Akiu (秋保) is a famous hot spring resort in the suburbs of Sendai. There are a high number of luxurious hotels each with their own hot springs, restaurants, and facilities. Most of these hotels are open to only overnight guests, however there are still many that are open for day time use. If you are interested in enjoying an "onsen" experience just 30 minutes from away from Sendai, read on!
Access: Driving is an easy option as the resort town can be accessed without using a toll road, and all hotels have free parking. However, most travelers will probably be using public transportation. In that case, you should travel by bus from bus stop #63 in front of JR Sendai Station, located diagonally across from Sakurano department store. A round trip ticket to Akiu and back can be purchased from the driver for about 1500 yen. The first bus stop will be the Sendai Astronomical Observatory. Next the bus will stop in front of the Sakan Hotel. It is recommended to get off at the third stop at the Akiu tourist center. Lastly, if you feel like a challenge, fit cyclists can reach Akiu in less than 2 hours by bike from the city center.
Choosing a hot spring: Ask the Akiu tourist center staff or use this website to check the schedule of day use hot springs. There are 15 hotels and 1 local communal bath in the area. The hot springs cost an average of 500 yen to 1300 yen, while renting or buying towels cost an additional fee. Almost all are within a 10-45 minute walk or a quick taxi ride away. However, travelers are in luck! Those comfortable riding bicycles may borrow one from the tourist center. This is a very convenient service. For those not comfortable with undressing, there is also a free foot bath at the tourist center.
Final thoughts: Visiting a hot spring for an "onsen" experience is a must for many while visiting Japan. Visiting the hot springs in Akiu also give you an opportunity to see inside the gorgeous hotels without paying the price of overnight accommodation. Some hotels have suits of samurai armor, historical artifacts, art works, or even carp swimming around indoor pools! It is a real treat.
The last return bus to Sendai heads back around 5pm or 6pm depending on the day. Buses leave about once an hour. Keep in mind most day use hot springs close around 2pm or 3pm, though a few are open later. Akiu is highly accessible with many fun and interesting hot spring types to choose. Hiking, an art village, and a local winery are also nearby great additions to your trip.