Japan

Hakone ryokans and onsens that will have you rejuvenating in style

With more than a dozen natural hot springs (onsens) and a bathing culture going back 1,300 years, the mountainous region of Hakone is the place to experience serene Japanese culture.

Hakone is one of Japan’s most treasured jewels–an oasis where locals and visitors alike go to really unwind. Imagine breathing in sweeping views across Lake Ashinoko and white-topped Mount Fuji from the comfort of a balcony hot tub fed by thermal waters. Tempted?

If you’re wondering where to stay and you’re looking for an authentic experience that is just an hour from Tokyo, we can’t recommend enough staying in a Hakone ryokan–a traditional Japanese inn. You’ll be treated to delights like traditional multi-course meals of dishes like chilled appetisers, melt-in-your-mouth sashimi, grilled meats and fish, and classic nutritious soups. After a tranquil post-dinner soak in your terrace tub, you’ll be wrapping up in your kimono-style robe and stretching out on a futon bed atop tatami straw flooring to soak up that vibe of rest and relaxation.

Hakone ryokan with head-to-toe hot spring treatments

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Only 100 metres from Gora Station on a direct line from Hakone-Yumoto, Gora Tensui Hakone has 20 rooms nestled in gardens and framed by panoramic mountain views. Choose from a Japanese-style room with futon beds and a raised woven straw tatami floor, or opt for Western-style comforts.

On arrival, relax in the on-site café with a free drink while your feet soak in a mineral spa bath. In the evening, the café serves aperitifs, or you can throw on your provided yukata robe (like a kimono, but for lounging) and sandals and head straight to your kaiseki meal (a rich spread of traditional Japanese dishes). The multi-course feast changes daily and vegetarians can upgrade to a specially-designed menu for plant-based bites.

Select one of the four rooms with private terrace onsen to sit and watch the majestic mountains as the sun rises. Or reserve one of the semi-open-air shared baths–there’s a Cyprus tub with anti-aging oxidation-reduction water or a micro-bubble Jacuzzi with milky water. For a dose of rejuvenation, book a 50-minute session at Ganban’yoku Stone Spa before letting off some steam in the adjoining sauna.

Hotel Gora Tensui Hakone

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (546 reviews)
Excellent Service 8.9 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Wellness centre / Spa
Hotel bar
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Modern Hakone hotel fit for royalty

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Once an imperial prince’s summer villa, Gora Kadan is now a renovated ryokan. Part of the luxe Relais & Chateau Group, the Tudor-style main building rests among natural rock gardens and murmuring water features.

After a long soak in your room’s wooden bath, step into your private garden to admire the changing autumn leaves before flopping onto your cosy futon for a well-deserved nap. Or, splash out for a suite if you prefer your own outdoor stone bath, steam sauna and views of the mountains or gardens.

Walking through the villa gardens, you’ll find Kadan Spa, where you can relax with a stone therapy body treatment and aromatherapy facial. You can order a shiatsu massage to your room, or wander down to the family onsen for flowing spring water and a steam sauna.

Your kaiseki dinner is served in your room and includes seasonal dishes showcasing a variety of textures and flavours. Pretty as a picture, dishes range from freshly prepared sashimi to grilled Wagyu beef with shiitake mushrooms and asparagus, or figs cooked in wine syrup. All are served with famed omotenashi (Japanese hospitality) to help you understand the dishes and how best to enjoy them.

After dinner, wander up to the Tsukimidai Terrace overlooking Mount Daimonji-yama and sip on a glass of bubbles while listening to the soft rustle of the bamboo forest. If you’re feeling lively, grab a microphone and belt out your favourite songs at Club AI’s karaoke bar.

Gora Kadan

8.8 Excellent (316 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.4 / 10
Car park
Wellness centre / Spa
Gym
Indoor swimming pool
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Luxury retreat on the banks of the Sukomo river

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Tucked away in a valley on the banks of the Sukumo River, Hoshino Resort Kai Hakone is a stone’s throw from Hakone-Yumoto Station but feels blissfully remote. The hotel has two single-sex onsens designed to accentuate the natural landscape, with towering ceilings and walls open to nature.

While you unwind in thermal waters, gaze across the treetops to Mount Yusaka while the sounds of the nearby river relax you. After your soak, stop by the Yuagari Lounge between the two onsens for a cooling drink.

Back in your room, floor-to-ceiling doors lead onto your private balcony overlooking a babbling stream and the forest canopy. Choose one of the Western-style Kai Signature Rooms for a private outdoor tub to extend your Hakone onsen experience even further into luxury.

For dinner, dress in your natural flax yukata and take a seat in your private rice-paper dining room. The nine-course kaiseki meal features the house specialty meiji nabe: skillet-cooked meat in miso sauce and a sumptuous broth with vegetables.

If you want to learn more about Japanese culture, you can join a traditional tea ceremony or storytelling session. Visit the souvenir shop on your way out for handicrafts like polished parquetry made from traditional techniques unique to Hakone.

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Hoshino Resort Kai Hakone

8.3 Very good (43 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.9 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Restaurant
Air conditioning
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A gourmet dining experience

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The public baths at Aura Tachibana set the tone of luxury with waterfall showers, saunas and Japanese umbrella pine bathtubs filled with clear alkaline spring water. Sit indoors and look out over the gardens through floor-to-ceiling windows, or sink into the outdoor tubs and feel the cooling breeze across your shoulders. For a special treat, book the private rooftop onsen for an extra fee and see the stars through the steam, or watch the sunset over lush greenery and mountain peaks.

With two mouthwatering restaurants to choose from, this hotel elevates your typical kaiseki dining experience. Go for an intimate, cosy evening with dim lighting and warm tones, or opt for a more casual, lively meal on an outdoor terrace adorned with market umbrellas and mountain views. After your dinner of steamy miso-flavoured dishes and delicate fruit-based desserts, spot constellations from the Sky Terrace or order a local whisky or plum wine and relax in the comfort of the library.

When it comes to bedding down, you can choose from Western or Japanese-style bedrooms. Larger rooms offer the option of a tatami sitting area for extra space. Slip into your yukata and step out onto your private balcony for sweeping mountain views and your very own open-air hot spring bath.

Aura Tachibana

8.3 Very good (225 reviews)
Excellent Service 9 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Wellness centre / Spa
Restaurant
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Adults-only Hakone ryokan for a dash of romance

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Nestled deep in the forest and flanked by shimmering lakes, Kinnotake Tonosawa is an oasis accessed by a suspension bridge over the valley. Based on a traditional story where a woman falls in love with an emperor before being sent to the moon, this hotel is a haven for couples seeking a romantic getaway.

Each of the 23 open-plan guestrooms come with their own private outdoor onsen with views of bamboo forests and the lush hillside. The sleek, modern rooms are kitted out with wooden flooring, futon beds and modern conveniences like iPads, so you can create your own soundtrack before sinking into your private hot spring bath. Stay in one of the first-floor rooms for a view of the koi pond, or splash out for a spacious, luxury suite on the Club Floor with a tatami living area.

After watching the lights switch on in the bamboo forest at dusk, head down to the on-site restaurant for your kaiseki dinner prepared by the hotel’s Kyoto-trained head chef. The next morning, tuck into a traditional Japanese breakfast featuring dishes such as steamed egg custard, grilled snapper and savoury miso soup.

Kinnotake Tonosawa

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (215 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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East meets West at this ryokan

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An open-air onsen is already pretty special, but Hakone Kowakien TEN-YU is next-level with its infinity-pool hot spring looking into a verdant woodland. Where better to watch the sun slip behind mountain peaks, or bathe under a canopy of stars with steam rising all around you?

Opened in 2017, this modern ryokan is bigger than most with 150 guestrooms combining traditional Japanese décor with Western or futon beds. To top it off, each room comes with a ceramic Japanese-style tub.

On a slow afternoon, follow a winding trail past manicured gardens and waterfalls to reach a Shinto Shrine. Or, soak in the hotel’s fifth-floor hot spring with forest views and cascading water features, letting the restorative mineral-rich waters do their magic. Head to the AN-SPA for a Kagae ‘Wakan’ therapy using oils blended with oriental plants known for healing and rejuvenation, and drift off under the scent of yuzu and hinoki cyprus wood massage oils.

When you feel hungry, on-site restaurants provide options ranging from traditional kaiseki to Japanese soba noodles to teppanyaki featuring Matsusaka beef and abalone. You can combine room and dining options when you book, and while you’re at it, you might arrange a day trip to nearby Yunessun Spa, a hot spring theme park where you can have a bath made of wine or coffee.

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Hotel Hakone Kowakien TEN-YU

8.0 Very good (292 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.1 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Hotel bar
Air conditioning
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Authentic hut stay in Hakone

In traditional Sukiya style, Yamagaso‘s six guest rooms are actually separate huts dotted over the hotel grounds. Attentive touches will spoil you throughout your stay, from a tea service on arrival to traditional dinners and breakfasts served in your room.

Sink into a cane armchair overlooking your private garden terrace, or toast your toes on the dining table foot warmer. Minimalist design details like the tatami mat flooring, rice paper sliding doors, wooden ceilings and painted scrolls will give you an insight into traditional Japanese life.

For some pampering, you’ll have your choice of bathing experiences. It doesn’t get more private than a wooden tub in your room fed by the natural geyser. Head to one of the on-site baths, like the rock pool-style outdoor onsen backed by green mountains, and take in the fragrance of the forest.

After your bath, stroll back to your hut through the manicured Japanese gardens filled with flowers, stone sculptures, a koi pond and bamboo water features. If you visit in spring, you might be lucky enough to witness the cherry blossoms covering the property with their petals like delicate pink confetti.

Hotel Yamagaso

8.4 Very good (113 reviews)
Excellent Service 8.7 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Pets allowed
Wellness centre / Spa
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This story first featured in trivago Magazine SG