Hey everyone! I’m Dave – originally from Orange County, California. Thanks for stopping by my travel guide on the best things to do in Hakone, Japan.
My first major experience traveling/living abroad was during two different study abroad experiences in Europe (which completely changed my life). After graduating from college with my Bachelor’s Degree, I ended up landing my dream job of being a travel guide around Europe for two years.
My blog was a hobby for the first two to three years, but after networking and meeting bloggers who were making a living with the nomadic lifestyle, I was able to grow my website and social media and do the same!
15 Incredible Days in Japan
I had been dreaming of visiting Japan for a long time, but never made it that way during my years living and working around Southeast Asia. Fortunately, this Public Relations company reached out to me and invited me out to Japan to explore some of their smaller/hidden gem destinations.
We actually had planned the trip in November, but due to some scheduling issues, we switched it up to February – which I thought was perfect since it happened during my birthday. In total, I spent 15 days in Japan and I literally checked-in and out of a hotel every single day!
That’s one of the downfalls of being a travel blogger on assignment. The Public Relations company planned a pretty intense travel itinerary for me – so it was definitely hectic, but also absolutely incredible.
My trip started out by landing in Tokyo, then immediately hopping on a two hour train ride to Kanazawa. From there I visited Nanto and the Gassho-style houses before heading up to Niigata. I then took the ferry over to Sado Island to spend a full day exploring as much of the island as possible.
I took the ferry back from Sado to Nigata and hopped on a flight to Fukuoka, so I could hop on the train to Oita City. I spent a day exploring Oita and Kannawa and some other spots (check my blog for full itineraries and things to do), and then hopped on a plane up to Tokyo for a night.
My final adventure would be catching the train down to Hakone.
Why Hakone is so Special
Hakone has got something for everyone! It’s a popular onsen destination with incredible resorts to stay in, tons of fun things to do and delicious food. On my first day it was raining and foggy, but I enjoyed it!
There are massive trees everywhere in Hakone. It’s the perfect place for outdoor lovers. I was obsessed with the way the fog was rolling through the trees while sightseeing. I spent about two and a half days in the mountainous town of Hakone and stayed at two different hotels.
The first day was a bit rainy. So we did some of the more cultural places like their amazing woodwork/art shop, visiting Hakone Shrine and just walking around. The next day we did the iconic Hakone Gondola and scenic boat cruise across Lake Ashi, as well as visiting the Hakone Open-Air Museum.
This was a fantastic first day. Each night I spent relaxing in private onsens at the hotels – one of which I had an onsen on my own back patio! My favorite place that I visited was the Hakone Shrine and Torii Gate. The walkways were lovely and, with the foggy ambience, it just felt so serene.
Top 5 Things To Do in Hakone
Like I said before, there is a lot to see and do in Hakone. From the onsen scene, to world-class museums and workshops, to amazing resorts and hotels. There is something for everyone. Below are my top 5 must-do’s!
Impeccable Food of Hakone
The food in Japan is impeccable and Hakone is no different. If you stay at some of the nicer hotels, they will provide a massive meal for dinner included in the price of your stay which is awesome. But my favorite thing I had in Hakone was the Pork Cutlet with Curry at Hotoriya Restaurant.
It was unbelievably good! I highly recommend stopping there for lunch.
Staying at Hotel Hatsuhana
Hotel Hatsuhana was my favorite hotel because I had the private onsen on my patio and the food was delicious! I also spent one night at the newly opened Hakone Yutowa which was a more standard hotel, but had one of the most amazing beds. They also have private onsens which are great.
Favorite Experience from Hakone
I would say my dinner and stay at Hotel Hatsuhana was my favorite experience. During my Japan trip, I got addicted to the onsen lifestyle and being able to soak in the privacy of my hotel room was epic! I soaked once before dinner, once after and in the morning. I took advantage of it! Lol.
Need to Know Before you Go
The main tip I can give is to make sure you take advantage of the public transport system and understand the tourist loop. Also, bring comfortable shoes as the days are quite long and you will be busy exploring all of the incredible places in Hakone! You can read more on my blog here.
Thanks for reading my guide on the best things to do in Hakone, Japan. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or would like more info.