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Hokkaido, Sea of Japan | Courtesy of Max Pixel
Hokkaido, Sea of Japan | Courtesy of Max Pixel
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The Most Beautiful Beaches in Hokkaido

Picture of Dave Afshar
Updated: 24 January 2017
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.
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Shiretoko Beach

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.

Shiretokomisaki, 羅臼町 Rausu, Menashi District, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

Kamuiwakka Falls | ©Captain76 / Wikimedia Commons

Kamuiwakka Falls | © Captain76 / Wikimedia Commons

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Ranshima Beach

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.

Otaru, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

Ranshima beach in Otaru city, Hokkaido, Japan. | ©禁樹なずな / Wikimedia Commons

Ranshima beach in Otaru city, Hokkaido, Japan. | © 禁樹なずな / Wikimedia Commons

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Shimamu Beach

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.

〒046-0327 Hokkaido Prefecture, Shakotan District, Shakotan, 積丹町大字入舸町, Japan

Shakotan Onsen “MISAKI NO YU” | ©mizoguchi.coji / Flickr

Shakotan Onsen “MISAKI NO YU” | © mizoguchi.coji / Flickr

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Otaru Beach

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.

3-75 Zenibako, Otaru, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

Sun River beach in Otaru city, Hokkaido, Japan. | ©禁樹なずな / Wikimedia Commons

Sun River beach in Otaru city, Hokkaido, Japan. | © 禁樹なずな / Wikimedia Commons

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Rishiri Island

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.

Rishiri Island, Rishiri District, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

Oshidomari Port in Rishiri Island, Hokkaido, Japan. | ©663highland / Wikimedia Commons

Oshidomari Port in Rishiri Island, Hokkaido, Japan | © 663highland / Wikimedia Commons

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Abashiri Harbor

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.

4 Chome-5-1 Minami 3 Johigashi, Abashiri, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

Aurora sightseeing ice-breaker, Abashiri Harbour, Hokkaido | © David McKelvey / Flickr

Aurora sightseeing ice-breaker, Abashiri Harbour, Hokkaido | © David McKelvey / Flickr

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Kamome Island

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.

Esashi, Hiyama District, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan

Heishi rock near Kamome Island, Hokkaido | ©Materialscientist / Wikimedia Commons

Heishi rock near Kamome Island, Hokkaido | © Materialscientist / Wikimedia Commons

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.

地球岬灯台 室蘭市 (Cape Chikyu Lighthouse, Muroran City) | © Highten31 / Wikimedia Commons
地球岬灯台 室蘭市 (Cape Chikyu Lighthouse, Muroran City) | © Highten31 / Wikimedia Commons