Gather your gal pals and head for the hills this summer! Hakuba Valley is the perfect place for a girl’s weekend, sans gentlemen. Soaking in an onsen with 360-degree mountain views? Done. Lazing in a mountain-top hammock while nibbling sweet treats from a world-famous bakery? We’ve got you covered. Read on for the lowdown on the perfect girls’ weekend in Hakuba.
August 26th, 2020 | by April Eve Day
Arrival – Check-In and Onsen
Evening: Check-in and Check Out The Onsen
One of the best things about Hakuba in Summer is that it’s still cool enough for a trip to the onsen. Lots of hotels in Hakuba have their own onsen and if you’ve never stayed in one of these before, you’re in for a treat. Think steaming baths, the soothing sound of trickling water, and if you’re lucky, spectacular views of the alps as you soak your troubles away with your gal pals. Then, slip into your yukata robe, which is basically luxurious pajamas that you can (and totally should) wear to dinner without judgment. And speaking of dinner, many hotels offer an optional five-course meal which can be served in your room or the restaurant.
If your budget doesn’t stretch quite that far, you can still have the perfect onsen experience at one of the various public onsens or pay a small fee to use one of the hotel onsens. Two of our faves are the Hakuba Highland Hotel Onsen, which boasts some of the best mountain views in town, and the Mominoki Hotel Onsen, the ultimate in laid back luxe. If you want to replace some of those calories that you burned while bathing (that’s a thing, right?), sample some of the local delights at the Mominoki buffet.
Day 1 – Hiking, Berry Picking, and Dining Out
Morning: Ride to the top of the resort
The ski lifts aren’t just for skiers, in summer you can take the Happo gondola to mid-station where, believe it or not, you will step out of the gondola onto the “shores” of the Mountain Beach, a summer attraction featuring hot and cold pools, lounge chairs, saunas, and spectacular views. Stop for a dip, then take the Grat lift even higher, all the way to the top of the resort. Where only a few months ago there was deep snow, now wild grasses and flowers grow almost high enough to brush your swinging legs as you ride up into the clouds. Once at the top, there are boardwalks that will take you to the most insta-worthy spots where you can capture your girl’s weekend for all your friends to see. Those looking for more adventure can continue the hike up to Happo Ike.
Lunch: Pilar Restaurant
If you’d rather soak up the mountain vibe with a vino in hand, head over to Pilar, the highest fine-dining restaurant in Hakuba. The chef here uses local ingredients to serve up exquisite Italian dishes, and at 2000yen for the pasta set and 2500yen for the main set, it is surprisingly affordable. For those late risers who miss out on lunch, they also serve afternoon tea and of course wine. No girl’s weekend in Hakuba is complete without a glass of wine from the top of the Japanese Alps.
Afternoon: Blueberry picking
What could be more picturesque than wandering through the shade of the blueberry trees, picking (and eating) your fill of summer berries? Pro tip: The sweetest berries grow on the trees at the very end of the farm, furthest from the shop. Afterward, kick back with a blueberry wine or ice cream. We Recommend the NOH Cafe and Bluebarry farm.
Evening: Dinner at Shouya Maruhachi
This hidden gem of a restaurant is in Shinden, Iwatake, on the ancient salt road. Set in a historical residence, the chef uses local produce to create delectable dishes. Fancy a drink or two? Call ahead and you can arrange for them to pick you up and drop you back at your hotel.
Day 2 – Breakfast at the Top of Iwatake
Morning: Breakfast in the clouds
What better way to spend the last day of your girl’s weekend than enjoying breakfast in the clouds. Get up early and catch the gondola to the top of Iwatake. This charming little mountaintop is not as high as Happo, but what it lacks in elevation it certainly makes up for in relaxed ambiance. Deck chairs are strategically placed for you to enjoy the view of the village far below, hammocks, swings, tables, and chairs are scattered throughout the cool, inviting forest and there is even a resident flock of mountain sheep. Perched as if floating on the edge of the peak is the Mountain Harbour, an elegant wooden structure that blends perfectly with the surrounding scenery and houses a branch of the world-famous City Bakery, founded in New York City in 1990. Have a leisurely breakfast here as you soak up the sun and spectacular view. After breakfast, take some of the most Insta-worthy shots around from Mountain Harbour’s two viewing platforms, which extend right out over the mountainside.
Relaxed and rejuvenated, now all that’s left to do is gather the girls and start making plans to come back in the Fall!
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