While typically associated with cold beer, snow festivals, and the Winter Olympics, Hokkaido features some of the most remarkable – and unspoilt – beach destinations in Japan. While summer is naturally the best time for swimming and standard beach fare, there are a number of festivals, historical sites, and recreational activities to keep both locals and visitors entertained year-round.
Located in northeast Hokkaido, this mountainous peninsula is one of the most remote parts of the country. Home to Japan’s largest population of brown bears, this is not a typical beach destination – but that does not deter visitors who come for the wildlife and natural beauty of the area. There are tours available to take travelers to the bear habitats as well as the famous Kamuiwakka Hot Falls, pictured below.
Roughly two hours from Sapporo city by car, Ranshima is a great option for travelers looking to avoid the crowded, party atmosphere of Hokkaido’s more popular tourist beaches. With smooth sand and clear water, this beach is a must-visit for travelers looking to unwind and relax by the sea.
Located on the Shakotan peninsula, the beaches and cliffs here overlook the rough, rocky waters of the Sea of Japan. For diners with an adventurous pallet, this area is known for fresh uni, or sea urchin.
This is the party spot. Otaru “Dream Beach” is just a 15-minute train ride from Sapporo station and is a popular spot for young people and university students. The restaurants and bars along the beach offer a variety of affordable food and drink options, with some remaining open until the early morning.
Rishiri is a small, remote island north of the Hokkaido mainland. In addition to the beach, the island is known for its several small fishing villages, bike paths, and hot springs. Mount Rishiri, a 1721-meter-tall dormant volcano, is located in the center of the island.
Another unique trip to the coast, the Abashiri Harbor attracts the majority of its visitors in the wintertime. Each winter, massive chunks of drift ice break away from the Russian coast and float southward to Hokkaido, typically reaching the harbor around late January. Drift ice cruises can be reserved in advance for about $30.
Kamome (“Seagull”) Island attracts both Japanese as well as international tourists year-round. While technically a peninsula (it is connected to the mainland by a sandbank), the area is home to several scenic and historical sites. The beaches are a popular swimming destination for travelers in the summertime, and camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities are available in the other three seasons.
Muroran City – Itanki Beach
The tall cliffs and greenery of this port city contrasted with the calm sea of Itanki beach make this one of the most scenic locations in Hokkaido. The ocean view draws in tourists as well as filmmakers, who frequently use the beach as a backdrop for movies and TV dramas.
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