Hakuba Ski Resorts in Nagano Prefecture are arguably the best ski resorts in the world, so much so that I have been back to visit on several occasions!
I spent two weeks snowboarding and exploring the mountains of Hakuba Valley and have put together this complete guide of Hakuba to help you plan your trip ahead of time!
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WHERE IS HAKUBA?
Hakuba is located on the east coast of Japan, approximately 270 km from Tokyo City.
HOW TO GET TO HAKUBA?
Narita International Airport is the closest International Airport to the Hakuba Valley, which is located on the outskirts of Tokyo City, 270km east of Hakuba Valley.
There are a few options when searching for how to get to the Hakuba from Narita Airport which I have listed below:
This trip includes taking a train from Narita to Tokyo (or Ueno), then a bullet train (Shinkansen) to Nagano, and then a bus to Hakuba Ski Resorts. This is the fastest route.
From the Tokyo International Airport, the total trip takes about 3.5 to 4 hours depending upon connection timing.
The other advantage of taking the trains is that it’s a great insight into a part of the Japanese culture. This trip costs approximately $80.
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Direct Transfer From Tokyo Airports:
This involves getting a shuttle bus or shared taxi transfer directly from Narita Airport to Hakuba, which tends to cost a little more than the train/bus combo.
This trip takes longer, about 5 to 6 hours, but it provides the advantage of not having to lug your bags around the train stations, on and off trains and buses, or grapple with train fares and timetables.
WHERE TO STAY IN HAKUBA VALLEY
There is no shortage of accommodation in Hakuba Valley but it is always best to book online in advance, especially in the winter months between December and April, as places tend to book out fast.
I personally stayed at Kokoro Hotel Hakuba and can’t recommend this place enough! The staff here are very friendly and the hotel has a bar, restaurant, Onsen and dry room. The rooms are cozy and spacious with heating, flat-screen tv, private bathroom, tea/coffee making facilities, and comfortable beds! Kokoro is nearby to shops, bars, restaurants and it’s within walking distance to Happo-One Ski Resort.
Another great option for accommodation in Hakuba is to stay in an Airbnb which generally has some great deals.
Use the search box below to find all available Airbnb’s in Hakuba.
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GETTING AROUND HAKUBA
There are 10 resorts in the valley of Hakuba and each mountain is amazing in its own way.
Free shuttle buses operate every hour between all of the Hakuba Ski Resorts but make sure to be on time, as the Japanese are very punctual and will stick to an efficient ‘on the dot’ schedule. Timetables can be found at your accommodation or at guest services in each resort.
LIFT TICKETS & RENTAL SHOPS
Hakuba Valley Lift Passes can be purchased from the ticket counters at each resort on the day and prices vary between each ski resort. I would recommend purchasing the “Hakuba Valley Pass” which allows you to ski at different ski resorts each day using this all-in-one pass.
Rental Shops are scattered everywhere around Hakuba but I would personally recommend Spicy Rentals for quality gear at a reasonable price. You can find a Spicy store at Goryu, Happo-one, and Iwatake.
TOP 5 HAKUBA SKI RESORTS
This Hakuba Ski Resort offers wide-open terrain with great grooming and some nice top to bottom powder runs.
There is a small terrain park for beginners at the bottom of the gondola.
Great back-country access from the top lift and easily accessible tree runs.
Escal Plaza (base station) is the most modern facility in Hakuba, with restaurants, ski retail, and hire.
Goryu and 47 are interlinked mountains giving you the option to access two wide-open ski areas.
Hakuba 47 features the best terrain park in Hakuba. 47 also has designated tree areas for club members to access only. To gain access to the trees, there is a twenty-minute crash course available every day at Hakuba 47 sports center located at the base of the gondola.
After the course, you are eligible to ride the tree areas which hold some of the best powder I have ever experienced.
This is the central hub of Hakuba Valley and the most popular Hakuba Ski Resort.
The mountain is home to the largest above treeline lift in Japan. The groomed runs have a reputation for being long and fast. The only downside to Happo-one is the crowds, being the central mountain in Hakuba Valley.
Iwatake proudly boasts one of the most breathtaking views of the Northern Alps Hakuba, including a 360°panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.
All twenty-six courses have their own unique features. From tree runs to long groomed cat tracks and a small terrain park. This Hakuba Ski Resort has something for everyone.
Cortina Ski Resort is known for the largest quantity of snowfall in Hakuba. This is the resort to hit for some deep powder runs after a heavy snowfall.
Cortina also has the steepest inbound terrain and some epic tree riding areas. Cortina is the most northern mountain in the valley and takes longer to get here from central Hakuba, but it is definitely worth the trip.
HAKUBA SKI RESORTS MAP
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN HAKUBA VALLEY
As you probably know by now, Hakuba Valley is a mecca of Alpine Ski Resorts attracting people from all over the world to experience the world-class, quality snow! Though apart from skiing and snowboarding there are a few other activities available.
A personal favorite of mine is to visit one of the many Onsens spread out around the resorts. An Onsen is a Japanese hot spring which is natural hot water from geothermally-heated springs.
It is essentially a bathing house where there are indoor and outdoor springs to soak in. Traditionally, the baths are segregated between male and female and you have to enter the springs completely nude.
To some, this sounds out of their comfort zone but you will get used to it after you visit once or twice. A perfect way to relax and soothe your muscles after a big day on the mountain.
SNOW MONKEYS & TEMPLES
There are also day tours available to go visit the wild Snow Monkeys and Zenkoji Temple. The price is a little bit excessive if traveling on a budget, but it’s also a once in a lifetime opportunity to see these majestic alpine snow monkeys face to face.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The currency in Japan is Yen (¥) and the exchange rate is approximately $1 USD = 100 ¥.
Purchasing a sim card in Japan is very simple. You can do this at the airport on arrival or find a convenience store close to your accommodation. For approximately $40 USD, you can get a local sim card that comes with 10GB of data.
There are plenty of ATMs in Japan located in most convenient stores, in front of banks, inside hotels, etc. where you can easily withdraw cash.
I recommend purchasing a Hidden Money Belt to keep your cash out of sight, although the Japanese are the friendliest and most genuine people I have come across and the chances of being pick-pocketed are next to none.
Most Japanese people can speak English, so if you are ever lost or need help with something you will be able to converse in English. Also, all the signs at the airports, train stations, shopping malls, etc. are written in both Japanese and English.
VISA FOR JAPAN
Japan is visa-free to travelers from over 65 countries and you can stay in Japan for up to 90 days on a tourist visa.
Click Here to see the full list of nationalities that are eligible for the free 90-day tourist visa.
You don’t need to apply online for this as you will be granted a 90-day tourist visa at the airport when you arrive.
BEST TIME TO VISIT JAPAN
The best time to visit Japan depends on what you plan to do. I personally prefer the spring and summer months in Japan (April – September) when temperatures are warm and the landscapes are vividly green.
However, visiting Japan in winter (December – March) is absolutely magical because the landscapes are completely covered in glistening white snow. Visiting Japan in winter also means you have to opportunity to go skiing and snowboarding in Japan’s alpine regions.
BEST TOURS IN TOKYO
MORE JAPAN TRAVEL GUIDES
- Japan Travel Guide: 7 Day Japan Itinerary
- Tokyo: Tokyo Skytree Observation Deck
- Tohoku Region: 5 Days In Tohoku
- Tokushima Prefecture: 4 Days In Tokushima
LONELY PLANET JAPAN
One of the best books to take on your trip is the Lonely Planet Japan Guide!
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Thanks for reading this article and I hope it finds you well on your next snow adventure to Hakuba Ski Resorts. Please feel free to drop me a comment below this post with any questions you may have.
Happy Snowboarding ❄️