Freepass: The Hakone Freepass offers unlimited rides on local transport in Hakone. It also gives you discounts at various attractions. The pass is a cost-effective way to navigate Hakone. It’s easy and convenient to purchase the pass online. You can also purchase it in person at the station if you choose.
Pack Smart: Given Hakone’s varying altitudes and activities you’ll need to be prepared. Pack layers for warmth, a raincoat for wet weather, and comfortable walking shoes for hikes and sightseeing.
Check the weather before you go: Hakone’s weather can be unpredictable. Before leaving, check the forecast, especially if you’re keen on getting that perfect Mount Fuji view. The mountain is often covered by clouds. Particularly later in the day. It also rains frequently in Hakone. In fact, Hakone is one of the wettest places in Japan.
Embrace Local Etiquette at Onsens: Familiarize yourself with onsen rules. Always wash yourself before entering the communal bath and remember that swimsuits are typically not allowed. It’s also important to note that some onsens do not allow people with tattoos to enter. This usually isn’t an issue in Hakone because most onsens cater to tourists. You should still check the rules before you go just to be safe. In some cases, you can buy stickers or tap to cover your tattoos. Some onsens will accept this.
Cash is King: While major areas accept credit cards, many traditional establishments, especially in more secluded regions, may only accept cash. Make sure you have enough yen on hand. If you run out, you can always visit an ATM. There are ATMs all over Hakone. You can find them in convenience stores and transport stations.
Plan Your Route: Planning a Hakone day trip itinerary can be a bit confusing because there are so many modes of transport. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the Hakone transportation map before your visit so you have an idea of where everything is located. Having a rough Hakone itinerary helps in time management and ensures you don’t miss key sights.
Be Respectful: Hakone is a place with deep cultural roots. Respect local customs, especially in sacred spaces like shrines and temples.
FAQ About Hakone
Can You Visit Hakone as a Day Trip?
Yes. It is possible to do Hakone as a day trip if you’re pressed for time. You could travel to Hakone from Tokyo early in the morning, spend the day sightseeing, and then return to Tokyo late in the afternoon.
If you only have one day to spend in Hakone, you should catch one of the first trains out of Tokyo. There are trains leaving Shinjuku toward Odawara starting at 5:00 am. You can reach Hakone by mid-morning. This gives you a substantial chunk of the day to enjoy in Hakone.
You’ll have plenty of time to visit key attractions like the Hakone Open-Air Museum and Onshi Hakone Park. You’ll have time to complete the Hakone Round Course and even take a relaxing dip in an onsen.
In the evening, catch a late train back to Tokyo. There are trains leaving Odawara station until 12:43 am. This will be a long day but it is possible to travel to Hakone and see the main sites in a day.
Is 1 Day Enough in Hakone?
Yes. 1 day is enough to see Hakone. Especially if you only care to visit the main sites. For travelers with limited time or those looking to make the most of a quick escape from Tokyo, a day trip to Hakone can be rewarding.
The key to making the most of your time in Hakone in just a day is to take the Hakone Loop. This circuit will take you to the area’s prime attractions. You’ll experience Hakone’s natural beauty and cultural treasures in just 6-8 hours.
The loop efficiently strings together the major highlights, such as the Owakudani Valley, Lake Ashi, and the views of Mount Fuji. The evening is the perfect time to unwind in one of the region’s onsens. After relaxing in an onsen, treat yourself to an authentic Japanese meal. Once night falls, take some time to stargaze in Hakone, away from Tokyo’s bright lights. To cap off your day, nothing beats the charm of resting in a traditional Japanese hotel or ryokan. The following morning, you can catch the train back to Tokyo.
How Much Time Should I Spend in Hakone?
For most travelers, spending two days and one night is in Hakone enough. This allows you to see all of the main sites at a relaxed pace. You’ll also have some time for yourself to relax and unwind a bit.
If time is tight, you could see the main sites in one day but you will feel a bit rushed. A day trip will also be pretty exhausting. It’s a lot of transport.
If you want to maximize your visit, the Hakone Loop is your best bet. This popular circuit lets you experience the best of what Hakone has to offer within a single day.
After covering the main attractions on the first day, you can spend the next day soaking in Hakone’s tranquil charm. You can dive deeper into the cultural aspects with visits to lesser-known shrines or museums. Take a hike and discover secluded waterfalls or serene viewpoints. Alternatively, this can be your day to relax in an onsen.
My Experience Taking a Day Trip to Hakone
I took an overnight trip to Hakone with my best friend. We bought the Hakone Freepass online a couple of days before our trip.
On the first day, we got a late start because we had just hiked Mount Fuji the day before so we slept in. We left Tokyo at around 2 pm and arrived at our hotel in Hakone at around 5 pm. We stayed in the village of Miyanoshita.
The ride there was uneventful. Finding the train in Shinjuku was a bit of a challenge, just because the station is so big.
After checking into our hotel, we went to an onsen that was located just down the street. For 600 Yen we enjoyed relaxing in the hot mineral water. After an hour or so we went to dinner.
There weren’t very many restaurant options in town. After looking at a few menus, we settled on a burger joint called Funny’s. The place had kind of an American West/Route 66 theme going on. The waiter was wearing a cowboy hat and an American flag shirt.
My friend and I got a kick out of the American theme. It was kind of amusing eating in an American restaurant in Japan. The burger was also pretty good. They served a nice Japanese beef burger. After dinner, we returned to our hotel and went to sleep.
We woke up early to do the Hakone Round Course. After a quick breakfast at 7-Eleven, we walked to the Hakone Tozan train and rode to Gora. On the way, we took a brief stop to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum.
After that, we took the Hakone Tozan Cablecar up to Sōunzan. From there, we caught the Hakone Ropeway to the Owakudani Valley. We walked around and enjoyed the views and sampled a black egg.
From there, we continued on the ropeway to Togendai. Here, we transferred to the Sightseeing cruise. We enjoyed the views of the lake from the cruise and got off at Moto-Hakone Port.
We grabbed a quick lunch in Moto-Hakone then caught the Hakone Tozan bus back to Miyanoshita. There, we picked up our luggage at our hotel and then headed back to Tokyo. We arrived at our hotel in Tokyo at around 8 pm.
Is Hakone Worth Visiting?
Whether or not Hakone is worth visiting really depends on your preferences and what you’re looking for. Hakone makes for a perfect day trip from Tokyo. It’s only an hour and a half away. It’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The town is also absolutely beautiful. The mountains and Lake Ashi are spectacular. You can enjoy some great views of Mount Fuji. There is also some great hiking. The parks and green spaces are the best parts of Hakone, in my opinion.
Everything in the city is also well maintained. Everything works. The transportation system is extremely efficient and easy to use. It’s easy to get around.
The Hakone Freepass also works well. All transportation is included. You don’t have to fumble around with buying separate tickets all the time. This is convenient. You’ll also get discounts on most major attractions, which is nice.
Personally, I found Hakone to be a bit too touristy. It looks as if Disney built a Japanese-themed town. It didn’t feel very authentic. Really, it felt as if it was built for tourists. Also, many of the attractions also cater to couples and families. It’s a beautiful place but it felt a bit too polished. Still, I’m glad I went.
Final Thoughts About Visiting Hakone on a Day Trip
Hakone stands as a serene contrast to the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. It’s a laid-back mountain town located just outside of the world’s biggest city. Whether you’re wandering around the Hakone Open Air Museum, catching a view of Mount Fuji, or simply unwinding in an onsen after a day of exploring, a Hakone day trip promises an array of unforgettable experiences. Its proximity to Tokyo makes it an excellent destination for a day trip.
As you plan your journey, try to optimize your itinerary. Hakone is pretty spread out. The Hakone Loop offers an easy way to experience the region’s main attractions, but there’s much more to delve into if you can spare an extra day.
Have you been to Hakone? Share your experience in the comments below!
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Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and insights based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.