There are lots of things to do in Hakuba while on your ski holiday. Whether you are having a day off skiing or travelling in a group with some non-skiers, there are some nice activities to be enjoyed. There are some local experiences within the Hakuba Valley not to be missed and also some fantastic things to do a little further afield in the wider Nagano region. Nagano prefecture is a mountainous region of Japan which offers a rich cultural experience, with abundant sightseeing opportunities suited to all types of visitors.
Indulge in Hakuba Onsen
Bathing in a natural thermal hot spring is a quintessential and unmissable experience for any visitor to Japan!READ MORE
Thanks to Japan’s prolific geothermal volcanic activity, it’s hard not to stumble upon an onsen on your travels, and the Hakuba Valley is no exception. Whether you make an afternoon of it or enjoy a relaxing evening soak before bed, visiting a Hakuba onsen is an activity in itself. This ancient and traditional ritual is extremely popular with the Japanese and we can see why. The thermal waters are full of minerals with healing properties, which leave you feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and warm to the core. Onsen bathing is quite simply the perfect anecdote to cold snowy winter conditions. Not only that, your tired muscles will be soothed and ready for another big day on the Hakuba slopes.
So, we’ve convinced you, but where can you find onsens in Hakuba? Thankfully, Hakuba has an abundant supply of thermal hot springs located all over the village. You’ll find both public and hotel onsens. It is very often possible to pay a fee to use hotel onsens in Hakuba as a non-guest, and these are undoubtedly some of the best onsens in Hakuba.
Popular Hakuba hot springs include: Happo Onsen (public), Shobei-noyu at Mominoki Hotel, Tenjin-noyu at Hakuba Highland Hotel, Mimizuku Onsen (public), Mizubasho Onsen at Sierra Resort Hotel and Hotel Green Plaza Onsen at Hakuba Cortina Ski Resort.
Visitors travel to Japan from all over the world for the ultimate powder experience, and Hakuba offers some of the best.READ MORE
While Hakuba has long been renowned for it’s piste skiing, it is also the host of some of Japan’s true powder highlights. Tree skiing in Cortina and Tsugaike offer some of the best, but caution should always be taken to stay within the boundaries. Venturing into the backcountry, especially the renowned North Face is highly recommended with the assistance of a qualified local guide.
Eat Out at Hakuba Restaurants
A true highlight of any Hakuba ski holiday is undoubtedly enjoying the amazing and diverse food of Japan.READ MORE
From cheap eats to fine dining and everything in between, there are literally endless restaurant options in Hakuba, many just a short stroll away from the popular accommodation spots.
You’ll find numerous local Hakuba restaurants specialising in a variety of different traditional Japanese cuisines, with everything from sushi to ramen and yakitori to wagyu on offer. We highly recommend trying ‘Shinshu soba’ at least once while visiting Hakuba. Buckwheat soba noodles are a Nagano speciality and not to be missed. You’ll find numerous Soba restaurants in Hakuba and some of our favourites include: Zen, Riki, Maeda, Futaba Soba, Nagomi-tei and Issei.
For those looking for some home comforts, fear not, there are lots of excellent western style and child friendly restaurants in Hakuba too. Sounds Like Café is hands down our favourite breakfast and afternoon coffee (and delicious cake!) spot, while Hakuba Pizza and Morino Pizza are both great options for takeaway/delivery pizza. The Taproom (at Panorama Hotel) and The Pub (at Mominoki Hotel) offer superb western pub style food.
For a refined fine-dining experience, we recommend trying: Mimi’s (inside the Phoenix Hotel), LUCE (at Mountain Side), Nikumasa and Denenshi.
Lots of popular Hakuba restaurants are located in the buzzing Echoland district, which features a main street lined with bars, restaurants and cafes. You won’t be stuck for options to choose from in this popular area of Hakuba. Our top Hakuba Echoland restaurant picks include: Cherry Pub (great stone-fired pizza), Jing Hua (Singapore style dumplings), Cantina (Mexican), Sarugaku (Japanese izakaya), Campfire Sushi (sushi), Marukame (Yakiniku bbq) and Hie (Japanese izakaya).
Visit Nagano City
Many visitors to the Hakuba Valley will pass through Nagano city en-route to the ski resort village.READ MORE
Known around the world as the venue for the 1998 Winter Olympics, there are lots of things to do in Nagano. Located less than 1 hour from Hakuba, it’s well worth the effort to visit if you have time for a day trip or even an overnight stopover on your way back to Tokyo. This modern city has plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes to enjoy, but the real highlight offers a rich cultural experience.
Nagano city is the capital of Nagano prefecture and is home to Zenkoji, a 7th century Buddhist temple. Established in 642AD Zenkoji temple is said to be home to the first Buddhist statue ever brought to Japan, giving the temple great historical and cultural significance. From Nagano station it’s roughly a 30 minute walk to Zenkoji temple. We recommend taking your time to enjoy a leisurely stroll from downtown, taking in Zenkoji Nakamise Street as you near Zenkoji. This very photogenic street is filled with historic shrines, craft shops, cafes and food stalls. The Zenkoji temple grounds are quite large, so there’s lots to see in addition to the temple itself. Visiting Zenkoji is a fantastic opportunity to soak up some of Japan’s rich cultural history, not to mention zen atmosphere!
Explore Hakuba Nightlife
Hakuba offers vibrant nightlife with a selection of bars and club, as well as welcoming Japanese izakayas. Kampai!READ MORE
Whether you are looking for a sophisticated venue to sip some fine wine, a pub serving craft beer or a hot spot to dance the night away, Hakuba has it all with something for everyone.
Echoland is Hakuba’s premier and popular nightlife and dining district. Located about half way up Echoland’s main street you’ll find Mockingbird, a popular local bar owned and run by Ken san. The interior features some very cool mural style art and lots of driftwood. A great spot to soak up the chilled vibe and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail. Look out for special party nights with guest DJs. A little down the street from Mockingbird is a quite literally hidden gem, Holy Smokes. Blink and you’ll miss the cigarette vending machine doubling as the entrance to this speakeasy style venue, which serves up delicious cocktails. We couldn’t not mention Studio 902, a long-time and legendary institution on the Hakuba nightlife scene. You are guaranteed a good time at this unique bar which features an entire wall of records. For a more calm and sophisticated experience, don’t miss Cherry Pub. This venue boasts and elegant and airy interior. With beer on tap, an extensive cocktail list, stone-fired pizzas and a large menu of western favourites, there is something for everyone at this family-friendly venue. Sit back and relax with table service food and drinks; managers Mayumi and Higashi will ensure you are well looked after.
Other Hakuba nightlife hotspots include: The Taproom, Blizzard, Unjaune and Refuel, all located in Happo village. In the Wadano area check out: Mimi’s, Luce, Fireside Lounge & Wine Bar, The Pub and Rabbit Hole.
Ski Nagano Olympics Pistes
In Hakuba, you won’t find just any ski slopes, these are Olympic ski racing slopes!READ MORE
Hakuba Happo-One ski resort is home to the 1998 Nagano Olympics ski pistes. The Men’s and Women’s Downhill, Super G Slalom, Combined Slalom, Ski Jumping and Cross Country events were all held in Hakuba.
While Hakuba Happo-One is famous for its steep powder filled slopes, don’t miss the chance to challenge yourself to take on the Nagano Olympic ski pistes. The men’s Olympic course starts at an elevation of 1765m, with a vertical drop of 925m and a total course length of 3.2km. To ski the Olympic downhill courses, head to the top of the Alpen Quad lift. There you will see the Olympic start hut and it’s time to fasten those ski boots! Race down the narrow slope and head onto Usagidaira, followed by the Panorama slopes below the gondola top station. From Panorama you have the choice of Olympic Course I (the Men’s downhill race course) which ends at Kokusai or Olympic Course II (the Women’s downhill race course) which finishes at Sakka. If you want to test yourself against the best, you’ll be interested to know that Men’s Gold for the downhill race went to French skier Jean-Luc Cretier who completed the course in 1 minute and 50 seconds.
Visit Matsumoto Castle
Located just 1.5 hours south of Hakuba by train, Matsumoto is an ideal destination for a day trip out of Hakuba.READ MORE
Visiting the historic landmark that is Matsumoto Castle is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Matsumoto. Like Zenkokji temple in Nagano city, Matsumoto Castle holds the status of being a ‘National Treasure of Japan’. One of only five castles in Japan to be awarded with this status, it’s easy to see why. This magnificent black and white structure dates back to 1592 and is one of the best preserved and oldest castles in Japan. The castle is surrounded by hundreds of cherry trees and is especially magical during the cherry blossom season in spring. If you are visiting Hakuba for some spring skiing (the ski resorts are open through until early May!) then it’s the ideal opportunity to combine skiing with viewing the famous cherry blossoms.
Matsumoto is a very pleasant modern city, set in the beautiful backdrop of the spectacular Japanese Alps. While visiting the castle, be sure to take a stroll down ‘Frog Street’ and the traditional Nakamachi Street, where you will find lots of local craft shops and food stalls. If you have time, don’t miss the Matsumoto City Museum of Art which houses a permanent display by world famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who grew up in Matsumoto.
Experience a Fire Festival
If you happen to be visiting Hakuba over 15 January, then Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival is not to be missed!GO TO ARTICLE
Take a Snow Monkey Day Trip
Visit the world famous Snow Monkey Onsen while on holiday in Hakuba, for a day trip you can only find in Nagano!GO TO ARTICLE
Discover Hakuba Backcountry
Advanced riders looking for challenging, steep and deep terrain will not be disappointed in Hakuba.READ MORE
Hire a guide to experience the best of Hakuba, from the trees of cortina to Hakuba’s renowned north face, there is something for every level.
Shop the Latest Trends
In recent years flagship stores of famous outdoor sports brands have popped up in Hakuba.READ MORE
The most notable of these stores are Patagonia and The North Face, both located near Hakuba station, on the main road which leads to Happo One ski resort. Whether you are looking for some new gear or just want to enjoy browsing, these two stores are well worth checking out during your visit to Hakuba. Patagonia features a huge selection of both technical outerwear and stylish casual wear. At The North Face Gravity store we highly recommend venturing upstairs to the large airy mezzanine level, which features a relaxing cafe with huge panoramic windows overlooking Happo One and the Japanese Alps mountain range. Enjoy spectacular views, great coffee and some retail therapy all in one place!
Soak in the Scenery
Hakuba’s famous high peaks are a wonder to behold. Every resort offers a different perspective of its beautiful alpine terrain.READ MORE
Hakuba is set deep in the Japanese Alps, which are so named because the Alpine scenery so resembles that of the European Alps. Here you can find some of Asia’s most impressive big mountain terrain and pause between long vertical runs to enjoy the views. Iwatake’s Hakuba Mountain Harbour provides an enticing opportunity to sit and enjoy the scenery with excellent food and drink, but all 10 of Hakuba’s ski resorts offer breathtaking beauty.