We’ve partnered up with Hidden Hokkaido, a group of ski travelers with significant knowledge of the Japanese skiing Mecca Hokkaido. The following is their top 10 recommendations for hidden gem onsens in Hokkaido.

An onsen is a Japanese hot spring that has natural minerals in the water that adds to the texture and smell of the bath. We traveled all over Hokkaido from Lake Toya to the Daisetsuzan National Park to experience the top onsens. As we stopped by each onsen we saved detailed notes and made many observations that we wished we were aware of before arriving. Japan has over 3,000 onsens, so it can be overwhelming finding the best spots after a long day skiing or snowboarding. We’ve put together a list of our favorite onsens in Hokkaido, which are must-visits during your next trip.

Number 1: The Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort

Located within the Nonokaze Resort alongside beautiful Lake Toya this top tier onsen is probably one of, if not, the best on all of Hokkaido. The exclusivity of this onsen will be for you to determine. On an attempt to go skiing in the vicinity of Lake Toya, we were met with below average snowfall accumulation. And if you can’t ski there’s only really 1 other thing to do with your time, and that is to onsen!

The onsen takes up the top 2 floors of the hotel and offers spectacular views of Lake Toya, a volcanic caldera lake which emerged through an eruption 110,000 years ago. The floor to ceiling windows allow you to take in the entirety of the beautiful lakescape and the top-floor open-air infinity hot pool is quite something. A massive indoor area laid with the finest granite stone and showers and pools as far as the eye could see. Choose between classic hot pools or ones infused with teas and fruits. Extremely clean and well kept. A must visit if you are in the area and bold enough to test your luck.

Number 2: Fukiage Hot Spring Health Center

Sitting at the base of Mount Tokachi, this onsen/hotel prides itself on being a backcountry skiers mecca, with many tours starting off from its car park. While in the Furano area, we asked many locals to point us to the best onsen in the area, and almost every answer we got was to visit Fukiage, high praise!

And it did not disappoint. This onsen had hands down the highest and lowest temperate pools we have come across, with a very cold plunge pool, and a skin burning 45 degree C pool outside. This is potentially because they are so close to the source of the mountain springs, but regardless it is a fantastic facility with lots of cooler pool options, all set in a very authentic and relaxed environment. We didn’t notice until leaving, but there is also a mixed gender outdoor pool area, however bathing suits are required.

Number 3: Niseko Kiranoyu Onsen (ニセコ駅前温泉 綺羅乃湯)

In December 2019 Niseko Kiranoyu Onsen was renovated. We heard from locals that we had to visit Niseko Kiranoyu Onsen. The building is very nice featuring a modern industrial aesthetic with exposed concrete, wood and dark tiles. Everything was very well maintained showing the pride they have in their newly updated facility. On your way in they have an electronic ticket machine that supports several languages, which is the first one we’ve seen in Hokkaido that’s not mechanical.

As you walk into the onsen you’ll see the washing area to the right, and two indoor baths to the left with electronic thermostat readings. When we visited the first wooden indoor bath was around 41 degrees C and the large granite tile indoor bath was around 43 degrees C. The space is not very large, but they maximize the size of the baths making the area feel bigger than it really is. Outside there is a rock open-air bath around 40 degrees C, a cold plunge and a dry sauna. We really enjoyed having the cold plunge outside, so that we could get as cold as possible before jumping in the dry sauna. If you’re in Niseko then you should definitely stop by and spend ¥500.

Number 4: Forest SPA

Forest SPA is located across the river south of downtown Asahikawa. The facility is built specifically as a modern exotic spa resort, and has a variety of baths ranging from 38 to 43 degrees C. We were very impressed by the bedrock bath to the left of the waiting area that uses heated natural stones to help you detoxify and purify your body from toxins. We discovered the most unique and controlled bath at Forest SPA, which was a bath with fine bubbles created by ultrasonic waves. While the experience is very enjoyable all of the water does not come from from a natural hot spring source, so it’s not the most authentic experience.

We drove up to Forest SPA and parked outside the large warehouse looking facility. In the onsen the bathing area was all the way in the back past the indoor baths, which we found kind of odd. The tile materials used were high-quality and there was a series of indoor baths with water features. Even though there were signs with the water temperature we verified that the actual temperatures were slightly colder than presented. The outdoor area was very large with two open-air baths, three person baths and TV for entertainment. We recommend Forest SPA if you want to try several different water features and don’t mind that it’s not super authentic.

Number 5: Yusenkaku Konbugawa (昆布川温泉 )

Yusenkaku, meaning “hidden hot spring”, could not be a more fitting name for this onsen. You know you’ve found a good onsen when the locals are asking how you found out about it! With a definite local vibe, this onsen is a hidden gem. Put this on the must visit list and escape the hustle and bustle of the Niseko area to relax in another one of Hokkaido’s clean and well kept community onsens. Time and time again it seems the community run facilities have outperformed most others. A great value that ticks all the boxes plus some. The 3 indoor pools, posted at 45, 42, and 39 degrees C, run very true to their posted temp and have plenty of room for all. The open-air pool, posted at 40 degrees, is made up of natural stone work and has a distinct silky smooth feeling the moment you drop in.

The website describes that the natural water used at the onsen comes from an alkaline hot spring that contains bicarbonate ions, great for soothing the skin and curing ailments. After you’re done your routine of hot and cold, or anywhere mixed in, stand under one of two water drop massage features to work out any kinks or sore areas. You’ll leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. After soaking in the hot spring stop in at the relaxation room or maybe even fill your belly with what I suspect to be some awesome food from the attached restaurant!

Number 6: Kyokoku Onsen

There’s nothing quite like an onsen and a delicious meal after a big day of riding. Right? Get two birds with one stone at Kyokoku Onsen. Soak up the natural onsen minerals as well as stunning views of Mt. Yotei from the outdoor pool. Their onsen and meal deal for ¥1000 is the best deal we’ve seen by far.

A great onsen coupled with great food will leave your body feeling replenished and relaxed after a big day on the slopes. Popular with the locals as well as the foreign crowd that ventures beyond the onsens of the bustling Niseko resort area, this onsen offers lots of pool options with plenty of space for everybody.

Number 7: Hot Water of Fukiage Open-air

A public pool located off the side of the road and seemingly maintained by local volunteers; this is an absolute must visit if you are in the area for the experience alone. Park up in the car park, and take the trail down the side of the mountain to the two pools that make up this hot spring. Situated in the woods on the side of a valley, it is a very unique and traditional experience, making you think of Japan of the past, of how hot springs started.

Since it is a public spring, there is no entry charge, and no gender separation. The pools are not large, so if it is busy then you might find it to be a tight squeeze. There is a small changing area beside the pools, however it is not covered so it is recommended to bring a coat or other covering to ensure that you don’t have your clothes covered in snow.

Number 8: Village of Takigawa Touching Love

Village of Takigawa Touching Love is a local gem that has a variety of baths with precise temperatures. This large facility has a big selection of baths to choose from ranging from cold to hot as well as a steam room and sauna. Mats are provided for the sauna, so that you can sit in comfort. As you enter there’s a large bathing area on the left hand side, and on the right hand side are four different baths. Outside there are two open-air baths that range from normal to hot temperatures based on your preference. After your time in the onsen you can take advantage of their additional facilities including a delicious restaurant, sleek relaxing lounge and massage chairs.

We can say with confidence that this was one of our favorite onsens in Hokkaido, and we’ll be going back. We were very impressed by the vast size of the facility and all the different options to choose from. We could have easily spent a day relaxing at Village of Takigawa Touching Love. There were several local families with their children, however they were kind and well behaved. To our surprise there was no Wi-Fi, however sometimes you need to take a break from technology and live in the present moment. If you’re spending time in Central Hokkaido then make sure to add the Village of Takigawa Touching Love to your travel plans.

Number 9: Manyo

Located on the outskirts of Asahikawa, Manyo is a big onsen with a reasonable set of facilities. You’ll begin your onsen experience here by storing your shoes in the lockers at the front door, and you’ll have to lock them and give the key to the staff to proceed. You’ll then get this key swapped for a locker key, in a strange and typically Japanese formal dance.

On entering the onsen, there is a large area for washing, as well as the standard set of hot pools. A nice touch at Manyo is a large digital temperature readout on each pool, which helps avoid the toe dipping dance! Also unique to Manyo is a large marble seating area right in the middle, giving a good place to rest up before choosing your next soak. Inside, you’ll find a full range of pools, with 4 hot pools, a cold plunge (around 15 degrees C), steam and sauna. The sauna is large and has a TV to help you catch up with your Japanese news. There are a further two pools outside in a traditional style.

Number 10: Hōheikyō Hot Spring

Hōheikyō Hot Spring was listed as #1 in Japan by TripAdvisor in 2013 for “Day Trip Hot Spring Facility”. Located about 40 minutes southwest of Sapporo Hōheikyō Hot Spring is one of the most authentic onsens we’ve been to in Hokkaido. The hot spring region of Jozankei has over 56 onsen sources with water ranging from 60 to 80 degrees C. When you enter the Hōheikyō Hot Spring you’ll notice that the stone and wooden floor has been carved out by the sodium chloride in the fresh hot spring water telling a story of rich history. All of the baths are handmade from natural bamboo, wood and stone transporting you back to the late 1880’s when the onsen area of Jozankei started.

Hōheikyō Hot Spring has three indoor baths to the right hand side of the indoor area when you first enter, and ranges from 39 to 42 degrees C. We started in the 39 degree C pool and then worked our way up to the 42 degree C bath made out of bamboo and wood. Outside there are two very large open-air baths that both have a beautiful sodium chloride buildup on the rocks that keep in the fresh hot spring water. In total there are three open-air baths. On even-numbered days men get to access the two open-air baths and on odd-numbered days women get access. This way you can visit Hōheikyō Hot Spring twice to experience all three of the open-air baths.