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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26. The Furano and Biei Flower Fields - Photograph Gorgeous Rows of Seasonal Color

During summer, massive fields of lavender and other flowers cover the rolling hills of Furano and Biei in lavish colors and nourishing aromas. While there are numerous lavender and other flower fields dotting the region, the most famous is at Farm Tomita, which boasts rows of immaculate multicolored flowerbeds enhanced by a backdrop of the Tokachi mountain range. Shikisai Hill (Shikisai-no-Oka) is also a must-see, both of which can be visited on the tour below:

Our Top Tips

Tomita Farm Tour With All-You-Can-Eat Melon Option

Tour the famous flower fields of Furano and Biei by bus, including stops at Farm Tomita and Shikisai Hill.

27. Mt. Hakodate - One of Japan’s Best Night Lookouts!

The 334-meter-high Mt. Hakodate offers a sweeping panorama of Hakodate City and its narrow peninsula. While daytime views are fantastic, the lookout is most noted for its breathtaking views at night, which are ranked amongst the top 3 in Japan. The Mt. Hakodate Observatory is easily accessed by car or ropeway, or you can join this Mt. Hakodate Night View Sightseeing Bus Tour for easy pick-up and drop-off.

28. Noboribetsu - Unwind in a Hot Spring Paradise

Boasting as many as eleven natural thermal water sources, Noboribetsu is one of Japan’s leading onsen hot spring resort towns. First opened in the mid-1800s, the region simmers with the smell of sulfur while its hydrogen sulfide-rich waters work to make one’s skin feel nice and smooth. Also nearby is the “Hell Valley,” a fitting name for a barren landscape filled with steam vents, sulfur odors, and other traces of volcanic activity. You’ll be certain to stumble upon numerous gems hiking through the surrounding area too, including natural footbaths, lush greenery, and boiling mud ponds.

Our Top Tips

Noboribetsu Lake Toya Tour from Sapporo

Visit Hell Valley together with other nearby natural wonders like Lake Toya and Chikyu Cape on this tour.

29. Shiretoko - Dive Into Untouched Nature Bursting With Wildlife

The Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido is one of Japan’s most immaculate wildlife preserves. With the northern tip viewable only from the ocean via boat, this vast land has been largely left alone to flourish into a diverse environment rarely matched elsewhere in Japan. This includes a population of around 500 brown bears, along with the spotted sika deer, the adorable Japanese sable, Ezo red foxes, Steller sea lions, dolphins, whales, and the incredibly rare red-crowned crane.

Our Top Tips

Shiretoko Goko Lakes Half-Day Guided Walking Tour

Hike around five scenic lakes in Shiretoko and see the local wildlife on a guided tour.

30. Shakotan Peninsula - Uncover Gorgeous Ocean Views and Hidden Coves

Known for its turquoise oceans and oddly-shaped rocks, the Shakotan Peninsula in east Hokkaido offers nature-lovers a vast expanse of pure wilderness begging to be explored. The most iconic location is Cape Kamui, a precipitous cliff jutting out into the sea said to resemble the spine of a dragon. There is also an assortment of campgrounds and swimming beaches lining the coast, promising plenty to fill your Hokkaido things to do itinerary with.

Our Top Tips

Shakotan Day Tour

Explore the Shakotan Peninsula on this tour together with nearby attractions like the Shiroi Koibito Park, Hokkaido Shrine, and the Otaru Canal.

31. SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen - Ride a Steam Train Through the Snow

The SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen is a limited-service, winter-only steam train running through the plains of the snowy Kushiro Wetlands. Originally built in 1940, the imposing jet-black exterior and beautifully crafted wooden interior offers an authentic trip back into pioneering times. From the windows you may even spot some of the rare wildlife inhabiting the area, including Japanese cranes and the Steller's sea eagle. Even in winter, the train doesn’t run everyday, so be sure to check the schedule online before visiting.

32. Goryokaku Park - Stroll Around an Incredible Western-Style Fortress

Goryokaku Park is centered around the sprawling star-shaped Goryokaku citadel, which was constructed in 1864 to bulk up Hokkaido’s defense capabilities during the final years of the Edo period. The citadel’s eye-catching design, which was inspired by the work of renowned French architect Vauban, is complemented by a display of elegant cherry blossom trees, scenic walking trails, and illumination events in winter. The entire complex can also be overlooked from the Goryokaku Tower Observatory, which you can buy advance tickets for below:

Klook.com

Also worth checking out is the Hakodate Magistrate's Office, which was used as the army headquarters during the Hakodate War. While the original was demolished in 1871, it has been painstakingly rebuilt to resemble the original architecture and layout.

33. Lake Shikotsu - Kayak on a 40,000-Year-Old Caldera

Formed by a volcanic eruption over 40,000 years ago, Lake Shikotsu is a pristine, crystal-clear body of water home to a thriving ecosystem encompassed by forest and mountains. The most fun and environmentally friendly way to get up close with this beauty is through a Lake Shikotsu kayak tour, which can be found here. Running during all four seasons, the stunning water transparency of up to 30 meters will make it feel like you’re floating on air!

34. Tokachi Plain - Dog Sledding Across the Snow

The Tokachi Plain is an open expanse in central Hokkaido encircled by the mountains of the Daisetsuzan National Park and covered by thick snow in winter. This makes it perfect for dog sledding, which sees participants navigate a 12 km trail on a sled driven by a pack of friendly, enthusiastic dogs! Accompanied by a professional guide, it’s totally safe and anyone is free to join! You can find out more about Hokkaido dog sledding here.

35. Okhotsk Drift Ice - Cruise Through a Frozen Sea

After the temperature plummets from late October, masses of frozen sea water will break away from the Russian coast of the Sea of Okhotsk bound for northeastern Hokkaido. Spotted from early February, the ice first appears in Monbetsu and Abashiri before continuing towards the Shiretoko Peninsula and Rausu. While drift ice can be easily viewed from the shore, the best way to appreciate this wonder is on a boat cruise or ice-walking tour.

Our Top Tips

Icebreaker Ship Ride in Mombetsu

Board a powerful icebreaker ship and see the Okhotsk drift ice up close on this day tour from Sapporo.

36. Teshio River - Canoe Down One of Hokkaido’s Longest Rivers

Running from northern Hokkaido to the Sea of Japan, the pristine waters and lush forest of the 256-kilometer-long Teshio River are home to a fascinating assortment of wildlifeーincluding the exceedingly rare Japanese stringfish. A gentle obstacle-free 158 km run from the riverhead offers fantastic canoeing opportunities suitable for all skill levels.

37. Mt. Asahidake - Snowshoe on Hokkaido’s Tallest Mountain

At 2,291-meters-tall, the barren, volcanic landscape of Mt. Asahidake holds the title of Hokkaido’s tallest mountain. Come winter, the region is completely buried under meters of snow, attracting adventurers donning specialized snowshoes looking to challenge themselves to a winter hike. The Daisetsuzan Asahidake Ropeway will take you up Mt. Asahidake, while the Asahidake Visitor Center near the mountain base station has rental snowshoes and other winter gear, which you can browse on their website. Be sure to inquire with the Visitor Center on the latest conditions and safe snowshoeing trails.

38. Asahiyama Zoo - Check Out the Wildlife at Hokkaido’s Largest Zoo

Asahiyama Zoo is a sprawling complex housing a diverse collection of animals from across the globe. With enclosures and activities encouraging intimate experiences, including an underwater tunnel in the penguin pool, a glass dome amongst the polar bears, and the much-anticipated daily wintertime penguin stroll, visitors can gain deep insight into each animal’s life and mannerisms. It's also a good chance to get familiar with the native Hokkaido wildlife without venturing deep into the wilderness itself.

Our Top Tips

Asahiyama Zoo One Day Tour from Sapporo

Visit Asahiyama Zoo together with nearby attractions like Ningle Terrace and the rolling hills of Biei by bus from Sapporo.

39. Ice Fishing - Catch Wakasagi on a Frozen Lake

The subzero temperatures of Hokkaido’s winter transform many of its lakes into frozen plains completely safe to walk, skate, and even camp on! One fun activity to make the most of this is ice fishing, where a hole is drilled into the ice allowing direct access to delicious “wakasagi” smelt fish swimming underneath. Many frozen Hokkaido lakes are equipped with tents or small huts to keep out the cold while providing all necessary fishing gear, allowing one to turn up virtually empty-handed. After fishing, cooking equipment can often be rented to fry your haul, providing a satisfying and instant reward! There are numerous ice fishing courses throughout Hokkaido, including at Lake Abashiri, Lake Akan, the Barato River, and Lake Shinotsu.

Best Things to Eat and Drink in Hokkaido

40. Kaisendon Seafood Bowls - The Best of Hokkaido’s Seafood

Kaisendon is a type of “donburi” bowl made of raw seafood on rice with soy sauce and other condiments. Common ingredients include tuna, salmon, sea urchin, squid, crab, and salmon roe. While kaisendon can be found all across Japan, the quality and freshness of those served in Hokkaido’s seafood markets, such as the Hakodate Morning Market, is second-to-none. Prices generally range from 1,000 to 3,000 yen for a decent size and quality.

41. Hokkaido Ramen - A Different Style in Every City!

The fastest cure for freezing bodies is a steaming hot bowl of ramen! From the rich to the light, Hokkaido is a paradise for ramen-lovers, with almost as many styles of ramen as there are cities. The most well-known is the luscious miso and butter ramen of Sapporo, considered one of Japan’s ramen capitals, along with the fatty soy sauce and seafood ramen of Asahikawa and the clear salt ramen of Hakodate.

Our Top Tips

Sapporo Bar Hopping Food Tour

Stop by Ganso Sapporo Ramen Street, Hokkaido’s most famous ramen destination, on this Sapporo bar hopping and food tour.

42. Yoichi Distillery - Sample and Discover the Origins of Nikka Whisky

Yoichi is a small town next to Otaru home to the first-ever distillery of Nikka Whisky. The Yoichi Distillery was established by the father of Japanese whisky Taketsuru Masataka, who introduced whiskey production to Japan after studying it in Scotland. It retains many of its original facilities, including most of the stone buildings and copper distillation tanks, and it continues to practice traditional coal-fired distillation. This can all be viewed on a free guided tour (Japanese only, requires advance online reservation) or self-guided tour. Naturally, tasting courses are also available!

43. Soup Curry - Rich, Hearty, and Packed With Nutrition!

Along with ramen, the locals of Hokkaido turn to hearty bowls of soup curry to warm their bodies and nourish their souls. It’s made from a soupy broth of pork, chicken, vegetables, and seafood with an assortment of spices and chunky ingredients such as chicken, pork, vegetables, seafood, and eggs. Brimming with nutrients, soup curry is the ultimate defense against travel and cold fatigue!

44. Sapporo Odori Beer Garden - A Celebration of Summer and Beer

Held from mid-July until mid-August, this exciting outdoor festival sees Sapporo’s iconic Odori Park transform into a summer beer extravaganza with up to 13,000 seats running for over half a kilometer! Japan’s leading beer brewers Suntory, Asahi, Kirin, and of course, Sapporo, gather to serve their brews, making it one of the most anticipated things to do in Hokkaido in summer. Even if you don’t drink, the pleasant summer vibes will fill you with joy!

45. Sushi Trains - A Different League From Mainland Japan

The incredible sushi trains of Hokkaido boast top-tier local seafood brought in fresh and cut into thick, juicy slices rivaling the quality of even the fanciest mainland sushi establishments. With all the classics like tuna, salmon, and shrimp alongside Hokkaido specialties like sea urchin and crab, if you’re hankering for a hit of Hokkaido seafood, don’t overlook the sushi trains! The side menu is equally worth a look, with local delicacies such as zangi karaage, miso ramen, soup curry, and more! Prices are all shockingly reasonable, allowing travelers to relish good food on a tight budget.

Our Top Tips

Book a Hokkaido Sushi Train Restaurant

Toriton is a renowned sushi train restaurant in Asahikawa, central Hokkaido, known for its large toppings of local seasonal seafood. Lines can get long, so we suggest booking your place at Toriton in advance.

46. Furano Cheese Factory - Dairy Lovers Rejoice!

Amongst the rolling hills and lavender fields of Furano and Biei is a prosperous dairy industry producing high-quality cheese, milk, desserts, ice-cream, and more. All this can be found and tasted at the Furano Cheese Factory, within the countryside of central Hokkaido. The factory is set up with free tastings, cheese history exhibitions, and a shop selling a range of local dairy products. Visitors with more time on their hands can also participate in cheese-making workshops using fresh Furano milk!

47. Jingisukan - Grill-It-Yourself Lamb BBQ!

Alongside soup curry and ramen, jingisukan is another one of Hokkaido’s nourishing soul foods. Using a specialized mountain-shaped grill said to resemble a warrior’s helmet, diners are served platters of raw lamb amongst a variety of other ingredients to grill themselves. The lamb is placed on the peak of the grill, allowing the juice, fat, and marinade to run down and be absorbed by vegetables like lettuce, onion, corn, carrot, pumpkin, and more. After cooking, dip your meat into the specially made jingisukan sauce for a final kick of flavor.

Our Top Tips

Book a Hokkaido Jingisukan Restaurant

Arata Naru Bondz Susukino Honten is a popular jingisukan restaurant in Sapporo’s central entertainment district of Susukino. It serves 10 types of meat and has a staff member for each table to cook your lamb to perfection.

48. Sapporo Beer - Sip on Limited Edition Brews

Alongside the cherished taste of the trademark Black Label, Sapporo Breweries offer an enticing lineup of limited Hokkaido-only beers providing extra incentive to journey up north! This includes the renowned Sapporo Classic, which also comes in seasonal renditions each with a different quality and taste. Also keep an eye out for the Sorachi 1984, which uses a unique strain of hops cultivated in the Sorachi district, along with the Kaitakushi Beer, a rare brew made to resemble the original taste of Sapporo Beer during its founding in 1876.

49. Hokkaido Crab - Feast on Local Crustaceans!

Saying “crab” in Hokkaido is like asking for “fish” at a sushi jointーyou’ll have to be a bit more specific! The sea that surrounds Hokkaido teems with flourishing crab populations seldom seen elsewhere, allowing for fresh, in-season catches of various species all year round. The most well-known are the gigantic red king crab, the hairy horsehair crab, the sweet and juicy snow crab, and the rare and pricey Hanasaki crab. Different crabs are in season throughout the year, so research what’s fresh before you visit!

Our Top Tips

Book a Hokkaido Shabu Shabu Restaurant With Crab

Hokkai Shabu Shabu Susukino specializes in “shabu shabu” hotpot with lamb alongside local Hokkaido ingredients such as snow crab legs and prawns.

Best Shopping Spots in Hokkaido

50. Rokkatei Sapporo Main Store - Mouthwatering Sweets Near Sapporo Station

Hokkaido is well-regarded amongst sweet tooths for its variety of delicious and high-quality confections. Rokkatei is one of the most famous Hokkaido confectionery companies, renowned for using local dairy to make scrumptious sandwich cookies and other treats. You can stock up on Rokkatei products at their swanky Sapporo Main Store, just a brief walk from Sapporo Station. Inside is a shop selling all their classics together with seasonal items and souvenirs, as well as a cafe serving desserts and light meals.

51. Ningle Terrace - Step Into a Storybook

Ningle Terrace is a nook of tiny wooden cabins connected by a boardwalk in the forests of Furano, on the grounds of the New Furano Prince Hotel. Appearing straight out of a European fairytale, each cabin sells a unique handicraft like handmade paper art, wooden carvings, candles, accessories, leather items, and more. Along with visiting during the day, be sure to return after dark to witness Ningle Terrace illuminated in a warm, romantic glow.

52. New Chitose Airport - One Final Shop Before Leaving Hokkaido

New Chitose Airport is the gateway to Hokkaido, with both domestic flights from all over Japan and international flights to a number of Asian cities. It’s also fitted with a generous lineup of shopping, entertainment, dining, and relaxation facilities (including a hot spring and movie theater!), granting visitors one final helping of things to do in Hokkaido before leaving.

Those looking to stock up on last-minute souvenirs can get Hokkaido sweets and snacks at Royce', the makers of Japan’s celebrated “raw chocolate;” as well as potato chips and other munchables at Calbee PLUS, baked sweets, ice-cream, and more at KINOTOYA, Hokkaido Milk Castella, Caramel Kitchen by Glico, and plenty more. There are also several apparel and lifestyle stores, like Uniqlo and MUJI, alongside Hokkaido handicrafts such as Otaru glassware and leather goods from Somés, plus hauls of local seafood and produce. Japanese subculture fans should also get to the airport early for a look around the Snow Miku Sky Town and Pokemon Store.

A Lifetime of Adventure Awaits in Hokkaido!

Whether it be relaxing in the countryside, dining on scrumptious dishes, or challenging oneself on an action-packed escapade, the sheer variety of landscapes and culture ensures plenty of things to do in Hokkaido. Best of all, with bullet trains directly connected to Tokyo and flights across Japan, getting to the once-remote Hokkaido has never been easier!

Top image: Infinity T29 / Shutterstock

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

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About the author

Steve
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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