BumblebeeMum
Hokkaido Itinerary for end April & cherry blossom season (golden week)
Hokkaido Itinerary for end April & cherry blossom season (golden week)

Hi I am really impressed with your insights of Hokkaido trip that I hope to seek your Kind advice on my impending April 17~25(9 days) trip to Hokkaido.

My plan is to arrived at Chitose Airport(3pm) & hit to Noboribetsu for Day 1, and proceed to
Day 2 Noboribetsu to Hakodate,
Day 3 Hakodate & Lake Toya,
Day 4 Lake Toya & Otaru,
Day 5 Otaru & Sapporo,
Day 6 Sapporo to Furano
Day 7 Back to Sapporro till depart for Chitose airport on Day 9.

I intent to drive throughout & wonder if this will be too expensive for a sandwich class Singapore couple with no kids. please Help! thank you in advance for your advice

By CH on April 14, 2015

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  • Jovin says:

    Hi mummy, I am going to Hokkaido this end Apr/early May. Because it is not blooming season, where do u advise us to visit in Furano, Biei and Asahikawa?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Don’t wish to burst your bubbles but you are going at a very bad time. Firstly, I think you are going to run in Golden Week. Is there any way you can change your travel dates? Golden Week is a really bad time to go Japan. Prices of all travel-related stuff (accommodations, car rental) will go up, trains will be extremely crowded and you may not be able to get reserved seats even if you have a rail pass.

      On the bright side, you have a pretty good chance of running in sakura season! (Check sakura forecast) If i were you, I would focus my travel on sakura spots in Sapporo, Hakodate and Matsumae.

      I would not recommend going to Furano / Biei / Asahikawa at that time, you will just see a lot of melting snow. Asahiyama Zoo (at Asahikawa) will be closing their winter season after 7 April 2015 and they have not announced when they will reopen for their summer season, so it may not be open when you are there. But if you have already made plans to go to the region, I guess you could visit the food places.

      Asahikawa: Asahikawa Ramen Village

      Furano: Furano Wine House and Wine Factory, Furano Cheese Factory, Furano Marche. Tomita Farm has a greenhouse which is open all year round, but it’s really nothing much.

      Biei: Shirogane onsen (there are two waterfalls and a blue lake ‘aoiike’ there)

      If you have not planned your itinerary, I suggest you skip the Asahikawa / Furano / Biei region totally and spend more time exploring Sapporo, Otaru, Hakodate and onsen towns such as Lake Toya and Noboribetsu. These places are great in all seasons. If sakura season has started, you may even want to go further south to Matsumae from Hakodate for sakura viewing. Also, Niseko’s Grand Hirafu ski season should still running (they usually run until end of Golden Week). Don’t waste your time at Asahikawa / Furano / Biei.

  • CH says:

    Hi I am really impressed with your insights of Hokkaido trip that I hope to seek your Kind advice on my impending April 17~25(9 days) trip to Hokkaido.

    My plan is to arrived at Chitose Airport(3pm) & hit to Noboribetsu for Day 1, and proceed to
    Day 2 Noboribetsu to Hakodate,
    Day 3 Hakodate & Lake Toya,
    Day 4 Lake Toya & Otaru,
    Day 5 Otaru & Sapporo,
    Day 6 Sapporo to Furano
    Day 7 Back to Sapporro till depart for Chitose airport on Day 9.

    I intent to drive throughout & wonder if this will be too expensive for a sandwich class Singapore couple with no kids. please Help! thank you in advance for your advice

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Your itinerary seems a bit rushed, you will be spending more time on the road than actually sightseeing. In April, I would advise you to skip Furano. Instead, plan to visit sakura spots toward the end of your trip and keep your fingers crossed that sakura blooms early this year .

      If you arrive at New Chitose Airport at 3pm, by the time you collect your rental car and reach Noboribetsu, it will probably be dark. Note that car rental outlets at New Chitose Airport are all not located at the airport. They only have a desk at the airport where they will arrange to bring you to their nearest outlet by shuttle bus. All these take time. My advise is start with Sapporo.

      Day 1: Sapporo. You will reach there in the late afternoon / evening, but there will still be plenty to shop and eat at that time at Susukino.

      Day 2: Do a day trip of Otaru from Sapporo. (Use the JR Otaru-Sapporo welcome pass.)

      Day 3: Sapporo sightseeing. (Tip: The Otaru-Sapporo welcome pass comes with a one-day subway ticket. You can keep the subway ticket to be used on this day instead if you will be using the subway to, say, visit Shiroi Koibito Park.)

      Day 4: Pick up rental car and drive to Lake Toya. You can spend the day exploring the Lake Toya region.

      Day 5: Drive from Lake Toya to Hakodate. Visit red brick warehouse district / Mount Hakodate first. Keep the sakura spots for later.

      Day 6: Visit Hakodate in the morning, then take a day trip to Matsumae Castle from Hakodate. There are 10,000 sakura trees there and is Hokkaido’s top sakura viewing spot.

      Day 7: Start the morning with a visit to Goryokaku, it is a popular sakura spot. If there’s time, visit Hakodate Park which is a less popular sakura spot compared to Goryokaku, but no harm popping by. Drive from Hakodate to Noboribetsu. (Noboribetsu has a cherry blossom avenue, so hopefully it has started blooming by then.) You probably still have time to visit Jigokudani at Noboribetsu.

      Day 8: Drive from Noboribetsu to Sapporo and return rental car. Visit sakura spots in Sapporo (Maruyama Park / Hokkaido shrine) if sakura has started blooming.

      Day 9: Flight home

      The above itinerary would cut down on the number of days you need to rent the car and allow you ample time to do sightseeing at each city / town.

      • CH says:

        I wanted to visit Furano because of the Wine & Cheese factory I read from your blog. So where should I stay longer in your opinion without being too hectic?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Hmmm…. If you really want to visit the Wine and Cheese Factory, maybe you can do it as a day trip from Sapporo with a car. The drive between Sapporo and Furano is 3 hours per way, it’ll be tiring but definitely doable. Which means you would probably need to cut down the stay at Hakodate (skip Matsumae castle which is pretty far down South, and there’s only a 50-50 chance you may or may not see sakura).

          Day 1: Sapporo.

          Day 2: Do a day trip of Otaru from Sapporo.

          Day 3: Sapporo sightseeing.

          Day 4: Begin car rental. Do a day trip to Furano from Sapporo.

          Day 5: Drive Sapporo to Lake Toya.

          Day 6: Drive from Lake Toya to Hakodate.

          Day 7: Visit Hakodate morning market / Goryokaku before driving to Noboribetsu.

          Day 8: Drive from Noboribetsu to Sapporo and return rental car.

          Day 9: Flight home

          • CH says:

            Thanks now I am kind of confused opting for which..

            For the Day 4, you are suggesting I park my car in Sapporo or should I spend the night in Furano & drive all the way to lake Toya on Day 5? you think this way is Drive-able since I am the only driver for the whole trip?

            So you would suggest I drop Furano entirely if the wine & cheesed factory is not as attractive as your recommended to Hakodate Matsume castle?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              That’s a very tough choice to make frankly, because of your travel date. If you are travelling a week later, I would definitely recommend skipping Furano and going Matsumae castle because of sakura. But mid-April… it’s a wee bit too early for cherry blossoms and you may be wasting time taking the drive to Matsumae castle if sakura has not bloomed yet. At least going to Furano, the wine and cheese factory are guaranteed to be there. You can also visit the greenhouse at Tomita Farm just for fun and shop at Ningle Terrace. I also kind of miss the food at Kumagera already. So maybe going to Furano is not such a bad idea.

              It IS possible to drive Furano to Lake Toya but it is a long, boring and expensive 4 hour drive along the expressway. Driving from Sapporo to Lake Toya via Nakayama Pass takes 2 hours and is toll-free. Of course if you add up Furano to Sapporo (3 hours) and Sapporo to Lake Toya (2 hours), it is longer, but it breaks up the drive and I think it’s a less tiring choice. So I would opt to park the car in Sapporo on Day 4 rather than stay in Furano and drive to Lake Toya the next day. Staying in Sapporo will also allow me to get to Lake Toya earlier and have more time to explore the region. I love Lake Toya region, you can take the Usuzan ropeway, drive to Lake Hill Farm, take the castle-boat cruise or just stroll around the shores of Lake Toya where there are many interesting sculptures.

  • CH says:

    Sadly I have completed all the hotel reservation just yesterday prior to your advice & now agoda is charging me for amendment & cancellation fee for each booking. Can you advice the best I could “salvage” the itinerary based on below with min. Change as per your suggestion.

    17th Day 1 arrived at Chitose Airport(3pm) & rest in Chitose or Sapporo? Which place is better?
    18th Day 2 rent Car from Chitose to Noboribetsu (book Accomodation in Noboribetsu )
    19th Day 3 Noboribetsu to Hakodate, (book Accomodation in Hakodate )
    20th Day 4 Hakodate & Lake Toya, (book Accomodation in Niseko )
    21st Day 5 Lake Toya & Otaru, Otaru, (I will change to lake Toya to Sapporo & cancel Otaru hotel booking for day trip from Sapporo )
    22nd Day 6 Sapporo to Furano & back to return Car in Sapporo( I will cancel my Hotel booking in Furano too)
    23rd Day 7 Sapporo day trip to Otaru
    24th Day 8 Sapporro sight seeing
    25th Day 9 Sapporo & depart for Chitose airport

    please Help! thank you in advance for your advice

    • bumblebeemum says:

      On Day 4, Niseko is a ski resort, there is likely still snow in the region in April, which makes driving there dangerous after dark. If you want to get to Niseko before dark from Hakodate and still visit Lake Toya along the way, I don’t think there is enough time. After all, you would definitely want to visit Hakodate morning market before leaving Hakodate. I advise you to go to Lake Toya on Day 3 instead.

      Here is what I suggest:

      Day 1 arrived at Chitose Airport(3pm) & rest in Sapporo. There is much more to do in Sapporo at night than in Chitose.

      Day 2 Rent Car from Sapporo to Noboribetsu (keep your accomodation in Noboribetsu )

      Day 3 Noboribetsu to Lake Toya to Hakodate, (keep your Accomodation in Hakodate

      Day 4 Hakodate to Niseko (keep your Accomodation in Niseko ) – You can spend the morning / afternoon in Hakodate. But you should leave Hakodate by 2pm latest (1.30pm if you want to be safe) to make it to Niseko before dark. So start the day early (Hakodate morning market opens very early).

      Day 5 Just to clarify, you booked Otaru for this day? It’s okay, you can keep it. You can visit Niseko Milk Kobo in the morning, and go to Otaru after that, spending the rest of the day and night at Otaru.

      Day 6 Since you booked Furano, I would advise you to drive to Furano straight from Otaru. It is approximately 3 hours drive, which is actually about the same as driving from Sapporo. The reason Sapporo to Furano takes a long time is because it takes forever just to drive out of Sapporo city centre to reach the expressway. However, from Otaru, you can hit the expressway easily. So in the end, it takes about the same time getting to Furano from Otaru as from Sapporo. Spend the day exploring Furano and stay there for the night.

      Day 7: Drive back to Sapporo and return the car.

      Day 8: Sapporo sightseeing

      Day 9: Sapporo & New Chitose Airport

      • CH says:

        Oh so you are saying I keep All accommodations as it is but just visit Lake Toya on the way to Hakodate from Noboribetsu instead of heading straight to Hakodate? Enough time to reach Hakodate before it is dark?

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Yes.. Following the above itinerary you can keep all your current accommodation bookings. Only thing is you will be spending quite little time in Hakodate. You will expect to reach there after sunset if you visit Lake Toya enroute. And you will need to leave by 2pm the next day. But since the highlights are Mount Hakodate for night view and Hakodate Morning market early in the morning, it is doable. After the morning market, you can go do a quick visit of the red brick warehouse and Goryokaku tower.

          • CH says:

            I was checking out the car rental and one of the additional option is 4×4 to the car rental.

            1) During the period I am visiting, do I need them?

            2) Also based on my itinerary, do you think I can cut down further at some part for car rental & use Bus or train to reach those places instead?

            3) I understand the highway tolls is very costly, based on my plan route, is there alternative route to avoid paying those highways toll?

            Really appreciate your kind advice.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Hi,

              1) No, there is no need for 4×4 in Hokkaido. You will need snow tyres though. Usually Hokkaido car rentals come with snow tyres during winter period, but if they put it as an option, then you should select that.

              2) Your itinerary is pretty tight, I would advise you to stick to car rental. Trains in Hokkaido are very infrequent, unlike other areas of Japan. And they don’t get to you to the onsen towns, you still need to transfer to bus, which have terrible frequencies. Furthermore you are travelling at low-peak season, so opening hours of places are shortened and public transport frequencies are reduced. Plus accumulated and melting snow around the pavements will slow down your movement (e.g. you may find difficulty pulling trolley luggage cases and you will need to walk very slowly to prevent slipping and falling).

              3) When you are there, ask the car rental company how to display alternative routes on the GPS. Usually GPS has the option to display 5 routes, prioritizing time taken / distance / use of tollway / use of national routes / avoid toll way etc. You can click through the various options to compare distance and toll fees. However if there is still a lot of snow on the road, I would advise you to stick to tollways for safety reasons and to avoid running into road closures. If you are renting from Tocoo, rent an ETC card from them. It would greatly reduce your toll fees.

  • Mei says:

    Hi hi

    I am visiting Hokkaido from 29Apr to 6May & have booked my accommodation as follows but have not planned out my route. Will pick up my car on 29Apr & drop off car on 3May at Sapporo.

    29Apr-nobobeitsu
    30Apr-1May -Hakodate
    2May-Otaru
    3-5-Sapporo

    Need you help to advise on the itinery to best utilise our days. Very impressed w yr blog! Thus hope u can provide some guidance. Thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Hi,

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      You are visiting during sakura season, so sakura viewing will probably be the highlight of your trip.

      29 April: Refer to the map on this website for sakura spots around Noboribetsu. The most famous site is the one called “桜のトンネル” which means “Sakura Tunnel”. It is a 2km stretch of road lined with 2000 sakura trees.

      30 April – 1 May: In Hakodate, you would want to visit Mount Hakodate for its million dollar night view and Hakodate morning market. For sakura, you must visit Fort Goryokaku. You should also go up Goryokaku Tower for a birds’ eye view of the star-shaped fort.

      From Hakodate, plan to take a drive further South to Matsumae Castle. That is the largest sakura spot in Hokkaido with 10,000 sakura trees.

      2 May: Your drive from Hakodate to Otaru is extremely long. I suggest taking a break at Lake Toya. It is a very beautiful lake. You can have lunch at Sendoan, which I have listed under Hokkaido’s Best Food.

      In Otaru, visit Otaru canal and Sakaimachi.

      3-5 May: In Sapporo, the most popular sakura spot is Maruyama Park so you probably want to visit it.

  • charis says:

    Hi there,

    Kinda chanced on your blog and am really amazed that you visited Japan almost every year! Any particular reason?

    We are visiting Hokkaido in April – i din see that you went in Spring. Not sure if it’s a low season or? We will be there w two kids (6 and 8 year olds), for about 12-13 days.

    Do you recommend any sample itinerary for that season? Also like to ask if most hotels will accept kids to stay free?

    charis

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Not sure if there’s any particular reason.. I just like the country. The food, the culture, the onsen, the scenery.. After a while it just becomes a habit of mine to keep going back because it hardly requires much effort in terms of planning. Unlike if I go any other country, I would need to do so much research on transport, accommodation, places to go etc etc. Japan has become a place where I can just book a ticket today and fly tomorrow and have no problems getting around and knowing where to go. :p

      April is low season for Hokkaido, unless you go end April where there is a chance of catching cherry blossoms. I have never visited in Spring because I have largely restricted by Singapore school holidays. But Spring is actually the most popular season for visiting Japan due to cherry blossoms.

      Are you going early or end April? If late April, I recommend you visit the sakura spots – particularly Hakodate and Matsumae Castle in the South.

      If early April, it is kind of in between seasons – too late for snow festivals, too early for cherry blossoms. I guess you can just hang around Sapporo, Otaru, Lake Toya and Noboribetsu in Central Hokkaido. You probably also have time to go down to Hakodate for 2 days.

      But frankly, if I get to go Japan in April, I wouldn’t bother going to Hokkaido. I would go cherry blossom viewing in mainland Japan instead. You can see which region is most likely to have cherry blossoms during your period of visiting on this website:
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011_where.html

      • charis says:

        Thanks for replying! Yea, well, bo bian.. tics were pretty booked up coz doing redemptions. Only Sapporo was available. But I have no probs traveling off peak ;p lesser crowds, and travel is never just about the scenic spots or must-see stuff.

        We’re actually SG staying in Bangkok haha… so a bit different w the hols. We are going to be there mid-April, so not sure if we see much cherry blossoms.

        So great you’re an insider. Lemme try to work out the itinerary and i will run that with you again hope its ok! many thanks!

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Sure, you can let me have a look at your itinerary when you’ve got it planned out. 🙂

          • charis says:

            Hi again… now I’ve got a bit of rough itinerary so wanna get your advice. Let me know your comments. I’ve just tried to work out this ‘geographically’ first, and then map out what to see as we go along.

            Car Rental:
            I think this will be cheapest way to travel around? Trains seemed equally ex. But is it safe driving on icy roads? We are season drivers, but not really so familiar w winter roads.

            Onsen:
            my kids are 6 and 8. They find the water too hot! so is there any point staying in ryokan?? Or going to onsen again? Also seems quite pricey.

            Drift Ice boat:
            Is it worth seeing? Good reviews? Any experience?

            Based on fact that it’s April, kinda in between season, do you recommend that we spend more days in some areas and skip others?

            6 April depart late night

            7 April day 1 Stay 1 night Sapporo

            8 April day 2 to Asahikawa (rent car)

            9 April day 3 to Soukyono

            10 April day 4 to Shikretoko/ Utoro

            11 April day 5 to Lake Akan

            12 April day 6 Furano/ Biel

            13 April day 7 Lake Toya

            14 April day 8 Hakadote

            15 April day 9 Niseko

            16 April day 10 Otaru

            17 April day 11 Sapporo (return rented car)

            18 April day 12 Sapporo

            19 April depart morning

            Look fwd to your comments! many many thanks.

            • bumblebeemum says:

              Car Rental:
              Yeah, car rental may work out to be cheaper than rail. I have written tips on driving in winter on this post:
              http://bumblebeemum.net/2015/08/29/free-easy-hokkaido-winter-trip-essential-travel-tips/

              Onsen:
              I like to go onsen in cold weather. If the kids don’t like it, just take turns with your husband to go.

              Drift Ice boat:
              I’m not sure if there is still drift ice boat for your dates. They may have ended their run by then. Furthermore, it is a no-guarantee thing. Drift ice is kinda unpredictable and they may or may not be around when you are there.

              Day 4:
              I won’t go all the way up to Shiretoko in April. Winter is not the best time for visiting Shiretoko. And I don’t think you have enough time to go all the way up to Shiretoko. I suggest you replace Shiretoko with Abashiri. Or just go to Lake Akan from Sounkyo.

              Day 6:
              What do you want to do in Furano / Biei? I wouldn’t go there in April.

              • charis says:

                Thanks for your reply! Advice is good. I think we just will give up Shiretoko as well, a tad too far away. Well, there’s probably not much to do in Furano/ Biel in April, but we have to make a stop some how in between east/ west…

                How does this look? We have to go from Lake Akan towards west, so no idea how to break up the journey. I read your post on driving, so if we really double the time taken, it may take a long time indeed.

                Wanna ask your advice on accommodation. My kids are 6 and 8, what’s the most budget friendly. Searching on booking sites we see we usually have to end up in quad rooms… which is pretty high! Have you done airbnb before?

                6 April dep 1145pm
                7 April day 1 to Sapporo
                8 April day 2 to Asahikawa
                9 April day 3 to Soukyono (1hr 15m, 75km)
                10 April day 4 to Abashiri (2hr30m, 139km)
                11 April day 5 to Lake Akan (1h38m, 88km)
                12 April day 6 to Furano (2h 125km)
                13 April day 7 Otaru (2h21m, 148km)
                14 April day 8 Lake Toya (2h, 101km)
                15 April day 9 Hakadote (2h30m, 172km)
                16 April day 10 Noribetsu (2h30m, 200km)
                17 April day 11 Sapporo (2h, 99km)
                18 April day 12 Sapporo

                • bumblebeemum says:

                  I would replace Furano with Tomamu. I love Hoshino Tomamu Resort!

                  I have tried Homeaway, which is similar to Airbnb. If your kids need a space of their own, you can consider apartments. Apartments may not be cheaper than hotel, but they give you more space and amenities like kitchenette and washing machine.

                  Alternatively you can try searching for 2 hotel rooms (double / twin). Quad rooms are very limited, so searching for double rooms will open up more options. City hotels in Hokkaido tend to be very cheap during off-peak. Your dates look like lull period, so you should be able to get twin / double room below SGD100 a night in the cities.

                  As for your itinerary, this is how I would do it:

                  day 1 CTS to Sapporo
                  day 2 Sapporo (Day trip to Otaru)
                  day 3 Sapporo
                  day 4 Sapporo to Asahikawa
                  day 5 Asahikawa to Soukyono (1hr 15m, 75km)
                  day 6 Sounkyo to Abashiri (2hr30m, 139km)
                  day 7 Abashiri to Lake Akan (1h38m, 88km)
                  day 8 Lake Akan to Tomamu
                  day 9 Tomamu – Lake Toya
                  day 10 Lake Toya – Hakodate
                  day 11 Hakadote – Noboribetsu
                  day 12 Noboribetsu – CTS

                  (I’m assuming your flight on day 12 is not super early and you have enough time to go back to CTS from Noboribetsu.)

                  • charis says:

                    wow… v impressed with your proposed change to the itinerary! i din think about that! we usually leave the city to last leg so we can massively shop! 🙂 Will give this a good think! thanks a lot.

                    • bumblebeemum says:

                      Oh well.. If you have a car, you can just leave your massive shopping in the car. No need to take them out of the car until the very last day when you need to pack your luggage. I remembered doing that during my USA trip where our car boot was filled with bags and bags of outlet shopping loot! Lol… Only on the last night, we took ALL the shopping bags out and packed everything into our luggage.

  • JJ says:

    Hi Bumblebee mum, Glad to know/read your travel blog here especially Hokkaido self drive trip with kids. The blog is so informative and useful tips!

    I am planning to travel to Hokkaido with my husband and a 5 year old child. Initially was thinking to go for Cherry blossom end April this year. However, my friend told me Japan weather is getting warmer and really hard to predict when is the blooming time.
    Thus, I don’t wanna take risk and decided to plan for Tomamu Resort Unkai (sea of clouds) experience.

    I need your help here 🙂

    1. Can you suggest when is the best time to see Unkai at Tomamu? Staying at Hoshino resort Alpha tower?

    2. My itinerary : Hakodate – Noboribetsu – Sapporo – Furano – Biei – Tomamu – Obihiro. The sequence okay?

    3. I rented a car before from Mazda Hokkaido in Abashiri last time. Any good car rental to suggest?

    4. Should I self drive with kids or take train in Hokkaido as I know there are Hokkaido pass.

    Thank you very much 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Umm… If cherry blossom is hard to predict, I think unkai is even harder to predict. Please be aware that even if you go Tomamu Resort, there is not guarantee that there will be unkai on the day you are there because it depends on Mother Nature’s mood that day. Furthermore if you are going end April, the unkai terrace is NOT open. It is only open from mid May – mid October.

      1. The best time to see unkai is early in the morning. But like I said, no guarantee. You will have to stay at Hoshino Resort Tomamu, wake up early in the morning and catch the shuttle bus to the gondola station and take the gondola up to the sky terrace. Again, remember the gondola only operates mid May – mid Oct.

      2. Yup, the sequence looks right.

      3. So far all the car rental companies I have used in Japan are fine. I would just go with whichever company is the cheapest.

      4. Looking at the places you want to go, I don’t think you need to drive, except in Furano / Biei. But then again, what do you want to do in Furano / Biei in end April? It is a summer place, not a place I would visit in other seasons.

      • JJ says:

        Thank you very much for Bumblebee mum!

        Early June says 3 June is it good time to visit Furano and Biei? I have not been there b4. Was wondering whether i can see any flower.

        Most probably I will drive from Sapporo to Tomamu – Obihiro – Noboribetsu – Hakodate.

        Japan toll fees are quite expensive as you have highlighted. Thus, u bought HEP. May I knw hw to use HEP? Same as ETC card?

        Need ur advise 🙂

        Thank u ^_^

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Nope, I do not think early June is a good time to visit Furano and Biei. The flower season will only be in full swing in July and August.

          Yes, HEP works the exact same way as ETC card. You just insert the card into the ETC reader and drive through the ETC toll gates.

  • Wong Cheng Heng says:

    HI Bumble bee mum,

    Thank you for sharing your travel experience with us, your blog is amazing. In fact, i plan to do self drive in end April (from 22 April to 2 May). Do you think this is good timing for travelling in Hokkaido?

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Yes, it’s a good time for cherry blossoms in Hokkaido. But you are running into Golden Week so accommodation will be expensive and tourists spots will be crowded during that time.

      • Wong Cheng Heng says:

        Thank you for your prompt response. I am going to follow your travel plan ( The 12 days in June 2014), but please advise me if you have any better idea. Thank you very much

  • Wong Cheng Heng says:

    Good Morning Bumblebeemum,

    I plan to go Hokkaido in End April. Should i go to Furano? Not sure whether is a good time to visit Furano in End April. Please advise. Thank you very much

  • Wong Cheng Heng says:

    Dear BumbleBee Mum,

    Thank you for sharing your travel experience. Your blog is so informative and interesting. Keep it on. i am your fan now.

    Below is my self-drive itinerary, and hope you can give me some advice:

    Day 1 (22nd April 2016)
    Arrive New CHITOSE Airport at 9pm. Overnight at Air Terminal Hotel

    Day 2 (23rd April 2016)
    Pick up my car at 9am, travel to Lake SHIKOTSU and overnight at NOBORIBETSU. (117km, 2 hours and 18 minutes)

    Day 3 (24th April 2016)
    Drive to Hakodate (Overnight at Hakodate) (198km, 3hours and 43minutes)

    Day 4 (25th April 2016)
    Hakodate, travel to Matsumae at the evening and overnight at Matsumae (102km, 2 hours)

    Day 5 (26th April 2016)
    Matsumae, PA Yakumo, Overnight at Niseko (240km, 4hours and 20 minutes)

    Day 6 (27th April 2016)
    Niseko, Shakotan Area, Overnight at Otaro (121km, 2 hours and 40 minutes)

    Day 7 (28th April 2016)
    Otaro (Overnight at Otaro)

    Day 8 (29th April 2016)
    Drive to Lake Toya in the early morning (overnight at Lake Toya) (101km, 2 hours)

    Day 9 (30th April 2016)
    Drive to Sapporo (91.1km, 2 hours)

    Day 10 (1st May 2016)
    Sapporo
    Day 11 (2nd May 2016)
    Sapporo, overnight at New Chitose Airport (Air Terminal Hotel)

    Day 12 (3rd May 2016)
    Back to KUL in the early morning (7.50am)

    Other than that, i travel with my wife only, Please recommend some onsen hotels for my reference. Thank you very much.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Day 4: I would just do a day trip to Matsumae from Hakodate. Save the trouble of changing hotel. Then on Day 5 morning, I would still have some time for Hakodate sightseeing before setting off towards Niseko.

      Day 8: Your order is a bit odd. You should shift Lake Toya to in between Hakodate and Niseko. It doesn’t make sense to go back South to Lake Toya from Otaru then go back up to Sapporo again.

      Basically this is how I would adjust the itinerary:

      Day 1 (22nd April 2016)
      No change

      Day 2 (23rd April 2016)
      No change

      Day 3 (24th April 2016)
      No change

      Day 4 (25th April 2016)
      Day trip to Matsumae from Hakodate

      Day 5 (26th April 2016)
      Hakodate to PA Yakumo to Lake Toya

      Day 6 (27th April 2016)
      Lake Toya to Niseko

      Day 7 (28th April 2016)
      Niseko to Shakotan area to Otaru

      Day 8 (29th April 2016)
      Otaru

      Day 9 (30th April 2016)
      Otaru to Sapporo

      The rest no change.

      For a nice onsen stay, at Lake Toya, you can try Nonokaze.
      http://en.nonokaze-resort.com/

      And at Niseko, many of the hotels have onsen. You can try Hilton Niseko.

      • Wong Cheng Heng says:

        Dear bumblebeemum,

        Thank you for your immediate response. As i know, the firework at lake toya will be started on 28th April 2016…is it “MUST SEE” event at hokkaido? Please advise…Thank you very much

        • bumblebeemum says:

          Neh, it’s not a must see.. But it beats having nothing. Most onsen towns are pretty dark and boring at night, and everyone just retires to soak in the onsen or sleep after dark. So the fireworks is a nice addition. Even without fireworks, I would recommend spending a night a Lake Toya. It is really very beautiful and I love soaking in the onsen looking over at the lake and having breakfast with a view of the lake.

          • Wong Cheng Heng says:

            Good Morning,
            Roger That, i will proceed as per your advice. i will spend a night at Noboribetsu as well. Any good onsen hotel there? or should i skip Noboribetsu and spend more day in Hokadate?

            • bumblebeemum says:

              It looks like you have enough time for Hakodate with your current itinerary. At Noboribetsu, you can try Hotel Mahoroba. I like the dinner and onsen there.

              • Wong Cheng Heng says:

                Noted,
                Next, i have to plan for car rental and accommodation. Once again, Thank you for your sharing. I cant wait to read your latest travel blog, Keep it on. Yeah!

  • shgoh says:

    Hi , I plan to travel Hokkaido in April 21st – April 29 2016. Place interested Hokadate and Niseko. We will reach Sapporo airport on 22nd 8am , and plan to take public transport to Hokadate.

    Do you have any recommended itinerary to visit Hokkaido and any Tulip fair in month of April ?

    Kindly advise.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      April seems a bit too early for tulips. But if you want to try your luck, you can visit Takino Suzuran Hillside Park at Sapporo.
      http://www.takinopark.com.e.bn.hp.transer.com/
      You can check their website closer to the date to see if the tulips are in bloom when you are there. Takino Suzuran Hillside Park can be done as a day-trip from Sapporo.

      A possible itinerary visiting Niseko and Hakodate would go like this:

      21 April: Sapporo
      22 April: Sapporo (KIV: day trip to Takino Suzuran Hillside Park)
      23 April: Otaru (day trip from Sapporo)
      24 April: Sapporo – Niseko
      25 April: Niseko
      26 April: Niseko – Hakodate
      27 April: Matsumae Castle (day trip from Hakodate)
      28 April: Hakodate
      29 April: Hakodate – CTS

      Depending on what time your flight is on 29th, if you have a morning flight out, I recommend you return to CTS on 28th and spend the night at Air Terminal Hotel.

  • trish says:

    Hi bublebeemum,

    Such an amazing blog and what great adventures you have been with your family!

    I’m planning for a trip to Hokkaido for 6 days (5nights). It’ll be a self drive trip with the family and my 2 years old toddler. We will be there during the Golden Week period.

    Do you mind giving some pointers on where we should head to?

    Sapporo/Otaru, Hakodote, Furano, Beie? Would you recommend anywhere else or is this just nice for the trip?

    Thanks mommy!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      6 days is pretty short for Hokkaido. I suggest you skip Furano and Biei and focus on Sapporo, Otaru and Hakodate. Golden Week should be cherry blossom in Hokkaido. I recommend you visit Goryokaku at Hakodate and Matsumae Castle south of Hakodate.

  • hui ling says:

    Hi bumblebeemum, my family is visiting Hokkaido on a self drive from 24-30 Apr. Tentatively we are thinking of the following itinerary

    Day 1 – Chitose – Noboribetsu

    Day 2 – Noboribetsu – Hakodate

    Day 3 – Hakodate – Lake Toya

    Day 4 – Lake Toya – Otaru

    Day 5 – Otaru – Sapporo
    (return car)

    Day 6 – Sapporo

    Day 7 – Leave for airport

    I know it is not the best season to visit Hokkaido as it is still too early for the flower season, but is there anything worth visiting that you think we should consider including into our itinerary? Thanks a lot in advance!

  • Francis says:

    Hi Bubblebeemum,

    It’s so kind of you to share your ideas/information to the public.

    Having said, I wonder if you have any information and recommendation and share with me for my family (6 adults) 11-days trip to Hokkaido during late Apr and early May to see the cherry blossom season. We will be using the local transportation networks (trains and buses) to move around to those places recommended by you. in this regard, would you be kind to share your valuable information eg. itineraries where to start and to end based on local transportation networks, reasonable accommodations (we are on budget travelling) and etc.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Thank you
    Francis

    • bumblebeemum says:

      I would probably plan something along these lines:

      Day 1: CTS – Noboribetsu
      Day 2: Noboribetsu – Hakodate
      Day 3: Hakodate (cherry blossoms)
      Day 4: Hakodate (Day trip to Matsumae for cherry blossoms)
      Day 5: Hakodate – Lake Toya
      Day 6: Lake Toya
      Day 7: Lake Toya – Sapporo
      Day 8: Sapporo (cherry blossoms)
      Day 9: Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
      Day 10: Sapporo
      Day 11: Sapporo – CTS

      For accommodation, you can just use hotel booking websites such as hotels.com / Agoda etc to find the cheapest reasonably priced accommodation. The period you are travelling is going to coincide with Golden Week so I suspect you are not going to be able to find very cheap accommodation at this time. Please book asap from whatever is available.

      • Francis says:

        Hi Bubblebeemum,

        Thank you very much for your suggestion and recommendation. Was extremely busy lately to notice your reply.

  • Sally Chew says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    i and my friend had just came back from our japan trip and did a self drive around mt fuji area indeed was a wonderful experience. And thanks to some of the place u recommended in your blog.

    we would like to travel to hokkaido and next year date would be 16april to 3may just wondering isnt a good time to travel ? Or this period or 23april -11 May would be better?

    Btw we will be heading back to mt fuji for 4days before back to tokyo. so will be exploring hokkaido for abt 10-12days.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      23 April – 11 May would be better because it is sakura season in Hokkaido. However, you are coinciding with Golden Week. So do book all your flights and accommodation early (about 6 months in advance).

  • Grace CHANG says:

    April 26th 0900 to 30th 2017
    2 adults with 2 toddlers (3 years old)

    Day 1) CTS pick up rental car –
    Airport to Noboretisu – 60mins
    (stop for scenery/ foot bath)
    Noboretisu – Lake Toya 60mins
    Lake Hill Farm

    Stay a night

    Day 2) Toya – Hakodate 2 hour 40mins
    Hakodate Attractions

    Day 3) Hakodate – Niseko 2 hour 40mins
    Niseko Attractions
    Niseko – Otaru 1hr 30mins
    Otaru Attractions

    1) Otaru Canal 16mins walk from station
    2) Music box museum
    3) Sakaimachi Street (境町通り), a preserved merchant district, now souvenir shops
    4) Le Tao cheesecake a must have and famous
    5) Subetsu Fruit Farm

    Day 4-6) Otaru – Sapporro 50mins Return CAR
    Sapporro travel with JR pass

    Attractions in Sapporro

    Please advise if the driving is doable. Appreciate your input 🙂

    • bumblebeemum says:

      April 2017? You sure plan ahead! 🙂

      Day 3 is too rushed. Shops along Sakaimachi Street in Otaru close quite early. You probably have to shift some of the stuff you want to do in Otaru to Day 4 before you return to Sapporo.

      Btw, Sobetsu fruit farms will not be open in April.

  • Annie says:

    Hello Bumblebeemum, your blog is really informative! however i cant find much about early May itinerary 🙁

    i’m planning late apr/ early may (28 Apr – 12 May) to Hokkaido. by the way there’s very cheap tickets now offered by Thai Airways 🙂

    as me and my husband will be visiting hokkaido for the first time and we dont intend to rent car because we do not have any driving experience.

    im planning for JR flexi 4 days pass:

    Day1/2/3 Hakodate
    Day3 Noboribetsu
    Day4 Kutchan
    Day5/6 Kitami Area
    Day7/8 Otaru
    Day10 onwards will be sapporo

    but JR pass seems cant cover all the places, hence please recommend the most feasible way and help to improve my itinerary.

    Thanks!

  • meteor says:

    Dear Bumblebeemum, i love yr detailed japan trip. I plan to travel to Hokkaido + Tokyo next year from 12-27 May together with my hubby and 5yr old boy. We would like to rent a car to travel around in Hokkaido and plan for 4-5 day stay in Tokyo. I wish to have farm stay experience in Hokkaido. Greatly appreciate your recommendation on the places and itinerary for my family. Thank you .

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