52 Best Things to Do in Hokkaido (2024 Edition)

Hokkaido, Japan’s largest and northernmost prefecture, teems with pristine nature, vibrant cities, exotic cuisine, and exciting activities. With such a diversity of culture and landscapes, it’s worth carving out a sizable chunk of your Japan itinerary to explore Hokkaido’s remote lands. In this article, we’ve curated a list of 52 things to do in Hokkaido, including tours, experiences, foods, shopping spots, and more, providing all the ammo you’ll need for the ultimate Hokkaido itinerary!

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

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Food: 12 Must-Try Local Hokkaido Dishes
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Weather: A Guide On Hokkaido's Weather & Climate Other Japan
Travel Ideas: Winter in Japan: 20 Best Things to Do in Japan’s Cold Season

Best Attractions in Hokkaido

1. Sapporo Snow Festival - Over 200 Works of Frozen Art!

Running for a week in early February, the Sapporo Snow Festival sees three locations across Hokkaido's capital of Sapporo transformed by a streetside gallery of jaw-dropping ice and snow sculptures. Reeling in over a million visitors each year, the event’s primary location of Odori showcases a breathtaking array of creativity and craftsmanship through over 100 sculptures of all shapes and sizes. The nearby neighborhood of Susukino also exhibits several dozen sculptures while “Tsudome” Sapporo Community Dome ramps up the fun with a huge slide carved from ice and other activities. There are also light-ups, concerts, skating rinks, food stalls, and plenty of other fantastic things to do!

If you’re visiting Japan during the winter, be sure to check out our list of the 20 best things to do in Japan’s cold season.

2. Susukino - The Bustling Heart of Sapporo’s Nightlife

One of the largest entertainment hubs outside of Tokyo, Sapporo’s red-light district of Susukino bursts with a colorful tapestry of shops, restaurants, bars, karaoke joints, and nightclubs. With a friendly atmosphere and lively party vibe, the streets here feel safe even late into the night. After partying, don’t forget to relish a bowl of world-famous Sapporo ramen at the Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho street.

If you’re unsure of where to start, this Sapporo bar hopping tour will take you to the hidden gems only the locals know about!

3. Asahiyama Memorial Park - Stunning Sapporo Panoramas

Opened in 1970 to celebrate Sapporo’s 100th anniversary, Asahiyama Memorial Park perfectly captures all of Sapporo’s dynamic cityscape in a vast panorama. With an elevation of over 130 m, the scene is worth checking out both day and night. Surrounded by nature, it also serves as a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of Sapporo without venturing outside city limits.

4. Sapporo TV Tower - Incredible Sapporo Views From the Top

The Sapporo TV Tower is an iconic Sapporo landmark that looks out over Odori Park in the heart of Sapporo. With an observation deck 90 m above ground, the captivating view allows one to see Sapporo in all its glory without missing any of the detail lost in higher-altitude lookouts.

5. Mt. Moiwa - Sweeping Sapporo Scenery From a Cable Car

Just 15 km southwest of Sapporo Station, Mt. Moiwa is a perfectly positioned natural lookout towering 531 m over Sapporo. Equipped with a ropeway and mini cable car, getting to the summit couldn’t be easier! The mountain is also dotted with a number of facilities, including an observation deck, restaurant, planetarium, theater, and ski resort.

6. Moerenuma Park - Design Intertwined with Nature

The brainchild of Japanese-American artist and architect Isamu Noguchi, Sapporo’s Moerenuma Park is a sprawling assortment of landscapes and art forming a single interconnected parkland sculpture. Once a waste disposal site, the area was recreated over the course of 23 years to become one of Sapporo’s most celebrated sightseeing spots. Highlights include the towering “Glass Pyramid” (pictured), the simplistic beauty of “Moere Hill,” and the interwoven light and water of the “Sea Fountain.”

7. Motomachi - Hakodate’s Old World European District

Located in the hills around the base of Mt. Hakodate, the steep streets of Motomachi are lined with colorful and stylish European-inspired buildings along with historical churches and government facilities. As one of Japan’s first international ports, this retro neighborhood presents authentic insight into Hakodate’s pioneering trading history and cosmopolitan culture, and today there are numerous quaint cafes, knick-knack shops, and plenty more things to do.

Highlights include the picture-perfect Hachimanzaka Slope, the dazzling Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward, the elegant Former British Consulate of Hakodate, and the grand Hakodate Orthodox Church. Simply strolling aimlessly throughout Motomachi will bring you to many hidden treasures, and nearby is also the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse, a shopping facility renovated from old brick warehouses; along with the eccentric Lucky Pierrot burger joint.

8. Unkai Terrace - A Sea of Clouds

A sea of clouds, known as “unkai” in Japanese, is a natural phenomenon occurring during early mornings in high-altitude regions or upon bodies of water. One of the best places to witness this enchanting miracle is at the Unkai Terrace in the Tomamu ski resort. Of course, there’s no guarantee a sea of clouds will appear, so you’ll need to check the forecast on the Hoshino Resorts Tomamu website in advance (Japanese).

9. Mt. Yotei - The Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido

The almost perfectly symmetrical volcano of Mt. Yotei closely resembles Japan's legendary Mt. Fuji, leading to its nickname “Ezo Fuji,” with “Ezo” being the original name of Hokkaido. Mt. Yotei’s climbing season begins in early June, with several trails of easy/intermediate difficulty leading to the summit. There’s also lots to see around the mountain, including massive fields of alpine plants and a pleasant array of ponds, lakes, springs, and other things to do. If it’s a clear day, wait around until sunset to witness the mountain bathed in the fiery red of the evening sun.

10. Lake Mashu - One of the Clearest Lakes in the World

The ancient caldera of Lake Mashu is said to possess some of the clearest waters in the world. While the lake itself is dangerously steep and off-limits, the jaw-dropping views and natural wonder encompassing the area makes it well worth visiting. Along with the two nearby peaks of Mashu-dake and Nishi-betsu-dake, both of which can be climbed by hikers of all levels, there are four different observatories to soak in the scenery in comfort.

11. Cape Soya - Japan’s Most Northern Point

With the coast of Russia visible on clear days, Cape Soya in the city of Wakkanai holds the title of Hokkaido’s, and therefore Japan’s, northernmost point. While there isn’t a huge range of attractions nearby, those with an adventurous heart will surely want to conquer this significant geographical landmark. The area is dotted with various historical monuments honoring peace and prosperity also worth a look.

12. Abashiri Prison Museum - The Home of Hokkaido’s Most Notorious Convicts

Constructed in the 1890s, Abashiri Prison once confined thousands of Japan’s most feared criminals. After the prison was modernized in 1984, much of the original structure was relocated to create the Abashiri Prison Museum around 3 km away. This includes the sophisticated European-inspired administration building, several prison wards, the central guard house, and the lecture hall. Each section is filled with strikingly realistic life-sized dioramas showcasing the lives of inmates, including the daring escape of “Japanese Prison Break King” Yoshie Shiratori!

13. Hokkaido Shrine - Hokkaido’s Spiritual Heartland

The construction of Hokkaido Shrine was ordered by Emperor Meiji in 1869 to enshrine the three pioneering gods whilst providing a safe haven for pioneers to gather and pray. Completed in 1871, it now also enshrines the soul of Emperor Meiji himself and has remained as Hokkaido’s most prominent center of shintoism. With events throughout the year, including “hatsumode” during New Year’s, cherry blossom festivals in spring, and the Sapporo Festival in summer, Hokkaido Shrine is constantly abuzz with locals and visitors looking for things to do in Hokkaido.

14. Lake Kussharo - Scenic Hikes and Outdoor Adventures

Located in the Akan Mashu National Park, Lake Kussharo is a huge caldera lake hosting a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, cycling, and fishing during the warmer months. It is also brimming with geothermal activity, gorgeous hot springs, and the pungent smell of sulfur and surreal steam-spurting geysers on the south-eastern side. During winter, the lake will freeze over and come alive with hoards of migrating swans, who often congregate around the Sunayu area due to the warm water from the underground hot springs.

15. The Otaru Canal - The Enchanting Romance of a Bygone Era

Originally built to further stimulate maritime trade in the prospering Otaru Harbor, the Otaru Canal is a fantastically preserved relic of gorgeous early 20th-century architecture. The canal-side promenade is adorned by quaint antique warehouses, many of which have been masterfully renovated into restaurants, museums, and shops, making it feel like you’ve slipped back in time. This effect is amplified at night when the streets are bathed in the light of gas lamps while the warehouses are illuminated by spotlights. If you happen to be in Otaru during early to mid-February, don’t miss the much-anticipated Otaru Snow Light Path Festival, an extravaganza of light shows and snow statues elevating the beauty to another level!

Recommended Hotel Near the Otaru Canal: UNWIND HOTEL & BAR OTARU

16. Rishiri and Rebun Islands - A True Off-Road Adventure!

The isolated islands of Rishiri and Rebun lie off the coast of the northern tip of Hokkaido and are renowned for their pristine, untouched wilderness and endemic flowers and plants. The most iconic sight is Mount Rishiri, a 1,721-meter-tall stratovolcano closely resembling Mt. Fuji. You can access these islands via ferry from the Wakkanai Ferry Terminal.

Recommended Hotel on Rishiri Island: Shimanoyado Kamuirishiri

17. Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park - A Carpet of Luscious Pink Flowers

Once May rolls around, eastern Hokkaido’s Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park soon becomes engulfed in a flowery carpet of blooming moss phlox, known as “shibazakura” in Japanese. Covering an area of roughly 10 hectares, these velvety flowers infuse the air with a calming aroma, inviting visitors to fritter away the day enveloped in their charm. Celebrating this wonder is the annual Higashimokoto Shibazakura Festival, which treats visitors to a number of stage events and a smorgasbord of local delicacies, making it one of the most popular things to do in Hokkaido in spring.

18. Lake Notoro - A Surreal Landscape of Red

Connected to the Sea of Okhotsk, Lake Notoro is an expansive oval-shaped salt lake situated less than 10 km from Abashiri Station. The area’s main claim to fame is its sprawling colony of glasswort, also known as coral grass, a kind of succulent plant that thrives in salt marshes. While it grows all year round, it becomes dyed a fiery crimson between early September to early October, forming a surreal environment reminiscent of an alien planet. It mostly grows on the southern shore of Ubaranai, which is facilitated by a series of boardwalks protecting the plants from being disturbed.

19. Kushiro Shitsugen National Park - Expansive Wetlands Packed with Wildlife

Kushiro Shitsugen National Park is the largest wetland in Japan and the home of over 1,300 species of wildlife. This includes the exotic red-crowned crane, which was saved from the brink of extinction thanks to the preservation efforts of the park. Most of Kushiro Shitsugen is characterized by wet, marshy grassland dotted with lakes that come alive during the warmer seasons. There are plenty of trails to explore here, including the 2.5 km Kushiro Marsh Observatory Track and the 3 km Onnenai Wooden Path, ensuring plenty of things to do.

20. Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park - Uncover the Fascinating Culture of the Ainu People

Before Hokkaido became a prefecture of Japan, it was home to a thriving indigenous culture known as the Ainu. Located in Shiraoi City next to Lake Poroto, Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park was the first facility in Japan to be entirely dedicated to the history and culture of the Ainu. The facility’s centerpiece is the National Ainu Museum, which boasts dozens of exhibitions and a sizable theater showcasing the traditional Ainu way of life. Surrounding facilities also offer a myriad of hands-on experiences and insightful demonstrations, including cooking and tasting Ainu cuisine, a reconstructed Ainu village, traditional dance shows, and much more. The park itself is very spacious and green during the warmer months, making it a great place to add to your things to do in Hokkaido itinerary.

Best Tours and Experiences in Hokkaido

21. Shirogane Blue Pond - Witness a Breathtaking Manmade Accident!

The Shirogane Blue Pond can be found nestled within the deeply forested Biei region of central Hokkaido. Adorned by a scattering of withered birch trees in the center, the stark turquoise hue of the Blue Pond has become a worldwide sensation due to its enchanting color and aura. Fed by an accidental offshoot of water from a manmade dam on the Biei River, the pond is packed with particles deposited from nearby hot springs that reflect against the sunlight to produce this otherworldly glow.

Our Top Tips

Blue Pond Day Trip in Hokkaido

The Shirogane Blue Pond is difficult to reach without a car, so we recommend joining this tour together with a stop at Asahiyama Zoo.

22. Hakodate Morning Market - Browse Through a World of Fresh Seafood

Spread out over several buildings and streets, the Hakodate Morning Market is a maze of restaurants, wholesalers, and fishmongers supplying Hakodate with fresh seafood. Boasting unrivaled quality, visitors can wander the market and soak in the hectic yet jovial atmosphere while feasting on the famous crab, salmon roe, shrimp, sea urchin, and all varieties of fish. The market is held from 5:00 am or 6:00 am to around 2:00 pm and is conveniently located just a minute’s walk from the west gate of JR Hakodate Station.

Our Top Tips

2-day Tour From Sapporo to Hakodate

Visit the Hakodate Morning Market together with other famous Hakodate attractions on this tour.

23. Niseko - Ski at One of Japan’s Leading Winter Resorts

With a virtually limitless supply of powder snow in winter, the Niseko area of eastern Hokkaido is the home of many of Japan’s most beloved ski slopes. Over half a million people visited during the ski season of 2022-2023, many part of a loyal following of passionate snowboarders and skiers willing to make the journey to enjoy the unrivaled conditions. Niseko also allows more experienced skiers to get off the trails and into the back-country to discover untouched slopes and hidden gems. The four major resorts of Niseko are the Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village, Hanazono, and Annupuri, all of which are located on Mt. Niseko-Annupuri.

Our Top Tips

Chartered Round Trip Transfer + Private Ski Lesson in Hokkaido

Make your skiing trip to Niseko smooth and stress-free with a private car transfer from the airport, and improve your skills with lessons by professional skiers on this tour.

24. Rusutsu Resort - Snowboard at Hokkaido’s Mega Resort

Covering three mountains, Rusutsu Resort is another contender for Hokkaido’s best ski resort. Located near Lake Toya on the opposite side of Mt. Yotei from Niseko, the resort boasts an incredible assortment of skiing and snowboarding courses with lengthy runs and high-quality powder snow. Rusutsu also prides itself in offering a complete entertainment package, including an amusement park, tours, activities such as snow rafting and ice fishing, and a wide selection of food from over 30 restaurants. Rusutsu is suitable for both beginner and experienced winter sports enthusiasts alike.

Recommended Hotel Near Rusutsu Resort: Rusutsu Resort Hotel & Convention

25. The Rollercoaster Road - Experience a Thrilling Ride in the Countryside

Located in Kamifurano, the Rollercoaster Road is a 2.5 km stretch of straight highway with steep, rolling hills reminiscent of an amusement park ride. The fun begins at a point 9.7 km from Kami-Furano Station on a road known as Nishi-11-sen. While lots of fun in a car, it’s also a great challenge for confident cyclists seeking a stimulating workout. Just be aware that there are a few crossings on the road, so be sure to follow traffic rules.

Our Top Tips

Rollercoaster Road Tour

Experience riding down the Rollercoaster Road and visit a bunch of nearby attractions like Shikisai Hill and Farm Tomita on this tour.

Hokkaido Feature
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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About the author

Steve Csorgo
Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, Steve currently lives in Niigata City. His passions include discovering local sake, reading, and traveling to as much of Japan as possible. Hot springs, historical sites, and untouched nature are some of his favorite things about Japan. He enjoys writing about traditional crafts, offbeat yet charming towns, and interesting local stories.
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