Hakone is the perfect place to relax and get away from the chaos of Tokyo as it’s only two hours away by train. It almost reminds me of Palm Springs back in California because it’s a place where many locals go to chill, is famous for its hot springs, all with the added benefit of being much cooler than the 100-degree Palm Springs. In order to make the most of your time there, we show you what to do, where to stay, and what to eat during your trip in Hakone.
How to Spend 24 Hours in Hakone:
Hakone is well known for its hot springs, or onsen in Japanese. While there are many in Hakone to choose from, we opted for a local, low-key one as it was easily accessible from our AirBnB. Like most hot springs, this hot spring was gender-divided. It is customary to shower before entering the hot spring and shampoo, conditioner, and soap are provided for guest use. Everyone typically disrobes completely and while it may seem uncomfortable if you’re coming from the States, people quickly adapt to it. As the steam rises from the hot water into the snappy air, with tree-covered mountains rising dramatically in the background, it’s easy to see why the onsens are so popular.
Another popular spot to visit is Lake Ashi and the nearby Hakone Shrine (whose red tori gates you can spot in the picture below). On clear days, you can spot Mount Fuji beyond the lake, but unfortunately it was too cloudy the day we went. However, seeing the shrine at night was still magical.
What to Eat:
Like every other place we visited in Japan, the food in Hakone was fantastic. We were originally set to go to a ramen place, but once we got there, we discovered that they were closed. We ended up going to a random bbq place instead and it was delicious. If the restaurant was back in the Bay Area, I could easily see there being an hour wait for a table. But this being the wonderful food mecca that is Japan, was just your average, typical restaurant. This country needs no Yelp.
How to Get There:
You can travel to Hakone from Tokyo by taking the Odakyu Railway from Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station to the Hakone-Yumoto Station. There is a “Romance Car” limited express that takes 85 minutes and costs 2080 yen/20USD. If you’re looking for something cheaper, you can take a slower express train, which takes about two hours, and costs 1190 yen/11USD.
If you’re planning on staying in Hakone longer, the Hakone Free Pass may be worthwhile. It offers a complete round trip from Tokyo to Hakone on the Odakyu line, unlimited use of various types of transportation in Hakone like the ropeway and buses, and discounts on various attractions.
*For more information on how to get to Hakone, click here.
Where to Stay:
We stayed at an AirBnB located in the residential part of town. The host was kind enough to pick us up from the train station and also drive us to dinner later in the day. The upper floors of the home were used for guests, while the lower floor functioned as a hair salon. The host also hooked us up with cheaper passes for the hot springs and they had this view of the surrounding mountains. Beautiful, ain’t it?
The Kit Kats in Japan come in so many different flavors! Each city tends to have different flavors available so my friends and I began to collect them like Pokemon as souvenirs for our friends and family back home. At Hakone, we found the Strawberry Cheesecake flavor, which shows Mount Fuji in the background, and the Premium Mint, which tasted like the Girl Scout Cookie, Thin Mints. I would highly recommend if you’re a fan of chocolate (either for yourself or for your friends/family).