For those who have visited Japan, the woes of transportation are real. But like my previous trips in Kyoto and Osaka, an excursion ticket saved my pockets again. And this time is in Hakone, the perfect spot to go dipping in the hotsprings. A destination rich in unspoiled nature, truly a captivating place packaged with active volcanoes, cable cars atop mountains and a crater lake. Yes, it is possible to visit these places and go on a travel-spree in Hakone on a budget! And that is all thanks with the help of Hakone Free Pass.
A cloudy day in Gora
By using Hakone Free Pass, we get to have unlimited rides on select transportations within Hakone. This means you can freely get on and off the road within the coverage of the pass. Ain’t that sweet? Here’s your guide on how to use Hakone Free Pass and get the most out of your Hakone adventure too!
WHAT IS HAKONE FREE PASS?
Like Osaka Amazing Pass and Kintetsu Rail Pass, Hakone has its own discount pass too, which is the Hakone Free Pass. All of them offer unlimited rides on select transportations within their own area coverage.
Hakone Free Pass is a discount pass that lets you travel around and explore all the popular sightseeing destinations in Hakone. This excursion ticket offers unlimited rides on 8 different types of transportation in Hakone. It also covers your round-trip ticket from your departure area up to Odawara station. Hakone Free Pass also provides free entrance and a number of discounted admissions to various attractions in the area. This also includes discounts on museums, hotsprings, shopping and dining establishments.
AREAS COVERED BY HAKONE FREE PASS
The Free Pass covers most of the area in Hakone wherein you can use your ticket for transportation, which makes Hakone a pretty accessible area to travel around! Here is the coverage of Hakone Free Pass that you can access using the said 8 transportation vehicles:
WHAT ARE THE 8 TRANSPORTATIONS COVERED BY HAKONE FREE PASS?
They are mostly buses, but it can still get you to where you want with an addition of majestic sceneries from Hakone along the way. The transportations worthy of mentioning are the sightseeing cruise ships, ropeways and cable cars. You can ride back and forth on them how many times you want. Even I got so sick of riding the ropeway, the view is truly wonderful, but seeing the same view again and again is…. Urgh. I listed down all the rides you can get on, and arranged them from the most interesting and unique to some typical bus lines:
- Hakone Ropeway
- Sightseeing Cruise Ship
- Hakone Tozan Train
- The Hakone Tozan Cable Car
- Hakone Tozan Bus
- Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus (on some designated areas only)
- Numazu Tozan Tokai Bus (on some designated areas only)
- Kanko Shisetsu Meguri Bus (tourist facilities round bus)
1. HAKONE ROPEWAY
SAVOR THE VIEW OF THE GREAT BOILING VALLEY, OWAKUDANI! Never miss out on this chance to ride their ropeway atop an active volcano! By riding the ropeway in Sounzan, the rope trip will transport you to Lake Ashi in Togendai in just 30 minutes. The cabins are large enough to move around and appreciate the panoramic view of Hakone and its natural beauty from atop. We even experienced the full force of the volcanic clouds from Owakudani because of the sudden raindrops on our day of visit. The drizzle evaporates the heat from the volcano which then forms the volcanic clouds, the view became totally white which was perfect for horror movies.
2. HAKONE SIGHTSEEING CRUISE SHIP
After riding the ropeway, get off at Togendai where you can ride the glamorous pirate ship in Lake Ashi. The cruise ships are actually designed as samurai warships but then it looked a lot more like a pirate ship. The sightseeing cruise links 3 areas along the lake, namely Togendai, Moto-Hakone-ko and Hakone-Machi. With the Free Pass you can hop on and off anywhere on these three locations along the lake shore, cool right? You can just sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Or roam around the ship and have fun taking selfies too!
3. HAKONE TOZAN TRAIN
If your timing is right in summer, you can fully view the hydrangeas along the tracks of the Hakone Tozan train. What’s more interesting is, the train switches back and forth the track as it climbs the steep slope of the mountain. What’s worse? Sitting on the wrong side of the train like us.
4. HAKONE TOZAN CABLE CAR
The Hakone Tozan Cable Car stops by at 4 stations that connect Gora Town to popular sightseeing spots like museums and onsens. From here you can access Hakone Gora Park, a French-theme park with its large turquoise fountain overlooking the mountains. Be quick so you can get a ride on the first car and capture the perfect shot of the cable car while it climb up its tracks.
5. THE BUSES
Buses are the main means of transportation in Hakone, giving you many areas of access in the place. You can conveniently access Gotemba Premium Outlet, a high end mall located at the base of Mt. Fuji! There are various well-known brands inside and you might be lucky to encounter some shop on a sale. When it’s sale in Japan it definitely is a SALE. The night we were at Michael Korrs boutique, they suddenly started having a sale where all items are 50% off! There I thought I can afford just one item and well… I still didn’t.
THE HAKONE FREE PASS
KINDS OF PASS AND HOW MUCH ARE THEY?
There are 2 kinds of Hakone Free Pass, and they are available in 2 or 3 days. The costs of the ticket vary depending from your departure station, you can see below why. And tickets for children are totally lower than that of adults. You can see below how much they differ in prices:
IS IT WORTH IT?
Totally YES! Imagine the cost of the ropeway and the cruise ship. It costs A LOT, but with Hakone Free Pass you can ride whenever you want. The price of the Free Pass is totally worth it and I recommend that you get the 3 day pass so you can thoroughly explore Hakone. Do check out a museum or two when you have some spare time and cash to burn.
WHERE TO BUY HAKONE FREE PASS
Getting the Hakone Free Pass is easy as they are available at any Odakyu line station.
- In Shinjuku: We bought our tickets at Shinjuku station since we are near Tokyo. There's a counter in Shinjuku station where you can avail the Hakone Free Pass, which I recommend because they will give you brochures and a coupon book for Gotemba Premium Outlets. If you want to play a game, you can take the stamp challenge in the brochure and win a limited edition prize. (For more information about this stamp challenge, please see topic below on "How to Use Hakone Free Pass")
- In Machida and Odawara: These are the other two departure stations where you can buy the Free Pass if you're not coming from Shinjuku station.
- Odakyu Line station ticket machines: It is also an option to avail them on ticket machines. On how to buy you can visit this link for a more detailed information. The Free Pass section is at the bottom of the article and I think the instructions are very straightforward for tourists to understand.
- Buy them online on Klook: Another option is to purchase online your Hakone Free Pass on Klook here. You just print your voucher and present it at the pick up location in Shinjuku station (near West Exit). Pick up is available from 7 days before your selected date.
HOW TO USE HAKONE FREE PASS
- Just show it: Using the ticket is fairly easy as you will only need to show it when riding a bus, entering some sightseeing spots for discounts or free admissions.
- Check out the weather: Always check out the weather in Hakone and make sure you’ll be there on a clear day. Some attractions, especially the ropeway may not be operational for safety reasons. Just avoid visiting Hakone on rainy or snowy seasons.
- Plan thoroughly: Plan your itinerary thoroughly so can explore without difficulties. Some transportation like the sightseeing cruise ship operates until 5pm. Another options is to ride buses which would take time due to it having several stops.
- Brochures: If you buy your Free Pass in Japan, they will hand you out some Hakone travel brochures and a discount coupon book for Gotemba Premium Outlet. In one of the brochure, you can get some free items when you complete the stamp challenge in Hakone.
- The stamp challenge: You can take the stamp challenge if you have the brochure that they will give out when you buy your Hakone Free Pass in Japan. The challenge is, to visit the selected locations on the stamp sheet and collect four or more stamp varieties. The stamp designs from each area are the different characters from the world famous animation Doraemon. These stamps are always in the location of the station and if you have trouble finding them you can ask the kind staffs in the area. If you complete the challenge, you can show your stamp sheet at a prize claim location and get a limited edition prize, which is a Doraemon notebook. You can also exchange your Hakone coupons which are also in your brochure to get some pens. All the coupons can be exchanged, it was okay with the staff when we asked and we got 2 dozen of pens as a souvenir! The selected areas to get your brochure stamped are at:
- Gora Station
- Gotemba Premium Outlets
RULES IN USING HAKONE FREE PASS
- One round-trip only: One round-trip from your departure station to Odawara station is allowed, e.g. from Shinjuku to Hakone/Odawara (vice versa): The unlimited rides are within the vicinity of Hakone.
- Not for Romancecar: The ticket cannot be used on the Romancecar limited express train. Riding on the Romancecar gives you the best scenic view of the countryside along the way to Hakone but requires you to pay a separate fee of ¥890 for a one way ticket. The seats are limited so it's better to reserve in advance especially on a peak season. Get a seat on the front car, it will give you a direct experience of riding on the front seat of a train.
- Other transportations aside from the above mentioned cannot be used with Hakone Free Pass. Double check the area you will be going to because they might not be covered by the pass.
- Boarding and getting off at areas outside of the designated zone of the pass requires an extra fare.
FREE ADMISSION IN HAKONE GORA PARK
You can enter Gora Park FOR FREE by showing your Hakone Free Pass at the entrance. Located near Gora station, Gora Park is just a few hikes away on the steep slope above the station. Gora Park features a French style garden featuring a wide variety of flora ranging from roses to tropical flowers. The park is popular in Hakone boasting a stunning turquoise fountain and majestic mountain views. There are also some hands-on activities available in the area like pottery and glass blowing which I recommend you try.
There are so many fun things to do in Hakone and a number of great museums to visit. I would really like to get a chance to visit most or all of them. But thinking about it, all the places that we have been to is enough to get to know the place thoroughly. Hakone is abundant in nature, and it’s a perfect getaway to unwind and just feel free and alive! We even get to see the beach by riding a bicycle around Odawara city, which is one of the best parts of our travel.
Purchase Hakone Free Pass and you will surely enjoy more the area, especially when you’re on a tight budget. There are various interesting stuffs you can do in Hakone and I have created a separate blog post featuring these off-beaten activities. I feel the need to separate them since Hakone Free Pass is more on about the transportations you can use. Are you interested in some other more activities you can do and visit in Hakone? Read my post: List of Fun and Cheap Things to do in Hakone.
Miyukinohama Beach. The waves are strong so there's only a particular area where they allow people to swim.