- Back from Japan: a life-changing experience
- JAL business class vs. Delta premium select (review of our flights to/from Japan)
- Japan sightseeing and transportation logistics for the lazy and/or mobility-challenged
- Why you should consider renting a machiya during your family vacation in Japan
- If you can only stay in one city in Japan, make it Kyoto
- Hiroshima: looking beyond the atomic bomb legacy
- Lost in translation: our two hectic nights in Tokyo with kids
- Hotel Indigo Hakone Gora: a fabulous treat at the end of our trip to Japan (last post)
Well, comrades, this will be the last post in the series. I hope at least some of you enjoyed reading my rants as much as I enjoyed writing them. Trip reports take an obscene amount of time to put together, and ironically bring in the least amount of traffic. So, it’s a labor of love, truly.
Anyway, back to business. Adding Hakone into the mix was something I’ve decided to do a few months before our trip. It just felt right, despite having to sacrifice two nights in Tokyo. Our itinerary was heavy on big cities, so adding a stay at a small mountain resort at the end of the trip seemed like a good idea. And it was!
I was actually surprised to discover that Hakone area has an IHG property. Even better, the resort was exactly what I was looking for. All rooms have a private onsen, and the public onsen (pool area) requires bathing suits, which would allow us to enjoy it together as a family. It obviously targets foreigners, which is exactly what we were. Keep in mind that this hotel is technically located in a small town of Gora, which is a few miles away from Hakone. But they do provide free van transfers from Gora and Odawara stations (at certain times).
As I wrote previously, I was able to use our renewal certificates from IHG cards towards one of the rooms. That meant paying $49 per night, an absolute steal. The second room was covered via points (at 40k per night), plus $75 for an upgrade that would fit my MIL and kids. It was still a solid deal compared to paid rates. Plus, my MIL got a guaranteed river view, while my husband and I did not.
Fortunately, during check-in we were told that they also upgraded us at no charge, so we could be next to each other. The rooms actually had a connecting door, but my husband and I were in agreement that we would not ask them to unlock it. Oh yes, we totally took advantage of grandma. But who wouldn’t in our spot?
Our beautiful rooms
The mattresses were kind of hard, but that seems to be a theme in Japan. My son had a nice sofa bed.
The fancy toilet is in a separate room near the entrance:
Of course, the star attraction is the private open-air onsen (water pumped from natural hot springs), with the view of the river:
You can add cold water from a separate faucet to make it more comfortable. The onsen is big enough to fit two people, so my husband and I mostly enjoyed it together. There are blinds that you can lower for privacy. The private onsen was, hands down, my favorite part of the resort. I used it a lot. Some folks on TripAdvisor complain about the view of the ugly buildings in a nearby town, but it didn’t really bother us.
Keep in mind that when you use IHG points, it gets you a standard room with the view to the back of the property.
I strongly recommend reaching out via email to guarantee a river view, as the difference is usually only $20 per night. That said, if you don’t like the loud sound of a rushing water, a standard room may be preferable. We found the river sounds relaxing, especially when using the onsen.
The room includes male and female yukatas (robes) for use during your stay:
I used mine to go to the public onsen downstairs:
There were also slippers and flip flops available.
There was also a sauna, and we used it as well. Public onsen was a big hit with my son, since it allowed him to swim for the first time on this trip. Be aware that the water is quite warm, similar to a hot tub.
There is also a gym next door, but we never used it.
The buffet is quite pricey at $25 per person, but my husband and I loved it. There were all kinds of interesting dishes available, so I give it thumbs up. For our second morning we got some pre-packaged foods from 7-Eleven across the river.
My MIL ordered room service for her and the kids one night and she said it was quite good. She appreciated the fact that they had hamburgers on the menu. The price was about what you would pay at an Indigo property in the US.
My husband and I decided to go to a local restaurant called Tokyo Sushi, just five minutes from the resort on foot.
We spent around $45 total for two orders of sushi, miso soup and green tea. This is a cash-only place, and they attempt to let you know right away.
Courtyard area with foot onsen
This is a delightful space I thoroughly enjoyed.
I loved their foot onsen, where you can order a drink while enjoying the scenery and soaking your feet. As IHG Platinum members, we got two free drink vouchers at check-in.
I should add that the weather in Hakone was considerably cooler compared to Tokyo, due to being in the mountains. We had to wear light jackets in the evenings. For Florida folks that’s always a treat.
The stay at this resort was a fabulous conclusion to an already amazing adventure. On the last morning before our flight back to US, my husband was relaxing in our private onsen while I fed him coffee and snacks from 7-Eleven. He jokingly asked me if we could extend our stay in this hotel by a week or so. Just me and him, no kids. He absolutely loved it there, just chilling in the onsen and doing nothing. Alas, we had to get back to the real world.
So, my advice is to add a relaxing few days in a Japanese onsen town if your schedule allows it. It doesn’t have to be Hakone, and there are plenty of other resorts, though proximity to Tokyo is certainly a plus.
That said, I can wholeheartedly recommend Hotel Indigo Hakone Gora. I checked the rates during cherry blossom season next year, and they are not that bad, considering the fact that you can buy IHG points for 0.5 cents apiece. This place is worth the detour from Tokyo, at least in my humble opinion.
If you are looking to contain out-of-pocket costs, the offer on IHG One Rewards Premier credit card (our affiliate link) currently offers 140k points+$100 IHG statement credit after spending $3k in the first three months. First year annual fee of $99 is not waived. This product gives you every 4th night free when redeeming points. If you buy additional points, you can cover four nights at a very reasonable cost.
I’ve already talked about doing Hakone loop in my post on sightseeing and transportation, so won’t repeat myself. Honestly, as much as I liked exploring the area, the real star was the resort itself.
Well, that’s a wrap for my 2023 Japan trip report series!
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.