We were simply mesmerised by this experience and after intense four days in Tokyo, we found Hakone to be a great opportunity to relax, unwind and enjoy a hot spring bath.

Join us as we embark on a journey through Hakone’s enchanting landscapes, cultural treasures, and culinary delights, discovering why this picturesque town has captured the hearts of travellers from around the world. Read more below why you should include Hakone in your Japan itinerary.


Nestled in the scenic Kanagawa Prefecture, Hakone is a charming town renowned for its natural beauty, hot springs, and stunning views of Mount Fuji. Just a short train ride away from Tokyo, Hakone offers a perfect escape from the bustling city life, providing visitors with a tranquil retreat surrounded by lush forests, serene lakes, and majestic mountains.

Its strategic location along the historic Tokaido Road, a vital trade route during the Edo period, has left a lasting imprint on the town’s architecture, cuisine, and traditions.

Today, Hakone seamlessly blends traditional Japanese charm with modern amenities, offering visitors a delightful blend of old-world charm and contemporary comfort.

Whether you’re seeking relaxation in natural hot springs, exploring ancient shrines and temples, or admiring breathtaking vistas from mountain peaks, Hakone has something to offer every traveller.

Travel to and Around Hakone

Getting to Hakone is a breeze, thanks to its convenient access from Tokyo and other major cities in Japan. We travelled to Hakone as part of our 2 week Japan itinerary in November 2023.

The most popular route is via the Odakyu Romancecar Limited Express train, which departs from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo and takes approximately 85 minutes to reach Hakone-Yumoto Station, the gateway to Hakone.

Alternatively, you can take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen to Odawara Station and transfer to the Hakone Tozan Railway or a bus bound for Hakone. From Odawara Station there is also onward travel with bullet trains to Kyoto and the rest of the country.

If you are looking for an organised trip from Tokyo, check out this Mt. Fuji & Hakone One Day Trip from Tokyo experience.

As we had the Hakone Free Pass with basic Odakyu Line train tickets included (so not the Romancecar a.k.a Limited Express service) we used that to get to Odawara. You can find the timetable here for your reference.

The advantage of the Romancecar Limited Express Service is that it takes you straight to Hakone from Tokyo, no changes needed, but it comes at an extra cost.

Also to note regarding Odawara Station, if you have a lot of luggage and are planning to explore Hakone before checking in at your accommodation, then it might be a good idea to use one of the many coin operated lockers available at the station.

Having said this, if you have suitcases, it might best to arrive in the morning so you are sure you get the adequate lockers for your luggage. We arrived at 10 am and there was only 1 locker left that could fit our suitcase.

Once you’ve arrived in Hakone, getting around the area is a seamless experience, thanks to its efficient public transportation network. The Hakone Free Pass is a must-have for visitors, offering unlimited travel on trains, buses, cable cars, ropeways, and even a pirate ship on Lake Ashi within the Hakone region.

Available for 2 or 3 consecutive days, the pass provides exceptional value and flexibility, allowing you to explore Hakone’s attractions at your own pace. We think the 2 day pass is more than enough if you are planning to do what’s known as the Hakone Loop.

Where to Stay in Hakone

Hakone offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every taste and budget, from luxurious ryokans and hot spring resorts to cozy guesthouses and modern hotels. Whether you’re seeking traditional Japanese hospitality or contemporary comforts, you’ll find the perfect place to stay in this picturesque town.

For a truly authentic experience, consider staying at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn known for its tatami mat floors, futon bedding, and soothing hot spring baths.

Many ryokans in Hakone are nestled amidst serene natural surroundings, offering guests a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. Indulge in kaiseki cuisine, a multi-course meal featuring seasonal delicacies, and unwind in private outdoor onsen baths while soaking in panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Many accommodations in Hakone offer panoramic vistas of Mount Fuji from their guest rooms, communal baths, and outdoor observation decks, providing the perfect backdrop for a memorable stay. We stood at Mount View Hakone offering one of the best ryokan experiences in Hakone at decent prices.

We would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. Use the widget below to find the best accommodation in Hakone for your specific dates.

Best Time to Visit Hakone

Choosing the perfect time to visit Hakone is essential to fully appreciate the diverse offerings of this captivating destination. Each season brings its own unique charm and experiences, allowing travellers to tailor their visit based on personal preferences.

  • Spring (March to May): The moderate temperatures and blooming flora create an ideal environment for outdoor activities and scenic walks. Strolling through Hakone’s parks, such as Hakone Gōra Park, becomes a magical experience as cherry blossoms cascade from the trees, creating a serene and picturesque atmosphere.
  • Summer (June to August): Summer brings warmer temperatures, making it an excellent time to explore Hakone’s outdoor attractions. The lush greenery is at its peak during this season, providing a vibrant backdrop for activities such as hiking, boat cruises on Lake Ashi, and leisurely walks through the Hakone Open-Air Museum’s sculpture-filled gardens.
  • Autumn (September to November): As temperatures cool down, Hakone transforms into a tapestry of autumnal hues. The surrounding mountains and forests come alive with vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows, creating a breathtaking panorama. We went during November and found the autumn colors to be marvelous and the temperatures not too cold.
  • Winter (December to February): Winter casts a serene and tranquil ambiance over Hakone, with occasional snowfall adding a touch of magic to the landscape. The Hakone Winter Illumination at the Open-Air Museum adds an extra layer of charm, with dazzling light displays against the snowy backdrop.

Things to do in Hakone

There are plenty of things to do in Hakone and you can easily fill your day and even a weekend. We believe Hakone is great for 2 or 3 days. If you don’t wish to do an overnight stay in Hakone, you can also just do a day trip from Tokyo to Hakone and back.

Below is our 1 day Hakone itinerary:

1. Have a Tea at Amazake Tea House

Tucked away amidst the tranquil surroundings of Hakone’s lush forests, the Amazake Tea House offers a delightful respite for weary travellers seeking to immerse themselves in traditional Japanese culture and hospitality.

Amazake Tea House is renowned for its signature amazake, a traditional Japanese beverage made from fermented rice. Served warm or cold, this sweet and creamy drink is a popular choice among visitors seeking a refreshing and nutritious treat.

We also tried the tea on offer which was basic black tea but pretty good on a cold Autumn day. We also had some mochis however, unlike the typical rounded ones, this ones were rectangular and more like a slab.

Stepping through the wooden entrance of the Amazake Tea House feels like entering a hidden sanctuary, where the hustle and bustle of modern life fade away, replaced by the soothing sounds of flowing water and rustling leaves.

The tea house’s minimalist architecture and traditional design evoke a sense of serenity and tranquility, providing the perfect setting for a peaceful retreat.

2. Pay your Respects at Hakone Shrine

Believed to have been founded in the 8th century, this sacred Shinto sanctuary has long been revered as a place of worship and pilgrimage, drawing visitors from far and wide to pay homage to its divine presence and seek blessings for prosperity and good fortune.

One of the most iconic features of the Hakone Shrine is its picturesque red torii gate, which stands partially submerged in the waters of Lake Ashi.

This striking symbol of Shinto spirituality is a popular subject for photographers and artists, its vivid vermilion hue contrasting beautifully with the tranquil blues and greens of the surrounding landscape.

As a tip, the gate is very much a tourist hotspot for people wishing to take their photos. Don’t get discouraged when seeing the queue. It will always be long no matter the day or time.

What we and others did, we just became more creative with the angles we took our photos so that it covers the people behind us. In this way we managed to be time efficient and move on to the next stops on our itinerary.

3. Take a Pirate Cruise on Lake Ashi

Lake Ashi, also known as Ashinoko, is a stunning crater lake formed over 3,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption. Surrounded by verdant forests, rolling hills, and majestic mountains and on a good day you can even see the iconic Mount Fuji.

One of the highlights of visiting Lake Ashi is the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, a delightful journey across the tranquil waters aboard a replica pirate ship. Included with the Hakone Free Pass, this iconic cruise offers visitors a unique and memorable way to explore the lake and its surrounding attractions.

The basic Hakone Free Pass offers access to the standard seating area. For an upgrade you can stay in the VIP area but we thought that wasn’t need as you want to watch the nearby scenery as the ship sails through.

This leg of the Hakone Loop served very well as an opportunity to stretch our legs and have a snack whilst watching the passing by scenery. It definitely reminded us of our boat trip on Lake Como.

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4. See the Panoramic Views on the Hakone Ropeway

The Hakone Ropeway offers visitors a thrilling aerial journey through Hakone’s stunning volcanic landscape, providing panoramic views of Mount Fuji, the Owakudani Valley, and Lake Ashi. This scenic cable car ride is a highlight of any visit to Hakone, offering passengers a unique perspective of the region’s natural beauty and geological wonders.

The journey begins at Sounzan Station, where passengers board the spacious gondolas that soar gracefully into the sky, ascending over 400 meters to Owakudani Station.

As the gondolas climb higher into the mountains, the landscape below undergoes a dramatic transformation, revealing the rugged beauty of Owakudani, also known as the “Great Boiling Valley.” This volcanic crater is home to steaming vents, sulfurous hot springs, and active fumaroles, creating an otherworldly landscape reminiscent of a lunar landscape.

Upon reaching Owakudani, visitors are treated to panoramic views of the surrounding volcanic landscape. From this station, on a good day, you can also see Mount Fuji, which we mostly saw for a few minutes before being lost in the mystical clouds and fog.

5. Eat an Egg at Owakudani

One of the highlights of a visit to Owakudani is the opportunity to witness the traditional method of cooking black eggs in the naturally occurring hot springs.

These eggs, known as “Kuro-tamago,” are boiled in the sulfurous waters of Owakudani, turning their shells black and imbuing them with a unique flavour. According to local legend, eating one of these eggs is said to add seven years to one’s life, making them a popular souvenir for visitors seeking a taste of longevity.

We had to test it ourselves and so we decided to try these eggs. You might think they are salty in taste but actually they’re not. They taste like a regular boiled eggs. Regarding the seven years bit, I guess we will have to wait and see on that one.

6. Check out Hakone Gōra Park

Getting here means you simply stop at Koen-Kami station on the Tozan cable car line and walk downwards for a bit. After visiting the park the next station along the line is Koen Shimo which takes you to the last stop, Hakone.

The park’s meticulously manicured landscapes feature a diverse array of plant species, including colourful flowers, towering trees, and exotic shrubs, providing a feast for the senses at every turn.

One of the highlights of Hakone Gōra Park is its stunning collection of seasonal blooms, which transform the landscape into a kaleidoscope of colours throughout the year. In spring, cherry blossoms blanket the park in delicate pink hues, while in summer, vibrant azaleas and hydrangeas add a splash of colour to the lush greenery.

In autumn, the foliage bursts into fiery shades of red, orange, and yellow, creating a breathtaking panorama that attracts visitors from near and far. For us in November the colours were simply stunning and found the park to be magnificent with its stunning display of flora set against the Hakone mountainous background.

7. Visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum

The Hakone Open-Air Museum stands as a testament to the beauty of art and nature in perfect harmony. Spanning over 70,000 square meters, this expansive outdoor museum is a celebration of creativity and innovation, showcasing a diverse collection of modern and contemporary sculptures set against the backdrop of lush gardens, rolling hills, and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

One of the museum’s most popular attractions is the Picasso Pavilion, which houses an extensive collection of works by the legendary Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. You can also find the expansive sculpture garden featuring over 120 masterpieces by renowned artists from around the world.

Overall, we found the museum to be an interesting collection of works of art set against nature’s work of art. We would say, it’s a different way to experience art.

Where to Eat in Hakone

Places to eat in Hakone tend to be more limited as the vast majority of travellers either have accommodation booked with board or they just came for the day. There are some places to eat near Lake Ashi and in Owakudani.

Typically what most people indulge themselves in is staying at a ryokan to sample fine dining cuisine called kaiseki.

A kaiseki dinner in a ryokan is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal that emphasises seasonality, presentation, and craftsmanship. Kaiseki is typically served in a private dining room within the ryokan or in a communal dining area, which is what we had.

Read more about Kaiseki dining and read about our experience at a ryokan where we stood in the best apartment the venue offered.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, a visit to Hakone is an unforgettable journey through Japan’s natural beauty, cultural heritage, and artistic expression. From the serene shores of Lake Ashi to the majestic vistas of Mount Fuji, every corner of Hakone offers a glimpse into the soul of this enchanting destination.

Whether you’re soaking in a hot spring bath, exploring ancient shrines and temples, or admiring contemporary art in the open air, Hakone invites you to slow down, savour the moment, and embrace the beauty of the present.

With its timeless landscapes, rich traditions, and warm hospitality, Hakone leaves a lasting impression on all who visit, beckoning them to return again and again to experience its magic anew.

Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:

  • Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.

  • Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.

  • Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide, Klook or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.

  • Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.

  • Internet abroad – with Airalo or Nomad you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.

  • Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.

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