The popular winter destination is just as alluring during summer, drawing travelers with its lush greenery, seasonal produce, and outdoor activities.
Blessed with natural hot springs and top-notch ski spots, Hokkaido is indisputably one of the best winter destinations in the region. But when it comes to summer, Japan’s northernmost main island is equally alluring with its colorful blooms and lush mountain ranges.
Its pleasant temperatures, which can range from a cool 5°C to a balmy 27°C, can be unexpectedly chilly for those accustomed to tropical climates.
That said, the weather is perfect for embarking on outdoor adventures like mountain biking, scenic hikes, and water rafting. Who knows, you might not even miss the powdery snow!
We spent a week at Club Med Tomamu, a charming resort sprawled across over 145 hectares of Tomamu Mountain (about two hours away from Sapporo), and glimpsed some of the best summer activities in Hokkaido.
Here are some must-dos:
1. Frolic in a field of flowers
There’s something surreal about taking in the sight of colorful flower fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. Farm Tomita, which is located in Furano, is a quaint farm that boasts seasonal flowers like lavender, red poppies, baby’s breath, and plenty more. The highlight is a charming greenhouse in the middle of the fields, which displays the popular noshi hayazaki lavender all year round.
Not to be missed is the “mother’s garden,” a tiny garden dedicated to the late grandmother of the current generation of the Tomita family, which is filled with ornamental bulbs and shrubs first planted by the matriarch more than 10 years ago.
2. See a naturally blue pond
A relatively unknown scenic spot until recent years, the Blue Pond is a pond named for its azure hue. Located in the town of Biei, the pond owes its unique color to the natural minerals dissolved in the water during the building of an erosion control system to help prevent damage to the town in case of an eruption near Mount Tokachidake. Half submerged within the lake are once-living Japanese larch and silver birch trees that frame the pond with their withered branches, creating a scene that’s beautiful yet melancholic.
3. Bring your circus ambitions to life
If you’ve already honed your skiing skills in winter, consider learning something new this summer. Club Med Tomamu’s Circus Academy is a thrilling experience for both adults and children, with activities running the gamut from trapeze to juggling. The trapeze station, set against the rolling hills of Tomamu, is a must-try for guests. Under the guidance of the resort’s G.O.s (gentil organisateurs), guests will first learn to catch hold of a flying trapeze before attempting to hook their legs over the bar, letting their arms fall free. Those ready for more of a challenge can also learn to swing off the trapeze and catch the hands of the trapeze instructor. Don’t say we didn’t warn you—it’s not for the faint-hearted!
4. Swim in Japan’s largest indoor wave pool
Short of traveling out to find a beach in Hokkaido, why not relax at Mina-Mina Beach? Japan’s largest indoor wave pool is a summer paradise all-year-round, with facilities for swimming, jacuzzi, onsen (hot spring), and even water sports like stand-up paddling. With mina meaning “smile” in the indigenous Ainu language, the pool is especially popular among families. Its pool float rental service is especially impressive, with floats available in all sorts of quirky and fun shapes, from unicorns to trains. For a dose of utter relaxation, head to the outdoor bath at the pool’s Kirin-no Yu onsen in the evening and soak in bliss as you gaze at the stars.
5. Escape to the scenic mountains (or rivers)
During summer, the powdery white snow once coating the slopes melts away, revealing lush mountain views. For guests of Club Med Tomamu, this means the perfect time to go mountain biking, embark on scenic hikes, and enjoy picnics. Under the Mountain Academy program at the resort, such activities are offered at different times of the day and led by G.O.s.
Experienced bikers can take on the advanced route, and newbies can join the beginner route, both of which will take them to the surrounding Hidaka Mountains. Pitstops are made at small lakes and even local sheep farms, which are great for photo opportunities. Alternatively, fans of water sports can sign up for a water rafting excursion, where dry suits are provided to keep them warm as they navigate rapids and drops.
6. Stand above a sea of clouds
Situated 1,088 meters above sea level, Unkai Terrace, whose name means “sea of clouds,” is accessible via a gondola ride from the foothill of Club Med Tomamu. Depending on humidity and wind conditions, guests may be able to witness a sight of swirling, waterfall-like clouds up close. We recommend waking up early to avoid the crowds, so as to secure a spot in viewing areas like the Cloud Pool (a giant hammock that one can stand in to enjoy unobstructed views) and the Cloud Bar (tall seats lined up in a row, facing the clouds).
7. Savor the best Hokkaido produce
From prized wagyu beef to sweet corn cobs, Hokkaido’s local produce is known for its flavor and freshness. At Club Med Tomamu, guests are spoiled for choice by dining options that showcase the region’s best dishes. Itara, the resort’s signature buffet restaurant, offers themed nights that feature different types of local cuisine, including fresh Hokkaido crabs.
Meat lovers can head to Haku for a farm-to-table yakiniku (grilled meat) dining experience, where premium cuts of Hokkaido beef and local seafood are served. Not to be missed are the sweet and juicy sea urchins and scallops. Finally, visit Unkai bar for a guided tasting of Japanese whisky and artisanal sakes, which are produced in limited quantities.
While taking day excursions out to Furano and Biei, be sure to try specialties like Hokkaido melon buns and lavender flavored ice cream, both of which are moreish and delightful.
DestinAsian would like to thank Club Med Tomamu for hosting this trip to Hokkaido.