HOME Hokkaido Hokkaido Sapporo / Chitose 5 Fun Water Activities To Do in Hokkaido: Enjoy The Great Outdoors Near Sappporo in Summer
5 Fun Water Activities To Do in Hokkaido: Enjoy The Great Outdoors Near Sappporo in Summer

5 Fun Water Activities To Do in Hokkaido: Enjoy The Great Outdoors Near Sappporo in Summer

Date published: 23 June 2022

Enjoy an action-packed afternoon of watersports in Hokkaido! The nature-filled area around Sapporo is a perfect place where you can enjoy a variety of fun activities, from kayaking to rafting, cruising to canyoning, and more.

Some of the more popular areas to visit on a day trip include Chitose City and its Lake Shikotsu, plus Jozankei Onsen, Otaru City, and Furano City. Here we will share five fun water activities you can do in the green season and how to book your own experience.

Table of Contents
  1. 1. Lake Shikotsu: Clear Kayak on Translucent Waters that Offer Spectacular Views of the Scenery Below!
  2. 2. Chitose City: Enjoy Bibi River canoeing in a nature-filled wonderland near New Chitose Airport
  3. 3. Jozankei Onsen: Fun rafting down a canyon in Sapporo’s suburb
  4. 4. Otaru City: Explore the secluded waters of a mystical sea with the Otaru Blue Cave Expedition Cruise!
  5. 5. Furano City: A canyoning tour on a natural water slide hidden deep in the mountains

1. Lake Shikotsu: Clear Kayak on Translucent Waters that Offer Spectacular Views of the Scenery Below!

1. Lake Shikotsu: Clear Kayak on Translucent Waters that Offer Spectacular Views of the Scenery Below!
▲”Clear Kayaking” is an activity offered by Lake Shikotsu Ocean Days. (Photo: Ocean Days)

Located in midwestern Hokkaido, Lake Shikotsu, is one of Japan's clearest and purest lakes.

Surrounding this magnificent body of water are hot spring villages, camping grounds, and a trail that wraps halfway around the lake's bank.

Around a 40-minute drive from New Chitose Airport (1 hour by fixed-route bus) and a 70-minute drive from central Sapporo, it's an easily accessible sightseeing spot whether you're based in Sapporo or just flying into town.

When driving up to Lake Shikotsu Onsen, it's standard to park at the adjacent public parking space (500 yen per car, free parking from December until the following March).

▲Lake Shikotsu boasts the third largest surface area in all of Hokkaido. (Photo: Ocean Days)

Lake Shikotsu offers a variety of activities such as canoeing, kayaking, SUP, paddle boats, and sightseeing cruises.

But the number-one recommended activity to enjoy at Lake Shikotsu Onsen’s facility, Ocean Days, is clear kayaking!

Once you settle into one of the kayaks, you’ll be greeted by a striking view of Lake Shikotsu’s waters! Not only does this activity offer glimpses of swimming fish, but you’ll also love the lakebed scenery as well.

▲A view of the kayak taken by an underwater camera! (Photo: Ocean Days)

After you’ve checked in at the front desk and changed, an introductory lecture on how to paddle is given, making the activity friendly for even beginner kayakers! What’s more, with English explanations available, non-Japanese speakers can also partake comfortably.

Once the lecture is over, you will be guided towards Chitose River’s bank, which flows out of Lake Shikotsu, and get ready to board!

Starting further up the river allows for a smooth transition into the lake, enabling you to enjoy paddling with ease! Another perk is that one of the instructors will be snapping photos throughout the tour!

(*For safety reasons, kayaking will be limited to the river if the lake’s waves are too high. Also, depending on the situation, it may be challenging to offer photo-taking services.)

▲A big perk of this activity is being able to enjoy both river and lake scenery! (Photo: Ocean Days)

Ocean Days has received a plethora of raving reviews. Some of which include:

"The underwater views from the kayak's see-through floor are exceptional!"

"The instructor's directions were easy to follow! I felt time passed quickly as I enjoyed myself so much!"

"Getting to see fish and shrimp made for a fun memory!"

Unwind and enjoy expansive lake landscapes, underwater scenery through a transparent kayak, and a 360-degree view of the magnificent nature surrounding you! Spring and summer offer verdant greenery, and fall brings views of colorful foliage.

Another attractive feature of this activity is that you can enjoy snowscapes in the winter! This is due to Lake Shikotsu being one of Hokkaido's rare ice-free lakes. Enjoy breathtaking scenery year-round!

▲We also recommend “Clear Sup”-an activity that uses see-through boards! Once you get used to it, standing is an absolute breeze! (Photo: Ocean Days)

Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Disinfected after each guest leaves - Ventilation measures in place - Coin trays used - Plastic partitions installed - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Limited capacity/increased space between seats - Restricted admission, reservation system in place - Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell - Masks required/temperature check enforced

  • Ocean Days
    オーシャンデイズ
    • Address Bangaichi, Shikotsukoonsen, Chitose, Hokkaido 066-0281
    • ・TEL: 080-6073-8600 (Online reservations and inquiries only, reservations cannot be made over the phone)
      ・Hours: Clear Kayak: Year-round ① 9:00 a.m., ② 11:00 a.m., ③ 1:30 p.m., ④ 3:30 p.m. (Option ④ is available only from July 1st to October 15th). Kayak tours are said to last approximately 2 hours.
      ・Rates: Clear Kayak: Adults (7,000 yen or 12,000 yen for solo riders), Children Over Four and Under the Elementary School Age (3,500 yen)
      *Fees Include: Tour fees, insurance fees, life jacket rentals, croc rentals, rain jacket rentals (in the case of rain), dry suit rentals (for the winter), photos taken during the tour (photo-taking may not be possible depending on the situation), taxes
      ・Closed: Irregularly
      ・Website: https://ocean-days.com/tour-english/

2. Chitose City: Enjoy Bibi River canoeing in a nature-filled wonderland near New Chitose Airport

2. Chitose City: Enjoy Bibi River canoeing in a nature-filled wonderland near New Chitose Airport
▲”Bibi River Canoeing” by Gateway Tours (Photo: Gateway Tours)

One cannot hide their amazement at the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors a mere 10-minute drive from New Chitose Airport! Given its proximity, "Bibi River Canoeing" by Gateway Tours is extremely popular among Hokkaido's visitors.

You can enjoy this nature-filled experience on the same day you fly into Hokkaido - or even before your departure. And since it's about an hour's drive from Sapporo City, it makes a great day trip plan as well. Free parking lots around the facility are also available.

▲With New Chitose Airport’s runway being close by, you can enjoy views of planes while canoeing as well as beautiful scenery of the Bibi River when landing in Hokkaido. (Photo: Gateway Tours)
▲If you’re lucky, you might even come across some resting swans! (Photo: Gateway Tours)

The Bibi River meanders through marshlands as one of the primary water sources for Chitose and its surrounding areas.

You'll find naturally abundant fields where swans and white-fronted geese take flight. Because the land around this river is so marshy, it's challenging to walk around - making the canoe tours the best option for those who want to enjoy everything it offers!

Even if it's your first time in a canoe, "Bibi River Canoeing" is a fun water activity that's extremely first-timer friendly!

While putting on your life jacket, a guide will explain how to get in and out of the canoe as well as how to paddle.

Although explanations are only available in Japanese, that hasn't stopped the tour from becoming a great hit among foreign guests!

▲Generally, one canoe fits two people, but there are also slightly bigger canoes for groups of three. (Photo: Gateway Tours)
▲Those with small children can also enjoy canoeing as a family! (Discounted packages for families are available) (Photo: Gateway Tours)

This river is so calm that you might struggle to move forward unless you paddle! With no embankment, this canoe tour offers views of a completely natural riverbank as well as swans resting on the water’s surface.

And, from late July to mid-October, you might catch a glimpse of salmon making their way upstream! Though photos aren’t allowed while paddling, tour guides can take them for you!

Why not enjoy this activity as a day trip from Sapporo or even as a way to end or begin your vacation in Hokkaido?

▲This is a highly popular activity due to its great accessibility and photo-taking services. Take home a photo that commemorates this special experience! (Photo: Gateway Tours)

Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Disinfected after each guest leaves - Ventilation measures in place - Coin trays used - Plastic partitions installed - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Limited capacity/increased space between seats - Restricted admission, reservation system in place - Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell - Masks required/temperature check enforced

  • Gateway Tours
    Gateway Tours
    • Address 131-54 Plantation, Tomakomai City, Hokkaido, 059-1365
    • Phone Number 090-9086-3604
    • ・Hours: Bibi River Canoeing: April 1st~November 30th ① 6:30 a.m., ② 10:00 a.m., ③ 1:30 p.m., ④ 4:00 p.m., ⑤ 5:00 p.m. (Option④ is only available from April 1st~September 13th, and option ⑤ is only available from May 15th~July 19th). Canoe tours are said to last around 1 1/2 hours.
      ・Rates: Bibi River Canoeing: Adults (7,000 yen or 9,000 yen for solo riders), Families of Three or More (6,000 yen), Middle and High Schoolers (5,000 yen), Elementary Schoolers and Under (4,000 yen)
      *Fees Include: Tour fees, insurance fees, life jacket rentals, taxes
      ・Closed: Open daily
      ・Website: https://www.hokkaido-gatewaytours.com/

3. Jozankei Onsen: Fun rafting down a canyon in Sapporo’s suburb

3. Jozankei Onsen: Fun rafting down a canyon in Sapporo’s suburb
▲An aggressive river rafting experience in Sapporo City! (Photo: Blue Marble Sapporo)

Jozankei Onsen is a famous hot spring village located at the foot of a range of canyons in Sapporo’s suburbs.

This area is around a 50-minute drive from central Sapporo (or around an hour and 15-minute trip by fixed-route bus).

It’s popular among Sapporo’s residents as a road trip destination as well as among many tourists both inside and outside of Japan for its hot springs close to the city.

▲ Toyohira River runs through this canyon. (Photo: Blue Marble Sapporo)

The Toyohira River flows through this hot spring village’s canyon. As you get further from the hot spring facility, you’ll find yourself surrounded by an abundance of cliffs and trees!

What’s more, some sections of this river have rapids so intense that it’s a struggle not to get sprayed! Here, we recommend taking part in the river rafting tour offered by Blue Marble Sapporo. With English guidance available, foreign guests can also easily join!

▲Life jackets and helmets are available to rent. As this tour leaves you completely soaked-we highly recommend bringing a spare change of clothes! (Photo: Blue Marble Sapporo)

Blue Marble Sapporo offers two options for their river rafting tours. There’s the standard tour, which enables you to enjoy the surrounding scenery calmly, and the rapids tour, which aggressively takes you down a raging river.

Since the standard tour guides you through the gently flowing parts of the river, it’s one that everyone, even small children, can enjoy! (You must be a middle schooler or older during the April to May season because of the rise in water levels.)

On the other hand, the rapids tour takes you down turbulent waters, limiting the tour age to middle schoolers and up.

Because participants have to walk up and down the rugged canyon to get on and off the canoe, it’s recommended that you are pretty confident in your hiking skills.

For experienced river rafters who are in good health, we highly recommend challenging yourself to the intense rapids tour!

▲For first-time river rafters, the standard tour will offer more than enough excitement! (Photo: Blue Marble Sapporo)
▲Taking you down big drops, the rapids tour will have your heart racing! (Photo: Blue Marble Sapporo)

Due to this river rafting experience being offered in such a deep canyon, photo-taking can be quite risky.

However, a professional photographer is on standby to capture some amazing shots during the tour! If you bring an SD card or USB stick, photos can be purchased for 1,000 yen per person.

For those interested, be sure to make a request during the booking process! Also, the meeting places of tour groups can vary, ranging from Jozankei Onsen to its surrounding areas, so please confirm the location once your reservation is complete (usage of parking lots is free).

Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Disinfected after each guest leaves - Ventilation measures in place - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Limited capacity/increased space between seats - Restricted admission, reservation system in place - Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell - Masks required/temperature check enforced

  • Blue Marble Sapporo
    Blue Marble Sapporo
    • Address 933 Jozankei, Minami-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 061-2301
    • Phone Number 080-1895-5872
    • ・Hours: Early-April~late-October (The rapids course is available from mid-June to late-October). ① 9:00 a.m., ② 1:00 p.m., River rafting tours are said to last approximately three hours.
      ・Rates: Standard Tour: Adults (5,500 yen, Weekends and holidays during July 20th~August 30th are 6,500 yen), High Schoolers (5,500 yen), Middle Schoolers (4,500 yen), Elementary Schoolers (3,500 yen), Free for Children Over the Age of Two, Rapids Tour: 7,500 yen
      *Fees Include: Tour fees, insurance fees, Rental fees for life jackets etc., taxes
      Closed: Open daily
      Website: https://bluemarble-sapporo.com/

4. Otaru City: Explore the secluded waters of a mystical sea with the Otaru Blue Cave Expedition Cruise!

4. Otaru City: Explore the secluded waters of a mystical sea with the Otaru Blue Cave Expedition Cruise!
▲The “Blue Cave” is a large, natural cave formed by waves eroding rocks along the shore.

Otaru City is a popular tourist destination located around 40 minutes away from Sapporo by train or car.

Otaru is known for its Otaru Canal, a 1.1-kilometer-long canal lined with old warehouses and a promenade.

But a short while away from hustle and bustle of the city’s townspeople and tourists, is a stretch of precipitous cliffs that line this region’s shore. Here you will find the Otaru Blue Cave - a naturally formed, shimmering aqua blue sea cave!

Because the Otaru Blue Cave cannot be seen from land or a large ship, those who want to explore it must take a small boat or a sea kayak. We recommend taking a cruise tour to enjoy the Blue Cave and the sheltered waters surrounding it!

▲Sail fast on a small boat exploring the ocean surrounding Otaru City’s suburbs!
▲There are two entry points to the Blue Cave found between rocks that are part of a stretch of precipitous cliffs. The inside of the cave is carved into a “U” shape.

We highly recommend taking the “Blue Cave Expedition” cruise tour offered by Salt Valley 408.

Only about a 15-minute drive from central Otaru-these cruises leave from Hokkaido’s Shioya district. Due to Shioya’s relatively calm winds and ocean waters, there’s a higher departure rate than cruise tours available in other areas.

Additionally, Salt Valley 408 is run by a long-established company known for selling small boats in Otaru. You can rest assured that the cruises are also operated by professionals well-informed of Otaru’s sea-surface topography, weather conditions, and navigation methods to prevent sea sickness.

English guidance isn’t available, so we recommend having someone in your group that can speak some basic Japanese.

▲Free rain coat, sandal, and life jackets rentals are available. Putting on your rain coat hood and buttoning it all the way up to your neck prevents you from getting sprayed by the waves or having the top your head scorched by the sun.

Cruise tour options include either a cruising boat tour that fits four to twelve people or a rafting boat tour pulled by the cruise boat that fits up to six. We recommend a cruising boat for those who prefer a stable journey with many photo opportunities.

Alternately, for adventurous passengers looking to enjoy a dynamic cruise experience right on the water with lots of rocking and sea spray, we recommend the raft!

Rafting passengers can even get out and take a dip when the ocean’s water temperature is high in July and August! The life jackets make floating and playing in the water fun.

▲The cruising boat (on the left) pulls the rafting boat (on the right). In the case that there aren’t any passengers for the rafting boat, the tour will be held only with the cruising boat. (Photo: Salt Valley 408)
▲The boats maneuver their way around reefs scattered below the cliffs.

The boats make it to the Blue Cave about ten to fifteen minutes after their departure. Upon arrival, they slowly start to venture inside!

Here, we highly recommend paying close attention to the colors and sounds surrounding you. Due to the positioning of the cave and the light that enters it, the ocean’s waters slightly shift in color.

What’s more, the calming sounds of the splish-splashing waves as well as the cries and fluttering of bats can be heard.

Nothing can compare to the mysticism of nature! This expedition cruise enables you to feel as though you’re out adventuring at sea. It’s a must-try activity for anyone sightseeing in Otaru!

▲To enter the cave, the boat will go through the opening on the right.
▲Views deep inside the cave. What an extraordinary experience!

Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Disinfected after each guest leaves - Ventilation measures in place - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Limited capacity/increased space between seats - Restricted admission, reservation system in place - Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell - Masks required/temperature check enforced

  • SALT VALLEY 408
    SALT VALLEY 408
    • Address 1 Chome-27-23 Shioya, Otaru, Hokkaido, 048-2672
    • Phone Number 0134-28-2181
    • ・Hours: April 20th~October 10th ① 9:00 a.m., ② 10:30 a.m., ③ 12:00 p.m., ④ 1:30 p.m., ⑤ 3:00 p.m., ⑥ 4:30 p.m., Cruise tours last approximately one hour.
      *From April to June as well as from September onwards etc., services will stop for rafting boat tours if ocean water temperatures are too low or waves are too high.
      ・Rates: Cruising Boats: Adults (5,500 yen), Children Three Years of Age~Elementary Schoolers (3,300 yen), Free for Children Two Years Old and Under, Rafting Boats: Adults and Children (All 6,600 yen), (Rafting boat tours are only available for elementary schoolers and up.)
      *Fees Include: Tour fees, insurance fees, rental fees such as life jackets etc., taxes
      ・Closed: Open daily throughout service periods
      ・Website: https://saltvalley408.jp/

5. Furano City: A canyoning tour on a natural water slide hidden deep in the mountains

5. Furano City: A canyoning tour on a natural water slide hidden deep in the mountains
▲A natural water slide! (Photo: FUN)

Our final recommended water activity in Hokkaido is a canyoning activity that can be enjoyed in Furano City, a sightseeing destination known for attracting tourists from all over the world with its lavender fields.

Though it takes around two hours to access this site from Sapporo City, it’s still possible to make it a day trip.

Here you can enjoy canyoning, an activity where you navigate down a fast-flowing river or gorge using nothing but your body!

With options such as river trekking, waterfall trekking, down-stream trekking, and waterfall jumping-you can fully immerse yourself in enjoying natural water slides and pools!

▲Waterfall jumping into natural pools! (Photo: FUN)

The “Canyoning Tour” by FUN offers opportunities to enjoy the previously listed activities around the Furano area. Seasoned tour guides, with thorough knowledge of the trails and river trekking techniques, safely lead the way, making you feel at ease!

Also, English guides are available for those who cannot speak Japanese. One foreign guest commented:

“The guides were thoughtful and friendly. With experienced foreign guides also available, it’s a tour I’d want to go on again!”

▲A guide giving an explanation while getting tour participants to practice. (Photo: FUN)
▲Once you’ve gotten used to everything, a tour guide will give you permission to go out and have fun on your own! (Photo: FUN)

Although the “Canyoning Tour” is held as a professional course for intermediate canyoners, first-timers in good health and above the upper grades of elementary school can also partake in the fun! Furthermore, this activity can be enjoyed even if you can’t swim!

▲In addition to the life jackets, helmets and shoes also have floatation devices-enabling you to enjoy rivers and waterfall basins! (Photo: FUN)

Lastly, this tour offers photos and videos taken by staff that are then transferred onto a CD-R and shipped to your home for 2,200 yen (shipping is limited to Japan)!

With such services, you don’t have to worry about documenting your experience during the tour. Taking into consideration how drenched you’ll be after, there are even packages where you can end your day with a relaxing hot spring!

The “Canyoning Tour” is an experience that will stay with you forever! We highly recommend putting yourself up to the challenge.

▲We’re willing to bet you’ll be full of smiles! (Photo: FUN)

Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken - Sanitizer installed - Disinfected after each guest leaves - Ventilation measures in place - Coin trays used - Plastic partitions installed - Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature - Limited capacity/increased space between seats - Restricted admission, reservation system in place - Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell - Masks required/temperature check enforced

  • FUN
    FUN
    • Address Blaneclair, East1-North18, Nakafurano, Hokkaido 071-0771
    • Phone Number 0167-44-4433
    • Hours: Early-July~early-September (From July 2nd~September 4th in 2022) ① 9:00 a.m., ② 1:30 p.m., Canyoning tours are said to take approximately three hours.
      Rates: Canyoning Tours: Middle Schoolers and Up (7,500 yen or 8,000 yen with the hot spring package)
      *In general, this tour is for middle schoolers and up, but children in the upper grades of elementary school who are in good health can also participate for the same price.
      *Fees Include: Tour fees, insurance fees, rental fees such as life jackets etc., taxes
      Closed: Open daily during service periods
      ・Website: https://tomamu.jp/language/english.php

Sapporo is a large city with a population just under two million people. Surrounding this metropolis are regions filled with majestic and abundant nature.

After doing some sightseeing in Sapporo, why not take a day trip to one of these suburbs to enjoy some special water activities? It’s sure to be an experience you won’t forget! Take a plunge and try something new!

Text by: Nobuka Kawashima
*The information presented in this article is accurate as of June 2022. For the latest information, please check the official websites, etc.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

Share this article.

Recommended places for you

Recommended articles for first-time visitors to Hokkaido
Search