Featuring hot-spring resorts, impressive museums, and a stunning view of Mt. Fuji, there is a lot to do in Hakone. Just 90 minutes from central Tokyo, in neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture, it’s a popular weekend gateway for Tokyoites. But what if you don’t have a whole weekend to spend there? Look no further, here is your ultimate Hakone day-trip guide.

With this tried-and-tested Hakone day-trip itinerary, you’ll be able to see the major sights like Ōwakudani and Lake Ashi, as well as do some of the things Hakone is most famous for — like soaking in an onsen. Can you do everything in Hakone in one day? Honestly, no. But with this itinerary, you’ll get a good sample of what Hakone has to offer. Keep in mind though, this itinerary makes for a very long day — consider yourself warned!

Setting off from Tokyo, for Hakone

First stop, Hakone-Yumoto Station. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station
¥1,270 to ¥4,190
1 to 2 hours

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In case you didn’t get the memo — this itinerary is for a very full, and very long, day! So you’ll need to set off from Tokyo bright and early. Luckily, there are lots of options for getting from Tokyo to Hakone, including the Shinkansen, local trains, and buses. The usual rule of thumb applies: speedy transport will cost you more.

We opted for the regular Odakyu Line rapid-express train. This takes around 90 minutes and costs ¥1,270. However, we bought the 2-day Hakone Free Pass for ¥6,100, which included round-trip tickets from Shinjuku Station. It also gave us free transport within Hakone, and covered entry fees for some attractions. More about this travel pass later.

You can pay an extra ¥1,200 to take the Romance Car, a special limited-express train with reserved-only seating. It’s a little faster, getting you to Hakone-Yumoto in 80 minutes.

Regardless of the mode of transport, you should aim to arrive at Hakone-Yumoto Station by around 9 a.m. to make the most of your day in Hakone.

The morning: Hakone Shrine and Lake Ashi

The line to take photos at the iconic torii gate at Hakone Shrine. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Bus from Hakone-Yumoto Station to Hakone Jinja Iriguchi bus stop
Bus tickets are ¥1,080 one way (free with the Hakone Free Pass)
40 minutes

After arriving at Hakone-Yumoto Station, you’ll need to catch a bus to your next destination. The bus stops are on the opposite side of the main road to the station, near the Tourist Information Center. Catch either the H or K bus, and get off at the Hakone Jinja Iriguchi (箱根 神社 入口) stop.

From here, follow the signs for Hakone Shrine. It’s about 700 meters from the bus stop through a retail and commercial area. You’ll be able to see Lake Ashi to your left, and if you’d like to, you can instead follow the path along the lake to the shrine.

Hakone Shrine

Hakone Shrine | Photo by Maria Danuco

Entry is free

When you reach the entrance of the shrine, you’ll see stairs leading up to the main area. But instead, we recommend taking the path to the left along the river. This will lead you over a small (but very cute) red bridge and then to the iconic torii gate. Trust us, the torii gate is much bigger than you expect it to be. And unfortunately, so is the line of people waiting to take a photo under it. You can join the line if you like, or head up to the main shrine.

Shrine to the right, lakeside path to the torii on the left. | Photo by Maria Danuco

At the main shrine, you can explore away from the crowd of the torii gate. Once you’re finished checking out the shrine, walk back towards the lake. When you reach the edge of the lake, you’ll be able to see the port where the famous Hakone pirate ship docks. That’s where you want to go next.

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Lake Ashi

Paddleboats at Lake Ashi in Hakone. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Along the shore of Lake Ashi, you’ll see plenty of people fishing, and paddleboats for hire. While this may be tempting, you probably won’t have time for it today. Instead, you should head straight to the dock for the pirate ship.

This is because the pirate ship, while incredibly famous, has irregular departure times. If you miss it, you may have to wait over an hour for the next one. It’s better to check the timetable at the dock, before deciding to do anything else. If you do have some time, you can indeed go for a paddle.

Or if you’re hungry, head to the nearby Bakery & Table for a mid-morning snack. There is a bakery on the first floor, a café on the second, and a restaurant on the third.

We recommend getting something from the first floor and then eating while soaking your feet in the footbath on the terrace. Yes, this bakery has a footbath. Keep in mind that while it is free, you’re encouraged to be mindful of others who may be waiting to use it. Also, Bakery & Table charges a different rate of tax depending on whether you dine in or do takeaway. Dine-in tax is an additional 10%, while takeaway is 8%. Takeaway is a totally reasonable option, as there are plenty of benches and places to sit along the lakeside; just be prepared to carry your trash with you, as there are no public trash cans.

Midday: The Pirate Boat and Ōwakudani

Sightseeing ship at lake Ashi and Mountain Fuji in background
A pirate’s life for you. | Photo by Getty Images

Boat cruise from Motohakone Pier to Tōgendai
Pirate boat tickets are ¥1,200 one way (free with the Hakone Free Pass)
40 minutes

When it’s getting close to the departure time, head over to the dock for the pirate ship. It’s not a bad idea to go early and get in line, as the pirate ship doesn’t have any reserved seats. There are indoor and outdoor sections and you can move freely between them, but the seats in the indoor area tend to fill up quickly.

Pro tip: The right side of the Hakone pirate boat is best for views of the torii and Mt. Fuji.

The pirate boat docks at Tōgendai, and here’ll you transfer to the ropeway to get to Ōwakudani. There isn’t much to see or do around Tōgendai, so you won’t be missing out on anything. However, if you’re hungry you can always grab something to eat at Tōgendai View Restaurant (link in Japanese). It’s not too fancy, but has a nice view over the lake. You can buy fairly standard Japanese fare there, including a variety of Japanese curries and hamburger steak dishes.

Ōwakudani

Hakone hot springs
It can get a little steamy around these parts. | Photo by iStock.com/Shubhashish5

Ropeway from Tōgendai Ropeway Station to Ōwakudani Ropeway Station
Ropeway tickets are ¥1,250 one way (free with the Hakone Free Pass)
15 minutes

When you arrive at Ōwakudani brace yourself — it smells. Once you’ve gotten past the sulfurous whiff, Ōwakudani has a few options for things to do. You can, of course, just admire the geysers from above, and there are even binoculars you can use. There is also a nature trail, and several other hiking trails, but you won’t really have time for those.

If you’d like to know more about the geysers, then you can pay a quick visit to the Hakone Geo Museum. Entry is ¥100 (not covered by the Hakone Free Pass), and there is a lot of information that has been translated into English.

Want a taste? | Photo by Alex Ziminski

There are also a couple of souvenir shops you can check out. A popular souvenir here is the Ōwakudani black egg. These eggs are so popular, in fact, there’s a statue of one you can take a photo with.

The black Hakone eggs are made by boiling regular chicken eggs in Ōwakudani’s sulfurous water. They certainly look impressive, but we’ll be honest — they taste like normal eggs.

If you’d rather snag a tastier souvenir, there are several kinds of black-egg themed cookies, cakes, and manjū (a cake-like pastry). Some are limited editions that are only sold at Ōwakudani, but others you also can find at souvenir shops around Hakone-Yumoto station. There’s no major price difference though, so there’s no harm in picking them up here.

Once you’re satisfied — or the smell has gotten to you — it’s time to continue on to Gōra.

Afternoon: Gōra and Gōra Park

Gora Park fountain
Gōra Park. | Photo by iStock.com/Hiro1775

Ōwakudani Ropeway Station to Kōen-Shimo Station (transfer to Hakone Tōzan Cable Car at Sōunzan Station)
Ropeway and cable car tickets are ¥1,290 total one way (free with the Hakone Free Pass)
20 minutes

Our next stop for the day is Gōra. Take the ropeway from Ōwakudani, transferring to the Hakone Tōzan Cable Car at Sōunzan Station. The cable car to Gōra has several stops along the way. We got off at Kōen-Shimo Station to visit Gōra Park.

If parks aren’t really your thing, or the weather is less than ideal, you could opt to visit a museum instead. The Hakone Museum of Art is close to Gōra Park, as is the Hakone Museum of Photography, although neither are covered by the Hakone Free Pass.

Once you’ve finished wandering around Gōra Park (or one of the museums), you can walk to Gōra Station. You could go back to the ropeway station and take that to Gōra Station, but the walk is short and pleasant. Plus, the ropeway can get quite crowded and therefore can be difficult to board.

Around Gōra Station, there are once again opportunities for shopping and dining. When you’re ready, hop on the train for Hakone-Yumoto Station.

Gōra Park

A greenhouse at Gōra Park. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Entry is ¥550 (free with the Hakone Free Pass)

Gōra Park is a French-style garden — supposedly the first of its kind in Japan. It has a large fountain, greenhouses, and plenty of trees and flowers to admire.

We visited during early spring, so we were treated to some early-blooming cherry blossoms and other spring flowers, but it’s a pleasant garden to visit all-year round. There are a couple of cafés inside the park grounds, so it’s a good chance to get some lunch or afternoon tea if you’re feeling peckish.

Alternative activity: Hakone Open Air Museum

The Hakone Open Air Museum. | Photo by Aimee Gardner

Entry is ¥1,600 (free with the Hakone Free Pass)

Another idea is to skip Gōra Park, and instead head to the Hakone Open Air Museum. To do this, ride the ropeway all the way to Gōra Station and then take the train to Chokoku-no-mori Station.

Just keep in mind that the Hakone Open Air Museum is huge, and you may not be able to see everything in the limited time you have there.

Evening: Relax in a hot spring and grab some dinner

Osone Izakaya is a great spot to grab a bite to eat in Hakone. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Train from Gōra Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station
Train tickets are ¥460 one way (free with the Hakone Free Pass)
35 minutes

Once you’ve arrived at Hakone-Yumoto, you have a choice to make: dinner or onsen first? The answer is totally up to you, but you need to consider how much time you have — you don’t want to miss the train back to Tokyo.

In general, most restaurants around Hakone-Yumoto Station open for dinner around 5 or 6 p.m. and close by 9 or 10 p.m. Meanwhile, our recommended onsen in the area — Kappa Tengoku — is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (9 p.m. on weekends). There are other onsen nearby, but Kappa Tengoku is by far the most convenient.

We had some time, so we went to Kappa Tengoku first. It’s conveniently located right above Hakone-Yumoto Station, so it’s just a two-minute walk. For day visitors, the onsen costs ¥900 for adults and ¥400 for children. Keep in mind that this doesn’t include a towel. Also, note that small tattoos are okay, but you might be turned away if you have large ones. To be safe, we recommend covering even the small ones with e.g. a bandage.

If you don’t feel like the full hot-spring experience, you can use the footbath instead. It uses an honor system, so just deposit the money in the silver post box attached to a pole. For adults, it’s ¥200 and for kids it’s ¥100.

Soak those tired feet in the footbath at Kappa Tengoku. | Photo by Maria Danuco

For dinner, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, ranging from classic Japanese cuisine to Italian and French options. We decided to try out Osone Izakaya, a small Japanese tavern operated by an elderly couple. It’s just a short walk from the station. You can expect a range of freshly made meal sets (teishoku), and a charming homely atmosphere.

Once your tummy is full and you’ve had your fill of the onsen, it’s time to head back into Tokyo from Hakone-Yumoto Station.

Hakone day tour packages

Exhausted? Yeah, we said it’d be a long day. An alternative approach to a Hakone day trip — and honestly the easiest way to squeeze everything in — is to book a package tour. Here are some that we recommend:

For those who like things simple and straightforward: Mt. Fuji and Hakone day tour

From ¥13,980
Book here

This day tour departs from Shinjuku via bus and takes you to both Mt. Fuji and Hakone. After visiting Mt. Fuji’s 5th Station, you’ll head to Ōwakudani, and then finish the day with a sightseeing cruise on the famous pirate ship. You have the option to change your return journey to a Shinkansen ticket or go your own way, as well as add on lunch.

For those who like their privacy: Hakone full-day private tour

¥48,000 for up to five adults, can accommodate up to 10 for an additional fee
Book here

This tour is perfect if you’re traveling in a group, and already have a clear idea of where you’d like to go. You can pick from a list of three to four sites, ensuring a fully customized tour. There is an option to upgrade the tour to include a private vehicle instead of public transport.

For those who want a different kind of view: Helicopter tour from Tokyo to Hakone

¥320,000 for up to three adults
Book here

Here’s a way-out-there one that almost definitely requires you to plant some trees afterwards. Sure, this is pricier than spending a weekend in Hakone, but how many people can say they’ve seen Mt. Fuji from a helicopter? This whirlwind tour lasts for 70 minutes and will give you stunning views the whole time. Well, provided the weather is good anyway.

The Hakone Free Pass: What you need to know

You can use a QR code for your Hakone Free pass — just go to a manned ticket gate and touch the panel. | Photo by Alex Ziminski

¥6,100 2-day pass/ ¥6,500 3-day pass
Buy the Hakone Free Pass online

The Hakone Free Pass is a special travel pass that covers transport within the Hakone area. It also gives free or discounted entry to a number of attractions, and discounts at certain stores.

You can choose between a 2-day or 3-day pass. You can also decide whether you want the pass to include round-trip transport from Shinjuku Station. We wanted to test if the Hakone Free Pass was worth it just for a day trip, so we bought the 2-day pass, including the round-trip train fare from Shinjuku.

Note that if you want to take the fancy Romance Car limited express train, you’ll need to pay an extra fee.

Is the Hakone Free Pass worth it for a day trip?

Yes. Based on our day-trip experience, it worked out to good value.

If you did this itinerary without the Hakone Free Pass, it would cost you ¥8,460, including the round-trip from Shinjuku. Since the 2-day pass is ¥6,100, you end up saving ¥2,360.

Is a day trip to Hakone actually worth it?

Were you exhausted just reading all that? Then imagine how we felt actually doing it! No really though, Hakone is a fantastic place to visit, but the truth is that the attractions are quite spread out. You’ll spend a lot of time traveling between them if you really want to see them all.

Instead, for a more relaxing day trip, pick just Gōra, Ōwakudani, or Lake Ashi and spend more time in that one area. Check out our more general Hakone day-trip guide to help with the planning. However, keep in mind that if you do just stick to one area, you probably won’t need the Hakone Free Pass.

If you want to do everything, then get the Hakone Free Pass and use it for the full two or three days. Hakone makes for a relaxing weekend trip from Tokyo — it’s easy to get to and, as you now know, it has a lot to offer. It’s just a bit much if you want to pack everything into one day.

Looking for more day-trip ideas? Then we recommend checking out Kamakura for the giant Buddha, Odawara for its beautiful castle, and Enoshima for beachy vibes.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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